Game Day: The Lunchtime After Ragnarok

My lunchtime role-playing game campaign is now a reality. Inspired by Mike Mearls’ tales of lunchtime D&D 4E campaigns, and after my coworkers jumped at an offhand tweet about a lunchtime game, I’m now running a twice-a-week The Day After Ragnarok game.

Powered by Savage Worlds (Amazon), The Day After Ragnarok¬†(Website / Amazon) is a post-apocalyptic setting that takes place in 1948, after the Nazis summoned the Midgard serpent in an attempt to bring about the end of the world … and the American’s killed it by flying a nuclear bomb into its eye.

The name of the campaign is Blood and Oil, and it’s a sandbox-style game set off the shore of Texas, in the floating seastead of New Galveston. We have three player characters:

  • Kjell Ulrikstaal, a Norwegian sailor who has little memory of how he ended up in America
  • James Larry Wilson, a New Jersey refuge with a fondness for axes who rode a coffin to safety when the tidal surge drowned the East Coast
  • Bob Lee, a former Special Forces soldier from South Carolina

They’re hired guns for the Stormrunner, a WWII-era patrol boat captained by Jake Finnigan (hat tip Deep Rising), and their first big job is investigating the Clearwater Explorer, a deep sea oil drilling platform that is reportedly under attack by strange humanoid creatures.

The first campaign session was Friday, but this wasn’t our first taste of Ragnarok; to familiarize my neophyte players with Savage Worlds and the setting, I ran my “Ruins of New York” scenario. It went well: we ran about two sessions a week, with each lasting about an hour. The entire scenario took 2.5 to 3 hours to complete (largely because my players deftly avoided getting into a firefight with a Soviet strike team)

Based on our sessions to date, I can safely say that I was right: Savage Worlds is perfect for lunchtime gaming. It’s fast, it’s furious and my players loved the exploding dice mechanic (or “acing”, as its referred to in SW). The ability to have a large number of mooks that can easily be taken out by players, as well, as a big bad or two (“Wild Cards” in SW) means that you can knock out a combat in a half an hour and still have time for some role-playing/plot development.

Just as importantly, it’s a snap to game master. I can whip up an adventure — including NPCs, locations, and plot — in less than an hour. The compact Savage Worlds Explorers Edition and Day After Ragnarok books fit nicely in my messenger bag, and all of my game supplies (wound tokens, bennies, dice, initiative cards, a few minis) fit into a lunchbox. The sole exception is my small wet-erase map, which I keep in a drawer at work.

My immediate goal at the start of the campaign is to quickly get the players into the action (thus the strange happenings at the Clearwater Explorer) and get an adventure under our belts. Then I want to use Ragnarok’s excellent (and decidedly old school) random generators to spawn a few adventure hooks to throw out to the players.

I’m running this like I used to run my D&D games — give my players the world, and see what happens next. This is in opposition to my Star Wars campaign, which is much more story driven. That’s not to say that Shadows of the Force is about railroading — far from it — but it’s very much about finding each character’s story, and weaving them into a larger plot.

While we’re still in the early going, I expect Blood and Oil to be all about exploring the Serpent-tainted world and discovering what mysteries and horrors it holds.

I’m looking forward to it.