Friday, November 5, 2010

Tommy's Take on Shanghai Vampocalypse

There have been folks who have felt, and not without justification, that while Savage Worlds is awesome...it falls short of "epic".

Savage Mojo has felt that way themselves, releasing their Suzerain multiverse setting for Savage Worlds, which goes so far as to add a whole new tier to character advancement beyond Legendary: Demigod.

I am ashamed to say that I only have the free version of Suzerain at the moment, which is pretty  comprehensive, providing most of the necessary rules needed to get your PCs at Demigod rank, and half a dozen sample PCs, scaled to various ranks...which is what Shangai Vampocalypse is built for. Let me reiterate: Shangai Vampocalypse is a Savage Suzerain plot point campaign *designed* for beings well beyond Legendary, and you can use the free version of Suzerain if you don't mind using pregens.

FOR PLAYERS

Shangahi Vampocalypse is set in China in the year 2048, after a nanotech virus was used to turn soldiers in vampires, for two reasons: 1) They're scary and 2) They can feed off of their rival soldiers.

This, shockingly, has not gone well...and now the PCs have to rush against time in order to save the world from a rampaging vampire army. No pressure.

You can either build to this as a grand culmination of a lengthy Suzerain campaign, or you can just level guys up to Demigod and drop them in, your choice. Luckily, popping Savage Worlds guys up from Novice to Demigod is pretty simple, just taking advances as you go.

In typical Savage Worlds fashion, we get a list of character archetypes appropriate to the setting, in this case falling more under party function (like Advisor and Long Range Fighter) rather than character concept.

NEW EDGES, HINDRANCES AND POWERS

The setting is Mysticism Meets Cyberpunk, and there are a number of suitable Edges and Hindrances to accomodate this. Ancient Master, for instance, requires your character being Elderly, but also makes his your unarmed damage equal to your Smarts + Spirit. Shang-Fu Edges are martial arts Edges, for those hand to hand types.

Rather than Arcane Backgrounds, Suzerain uses Pulse Paths, and Shanghai Vampocalypse provides Bioartificial Eugenics and Master of Veneration, the first being very much a cybernetics type thing and the latter allowing your PCs to do crazy mystical things involving spirits.

We also get a listing of setting tech, such as medpacks that get "slapped" onto the body and breakdown over time, the common "chip in the head" type feature and all kinds of crazy weapons and armor, including nanite-enhanced weapons.

FOR GMs


Here, the GM gets to find out what is REALLY going on, as there is far more at stake than just science ran amok. Indeed, events are being manipulated by a nefarious foe, and this particular reality nexus is so crucial that, if the villain is not stopped, all of reality could suffer for it, and not just this world.

The PCs are on a STRICT time from (12 hours), and this section does a GREAT job of laying out ideas on how to put the pressure on them, forcing them into hard decisions about collateral damage and the choice between saving people and losing time in the process.

The city of Shanghai gets a solid, but not heavily detailed overview, followed by tons of generic stat blocks for NPCs and Mooks encountered in the city, like Grunts and Hackers.

The Gods of Shangai are also discussed here, giving an overview of their M.O.s, as well as the locations and descriptions of their temples. Note that the Gods are Gods...meaning that even though they depend on the PCs for survival, they can't help but screw with them sometimes.

We also get Edges and Hindrances specific to vampires. Note that only about 1% of all vampires are intelligent...the rest being mindless, savage monsters. We also find out precisely what happens to people who are infected (including a way out for PC Demigods, if they so desire).

And then, the Main Event: The countdown to the apocalypse...the 12 point Plot Point campaign (labeled T-12, T-11, etc, in a nice touch). Each plot point is helpfully summarized first, before detailed.

I won't go into heavy spoilers here, but T-12 starts off as a transition from your presumed old campaign into the new one, recruited by the Celestial Court to save, well, everything.

T-11 introduces the PCs to the vampires, the city, and the only guy that can stop the vampire plague: The same guy that started it.

Around T-10, the villain of the piece begins to slowly reveal himself...but only slowly right now.

T-9 provides an escort mission as well as a hint at how dangerous the vampires really are, with Master Vampires leading the mindless ones.

By T-6, the stakes are rising, as nuclear weapons have gotten involved, and if the PCs fail here, then they find out that their 12 hour timetable was off by six hours.

Yeah.

T-2 provides an encounter with childlike dopplegangers of the PCs, as well as another "instant lose" breakpoint.

Finally, T-1 culminates in an epic, Godlike battle back where the campaign began, and can end in one or more PCs ascending to Godhood if they are victorious.

The book helpfully provides hints and tips on returning to 2048 at a later date if you so desire.

In addition to the 12 plot points, 18 Savage Tales are included, with each set of six being grouped together for a specific reason.

The first six involve entreating the six Gods of Shanghai for assistance, and the Gods helpfully stop time while the PCs are pursuing those goals.

The second set involve time travel, as the PCs travel throughout Shanghai's past to find the Chimes of Discord, again halting time on these quests.

The final six are all set in the 12 hour timeline and flesh out certain areas: One Savage Tale provides valuable insight into the nature of their enemy, but also them up for a brutal trap. The next tale is meant to be used if a PC becomes infected and doesn't want to become a vampire. Two others are used to gain valuable equipment for the campaign. A fifth is useful for when the PCs need access to healing and the sixth is a bizarre diversion into a virtual reality video game.

The last several pages provide stats on specific NPCs present in the campaign, as well as the generic vampire stat blocks.

CONCLUSION

Again...if you're thinking Savage Worlds isn't epic enough (and I do, sometimes) then Suzerain may be right up your alley, if Shanghai Vampocalypse is any indication.

Obviously, if you have the full Suzerain book, you'll get more use from the book. That said, you can still probably run this with the Test Drive rules and the free Suzerain "Play Now!" book...just might have to fudge a couple of things.

I love that the stakes are *very* high...not just the "World could end if we don't beat the Big Boss" kinda thing...but that there are about three or four breakpoints from about the midpoint of the campaign on where reality can spin off the rails.

For pure cyberpunk goodness, I would still recommend Interface Zero...but this is a great campaign that resoundingly kicks the "There's no life after Legendary" canard out the door.