[19:30] <+HappyMonsterScott> First of all, Dan – thanks so much for inviting me to RPGNet! I’m Scott, and I’ve been gaming on and off for the better part of 30 years, all the way back to Basic D&D.
[19:30] <+HappyMonsterScott> Children of the Apocalypse is my first Kickstarter, but certainly won’t be my last.
[19:31] <+HappyMonsterScott> Children of the Apocalypse is a high-fantasy, high-theology, early black-powder-era setting for Savage Worlds, taking place five centuries after a modern technological civilization on a parallel Earth collapsed.
[19:31] <+HappyMonsterScott> The adventure takes place in post-apocalypse New England, where factions backed by various godlike beings (the Nine Gods) have established enclaves of civilization.
[19:31] <+HappyMonsterScott> In the plot point campaign, one of the Nine Gods eventually enlists the players in her scheme to eliminate her rivals and take sole dominion of the world.
[19:31] <+HappyMonsterScott> Adventures center on exploration of ruined cities, retrieval of ancient knowledge and ancient artifacts, which Tinker Mages (Weird Scientists) can empower with magic, and eventually decisions that can lead to the destruction of all the gods, and with them, all non-psionic magic in the world.
[19:32] <+HappyMonsterScott> (done)
[19:32] <~Dan> Thanks, HappyMonsterScott! The floor is open to questions!
[19:33] <+HappyMonsterScott> For convenience and brevity, I’ll use CotA to refer to the setting.
[19:33] <~Dan> Is the collapsed civilization the equivalent of modern day?
[19:33] <+HappyMonsterScott> A bit more advanced – I figured around 2020-2030 or so. Basically a familiar world, but with a few advances, notably in biotech.
[19:33] <+HappyMonsterScott> No flying cars, though.
[19:34] <~Dan> I see… And if it’s not a spoiler, can you say what happened to it?
[19:34] <+HappyMonsterScott> There’s more than one answer, and it does get spoilery… what everyone THINKS happened was a massive war among the Nine Gods.
[19:35] <+HappyMonsterScott> Since some of them have dominion over things like plague, history describes it as a pretty big mess.
[19:35] <~Dan> Was magic always around in this world?
[19:36] <+HappyMonsterScott> As far as the current inhabitants know, yes. That’s reinforced by the presence of “Tinker Mages” (Weird Science for Savage Worlds folks) who repurpose old technological gadgets into magic items.
[19:37] <+HappyMonsterScott> Some examples are an action figure that is now the “Battle Buddy”, which can transform into a construct bodyguard, or a smartwatch that is now the “Bracer of Sung” (as in Sam- Sung) and can be used for tracking and to control other items.
[19:37] <+HappyMonsterScott> So it makes sense to the everyday folks that magic was always there, because the artifacts of the old world are magical.
[19:37] * ~Dan nods
[19:38] <~Dan> What other forms of magic exist?
[19:39] <+HappyMonsterScott> One of my goals for the setting was to use pretty much everything in Savage Worlds. Miracles, religious magic, are a big deal, because the gods are a constant presence – it’s not at all unusual for an important person to encounter one.
[19:39] <+HappyMonsterScott> Traditional magic, alchemy, ritual magic and psionics are all in play.
[19:40] <+HappyMonsterScott> One of the archetype characters is a noblewoman and psionic who believes that the psionic arts are the basis for all other magic, but it’s kind of a fringe theory.
[19:40] * ~Dan nods
[19:40] <+HappyMonsterScott> The divine magics from the gods are trapped consistent with that god’s nature, so Edward the Lightbringer has fire and light based spells, while Iset’s trappings are cold and air.
[19:41] <+HappyMonsterScott> And Iuno, the devil goddess of Death and Disease – well, that should be obvious. 🙂
[19:41] <~Dan> 🙂
[19:42] <~Dan> Is there a reason why the Nine Gods decided to cluster around New England?
[19:42] <+HappyMonsterScott> Outside of magic, the civilization is around the Renaissance in terms of technology. Black powder weapons exist but are expensive, so pikemen and mounted knights are the prime movers on the battlefield.
[19:43] <+HappyMonsterScott> They didn’t! They’re sufficiently godlike that they can show up pretty much anywhere they want. Parts of the world were more badly damaged by the cataclysm (Europe, for example), but the Nine pop up all over.
[19:43] <+HappyMonsterScott> The reason for the New England setting is actually more about the player characters. Each character in the plot point campaign gets a special gift, and some of those gifts are attracting attention.
[19:44] <~Dan> (Howdy, Frankto!)
[19:44] <+Frankto> (Hi!)
[19:44] <+HappyMonsterScott> (Welcome!)
[19:45] <~Dan> Are all of the PCs human?
[19:45] <+HappyMonsterScott> As a note, one of the stretch goals expands the setting to the Chicago area.
[19:46] <+HappyMonsterScott> Absolutely not! Each of the gods (except Iuno) has created a race that they feel epitomizes their view of what humanity should be, so there are a total of 8 new playable races. Of course, if you’re from one of the races created by the darker gods, people may react badly.
[19:46] <~Dan> (Howdy, JamesGillen!)
[19:46] <+HappyMonsterScott> Five of the races are fairly commonplace, but all 8 are playable.
[19:46] <+JamesGillen> hi
[19:46] <~Dan> What are they?
[19:47] <+HappyMonsterScott> I think my favorite are probably the Bastelin, created by Jonas, God of Tinker Mages, Alchemists, and Engineers. They’re insatiably curious four-armed humanoids that tend to be about 6’3″ and brilliant.
[19:49] <+HappyMonsterScott> The other common races are the Aleulama, blue-skinned and white-haired with an innate gift for sensing truth; Ritters, burly hairless warrior-types; the Illuminated, who look a bit like glowing, floating merpeople; and Sherzi, who are beautiful but generally untrustworthy.
[19:50] <~Dan> How common are these races compared to normal humans?
[19:51] <+HappyMonsterScott> About the same, with a bias towards whichever race corresponds to the patron deity of the city.
[19:51] * ~Dan nods
[19:52] <~Dan> Are there monsters in the setting?
[19:53] <+HappyMonsterScott> Yes. Two of the playable races often end up in the monster role – the Adharcans, also known as beastmen, and the Tannain, which are truly hideous monsters. One of the gods, Vered, is known as the patron and creator of monsters.
[19:53] <+HappyMonsterScott> So pretty much any monster you can imagine will crop up, but more often the opposition are other cities and settlements, with an occasional leavening of creatures.
[19:54] <+HappyMonsterScott> Iuno doesn’t have a race because she rules the undead, so they show up quite often.
[19:54] <~Dan> What forms of undead exist?
[19:55] <+HappyMonsterScott> The most powerful are lich-like, such as the Lich Queen of Salem. From there, it ranges from incorporeal spirits through death knights all the way to basic zombies and skeletons.
[19:56] <+HappyMonsterScott> The Savage Worlds Zombie power is a standard for Iuno’s followers.
[19:56] <+HappyMonsterScott> Generally, the undead and monsters control ruined cities, until some neighboring power is strong enough to throw them out.
[19:57] <+HappyMonsterScott> The inter-city power struggles are a big part of the early plot point campaign.
[19:59] <~Dan> Are there any other gods beyond the Nine?
[20:00] <+HappyMonsterScott> Not that anyone knows about, anyway… without giving too much away, there are beings that have some of the abilities of gods. The Lich Queen of Salem used to be one such being, until she died of old age and Iuno captured her soul.
[20:00] <+HappyMonsterScott> There’s a lot of speculation among scholars that there may have been more gods before the war, but that only these Nine survived.
[20:01] * ~Dan nods
[20:02] <+HappyMonsterScott> I am happy to get into spoiler territory if you’d like – and then I can give some interesting answers to these questions! As an aside, when I first ran the campaign, I disguised all the place names for the players.
[20:03] <+HappyMonsterScott> It took them most of the campaign to figure out that everything was taking place right in their own backyard. I’ve included the method for doing that as an option in the setting book.
[20:03] <~Dan> That is totally up to you, re: spoilers. I’m certainly curious. We can give a spoiler warning for folks reading the log. 🙂
[20:04] <+HappyMonsterScott> I think we’ve probably given them some good content up to this point. So if you don’t want to read the GM section – spoilers ahead!
[20:04] <+HappyMonsterScott> In fact, there weren’t any gods and only very limited psionics before the apocalypse. The disaster came about as the result of an unethical experiment in bioengineering for increased intelligence.
[20:05] <+HappyMonsterScott> The retrovirus used for the genetic modification mutated, and the resulting plague wiped out a large fraction of humanity.
[20:05] <+JamesGillen> whoops
[20:06] <+HappyMonsterScott> The children born after the plague sometimes had psionic powers – and in a few cases, reality-warping level powers. The original gods were these children, and, having grown up right after the apocalypse, they all had some…issues.
[20:06] <+HappyMonsterScott> Among other things, their abilities fuel all the magic in the world, so if they didn’t exist, or if, say, someone wiped them all out, only psionics would still function.
[20:07] <~Dan> Huh.
[20:07] <+HappyMonsterScott> The Nine who survived the war have a detente – they don’t oppose each other directly, only through proxies. So each god or small alliance of gods is pushing their followers to create their ideal of society.
[20:08] <+HappyMonsterScott> The one thing they pretty much all agree on is that biological technology needs to be held back, so any sort of pre-war biology text is considered heretical material.
[20:09] <~Dan> Would their created races perish if they died?
[20:09] <+HappyMonsterScott> The reason for New England is specifically that Iset, one of the gods, sees the ingredients for a process to get power over and/or get rid of the other gods – and the PCs are right in the middle of the mess.
[20:11] <+HappyMonsterScott> Not the created races, although some of them would lose abilities they had only through magic. The undead would be toast, as would a significant fraction of the monsters, those who rely on magic either to sustain their lives or for hunting, etc.
[20:11] * ~Dan nods
[20:11] <+HappyMonsterScott> And the fun part is the players get to influence how this plays out, including, possibly, deciding to wipe out ALL the gods.
[20:12] <+HappyMonsterScott> In the two full-campaign playtests, one group did wipe out the gods (while simultaneously trying to reverse-engineer the original virus and obtain godhood themselves), and the other actually let Iset win.
[20:12] <+HappyMonsterScott> The Chicago setting is actually post-war, dealing with the impact of magic suddenly not working and psionics being the only arcana left.
[20:13] <~Dan> Interesting.
[20:14] <+HappyMonsterScott> It results in a massive shift in the balance of power, as you might expect.
[20:14] <~Dan> I would think so, yes.
[20:14] <+HappyMonsterScott> Depending on the Kickstarter outcome, that setting might be in the setting book or in a future expansion.
[20:14] * ~Dan nods
[20:15] <~Dan> Seems like it should be in an expansion, if it’s based on just one possible outcome of the original campaign.
[20:15] <~Dan> (Howdy, Snoof!)
[20:15] <+HappyMonsterScott> Oh – and to your question about other gods – one of the players is the Undying – basically, any time he’s killed, he heals and stands back up again. I recommend the GM not tell that player what his special gift is, and let him find out on his own.
[20:16] <+JamesGillen> ha
[20:16] <+HappyMonsterScott> The adventures, yes; the gazetteer of the city would work either way.
[20:17] <+HappyMonsterScott> Part of the thought process in creating the setting was to make life easy for busy GMs. Maps with realistic geography? Done. NPC names? Use a phone book.
[20:17] * ~Dan nods
[20:18] <+HappyMonsterScott> The playtesters absolutely added a lot of flavor to the setting as well, usually by going off in directions I didn’t expect.
[20:18] <~Dan> Oh? Can you give an example?
[20:19] <+HappyMonsterScott> In one of the early plot point episodes, the party is dispatched to a neighboring city to persuade the ruler to send troops, as their home city is under attack. One of the players decided he wanted to connect with the local underworld.
[20:20] <+HappyMonsterScott> So I had to come up with a seedy tavern and a contact. The contact I came up with was “Short Tom”, which I decided was a job title rather than a name. So every time the player came back to the tavern, there’d be a different Short Tom.
[20:20] <~Dan> Heh. 🙂
[20:21] <+HappyMonsterScott> Eventually, this player built a sausage cart empire, using the vendors as spies. Worked out well for him. There are a couple of allusions to that particular arc in the gazetteer.
[20:22] <~Dan> Well, any campaign is bound to have wieners and losers.
[20:22] <+HappyMonsterScott> Several NPCs came out of interactions that the players either invented or decided they wanted to have as part of their character development.
[20:22] <+HappyMonsterScott> *snort*
[20:23] <+HappyMonsterScott> That group in particular prompted the idea of publishing the setting. I think they particularly liked the surprise that came with discovering that they were exploring their own neighborhood.
[20:23] <~Dan> Cool. 🙂
[20:24] <~Dan> Is this your first published game, by the way?
[20:24] <+HappyMonsterScott> That was actually a tough design decision, whether to make the world explicitly a parallel of our own, or to conceal it like I did for that group. Eventually, I decided that putting the parallel world right out front was a lot easier to manage and for people to grasp.
[20:25] * ~Dan nods
[20:25] <+HappyMonsterScott> Yes – all my other publications have been comparitively dull and work-related.
[20:25] <+HappyMonsterScott> I’m in this for the long haul, however. I have another setting in development as we speak, and I’ll get CotA out to the world one way or another.
[20:26] <+HappyMonsterScott> Fortunately, I can do almost all the necessary publication tasks in-house. The only skill I’m missing is really good artists.
[20:27] <+HappyMonsterScott> So that’s the focus of the Kickstarter, getting art that really fits the content.
[20:27] <~Dan> What led you to go with Savage Worlds?
[20:29] <+HappyMonsterScott> That was a much earlier decision, actually. Around 4-5 years ago, I was running 4th ed D&D Encounters at my FLGS, but they opted to start charging a door fee and the players dried up. I invited some of them to start a separate campaign, but needed a system that I could prep relatively easily.
[20:29] <+HappyMonsterScott> That led me to Savage Worlds, specifically to Space 1889: Red Sands, which was a setting I’d liked for a long time.
[20:29] * ~Dan nods
[20:30] <+HappyMonsterScott> Once we wrapped up the Red Sands campaign, I felt like I had a solid enough grasp on the ruleset to do something original.
[20:31] <+HappyMonsterScott> Since then, in addition to CotA, I’ve run an adaptation of Eclipse Phase for Savage Worlds, a small Savage Rifts campaign, and I’m currently running ETU – Degrees of Horror for my online group.
[20:31] <+HappyMonsterScott> The next in-person campaign will likely be the new setting, once I’ve got the add-on rules worked out.
[20:32] <+HappyMonsterScott> I’d certainly consider porting CotA or other settings into other systems, however. I’m a bit of a rules junky- I’ll get a system book just to understand the mechanics.
[20:33] <~Dan> Yeah, I can relate to that.
[20:34] <~Dan> Is CotA the start of a game line, or more of a one-off?
[20:34] <+HappyMonsterScott> I actually did run CotA as a 5e D&D campaign for one group – it adapted fairly easily. The only real gap was the Tinker Mage – if they settle on an artificer class at some point, that will be covered.
[20:36] <+HappyMonsterScott> CotA is really the launch project for a long-term publishing effort. Once I get it into circulation, how much material I add to it will really depend on its reception, but there are more settings in the pipeline. Right now, I’m not looking to build my own systems, but settings and supplements, absolutely.
[20:36] <+HappyMonsterScott> Any system I built would probably make GURPS look like FATE, anyway. 😛
[20:37] <+HappyMonsterScott> This weekend will actually be the first public playtest of the new setting, Legion of Liberty. It has an easy pitch line – the Revolutionary War with superheroes.
[20:37] * ~Dan chuckles
[20:37] <~Dan> Hey, cool!
[20:38] <+HappyMonsterScott> Yeah. The initial private playtest was a lot of fun, even if the party did nearly get Paul Revere killed.
[20:38] <+JamesGillen> ha
[20:38] <+HappyMonsterScott> I’m using core Savage Worlds but with a bunch of new Edges and Powers, rather than the Superpowers companion, which felt like overkill for this setting.
[20:39] <~Dan> Why’s that?
[20:39] <+HappyMonsterScott> And yes, it will START in New England again, but the plot point campaign will cover the whole war.
[20:39] <+HappyMonsterScott> Several reasons. First, I really wanted the setting to be playable with just the core rules. Second, a lot of the Superpowers companion implicitly assumes a modern technological setting.
[20:40] <+HappyMonsterScott> Superheroes designed to cope with battle tanks and laser weapons would be a tad OP facing a musket line.
[20:40] <+JamesGillen> mm
[20:41] <+HappyMonsterScott> Third, there’s a ton of complexity in the character build process for the superhero companion, and I think it can be done just as well and a lot more simply with core.
[20:41] <+HappyMonsterScott> Last but not least, I’m hoping one of the themes in my settings will be GM-friendly, and core makes life a lot easier in terms of designing challenging encounters.
[20:41] <~Dan> You need to watch this: (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7iVsdRbhnc)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7iVsdRbhnc
[20:42] <+HappyMonsterScott> Feedback from folks who’ve run the superhero companion is that it can get…messy.
[20:43] <+HappyMonsterScott> I seriously considered having Washington as a superhuman, but so far have decided against it. And despite my sons’ pleadings, AquaHamilton will not be happening.
[20:43] * ~Dan chuckles
[20:43] <+HappyMonsterScott> But Paul Revere, the Silver Speedster? Yeah, he’s in the intro adventure.
[20:44] <~Dan> Cool. 🙂
[20:45] <+HappyMonsterScott> One of the setting ideas is that superpowers occur only in people born in the New World, so the colonial powers are basically farming the colonists for human weapons. Therefore, if you’re a superhuman, you’re going to be conscripted unless you can buy your way out of it
[20:45] <+HappyMonsterScott> I wanted to keep Washington’s background as a militia officer, so internal logic said he probably would not have been superhuman.
[20:45] <+HappyMonsterScott> The British superhumans are the Royal Superhuman Regiment, or Greycoats. Instant bad guys!
[20:46] <~Dan> 🙂
[20:46] <+HappyMonsterScott> The Plot Point campaign is very much a work in progress, but I’ve got some interesting ideas on how to allow the player’s actions to influence the flow of the war.
[20:47] <~Dan> Nice.
[20:47] <+HappyMonsterScott> Plus, I’m pulling in some local history. The revolution ALMOST kicked off three months earlier in Salem, but the British officer in question ended up retreating rather than starting a fight. In the campaign, he starts a fight.
[20:48] <+HappyMonsterScott> I’m hoping to find other interesting historical nuggets to throw in.
[20:48] <~Dan> That’s pretty cool!
[20:49] <+HappyMonsterScott> Yes, I’m looking forward to the campaign playtest. This weekend, I’ll be running the Battle of Salem scenario at Arisia in Boston, a local all-purpose fandom and geekery con.
[20:49] <+HappyMonsterScott> As well as a Children of the Apocalypse scenario.
[20:49] <~Dan> Are there any other aspects of the CotA setting that you’d like to cover?
[20:50] <+HappyMonsterScott> I’ve talked a bit about the gift mechanic, but I can expand on that. Each player character in CotA has some sort of starting benefit. Sometimes it’s a magic item, sometimes a powerful connection, in one case it’s being the Undying.
[20:51] <+HappyMonsterScott> And the campaign is designed for all of those benefits to turn around on the characters later in the game. So basically they get a running start, but it ends up costing them later.
[20:52] <+HappyMonsterScott> I think that structure of the plot point campaign, along with the eventual need to make huge decisions about the fate of the world, is probably one of the more unique aspects of the setting.
[20:52] * ~Dan nods
[20:53] <+HappyMonsterScott> Ah- one other thing I didn’t touch on. One of the classic conundrums in the beginning of a campaign is “Why are these people hanging out at all?” I cut that process short. The PCs are recent graduates of a Greatschool, basically an adventuring academy.
[20:53] <~Dan> Heh. 🙂
[20:54] <+HappyMonsterScott> As a result, they’re indentured for a year and a day of service, so they start out with assigned missions, and then evolve out from there. Presumably all that initial adventuring creates a bond.
[20:54] * ~Dan nods
[20:54] <~Dan> That’s clever.
[20:55] <+HappyMonsterScott> The starter adventure in the plot point campaign actually has the players going out as part of a larger expedition, which I’ve set up to fail spectacularly, leaving the PCs on their own to figure out how to accomplish the mission (or perhaps to run for home).
[20:55] <+HappyMonsterScott> Assuming they succeed, it helps explain why relative novices are assigned some important tasks, and acts as a general reputation builder. It also frequently offers an opportunity to “kill” the Undying.
[20:56] * ~Dan nods
[20:56] <+HappyMonsterScott> As the plot point campaign proceeds, the PCs start getting hooks from other sources, until they get to the point where the gods start intervening directly, and then the real fun begins.
[20:57] <~Dan> I’d imagine so!
[20:57] <+HappyMonsterScott> There’s a lot of opportunity to mess with the player’s preconceptions about who are the “good guys” and “bad guys”, and also for the PCs actions to get them in hot water with their former patrons.
[20:58] * ~Dan nods
[20:59] <+HappyMonsterScott> I’ve also created a group of adventurers from a rival city that can act as recurring antagonists. In the first playtest, one of them actually had a grudge against the parents of one of the PCs, which led to some fun roleplaying. It was kind of an Indiana Jones/Belloq relationship.
[20:59] <~Dan> Cool. 🙂
[21:00] <~Dan> Mind if we wrap up a little early?
[21:01] <+HappyMonsterScott> For the plot point, there’s a pretty broad range of adventures, from straight up old-school dungeon crawls to diplomacy, mysteries, and secret societies.
[21:01] <+HappyMonsterScott> Nope. Thanks again for having me as a guest.
[21:02] <~Dan> You’re welcome! If you’ll give me just a moment, I’ll get the log posted and link you.
[21:02] <+HappyMonsterScott> Thank you much!
[21:03] <~Dan> Oh, and the usual reminder to my readers: Those interested in supporting my Q&As can do so at (Link: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/)https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/