I run a lot of one shots in lot of different games and genres. I like most of them, but a few stand out as games that should be a lot more successful and widely known than they currently are. Here’s a short and incomplete list of RPGs from recent years that I think really could use a little more love.
In one night, without warning, a vast forest grew over the world. Buildings, roads, and all infrastructure were shattered by the sudden burst of arboreal growth. The new global forest is known as the Sea of Leaves. Civilization might have been able to survive this, if not for the Call. The Call is a seductive mental force that draws humans into the depths of the Sea of Leaves, promising wonders. Those who succumb to the Call are never seen again. Over 80% of the population disappeared into the Sea of Leaves.
Small communities, with strong social bonds, were the only ones able to resist the Call. As long as they don’t stray too far into the woods, they can survive.
This is the setting for Summerland, the D6-based post-apocalypse RPG by Greg Saunders.
Players play Drifters – Individuals who can resist the Call due to some deep unresolved Trauma in their pasts. They can travel between communities, exchanging goods and information, and having adventures.
The best thing about this game is the atmosphere – the remnants of human civilization broken and twisted by enormous trees, the small desperate enclaves of humanity, the vast dark forests full of mystery. Adventures in this world (there are several published ones) would most likely have a Walking Dead feel to them.
In this Powered by the Apocalypse game, the players are the staff of a great English country estate house sometime after the Great War. They serve the Blackwood family – an ancient, debauched, and cursed noble family.
The players are expected to keep the household running, while dealing with family scandals, ranging from unfortunate affairs to supernatural horror. The point of this game isn’t to defeat evil, it’s to hush it up so the household can continue on undisturbed. The whole thing has a Edmund Gorey/Lemony Snicket/Adams Family/Downton Abbey vibe to it.
There are rules for creating terrible Secrets, using Innuendo to manipulate other players, and the wonderfully named Cruel Moves. It’s all mean, ghoulish fun.
This one is a slightly less well known Savage Worlds setting. I believe it was originally published in Italian. The premise is simple: the Black Death of the 14th century was actually a zombie apocalypse. It swept in from the East, destroying Constantinople and spreading to every corner of Europe. Vast armies of the Dead laid waste to every nation. The great cities of Europe have fallen, and most of what’s left of the population survives in a few walled cities.
Despite all of this, the setting is actually sort of hopeful. The Reconquest of Europe has begun, and there have been advances in science and medicine to help make this happen, including Leonardo DaVinci-inspired clockwork technology. Players are explorers and adventurers who dare to travel into the Wilderness and dead-choked Cities of Sorrow to recover what they can and rebuild the world.
There’s tons of fun alternate Renaissance-era details about the world:
- The Machiavellis rule Florence, where the DaVinci foundries manufacture experimental weaponry.
- The Caliphate of Sicily is full of Islamic Beserker Norsemen.
- The descendants of the condottieri John Hawkwood rule what’s left of England.
- The Iscariots – essentially Jewish ninjas.
- Monks and Nuns all seem to know kung-fu.
- Clockwork mechanical limbs to replace infected limbs that have been chopped off.
There have been a few supplements for Ultima Forsan translated to English.. There’s even a set of paper miniatures from David Okum designed specifically for this setting.