I've been texting with a stranded astronaut!

I have always been a fan of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, but outside of a free Lone Wolf app, I never really tried it packaged as a game. Honestly, I've gotten this game, because it was on sale and I've heard good things about it here and there. I was not prepared for what it offered.

You know, there are some games that break the barrier between fact and fiction. ARGs or Omikron: The Nomad Soul comes to mind. Lifeline gives you a similar experience, but delivers it in completely different and innovative way. When you open the app for the first time, you will receive a transmission from someone named Taylor, who is stranded on some good forsaken moon. The ship is crashed and you (the player) are the only person Taylor could reach. So you begin to talk.

The game is basically an interstellar chat app. Taylor writes what's up and every now and then, you can respond, give advice or even make decisions on how Taylor should approach any given task. That's it. That's all there is. No stats, no inventory, just a conversation between two strangers light years away. This alone makes the game quite immersive, but there's more...

To reinforce the fact, that Taylor is a real person, stranded on some lonely moon, the game adds an element of real time. Whenever Taylor goes off to do something you see "[Taylor is busy]" and the app stops responding. Now you can only wait. You don't know exactly when you will receive another message. Sometimes, Taylor will give you a hint "I'll report back in half an hour", but often you will have no idea. This adds to the whole immersion factor, as I found myself thinking what is Taylor doing, how is his trek, did anything interesting happened? Them, you receive a text saying "oh no" and you jump in to see what happened, because you start carrying about this stranded astronaut.

This waiting aspect, and first person narration make this much more than a "Choose Your Own Adventure" game. The barrier between what's real and what's fiction is much thinner than in other (even similar) games. It is much easier to believe that you are talking to someone light years away, than believing that you are in that place, while you are clearly sitting on your couch and drinking coffee. After a while, receiving a message from Taylor, will be almost like receiving a text from someone you know You will want to know what happened when they were away. It is a great mechanic that I am hoping to see in more "Choose Your Own Adventure" style games.

If you are thinking of getting Lifeline (iOS and Anroid), know that it is more an experience than a game. Gameplay is limited to those binary choices while you chat. It is more like a good book, but you are getting more invested in the character and can actually advise them on how to proceed. Comparing Lifeline to book is not a bad idea actually. Just like a good book, this game is a vessel to transport you to that fictional world. While the whole game takes place on a barren, almost featureless moon, the writing brings it to life. Especially, that everything is narrated from Taylor's point of view, who has pretty quirky, but relatable outlook on the whole situation. During the few days it will take you to complete the game, you will get to know Tyler pretty well. I was sad when the story finished and the communication ended. I wish I could still receive texts from this person who I helped during the shittiest time of their life.

Savage Road Warriors: Part 2

Combat at High Speeds 

So, you are driving a car at full speed, but the guys behind you are catching up and the guy in the truck next to you is grinning like he's going to ram you. You want to waste those suckers and you want to know the odds, right? 
Combat during a chase works pretty much the same as on foot. The big difference is the speed and the fact that a speeding car is a pretty shakey affair. When attacking from a moving vehicle, you normally need to consider the speed and unstable platform modifiers (as per Vehicular Combat rules). Savage Road Warriors chase rules are less gritty than that, and more cinematic. All the vehicles are traveling roughly at the same pace, so any speed modifiers come into play only under special circumstances (GM's decision). As for the unstable platform modifier (-2), as long as you are trying to hit something like a car or bigger, the size of your target balances it out. After all, it's not that hard hitting a car. For the sake of gameplay, when you are shooting another vehicle during a chase, you only suffer the standard range modifiers (as dictated by the cars' position on the track). Of course, if you are the driver you would suffer the normal multi-action penalty for shooting and driving in the same turn. And, if you are trying to hit something smaller, like a tire or a driver, you take penalties from the unstable platform and possibly even from a Called Shot. All of those stack up, so if you don't have the edges to back it up, it is best to just aim for the car and hope for the best.

Boarding and Melee Combat:

If you think, the drivers have all the fun during a chase - think again. Sure, they get to drive those cool rigs, but sitting in the passenger's seat has it own set of perks. First of all, when not driving, you do not suffer the multi-action penalty when shooting others in the middle of a chase. And, while the driver is busy not crashing the ride, you are free to roam. There might be mounted weapons, or other gadgets in the car you can use, or you just can climb out of the car. Getting on the outside of the car is pretty simple (just requires an action). From there, you can make the fight much more personal. With a successful Dexterity check, you can jump onto and board any car that is on the same track space as you. You can start "on-foot" combat with anyone in/on the same car (narrative permitting). If you do, you get an initiative card and follow normal Combat rules until you get back to a friendly vehicle. Standing on top of a vehicle, gives you a better vantage point, you can target cars that you don't have advantage against. If you are staying on top of a car, the GM might occasionally call for Dexterity checks, especially if the car is hit, going through rough terrain or avoiding an obstacle. On a failure, you loose your footing and fall. Roll for dexterity again to grab onto something. You are now considered prone, unless you climb up with a successful Strength check. If you are not very agile, it might be a good idea to dispose of the enemy driver and take over the car instead.

New Edges:

To better emulate the the high octane action feeling, Savage Road Warriors has few extra Edges available to characters who want excel during the chases.

  • Gas Monkey (Novice, Agility d8, Driving d8): You are experienced in boarding vehicles during a high speed chase, jumping from car to car like a monkey. Moving in and out of cars is a free action for you and you automatically pass any Boarding tests (it still requires an action).  
  • One Handed Driver (Novice, Driving d8 or Ace): You can drive with one hand and fire a weapon with the other without invoking the standard –2 Multi-Action Penalty.
  • Vehicle Focus (Seasoned, Driving d8 or Ace): You are an expert at driving a single class of vehicle (car, truck, bus, etc… ). All Driving rolls made when behind the wheel of your chosen vehicle are made at +1.
  • Trademark Car ( Novice, Driving d10): Works as Trademark Weapon Edge, but for a car. You can choose any unmodified ride.

Savage Road Warriors: part 1

Fury Road style car battles in Savage Worlds

Since seeing Mad Max: Fury Road I am on a bit of post-apocalyptic spree. If you haven't seen the movie (and you should, it is one of the best action movies I have seen!), a big part of it are extended car chases/battles in the middle of the desert. One big "War-Rig" truck is fleeing while other factions are trying to take it over. Awesomeness ensues. Long story short, I want it in my Savage Worlds games!

While Savage Worlds has mechanics for vehicle combat, I am not looking for wargame-like arena car mchanics. Fury Road takes place on a long, straight road, it was more of an action packed chase, than a skirmish. Next logical thing, was to look at th chase rules, but both old and new seemed to be missing something. They are great for a simple chase or dogfight, but not detailed enough to be the main event of the session. So, I looked into various RPGs, wargames, board games and even some video games to find the best system to emulate those Fury Road scenes. There are some good ideas in there, but usually on the more crunchy side. Nothing I found suited me better, than the Savage Worlds Deluxe chase rules, but even those were somehow lackluster. Not all is lost though, I found some good bits on my travels through post apocalyptic car games. I think, that with some extra rules, the deluxe chase rules can be as nail-biting, as a good combat encounter. 

I have a feeling, that this topic will span few posts. I want to make the expanded rules first and then add more info about customizing cars within this sub-system and maybe even adding few Edges. It would also be nice if I could compile it all into a nice pdf, fingers crossed for life not getting in the way of that. Ok, enough pondering, now to the rules.

Before we start: 

Read the Savage Worlds Deluxe chase rules and the Vehicles section from the core book (there aren't many changes between Explorer's and Deluxe editions, any of them is fine), especially the stuff about collisions and vehicle damage. There will be some changes to those systems, so make sure you are familiar with them. The aim of this ruleset is not to be a replacement for the generic system found in the corebook, but to emulate a specific type of chase. One where you mostly shoot and ram your way out of the problem. Think more Mad Max and Death Race, than James Bond. Going at full speed, throwing molotovs at the guy behind you so he won't board your war rig. Ready? Then let's check out the track you will be chasing on.


Photo by David O Miller
There is one big addition to the chase system - the track. It is a simple 6x1 grid (I will make some half-decent graphic in the near future). It is an abstracted representation of where the cars are, relative to one another, not an actual road. Use some counters to represent where the cars are. The car in front is always in the first space on the grid (so if it gains more ground against the opponents, they are just pushed back on the track, in a similar manner how the original chase rules worked) and other cars are placed accordingly. Where you are on the track dictates in what range you are to the other cars. So if you are on the same spot, you are bumper-to-bumper with the other cars on this spot (melee range). One spot away, you are in close range, Two - medium and three - long.
Any more than that, and you can only see the guy, but not do anything about it, unless you get closer. If a car ever goes beyond sixth spot and won't manage to come back to the track on their next turn, they are out of the chase. The track is a small step away from the standard Savage Worlds formula, but I think it is a good addition. I will spend another post talking about it. If, however, you don't want to use a physical track and counters, you can just give each player (and group of NPCs) a d6 to track their current position.

Turn by Turn:

Narrative will dictate how the beginning of the chase looks like. Is everybody starting from the same position (like a race)? Did one side had a head start (and the others are chasing them)? It will also dictate the win conditions: reaching the finish line, stopping a certain car, surviving X amount of turns to reach safety, etc. Setup the placement on the Track according to the narrative and roll your driving dice.
Initiative works the same way as in the deluxe rules. You get a card for each success and raise on your Driving (or other applicable) skill. Just like in the original rules, cards give the driver the advantage (so the driver can only attack the cars with equal or lower Initiative) and an obstacle on drawing Clubs. Unlike the original rules, the card does not decide on your range/position in the chase (this is handled by the track). Card's value dictates how many spaces on the track you can move. Number cards allow you to move up to one, face cards up to two, ace and joker up to three. You don't need to move all the spaces you were given, sometimes, it might be more beneficial to stay where you are, so you have a better access to the enemy. If you don't move any spaces, you are still driving at high speed - everyone is, you are just keeping up. 
After you "moved", you can...


Any person in the vehicle can make an attack on any target that they have advantage (the driver had maneuvered) against. The driver (any anyone who aided him in the driving roll ) suffers a standard multi-action penalty (-2) if he wants to attack with a weapon. Additionally, when on the same spot on the track, the driver can attempt to ram his opponent (as per Vehicle rules) without the multi-action penalty (in the narrative, it would be a continuation of his driving). Any passengers, act on the driver's card. Shooting is done with the range modifier based on your position on the Track (I don't use the unstable platform penalty, in my opinion cars are big enough to give you a bonus that would negate that. I would still give the penalty if they want to shoot something human sized). While on the same track spot, melee attacks can be performed (given the characters have suitable weapon) or the enemy car can be boarded (with a successful Dexterity check). Damage works in the same way as in the Savage Worlds Vehicle rules (custom "Out of Control" and "Critical Hit" tables coming soon). 

Winning the Chase:

The terms of winning depend mostly on the narrative, but there is a one sure way that can make you win any chase - disabling or loosing all of your enemies. The former is self-explanatory: deal enough damage to the enemy cars that they can no longer drive. The later, requires the use of Track. If any car starts their turn behind the track (beyond the sixth spot, mostly because other cars got the lead and pushed the remaining participants back on the track), he needs to get card high enough to come back to the sixth spot (which sometimes means moving more than one spot forward). If he fails to do so, he is out of the chase. They are either lost, or left so behind, that they can't catch up any time soon.  

What's Next?

Special tables for car damage that will reference this system. A more in-depth look on the track, and the areas you chase through. Different types of chases (especially goals and winning conditions) and finally extra rules for customizing your car. All of those will spice up this system even more, so stay tuned!

How balanced are your dice?

So, this video by Daniel Fisher is going around the roleplaying corners of the interwebs.  Thanks to a golfing trick, you can check if the d20s you own are weighted. This might explain the myth of lucky and unlucky dice.

Apparently, translucent dice are better about being balanced and Chessex is quite an offender in cutting costs to produce dice. Well, no Chessex bag of dice for me then. I wonder how other companies compare.

I am tempted to check my own dice (and wondering if the other dice in the set would work), especially the Q-Workshop set, as they are considered a premium dice manufacturer. I might wait with checking my 3D printed dice until they are painted, because they might be a bit porous and quite frankly I don't want salt trapped inside.

Roleplaying on the Fury Road

Thanks to the recent Mad Max movie, Post-Apocalypse is once again a genre people are talking about. I have seen numerous requests online for RPG recommendations  to play a Fury Road style campaign. There are many Post-Apocalyptic RPGs out there (some going almost as far as the beginning of our hobby), but it seems the genre wasn't very popular in recent years and people forgotten about many good games that let us have adventures in various wastelands. With that in mind, I present you a rundown of my current favorite post-apocalyptic games:

Outside of Polish only Neuroshima (that you might know from some board games), Atomic Highway is my current go-to post-apocalyptic game that does not use one of my favorite generic systems (more on that later). It is perfect for mad max style campaign as it has a whole chapter on cars and their customization. In fact, cars are pretty important part of the game. It uses a simple dice pool engine (called V6) with a twist. It is a straightforward  mechanic, with attributes and skills. It uses backgrounds to give you extra skills and starting equipment, which is something I always liked in my RPGs. It is a pretty vanilla post-apocalypse, with mutants, deserts, modified cars and a lot of action, so it is really easy to adapt it to the world of Mad Max. Best of all, is available for FREE!  Also, if you are not keen on the dice pool system, check out this awesome conversion from Zach S. to D&D5e. If you want to start exploring post-apocalyptic wastelands on the cheap, this is the way to go!

Barbarians of the Aftermath uses a rules lite, narrative system from Barbarians of Lemuria. I understand that narrative systems are not everybody's cup of tea, but hear me out. This book can be used as a system neutral guide to running post-apocalyptic games. The apocalypse generator is worth the price of admission alone. The book gives you a pages upon pages of different options (which can also be used as a random generator) to create different apocalypses and then play in this world. You can create everything from standard Fallout-esque 50s nuclear holocaust to the Great Old Ones rising and ending the world in 2012. All those choices change the world in various ways, from availability of certain items, to how gonzo the setting is. The game is available on DriveThruRPG for $10 and would be great for one-shots or short campaigns, and a perfect tool to make your own post-apocalyptic world from a scratch for a long campaign.

If creating your own post-apocalyptic settlement sounds exciting, then The Quiet Year is for you. It is not much of a roleplaying game, as it is story game. You don't play singular characters, you represent voices in a community. The gameplay is something between board gaming and roleplaying. You draw a card and narrate events based on its prompt. It is also a map drawing game. You will create a basic map on the beginning and as the game progresses you will draw extra stuff on the map. At the end of the game you will have a fully mapped and fully fledged settlement with NPCs, buildings, nearby points of interest and all that jazz. While the game can be enjoyed on its own, it is a great tool creating a "homebase" for your campaign. After playing it, you and your players will have a good knowledge of their surroundings, which is always a nice thing. It is available in PDF and print from the author's website. If you want to check out the style of game, a free fantasy version is available.

If the narrative and story games above sound too artsy-fartsy for you, you might be interested in Other Dust. It is a retro-clone, so it is based on the 0 edition dungeons and dragons. It doesn't get more "traditional" than classes, levels and d20s. Being a part of the Old School Renaissance comes with its own set of pros and cons, but overall it is a solid game. It is a little more gonzo, than Mad Max, with more prominent mutants and psychic powers, but those can be easily omitted. The highlight here is the advice on running a post-apocalyptic sandbox campaign. Sine Nomine Publishing is famous for their sandbox toolboxes (Stars Without Numbers, Silent Legions) and Other Dust is no exception. You get a plethora of random generators and advice on running a sandbox campaign, most of which is system agnostic and can be used in basically any game.  The game is available at DriveThru in both PDF and Print-on-Demand.

The above games, while solid stand alone products, are my go to products when it comes to mining for post apocalyptic ideas. If I were to run a campaign set in atomic wasteland I would go with Savage Worlds. It is a pretty quick and action oriented system, is suitable for long-term play and is one of my go-to system for traditional roleplaying. The system is simple enough, that I can mind the ideas from other games and "transplant" them almost on-the-fly to my Savage Worlds game. And, if you want to just to jump into a ready-made post-apocalyptic world Savage Worlds has you covered:

The above games offer a slightly different take on post-apocalyptic gaming. Those are the four big, commercial Savage Worlds games that I am familiar with:

  • Darwin's World is the most gonzo of the bunch. You have multiple playable mutant races and it is more fantastic take on post-apocalypse. You can play Mad Max style campaign using this book, but you would need to cut some stuff out. Darwin's World was originally a D20 game, and it shows here and there.
  • Day After Ragnarok adds a little supernatural to the standard atomic wasteland formula. Apocalypse happened after Nazis started the mythic Ragnarok and Allies shot down the giant Serpent down. The world has ended in the 40s, which limits the technology, but also gives the game more gritty, dieselpunk feel. If you are looking for Mad Max mixed with Hellboy - this is the game for you. 
  • Hell on Earth: Reloaded adds even more supernatural to the mix. It is more or less post-apocalyptic Deadlands, western in the wasteland.  While Deadlands is one of my favorite settings, the idea of future cowboys is not my cup of tea, but if you are looking for a game with more emphasis on vehicles and supernatural, check it out!
  • Broken Earth would be the most vanilla take on post apocalypse - which is far from a bad thing! It focuses heavily on building and developing a settlement/community and has a good system for tracking that. It is a solid book, full of good ideas and plot hooks. if you are looking for the "Lone Wanderer" feel of Fallout games, this is a game for you.

All of the games are available both in print and as PDFs, from various retailers. As with anything Savage Worlds, there are also some great fan-created supplements available for free. Savage Appocalypse and Raiders and Ruins are two that I am familiar with. There are also conversions of other games like Fallout or Redline (that is very focused on vehicular combat). So take your pick, or put them all into a blender to brew your own flavor of post-apocalyptic goodness.

I will add Appocalypse World here as an obligatory mention. Appocalypse World has a bit more narrative approach to gaming and is pretty rules lite. It is a fine blend of traditional roleplaying and storygaming techniques. It has spawned many conversions and hacks since it was released and it seemed people were interested more in the mechanic, than the world. But, it is a solid post-apocalyptic toolbox style game - grim, gritty with just a dash of weird. If you are interested in finding more about it, and how it can be used for Mad Max style campaign, check out this article from Charlie Etheridge-Nunn on