Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rippers: Setting the setting

Sadly I had to cancel our game Friday as my wife's illness took a turn for the worse. I'm trying to schedule a new date with my group, so that we can get this campaign started.

So instead of giving an account of Friday's game, I'm going to show what materials I have prepared for the game. As I have already mentioned on this blog I have changed quite a lot of the things in the official Rippers setting. So let me give you an overview of why I have changed things.

Initial thoughts on the setting
My idea of a horror setting is different to the concept that Rippers represents. Basically a setting IMO is not a horror setting just because it has monsters in it. When the character concepts presented are of heroes globetrotting around with different specialized weapons and the added possibility of superhuman enhancements (Rippertech), it stops being a horror setting. To put it into context, the Van Helsing movie is presented as an action horror film, yet at no time in the movie do we fear for the life of our hero. Compare that to a recent favorite of mine The Woman in Black, where you constantly fear what is going to happen, every character is mortal and in grave danger. There is nothing wrong with the official Rippers setting if you want to play a monster hunting game with an emphasis on action and combat, it's just not what I was looking for.
Some of you may wonder why I then grabbed the Rippers setting? I did so because I love Victorian Horror and quite like the idea of a group of men/women that have decided to try and fight back. With the emphasis on try. Rippers as an organisation is not global and there are no lodges in every major city. My organisation is not even called Rippers and has more in common with the gentleman's club idea presented in Empire of the Dead.
Others might say that what I'm looking for can be found in Realms of Cthulhu/Call of Cthulhu? In part this is true, I just don't want the Cthulhu Myhos part - I love Lovecraft, I just don't like the idea of that a successful PC is one who ends up in an asylum. Furthermore I want the monsters the characters try to fight to be the creatures from folklore (vampires, werewolves, ghost etc.) and not those from the Cthulhu Mythos. There should be a chance to fight back, but it should be very tough and potentially lethal. So despite the pulpy concept of Savage Worlds, it is still quite a lethal system and it is the game system that our group have chosen and is comfortable with.

Making the setting my own
Having a concept ready in my head I sat down and decided to remove the elements from the Rippers setting that made it more action themed. It ended up with the following being removed.

  • No Rippertech - makes the PCs superhuman and decreases the risk of death
  • No Masked Crusaders faction - too superhero like for my taste
  • Rippers organisation no longer global - hence no real ressources for the PCs
  • Reason rules replaced with Sanity rules from Horror Companion
  • Arcane Backgrounds limited to Arcane, Miracles and Psionics
This alone did not give the setting more horror or made it more potentially lethal, so I decided to add the following:

  • Critical Failues (from Savage Worlds Deluxe)
  • Blood and Guts (from Savage Worlds Deluxe)
  • Gritty Damage (from Savage Worlds Deluxe)
  • Sanity rules (from Savage Worlds Deluxe)
Lastly I added the Defining Interests from Realms of Cthulhu to add character depth. 

I then went through the Edges and Hindrances from Rippers Setting, Rippers Companion, Realms of Cthulhu, and the Horror Companion. It gave me the following list that the characters could choose from besides the ones presented in Savage Worlds:

Broken Spirit
Combat Shock
Dark Secret
Demonic Pact
Glass Jaw
Low Class
Supernatural Weakness
Weak Willed

Background edges
Down to Earth
Inner Strenght

Combat edges
Improvisational Fighter
Night Fighter

Professional edges
Arcane Background (Curses)
Fortune Teller

Social edges
Gentlemen's Club
One of the Chosen
Tower of Will
World Traveler

Weird edges
Gypsy Curse
Liquid Courage

The final think was that I decided - on the advise of the good people of the Happy Jacks RPG Podcast - that all Stealth and Notice rolls would by default be rolled by me and not the players.

Of course all of this does not make it a horror setting, that has to happen through my narration of the game and an understanding from my players that we are now playing something entirely different to our previous game of Deadlands. The focus is not on monster killing, combat and action, but on characters, horror and investigation.

Taking rules from so many different settings and therefore books, I decided to copy the rules that I had added into a small booklet. That meant that all my players needed was this booklet and their copy of the Savage Worlds Explorers Edition which each of us owns. I hope I'm not breaching any copyright rules by doing this since it is only my players I given this booklet to.

The materials I ended up with
Besides the booklet, I found that the Rippers Game Master Screen Inserts that I had purchased was more or less useless with the many rules changes I had made, so I decided to make my own screen. Using two large books, I cut of the hard cover front and back pages. I then found some large images that I printed and glued onto the front of the screen. This would be the what my players saw and I thought captured the setting as I saw it. 

For the insides I created my own using the blank screen insert that came with the Rippers Game Master Screen Inserts that I had purchased. The information I wanted there were the Psychosis Table, a page with the most important details of each PC, weapons list and an extensive list of equipment and services. At my local office supplies shop I bought some plastic things, which are normally used to hold many sheets of paper together, but they work wonderfully in keeping the inside sheets in place. This way I can change sheets without any problems.

Of course the character sheet could no longer be used either, so once again I created my own. Very much inspired by the Realms of Cthulhu character sheet which I think is wonderful. Whenever we start a new setting I create each of PCs with a specific player in mind. Again instead of just giving that a word document I created a graphical layout of their characters statistics and a brief character background on why they are now trying to fight back.
Each character would then get the following to represent his character, presented in a plain brown folder, typical of the Victorian era.

Bennies is something I always try to make as appropriate for the setting and my attention (from the Pinnacle forums) were brought to these wonderful skulls that I think are superb for the setting.


  1. So you are using Savages Worlds a your main game mechanics here?

  2. Yes Rippers is a Savage Worlds game, and I have not changed that. It is our favoured system in our group. It is easy to use and as a GM I find that I can spend my time on the story of the adventure and not making monsters and creating encounters.