I have a chance to start a new monthly online game. As a result, I’ve been looking at systems and settings/concepts. I have touched on the usual suspects. I have looked at Adventurer Conqueror King, Savage Worlds, D&D 5e, and Cypher on the system side. I have looked at my existing ACK setting notes on the setting side, which I would also easily adapt to 5e. Cypher has Gods of the Fall, The Revel (from The Stars Are Fire), and Predation. For Savage Worlds, there are Rifts and Deadlands, both of which I Kickstarted the Savage Worlds versions.
Then there are some much more off beat settings.
I’ve looked at grep. Roughly a decade after a crashed alien spaceship released nanotech into Earth’s biosphere civilization has collapsed on the verge of post-scarcity. Those able to master control of the nanotech that is every are able to grep (yes, named after the Unix command) things into existence, from swords to plowshares and from food to poison gas. The unlimited abundance of not only necessities and luxuries, but weapons brought about the Dark Day where humanity killed itself and died from loss of control of the world around him. Now it is 2030 and about 700 million are left, trying to rebuild.
There is Dark Millenium, a zombie apocalypse setting set at the Millenium. You might thing, zombies in the year 2000, big deal. Except that’s the wrong millennium. No, this is the Year 1000 in Central Europe, a land fully invested in the Catholic faith and filled with fever for the Book of Revelations to come true when the dead begin to walk the Earth and Saint Vitus dance is possessing the living.
How about a cyberpunk setting? Let’s try a setting where cyberpunk netwars quit being between people using information, but between people and information. What happens if the information wins. Our new AI overlords introduce a variation of C. S. Lewis’s “Tyranny of Caring” which reduces most humans to mere drones straight out of the worst Brave New World inspired dystopia and workers striving for the things the Net can’t provide, such as status. That is the world of NeoTerra.
Finally, I have given strong consideration to my favorite conspiracy setting of all time, CORPS. How can you not love a conspiracy setting whose first published adventure had the elevator pitch of “What if you woke up one morning and accidentally found that part of your life was missing? And found someone was willing to kill to keep you from getting it back? Kill you, that is…” That was for the first edition all the way back in 1991. A newer edition just five years ago moved the game into more clashing realities than straight-up conspiracies based on the author’s belief that with the Internet you could not sustain a conspiracy. I disagree, but the idea of conspiracy as memetic wars can draw from a range of sources starting at The Illuminatus Trilogy and passing through the television series Fringe making a stop at either variation on Mage, Accession or Awakening, to continue on ending heaven knows where.
These last four settings are all available for the same system, EABA by Greg Porter for Blacksburg Tactical Research Center. You may not have heard of either Greg or BTRC. If you have, I bet it is through his most famous game, Macho Women with Guns. BTRC published their last item for the game, More Excuses to Kill Things, over 20 years ago, but eight other companies have licensed the game for miniatures, a card game, and new rules editions in multiple languages.
I own all the BTRC Macho Women with Guns Material, but if all you know of BTRC is this game you’re missing out. The four settings I listed above are just a handful that Porter has designed and released. CORPS was originally its own system and later released as a generic ruleset. Then, in 2003 Greg released what he jokingly referred to as his End All Be All RPG system or EABA. In addition to reviving the original CORPS setting for EABA, he has released two of his RPGs prior to CORPS as settings: Timelords (a very inventive time travel RPG having nothing to do with Dr. Who) and Warp World (another post-apocalypse game). Looking at their page on DriveThru RPG they currently have nineteen settings for EABA and three for CORPS for sale, one of which is available for both. Each of these is as inventive as the four I listed above. Even their generic space opera and steampunk settings, Fires of Heaven and Verne, are at least as inventive as anything from a big name publisher in those genres.
EABA itself has some interesting ideas. It is a dice pool system with a limit on the number of dice you can take out of the role. The skill system has a nice, simple specialization rule where second level specializations can only have up to half the value of the top-level skill. The third level can only have half the second level. The skill used for rolls is the sum of the top-level and any relevant second and third level specialization. If we had firearms at 6 then rifles can be 3 and AR-15 at 1 for a total skill when firing an AR-15 of 10, but only 9 for an AK-47, and a mere 6 for a model 1911.
You should take some time to get to know EABA. While the rules have some interesting ideas and are certainly serviceable I don’t consider them any more groundbreaking than other major generic systems such as GURPS, Savage Worlds, or BESM. The real value in exploring EABA is interesting settings. If you are looking to get away from dungeons and lightsabers it is a good place to start.