Looking around for something horror-themed for Halloween, I wasn’t really sure if I’d find something -amazing- or not. I mean, there’s plenty of horror themed games on the market—Cthulhutech is pumping out awesome books at rapid speed, and Unhallowed Necropolis has supposedly released (if you can find a copy, or put up with the $15 shipping price)—so there’s no shortage of horror games. Heck, even the original Call of Cthulhu is still in print.
But, there’s always the thrill of finding something new.
Or, in this case, finding something old.
See, back in the day, there was a pretty neat set of books released by Pinnacle in their “Weird Wars” series. Taking a hint from the swath of publishers jumping on the OGL, Pinnacle switched over to d20 base for its western horror game Deadlands in the early 2000s. Moving from a complex but awesome system where each stat has a set type and number of dice to be rolled (my roommate can tell ya about rolling 4d4 for Searchin’ checks…) to d20 was an interesting move, one which did popularize the brand names, but ended up alienating a sizable chunk of its fanbase. Following the departure to d20 came the “Weird Wars” game, re-setting the d20 rules for a horror-themed game involving Nazi werewolves, Pacific island cannibals, and haunted tanks. It was pretty cool.
But, the books weren’t huge sellers, the d20 format less popular with die hard fans, a “3.5” update just around the corner, and so the “Weird Wars” line was ended after 6 worthwhile books were produced. (The adventure doesn’t count.) The concept of the “Weird Wars” wasn’t over though; a few years later, Pinnacle switched to a simplified, “fast and loose” version of the old Deadlands rules, which I won’t get into here since it’s too damn complicated and I’m lazy. Anyways, the new system was called Savage Worlds, and it was pretty popular with gamers and critics alike. One of the first of these savage worlds was a “Weird Wars” RPG called Tour of Darkness, set in an a Vietnam war hellhole twisted by strange horrors, things which man was not meant to know, etc., etc.
Now, the original Weird War II is being re-conditioned for the Savage Worlds ruleset. It’s already being advertised in .pdf editions, and there’s an Amazon page for the hard copy. Having a nice, hardcover in the Deadlands-lite rules fascinates me. Savage Worlds is known for its overtly simple rules, fast and loose gameplay, with a more cinematic edge borrowing a lot from d6 Star Wars (the d6 wild die rolled with your stat die, and the use of “bennies”/”force points” to boost die rolls, for example).
Having only played in a few scattered sessions of Savage Worlds, I see a lot of potential in the system, but it feels a too much like Deadlands not just slimmed down but dumbed down. I’m already running my own Weird War II game using another rules system, but the new Savage Worlds edition is chock full of useful material, I could see dredging it for further ideas. Plus, it might be the inspiration I need to actually run or play in the damn system.