The Day After Ragnarok
From: Atomic Overmind Press
Reviewed by: Ron McClung
The Day After Ragnarok is a new Savage Worlds RPG Setting Book from Atomic Overmind Press.
The Day After Ragnarok is an interesting setting book that takes the absurdity of the mythological occurrences of Ragnarok and makes them happen in a world torn by World War II. It takes the question we all like to ask ... "what if ...?" ... to an extreme.
Setting: My knowledge of the Ragnarok myth is sketchy at best, but with a little research I was able to get the idea. Most gamers are very familiar with it because it is one of the cornerstones of mythology on which we base most fantasy worlds. In short, it is a series of events according to Norse mythology that marks the end of the world.
The Day After Ragnarok (TDaR) is a world after a series of events that started in the twilight of World War II. The Nazis, dabbling in the occult and mythology, found the proper ritual to bring about Ragnarok. However, as one can imagine, it did not turn out the way they thought it would.
From page # 1:
“Welcome to the world at the end of the world. The skies are shrouded with burning, oily smoke, the Earth groans under a poisoned corpse, and the only way out may be deeper into the belly of the beast. It’s a world nearly killed by the death of wonder, although far from all the wonders are dead. Put the “grim” back in “grime” and see the world outside the smeared Perspex windscreen.”
In mid-1945, the howl of Garm was heard and the moon turned blood red. The huge head of the Midgard serpent rose from the Arabian Sea. However, old world mythology was met with American ingenuity. Truman rammed an atom bomb right up the serpents nostrils.
The results were a mixed bag. Yes, the nuke obliterated the brain of the colossal beast, but this also brought what is referenced in the book as Serpentfall. With the head the size of a medium-sized country, the serpent tumbled across three continents, crushing everything in its path. The world map quite literally has an immense snake laying the British Isles, middle and eastern Europe, and across Africa with its head pulverizing Egypt. All of Egypt.
This fall also created tsunamis that annihilated the east cost of the US, radioactive venom clouds that poisoned most of the rest of the US mutating man and beast alike, and earthquakes that awoke giants in Eastern Europe and Western Russia. The world fell asunder when the howls of Garn were heard, and what remains is an apocalyptic world of strange tech, mutants, and supernatural pulp fiction heroes.
From page # 1:
“ See it smolder. See it burn. See if you can save it."
Content: The 130-page PDF contains all you need to play in this world except the core system rules, of course. Those can be found in the core Savage World rulebooks.
After a brief introduction that gives you the general idea of the setting concept, the book takes you into creating a hero for the setting. It supplies a number of character concept ideas, including Arcane Scholar, Barbarian, Oilman, and Outlaw. It also supplies a guideline for forming your character role in the party as well as addition professions for the Professional Edges in the main Savage World rule book.
What this game falls a little short in is the area of nationality. It does touch on characters originating from what is left of the US and the British Commonwealth, but there could be so much more. Many games do this though, so I can not blame them. In a game like this, nationality would play a big role. I just see this as a lost opportunity to differentiate characters even further. That's a big thing for me.
There are 5 new Hindrances including Blank Stare, Holy Roller and Snakebit. Following this are several setting-specific Edges. These include Background Edges such as Arcane Background for Magic, Miracles, Psionics, and something called Ophi-tech. Also included are Professional Edges like Airman, Rhodes Scholar, Soldier, and something called a Speleo-Herptologist.
The Gear section is very comprehensive. It covers all the primary essentials for a hero to have in the late 40s and early 50s. The use of historical clip art of some equipment enhances the feel and atmosphere of the game setting. Following this is the section on Ophi- Tech. This is expanded on later.
The section titled The World After Ragnarok is a comprehensive overview of the world after Serpentfall. What I am impressed with in this portion is the brevity but also the completeness. The author gives you a lot but not too much. From the Drowned Coast and Poisoned Lands of the former US to the lands that were southern Egypt and the Sudan, now called Ras al-Thuban (the Head of the Serpent); from the politically active jungles of Latin America to the cold mysteries of the Stalin regime in the Soviet Union; the world is a place jam-packed with adventure and intrigue. Soviets are the main "bad guy," but no one should discount the Nazis as they were never entirely defeated.
What I like most about this section are the sporadic Savage Shortlists throughout the text. These are short lists like Top Five places to be Attacked By Pirates, Top Five Places to Find A Remote Castle Ruled by a Madman, or Top Five places To Stomp Nazis. These are brilliant little nuggets of ideas for adventure locations and help inspire you to jump right into the game setting.
The remainder of the book is a plethora of information for a game master to run a game in this brilliant setting. Born of Venom and Ice is a chapter containing nothing but stats of bad guys - NPCs and creatures alike. From the mundane policeman and common thug to the more exotic cultists and elite soldier, the non-player characters are quite abundant. When they are not enough, the game master has creatures like chimeras, ghouls, death-worms, giant alligators and front giants to choose from.
Adventures in the Serpent's Shadow is a chapter that gives the game master a variety of ideas for campaigns in the setting. It first provides four campaign types and an outline of adventure seeds for each. Then it contains an Adventure Generator that allows the game master to create adventures with the roll of the dice. This plays true to the core philosophy of Savage Worlds itself in that it makes it easy to quickly sit down and start up a game. This is followed by a few samples that were rolled up with this generator system.
Ending the book are two very nice things. The Appendix supplies the GM a series of very handy encounter tables in case you can not come up with something for your characters to fight. It ends with a very complete index, which always gains bonus points from me.
There are several key concepts in the game that give the game its overall feel and uniqueness. First, the appearance of a gargantuan serpent alone showed the world of burgeoning modern science that the impossible can exist and defy all logic and science. This opened a door that none thought possible. Also, the death of a snake through a nuclear blast caused side effects that no one saw coming. And finally, the sheer immensity of a dead snake laying across multiple continents has given people access to things no one thought existed.
In addition, the coming of Ragnarok has brought into this world Magic, Miracles and Psionics. Magic is tricky and dangerous. Miracles are possible through many different faiths. Soviet experimentation into psychic powers has created psionically capable people, although the rules do not recommend characters take on this role.
Another addition is Speleo-Herptology, the study of the Midgard Serpent corpse and its secrets. Literally it translates to "serpent cavers." They explore the immense corpse of the Serpent; as it is so huge, climbing between its scales is like exploring great caves.
Also, Ophi-tech is a very unique concept presented in TDaR. It is biological and chemical technology derived directly from things found within the Midgard Serpent's corpse. These include Ablative Metabolic Suit (a type of protective suit made of Serpent-skin), Crotaline Drops (eyes drops that allow one to see in the dark) and Ophiline (refined Serpent oil - a replacement to petroleum oil).
System & Rules: As mentioned, the setting adds several Hindrances and Edges. Also mentioned was the fact that it expands the Professional Edge to setting-specific professions. The mechanics that the book adds are primarily optional rules like the rules for Serpent Taint and the rules for Ophi-tech malfunctions and the possible consequences.
Layout: Simply put - it is awesome. The book is very well laid out and well edited. The art is very good, from the filler art at the start of each chapter to the character art for the NPCs.
In conclusion, this game has a lot of appeal. Not surprisingly, it is written by multi-Origin and Ennie Award winner Kenneth Hite. This is a well written and thorough setting book with a lot in it. It is imaginative, different, and at the same time has enough familiarity that one can grasp the basic pulp fiction aspects of the game. Reading his words in the Inspiration section at the back of the book, he pieces together several disparate and unrelated ideas to bring together a brilliant and vivid world that drives you to want to play in it. Great job!