Review: The Day After Ragnarok

by

Admittedly this sucker pretty much sells itself. Either Ken Hite’s vision of a post-apocalypse 1948 wracked by the aftereffects of the fall of the Midgard Serpent does it for you, or it doesn’t. It’s pulp as all hell, it includes four different campaign frameworks, and you need Savage Worlds — ten bucks in the Explorer’s Edition — to play. There, that was easy.

More content after the cut anyhow. Mostly summary of contents in case you’re curious, but I get a bit of actual review in there.

It’s $12.95 as a PDF. Print version is coming soonish. You get 130 pages of complete campaign setting, including an index and a good table of contents. Even if you figure in the ten bucks the rules cost, you’re getting a full game for $22.95 there, which is not bad at all.

The setting, as noted, is pulp action with a heavy, heavy dose of fantasy flavor. Ken Hite notes that he was heavily inspired by Conan. That’s a weird overlay for a modern era game, but it works: sword and sorcery written with rifles instead of broadswords. Solomon Kane might be closer to the mark, but Day After Ragnarok is less restrained. The occult is both real and in your face.

The opener is four pages of history, explaining what happened. In a nutshell, the Nazis managed to summon Jormungandr, and Truman nuked it. This had horrible consequences. I believe this section is reproduced in posts one, two, three, four, and five on the Atomic Overmind web site. It’s what hooked me on the idea.

The next thirty-odd pages are the players section, beginning with character concepts. If memory serves me right, an extensive listing of character concepts is part of the Savage Worlds idiom, but they always remind me of GURPS sourcebooks. Which is good, because when well-written, those concept sections were invaluable in setting a sense of place. There are two and a half pages of character concepts and roles here, each one noting what such a character has done — but more important, what they might need to do next. Reasons to act are great.

That’s followed by character creation mechanics. It’s not the full rules, just additional backgrounds and advantages and disadvantages and so on. I can’t speak to Savage Worlds mechanics in an informed sense, because I haven’t played it yet, although I’m gonna. These look sensible, but how would I know? I’ll take it on faith.

Speaking of which, yep, you can play someone who can perform magic, or priestly rituals, or psionics. It’s tougher than it is in your base Savage Worlds rules, but it’s possible.

Following that is an obligatory gear section. It includes amphetamines and bear traps. There’s something to be said about that but I’m not sure what. The last few pages of gear are the cool stuff: Ophi-tech, which is gear made of the dead flesh of the Midgard Serpent. It’s all kinds of icky. I’m reminded of Feng Shui’s Arcanotech — use that as a resource for more squamous quasi-living items to place on your body!

We next arrive at the GM section, which is the meat of the book. It’s tasty. Since it’s a Ken Hite production, all the NPCs are either real historical figures, pre-existing fictional characters, or thinly veiled pastiches of the same. I’m still trying to figure out Zeke DaCova, but I think I got everyone else.

The solid historical grounding seems to me to anchor the high weirdness of the Serpent. I’d compare this to, say, Damnation Decade — while I liked the latter a lot, there wasn’t a whole lot to grab onto in the middle of the psychobilly whirlwind. The World After Ragnarok digs into accurate history for inspiration, rather than coming up with the weirdness first. I think that works better.

Thirty pages of world-building is enough, particularly since there are a few handy random generation tables. I’m a sucker for those: the randomness sparks creativity. It’s a good thing I like them, since there will be more later.

There are twenty or so pages of bad guys. It’s a good mix, and it includes a whole bunch of human bad guys, which is important — you want a good selection of opponents you can throw in at a moment’s notice. I will need to try the game out before I know if there are enough bad guys: I don’t know how hard it is to make up new ones on the fly. Should be easy, based on my reading of the rules, admittedly.

Finally, we come to the campaign section. As noted, there are four solid campaign frameworks. Each one includes a quick campaign outline; nothing dense, just a couple of sentences of ideas for ten or so sessions. The scope is good. We’ve got your traditional heros wandering around beyond the fringes of society, we’ve got intelligence agents fighting for their country, we’ve got heroes trying to rebuild society, and we’ve got a nice twist in the shape of a noir city-oriented campaign. Nice touch, there. It expands the scope of the setting. I’m not entirely sure the rest of the book supports it really well; I’d want to see thirty or so pages on a single sample city, say. On the other hand, that’s not something you couldn’t do yourself. It’s just not as well-supported as the other campaign frames.

Twelve pages of random scenario generators meet two pages of example results from the generators to give the GM pretty much as much scenario ideas as one could want. Assuming you like random charts, but I still do. Not enough? Six pages of random encounter tables for the Poisoned Lands, which is what’s left of the eastern half of North America. That last might be a little much. It’s the Conan influence again, and I guess it’s useful if you want to do a Poisoned Lands campaign, but that isn’t so much what turns my crank.

The rest is afterword, index, and character sheet. It’s a good index!

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6 Responses to “Review: The Day After Ragnarok”

  1. Christopher Tatro Says:

    When are you gonna run this for us?

  2. Atomic Overmind Press » Blog Archive » Ragnarok News & Reviews! (and a BIG map) Says:

    […] Claw Claw Peck […]

  3. Aron Says:

    I loved the book, too!

    So much so, that I’m helping Atomic Overmind give it away. The contest ends today. Check it out.

    http://ideologyofmadness.com/archives/5547

  4. Doogs Says:

    A good index? That alone makes me happy… and thanks for pointing that out. An index can make a good source book great (in terms of usability).

  5. agaragar Says:

    Your wish, apparently, is their command. Atomic Overmind announced a city expansion PDF for DAR called “Tehran, Nest of Spies”. It’s due to come out at the end of September or so. I’m already drooling.

    http://atomicovermind.com/blog/?p=1011

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