Posted on August 21, 2009 by spikexan
It’s a world where jetpack-toting heroes combat Fly-By-Nights (a combination of toad, bat, and gorilla). It’s a world where a 200-foot tall tidal wave decimated the North American East Coast. It’s a pulp setting full of Communists, Klansmen, Norse myth, and much more. It’s a world that comes from the twisted mind of Kenneth Hite, and it’s worth staking out. The Day After Ragnarok (DAR from here on out) is a new savage setting for Savage Worlds that takes place in a world where the line between World War II and Norse myth blur, permitting Jörmungander, the Midgard Serpent, entrance to our reality.
DAR’s layout proves Spartan. Cleanliness lends to divinity though in that the finished product looks smart. Instead of the usual two-column format, DAR primarily favors a single column. Neatly placed sidebars work to make an exception to this. We’ll examine the sidebars’ contents later. For me, the cleaner style is a win; nevertheless, I know some like to see graphics heavy borders through their text. You won’t find that here. Also, for those familiar with Savage Worlds, all Wild Cards (tougher NPCs) are annotated by the Eye of Jörmungander. It gets your attention.
In fact, the artwork runs wild in DAR. The amount of artwork seems dead-on in this modest-sized (128 pages) book. Photos, reserved for vehicles and weaponry, are just as plentiful as sketches. Jeff Himmelman’s cover art is a catchy, pulpy piece that properly serves the book. I particularly liked the scratches and “wear” on the sides of the photo as if I picked up my copy on a forgotten shelf in some narrow-aisle bookstore. A handful of artists contributed to the book’s interior. Many of these pieces were full-page wonders to set the mood. Ones shows the Strange Cargo flying headlong towards its final conflict with the Serpent. Another depicts a post-war survivor scavenging outside a demolished Piggly Wiggly. Smaller pieces are reserved for the iconic personas of the time period. All in all, the art didn’t just shine through, rather it fit the book amazingly well.
Kenneth Hite returns to familiar stomping grounds for this setting. Putting his GURPS books on WWII, Weird War II, and the Strange Transmissions into a blender could easily produce this book. Don’t feel like these are rehashed ideas though. No, this book burns its own playable path.
The book’s introduction is four pages; however, four pages of Hite reads like much more. His writing style, dense with ideas, explains the events that led to the rise of Jörmungander and the current global happenings in 1948 (default year for the game).
Switching gears, The Heroes’ Section delivers all the character creating tools for playing in this setting (you’ll still need the Savage Worlds book to fully flesh out the character). These thirty-six pages explain genre-specific Edges, Hindrances, and more for players. The key aspect to this chapter, for me, falls to Ophi-Tech. The idea is this: With a giant dead serpent laying from Africa to Europe, people began getting souvenirs. As it turns out, there are “useful” things on the body of the Midgard Serpent. We’re talking fuel supplies, weapons, and more. There might be some side effects, but let’s not get concerned about that! There might be a condition known as being snakebit, but we should just gloss over that too. I initially wanted to see sanity rules for this setting; however, thinking about it changed my mind. The biggest reason for my change was the fact that pulp heroes don’t lose their minds fighting mythical horrors. No, they fight them. There is more than enough stacked against players in this setting for them to fear earning Ophidiophobia mid-game.
The GM’s Section shines the most as Hite lets his imagination run free. It is here that various post-war countries are described. Antagonists are described (most are originals or clever re-inventions). Also, there are some excellent side bars, such as Five Places to Stomp Nazis or Five Places to Find a Remote Castle . . . Ruled by a Madman. There are also random adventure generator, which shows through a few examples how to get the most out of one of these usually unfun things. At the end, there is a hiccup to show some of Hite’s inspirations for this project, an excellent index, and the game specific character sheet.
Fans of Savage Worlds, High Strangeness, and World War II will benefit the most from this book. I believe this setting will attract those who have tastes in other genres and pursuits though. DAR is a well-written and playable game that gets these scores:
Layout: Five out of Five Dice (Excellent layout, but art fans may find it too bare)
Artwork: Five out of Five Dice (A small pool of artists working close to the details of the project in order to make the art fit properly)
Writing: Five out of Five Dice (Shines in the intro, Ophi-Tech section, and GM’s section)
Overall: Five out of Five Dice (I guess the GenCon Fairy blesses this book)
Review by Todd Cash