A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement Scorched Earth

Scorched Earth is a role playing game supplement published by the Avalon Game Company for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. As such, it is covered by the Open Game License with some of it being considered Open Game Content as a result. This is an adaptation of the Pathfinder system for a post-apocalyptic – of the nuclear type – setting.

This is a 132 page PDF which is available from RPGNow at the regular price of $14.99 but which was purchased at the reduced price of $1. One page of the PDF is the colour front cover, one page the front matter, one page the Index, one page the Open Game License and one page an ad for other supplements.

Scorched EarthThe Introduction is essentially a piece of prose introducing the Scorched Earth setting, focussing on America (there is a companion supplement, Scorched Earth: American Wastelands that covers that in more detail). Scorched Earth is set 50 years after a nuclear holocaust and 99% of humanity is dead, at least in America and probably everywhere else. It states that the setting is based on films like the Mad Max series, video games like the Fallout series and similar fiction.

Origins is what Scorched Earth has instead of races. Like races, they add differences to characters outside of those created by classes. There are seven different origins to choose from.

Battlekin are individuals who have been raised from childhood to be warriors. They tend to excel in combat but are easily influenced.

Cultists are what they sound like, members of cults, probably religious in nature. Most have been brainwashed to a degree.

Mutants are closer to a different race. These are humans who have been affected by the fallout from the war. They are often shunned and can differ substantially in appearance.

Nomads are wanderers who live in their vehicles.

Ruin Dwellers live in the ruins of the old world, not quite savages but not civilised.

Savages reject technology, due to it being used to destroy the old world.

Settlers are the people trying to build civilisation anew.

Classes takes up a substantial portion of the book and introduces the new classes, and considers existing ones. There is information on converting existing Pathfinder classes (most without magic or similar abilities, or abilities that interact with firearms are considered okay). Characters also have a new stat called Driver Score – vehicles play a major role in the setting.

Berserkers are the crazed and violent who are skilled in combat.

Bombers have more than a few overlaps with the Alchemist.

Demagogues are leaders, of whatever type, who have similarities to the Bard.

Gearheads are those who master technology.

Minions are specific followers of Demagogues (they don’t really seem to be a good player character class, going by the Demagogue’s details).

Road Warriors are members of gangs, some more pleasant than others. The class appears to have some resemblance to the Cavalier with the gangs being equivalent to cavalier orders.

Scavengers survive in the harshest terrain and seem to have similarities to the Ranger.

Wild Gunners are those whose primary interest is firearms.

Skills and Feats starts with a list of skills suitable for the Scorched Earth setting, existing and new, then details the new ones. Feats starts with those that are unsuitable for the setting then lists the new ones.

Wealth, Weapons and Gear considers the slug as the primary item of currency, although bullets are not tracked unless this is desired. In this section are Weapons, Armor and Equipment.

Vehicles is an important chapter with vehicles being an important part of the setting. Different (land) vehicle types, modifying them and vehicular combat are in this chapter.

Hazards starts with radiation rules. It then considers what creatures could be found – none are detailed – and how to adjust CR due to the lack of magic, which makes creatures more dangerous. There are then specific hazards, such as radiation, traps, diseases and poisons.

Finally, Slang is a single page of slang terminology.

Scorched Earth in Review

The PDF is bookmarked with the various major and some of the minor sections linked. The Index covers a similar level of detail. Navigation is okay, but it could be better.

The text mostly follows a two column format, but sometimes switches to a single column for no really apparent reason. There are a number of spelling and grammatical errors, but less than have been seen in other supplements from the publisher. There are a few images, most black and white, with some page fillers as well. Presentation, with a colour page background, is okay but not exceptional.

Vehicles do play a very important role in this game, with much time spent on them. New ones aren’t being built, by the sounds of it; instead, old ones are modified. Which, if thought about, seems a bit unlikely – not many modern vehicles would be that usable 50 years in the future. Still, that can be overlooked or the timeline simply changed a bit. However, if vehicles and vehicular combat does not interest, then Scorched Earth is probably not suitable for getting.

Unlike, say, post apocalyptic systems such as Mutant Future or Gamma World, there is no access to futuristic levels of technology. The highest technology available would be equivalent to the present, so whatever samples of that have survived is pretty much it (again, as with vehicles, it’s unclear how such would have survived; the same tweaks could be done there).

This is definitely not a system in a box. At the very least some basic Pathfinder material will be needed, such as the Core Rulebook and the Bestiary. There are no rules on combat, other than vehicular, and no monsters. So material connected to those is definitely required. Similarly, there isn’t really enough of a setting to play a game in without either development or American Wastelands. To a large extent, this is a collection of rules for creating characters in the setting, and the classes and origins are certainly well detailed.

This is an interesting start to a setting but it should not be mistaken for a complete one or you will be disappointed. Scorched Earth is a bit pricey at full value, but was definitely work $1, and can be found by clicking here.

 

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