So, Sara’s stumbled into the Fallout series of games. For anyone who hasn’t played them, they’re an awesome set of games set in the wasteland of America after a nuclear apocalypse. Some people survived on the surface, but a fair bunch of people found themselves “lucky” enough to be stashed away in massive subterranean vaults to eventually pop back out and rebuild the planet. Tie in some retro-futurism and a bunch of tongue-in-cheek satire and you’ll have a pretty solid grasp of the feel of the game.
While the games are set up to be pretty open-ended, Sara came across a handful of situations where the game was lacking: after performing some tasks the character’s reaction was too apathetic; too many quests to recover artifacts of the world-that-was resulted in a pat on the back and some cash. There was a solution to this problem: change the format.
There’s a table-top rpg system called Savage Worlds that I’ve played for a number of years. It’s a fast-paced, rules-light generic system that can be built on top of existing or original settings with minor modification. I found a Fallout conversion that I made some adjustments to, but then I started thinking…I can do better than this. So much of Fallout comes from the peripheral flavor of the game: the advertisements for Sugar Bombs and Brotherhood of Steel propaganda posters; the giant billboards promoting Nuka-Cola surrounded by radiated pools of water and scrubland teeming with radscorpions.
A person playing a tabletop game knows that they’ll be looking at a character sheet more than any other piece of physical material, so it had to be special. With that in mind, I designed a sheet pulling heavily from the style of the game.
I didn’t think that was enough though. Savage Worlds uses a deck of cards for a number of mechanics and after researching and looking decks that had an appropriate feel for the game I had in mind I came up empty. Undeterred, I fired up Photoshop again and a couple of days later had a deck that I’m satisfied with. Using the awesome tools over at The Game Crafter I had a custom deck printed for less than $10, and within five days it was in my hands.
I guess the whole point of this article is that it’s been so long since I’ve designed something based entirely off an existing body of work that was more than just a list of branding guildelines. It was an exercise in creating something that was specifically meant to be supplemental in nature; to sit on the side and help add subliminally to much greater whole. Do it quickly: just turn it around and get it out of your system. You don’t have the weight of educating the masses with what you’re designing, you can just create the damn thing and let it explain itself.
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