Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tommy's Take on The Pine Ridge Horror (Savage Worlds)

The Pine Ridge Horror is a new PDF adventure for Savage Worlds that was just released by Silver Gryphon Games, maker of such goodness as Wellstone City.  Written by David Baymiller and featuring the art of Storn Cook, The Pine Ridge Horror is a one shot action/horror adventure that can be dropped into an existing game, or used to launch a game if so desired.  One of the cool things about Savage Worlds is that the number of players don't matter, as the game runs so smoothly with the PCs handling multiple NPCs, that you can run a game with one player and still have a whole party.

I should note now that I absolutely love Savage Worlds.  It is, without a doubt, my favorite in-print game system, and my second favorite system of all time.  While I have never reviewed a Savage Worlds product before, I can say without hesitation that it is my first impulse for running anything shy of a supers game (Marvel SAGA is still the king in my book).

Weighing in at 18 pages and running $2.25 at RPGnow, the only other product that you will need for this is the Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition.  The adventure is set in the 70s, right after the end of the Vietnam war, in the Pine Ridge Forest near South Dakota.  Two boys have found a camp utterly slaughtered and alerted the Rangers, and that's where the adventure begins.

The adventure is written under the assumption that the PCs are either Park Rangers or volunteers along for the hunt for the bears that CLEARLY tore apart the camp.  However, there is another, more “horror movie” option provided in a sidebar, where the PCs are just playing campers who stumble upon the mess themselves.  You can even mix and match the options, if you like.  It wouldn't be a big stretch to have someone as part of a group of horny teens out camping and others as volunteers on the hunt.  That gives you a large potential bodycount to play around with, if you like.  The only downside to the “campers” option, is that I could see the adventure being REALLY tough to survive for “normal” teens...whereas you have some room for “badass” with the Ranger volunteer option.

The adventure is laid out timeline style over the course of two days.  The first day is all about building the tension, with false alarms and red herrings.  The hunting party consists of six NPCs to go along with any PCs, with personalities specifically designed to add a little extra tension to the mix, of course.  This can all help with the tension building, and allows more room for fun when, say, an NPC fails a Fear check and starts firing at random.

I will be playing light with spoilers here, but I will say that by nightfall, the PCs will have a very clear idea that it's Not Bears they are dealing with, and by dawn on the second day, the body count will begin.

In true horror movie fashion, the second day will bring a Mysterious Stranger From The Woods Who Knows Far More Than He's Willing To Talk About, and probably just in time, too.  The whole thing builds to a bloody siege in the Stranger's Cabin, and it is very much an over the top, Savage Worlds version of a horror movie climax.

The Pine Ridge Horror should be a great way to spend an evening of gaming and, as mentioned, you can use it completely stand alone, launch into a new campaign, or even drop it into an existing campaign.  You can change the era with little problems...just if you modernize it, make the woods a cellphone deadzone.  Just trust me.

Also, my advice: Play it straight, with the PCs as hunters and not as teen revelers in the woods.  I could EASILY see teens, especially with, say, a single gun between them, getting themselves killed – possibly by the end of the first night.  I could be wrong, but the real threat of the Pine Ridge Horror should be PLENTY dangerous enough to give you all the tension you need.

Very strong recommendation.  Silver Gryphon Games have added a wonderful addition to the Savage Worlds line-up.