Sunday, November 6, 2011

Review: The Pine Ridge Horror (Savage Worlds)

This adventure was written using Savage Worlds rules. Also, Savage Worlds rules. It does. Its just the best damn game system ever. My Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition Handbook is the best ten bucks I ever spent.

What The Pine Ridge Horror (by Dave Baymiller) is About.

A group of campers (the player characters) gets involved with a team of park rangers and local hunters as they search a national park for what turns out to be a family of murderous, rabid, Sasquatch.

What Type of Adventure is It?

The Pine Ridge Horror is quick n' dirty. It's a monster-of-the-week movie. Depending on the players, it could go four hours to an all-day-sucker. I cannot see it lasting more than a single session, by design. The adventures' two halves compliment each other with the first building up tension, and the second using fear to motivate the players. If separated, the latter half would not work as intended, having allowed the players too much time to think about what to do.

This adventure would best be ran as a one-shot, but could compliment any existing Savage Worlds campaign. Though the trappings of the adventure are the 1970's, nothing about the adventure itself is specific to the time period.

What I found most intriguing about it, was its ease of use. Nearly any GM could pick it up and run it without having even read through it beforehand. There is no knowledge the GM must have that is relevant before its use in the adventure. Savage Worlds' rules are super simple to learn, and this adventure is the perfect compliment.

How Can it All Go Wrong?

First of all, players must be willing to play the part given, and not succumb to their Id and have their characters be proactively aggressive without reason. The best part of horror is the fear of helplessness. Making the players struggle to arm themselves makes this adventure, “the one we survived,” instead of, “the one where we got to kill rabid Sasquatch.”

This adventure is linear. The motives of the players, realistically, are to survive. Players who expect free reign of the situation should have their characters quickly killed . Basically, swimming against the current here is not the goal.

Technically-minded players, particularly ex-military, paired with a green GM, would be disastrous. The second half of this adventure focuses on the in-absolute ways the players can use obtained resources to survive. I have seen many rookie GM's stumble and fall when a technically-minded player presented them with something not directly quantified by the rules. Savage Worlds does not try to have a specific rule for everything (like the banal d20 system). Rather, it encourages those playing to suggest what to base a roll on, and if it seems to make sense, it is good enough. There is nothing wrong with players knowing how to make plastic-explosives out of the crap they find in the adventure, if their characters know also. A GM unable to push the rules down and have fun would be thwarted by the second half (not that Savage Worlds ever needs to be pushed).

How Would I Run It?

I would give all of the characters complications such as drug addictions, or paranoia. The adventure is set in the 70's, and the players acting out the lives of drug-addled John Lennon worshipers would make for an interesting game when they are pitted against insane cryptids.

Another possibility would be for me to set it with Ted Roosevelt being all “Bully,” and kicking ass.

What is Bad About It?

Other than the 70's setting having no actual bearing on the adventure itself, the adventure is absolutely lousy with spelling errors. The four people credited with putting this adventure together all did well. The one not credited, the editor, should have existed.

Where Can I Buy This?

You can buy the quality PDF for $2.49. That's it. It's 18 pages of screams in the dark, bloody fur, and gun smoke.

I have been playing traditional role-playing games for as long as I have console role-playing games. I guess that would be around twenty-two years or so. I greatly prefer to be the DM, only rarely working out as a player. That said, when reviewing pen-and-paper RPG products, I do so from the perspective of a DM, which is who most RPG products are actually intended for.

I first crossed paths with Silver Gryphon Games at a local gaming convention here in Kansas City, last July. There I met Kevin Rohan, one of the two founders of the company. Kevin reminded me of Natty Bumppo from James Fenimoore Coopers' Leatherstocking Tales. He did not represent the extremes in society. I have met a lot of indie-game publishers—Kevin behaved like no other. Like Natty Bumppo, Kevin seemed to observe and respect both of the worlds (gamer and normal) he was a part of. Another similarity, was that Kevin actually listened when I spoke to him, and then asked questions pertaining to what I was talking about. Why does this matter? Credibility. Silver Gryphon Games is respectable. They will not screw with you, or talk down to you, or maintain themselves with the same solipsism that many other indie-game makers do. I have met a lot of indie-game publishers.

My next review will be of Kevin Rohan's very own adventure, Schroedinger's Box.

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