The Day After Ragnarok
Published by Atomic Overmind Press, $29.95
By Kenneth Hite
Reviewed by Matthew Pook
The year is 1948 and we have Harry S. Truman to thank for blowing up the world.
Not that he had much choice. When Hitler threatens to unleash Götterdämmerung and you have the Trinity Device, what else do you do but order a B29 to fly into the brain of Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent, and destroy it with the fires of the atom? So Ragnarok was averted, but on the downside, the serpent’s body and toxic blood fell to Earth, poisoning everywhere, dividing Europe with the Serpent Curtain, and causing a super tsunami that ravaged the U.S.A. as far as the Rockies.
Now much of a ravaged Europe and the Near East is held in Stalin’s red grip; the British Empire is based in Australia and South Africa under King Henry IX; Japan retained her Empire after the Allies were forced to sue for peace; and California is the home of the U.S.A. under President Earl Warren while east of the Rockies it has broken into various polities known as the Mayoralties.
Meanwhile, Professor Bernard Childermass builds rockets for the Royal Rocketry Air Force at Woomera, Djehuti-Yamun leads the Children of Set — the most malignant of the newly arisen snake cults — and who knows what loyalties and pay drive Otto Skorzeny’s adventures?
This is the setting for The Day After Ragnarok, Ken Hite’s post-WW2, post-apocalypse, post-Ragnarok setting for the pulpy Savage Worlds (also available for the HERO System Sixth Edition) that describes itself as “SMGs & Sorcery” and is easy to run under the system of your choice. Both magic and psionics are known. Speleo-herpetologists harvest Serpent parts and develop Ophi-Tech, advanced technology like Marconi guns, neural stimulators, Ophiline (refined serpent oil, better than gasoline!), and delta wing rocket planes. Stalin has his own arcane allies, including engineered man-apes used to infiltrate British Africa.
This post-apocalypse, post-WW2 mix allows numerous character options. An RCMP mountie patrolling the Canadian Poisoned Lands, a bush pilot supplying the Mayoralties, a Serpentfall-obsessed Rhodes Scholar, an Amish survivor turned gunfighting “holy roller” or a PBY-Catalina pilot running guns and news of democracy into the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, all can be created with ease and the setting suggests numerous other possibilities.
Instead of a single Plot Point campaign as is usual with Savage Worlds settings, Hite offers four outlines that cast as the heroes as freelancers; as agents for the Crown, whichever power the Crown represents; rebuilding America after the tsunami; or local protectors. Alongside these are an adventure generator and the superb Top Five lists, of which Top Five Places To Stomp Nazis and Top Five Secret Bases are the obvious highlights. Hite’s own underlying inclination is towards running this as a Conan 1948 game set in Robert E. Howard’s own homeland, Texas, but swathes of detail and imagination range all over this fantastic pulp setting.
For the sheer, bravura, frothy pulpiness of its setting, The Day After Ragnarok deserves ten phobias. Yet it loses a phobia for lack of a Plot Point campaign — and for suggesting that Ronald Reagan could star in the 1946 movie, Conan of Cimmeria — so I give it nine.
This review appeared in The Eye of Light and Darkness in The Unspeakable Oath 18.
Reviewed items are rated on a scale of one to ten phobias:
1-3: Not worth purchasing.
4-6: An average item with notable flaws; at 6 it’s worth buying.
7-10: Degrees of excellence.