Everything but the kitchen sink…

About a week ago, I participated in an online Q&A session with Dan Davenport discussing Reclamation. One of the things that I got asked from a participant was “what kind of adventure do you intend for people to play in this game?” or something to that effect. It really is an interesting question, because most of the time my marketing of the game is always the same. I focus on a bleak, dystopian future focused on Cthulu-esque horror. I usually pitch Reclamation as a game where the protagonists are trying to “reclaim” some kind of glory over an almost ethereal foe… but first and foremost, they have to SURVIVE!

And that’s all well and good I suppose, but honestly, I seldom follow my own advice. Ultimately, I wanted Reclamation to achieve two things:

  1. Have an engaging, unique setting
  2. Have a flexible rule system

In terms of setting, the only consistent theme in my games has been that the world is always a post-apocalyptic and nuclear fallout-poisoned earth. Sometimes I give my protagonists absolutely nothing; they wield rocks and scissors and try to defend themselves against the tides of darkness. Other games they are in thriving, prosperous haven-cities that have not seen the mortis-horde in years but the political and civil warfare that ensues is just as bloody. Sometimes I have players explore parts of the world that have not been tread by men in decades; the landscape has become something out of a fantasy novel, and the things they encounter are Tolkien-esque. I play games that are focused on The Black Dream… the psychological horror in this world that keeps dragging the players to the edge of mental damnation. Other times the protagonists are trying to build their own settlements, schools, etc. They are laying the foundations of a bright new civilization. There have been prison escapes, giant monsters that swallow protagonists whole (and then they cut their way out). They have fought mechanical terminators created by the Host and taken down Magi Pharisees who have proclaimed themselves living Gods. I could just keep going… the point is… there is so much flexibility in the setting. I intentionally wrote in little excerpts about the world and the factions that inhabit it to inspire storytellers to come up with their own angle. You could run an entire game focused on the CDC (I have), the Masonry, Iron Angels, etc.

But here’s the other thing, I wanted the action system to stand on its own, because if you just wanted to port the rules over to an entirely different setting, you still could. I’ve had people talk to me about modding the game to fit their Fallout game (okay… similar theme there), but another person was running an Old West cowboy game. The core game fits any environment, any setting. The Marks of the Fallout might require slight re-explanation, but people who make the extra effort to port a system usually have no trouble in the creativity department. Not to mention, I typically utilize certain rules in more games than others. When psychological horror is a cornerstone of the game, the Soul Path becomes invaluable. Other times… honestly, sometimes I forget to use it, lol. If your party has nothing, the rules for “improvised” weapons and armor is important, but if your players are seasoned soldiers with rifles and Kevlar, they probably don’t need to worry about fashioning items from nearby debris.

In the end, I am very proud of the card-based action system; I do think it accommodates 99% percent of the situations that arise in a game, and it offers unique mechanics that you can’t get with dice. Now I understand that if you are a dice purist, it might be hard to take the leap and try some cards (but… but… that 5 pound sack of dice in the corner looks so sad…….) but I guess all I can say is try it out. It won’t kill you…….


…………….no. It won’t kill you. Don’t be ridiculous.

Feel free to tag this post with your own ideas or experiences. How are you playing Reclamation? What would be your ideal environment for the rules?

One response to “Everything but the kitchen sink…

  1. I’ll admit the horror side of things has never really appealed to me, so I tend to not shape my games with that in mind. Instead, I like to take on the Mad Max/Waterworld kind of approach. Roving gangs of marauders, pirates, and slavers spread across the waste land with far to vigilantes or men of law around to deal with them. Desperate groups of survivors huddled together to form makeshift towns and caravans, trading what little they posses to continue their meek existence. A constant struggle between ones need to survive, to take what you need at any cost, and the need to preserve ones humanity and secure the future of human kind. And throughout this are the heroes, people with abilities beyond those around them who are faced with difficult choices. After being set upon by slavers, do you free their previous victims and leave them to their fate or do you help them establish a means of survival first? Or perhaps you decided this is a fine time to get into the slave business as well. This struggle of humanity versus survival is what I find most interesting, assuming members of your group can identify with that as well and don’t simply run rampant.

    This isn’t to say there isn’t room in this type of setting for the Mortis, Gifts of the Fallout, or the Black Dream. Random groups of dregs are as much a problem as packs of rabid dogs. To the well protected and established haven dwellers, they are just a nuisance, but to the desperate survivor they can spell certain death. Larger Mortis creatures can present a special way to set an area off from the rest of the Dystopia. A corrupted wild life preserve or zoo, a cult that worships the Mortis and wish to make themselves (and everything around them) more like Mostis-kind, or a Magi who has taken his rites a step to far and become an Archon like being. While this does give the PC’s a sense that the Mortis aren’t a continual threat to them, it does give the Mortis a bigger impact when they are faced and creates dynamic regions within the world. “I wouldn’t venture off into this woods, stranger. Something unnatural makes its home in there.”

    The psychological portion of the show I do really enjoy still and as a result enjoy the Sickness and the Black Dream. There are numerous reasons why someone’s mind might be slipping in a post-apocalyptic dystopia and I like to use these to sum them all up. Obviously, exposure to radiation and the Mortis or use of Gifts are fine ways to find yourself slipping into madness, but a survivor who has been wandering barren wastes with little to eat or drinker, talking only to themselves after having watched their comrades die of dehydration is just as likely to suffer more than a few psychological traumas (I can’t help but picturing everyone who goes mad as becoming the Drifter from Waterworld). I also think it is rip for the roleplaying and I’m often inclined to let players pick their own traumas or pick them for them instead of randomly generating them, to provide something that is much more fitting to their style and their character’s persona.

    But, all that being said, it greatly depends on who you play with as well, as this setting certainly doesn’t appeal to sum, while for others it’s ideal. But, I think there are enough elements within both the rules and the settings to allow you to pick and choose what works for your game and your group.

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