The Wages Ophir – GoPlay Manchester 8th February 2020
A Pulp adventure in the Savage World of ‘The Day After Ragnarok’.Across the world, lies the trillion-ton corpse of the Midgard Serpent, raised from the sea by the nazis and destroyed by Truman’s atomic fire: poisoning the Earth with every night that passes.A small band of mercenaries under the command of the Royal Navy have been deployed to escort a volatile tanker of Ophiline from the Hereford Cut to a small coastal town in Wales. A local separatist politician, Solo Man, is rumoured to have a stock-pile of precious resources to trade, in exchange for the valuable fuel.
The mission to play a different post-apocalyptic games each month in 2020 continues. This time I used Savage Worlds in The Day After Ragnarok setting created by Kenneth Hite in 2009.
The world in 1948 reeling from the intervention of the Nazis who summon the Midguard Serpent to the sound of Wagner (the players joined in with the Ride of the Valkyries) from the depths of the seas; Odin’s son reaps havoc upon the world.
Truman’s Trinity Device is despatched and it destroys the serpent’s brain “in torrent of of atomic fire … Dark crimson rain fell from Dublin to Denver. Where it struck the seas boiled and the Earth drank poison. And things engendered, mutated horrors born of dragon’s blood and broken strontium atoms …”
The serpent body (350 miles across) lies as a curtain across Europe, wiping out most of Britain. The Empire stays intact as Australia was untouched by the events, so Prince Henry serving as the Governor-General set up Sydney as the new Imperial capital. The Royal Society (and the Royal Engineers) have begun to drill into the serpent to extract precious resources from its gut. For the sake of Crown and Country, the grit of the Brits are keen to keep calm, carry on and rebuild from the wreckage.
This adventure begins at the Hereford Cut, the location of the serpent mine, where a group of mercenaries volunteer for a suicide mission, transporting 20 canisters of volatile, un-refined orphaline across the Brecon Beacons to coastal town. They’re acting on a rumour from ‘Douglas’, who was played by Michael Douglas, that a separatist movement are building up a power-base using resources that have washed up on the coast of Wales, including planes (in kit form) which were heading for RAF Burtonwood.
A forward party which would include a negotiator will accompany the 2 1/2 truck filled with canisters of orphaline with the intention of negotiating with the group, exchanging their technology with oil from the serpent.
Here is a play report in the usual format, 5 highlights and 1 fumble.
Bennies – Check!
Special ’snake skin’ playing cards as the action deck – Check!
An extra action deck of playing cards for the ‘chase’ sequence – Check!
Status cards – Check!
Traveller minis – Check!
Adventure cards – Check! Wild dice – Check!
A play mat downloaded for each player so they can layout all of their dice and stuff – Check!
Natty new GM Screen – Check!
I think I’ve said before that there are a lot of ‘bits’ to Savage Worlds if you get carried away (like I do). Most of the extra things that came out from the Adventurer Edition kickstart don’t really add much other than more palaver to manage. The Adventure Card deck on the other hand is a really good addition to the game. Every player gets an adventure card and they can play it once during the session.
These operate in a similar way to MOS in Nights Black Agents – a game-changing advantage that can be used to great effect if used at the right time. In this game, a stash of gas masks were found, some cards were played to ensure that they had initiative advantage at the best time and one was used to roll away from an exploded wreckage.
Most of the fun from this session came from the ‘Wages of Fear’ set up they gingerly overcame obstacles in their truck, most of them taken from the original film or from Sorcerer (the William Friedkin remake).
They faced a tight turning circle over a rotten platform, a giant boulder, and sharp, tyre-shredding rocks on the road.
This was mechanically represented with usage dice. Prior to the journey, each character had a chance to make an adaptation to add a dice to the pool. Depending on their relevant talents they improved the suspension, loaded the canisters in sand and reinforced the canvas sides with steel-plate (which would prove very useful).
They had a d10, d8, d6 and a d4 to begin with. Every time they made a manoeuvre without a raise, they had to roll over 2 on highest the dice, otherwise it was removed.
At the point when the dice decreased, the oil released a cloud of vapour, if inhaled it gave them the ’snake bite’ and made them more vulnerable to the Serpent’s thrall.
The ‘unlucky’ driver seemed to suck this up every time!
The forward company (including the negotiator) were ambushed while the player characters were undertaking a tricky manoeuvre.
“When you get closer, you realise that the bandits with sub-machine guns are dressed as nuns.”
“Nuns, with guns?!”
They were actually members of the Daughters of Dionin, but it seemed funnier describing them as nuns.
It’s a savage world
I have the FATE version of The Day After Ragnarok, but after using its Adventure Generator to get the bones of the scenario I soon decided that I would take the Savage Worlds approach.
There were a couple of reasons: I know it better and the current Adventurer version has new chase rules that I wanted to test out.
I feel that Savage Worlds is better for the ‘fighty Pulp’ excitement that I wanted to generate.
The swingy exploding dice and the unexpected results add a more spectacular, unpredictable element that’s harder to achieve with the more controlled FATE.
To prove the point, the finale was an exciting confrontation within the serpent temple. They were outnumbered. The driver spiked the eye of the ‘Aunt Jenny’, a serpent-witch who had devoured their contact Douglas and had assumed his form. The driver only had a Philips head screwdriver, but thanks to exploding damage dice he managed to kill the creature with a single blow. As the GM, I didn’t have enough bennies left to soak up the damage.
A lucky hit with a thrown orphaline canister took down the big boss Solo-Man followed by the shrine to the serpent.
Then, as they reversed away, the delusional character thought he’d finish it all off with another canister, “I’m rubbish at throwing, but don’t worry, I have 4 bennies.”
Sure enough, he burned through the bennies, and the canister landed on the truck. A couple of them survived that explosion, but not the moment when the final usage dice rolled a 2, causing the remaining 18 canisters to explode.
The delusional character managed to roll away to safety after causing a TPK. It was a great moment, and a very fitting conclusion.
The adventure card was played to ensure that the team got commendation. King Henry IX bestowed a post-humous Victoria Cross on the team.
My fumble: I forgot that the nuns had laid mines to protect them from being flanked. Ah well, the explosions got them in the end.
The next Go-Play is 28th March 2020 (follow the details on the web-site). The next post-apocalyptic game is The Morrow Project on 15th March (which was opened up to Patreons).