Yesterday I got a chance to look at my print copy of Tim Deschene’s One of Us1. It’s great! It’s also designed for use with Dungeon Crawl Classics, a game which I don’t own (or, honestly, have much interest in running: despite the many appealing things I’ve heard about the gam, especially the kooky magic system, I’m a bit leery of any the mental workload I might have to take on running a game with a rulebook that huge).
That said, the beauty of old school games is that stuff is all roughly cross-compatible. DCC isn’t really old-school—to me, it feels like it’s maybe more of a a stripped down 3E but more crunchy complexity retained than I tend to like—but it’s close enough.
All that said, the dustbowl carnival vibe really appeals to me. I’m a (nostalgic) fan of the old HBO series Carnivàle—one of those people who came across it a few years after its cancellation, and who still managed to disappointed at how short the series ended up being2—and I’ve long suspected it’d make a brilliant setting/concept for a game.
I mean, seriously:
1934. The Dustbowl. The last great age of magic. In a time of titanic sandstorms, vile plagues, drought and pestilence—signs of God’s fury and harbingers of the Apocalypse—the final conflict between good and evil is about to begin. The battle will take place in the heartland of an empire called America, where a traveling carnival harboring Ben Hawkins, a troubled healer, will clash with an evangelical ministry led by Brother Justin Crowe.
But yeah, I know, I know, the title of the zine invokes a different piece of Dustbowl/carnival/sideshow media, of course—the infamous 1932 film Freaks:
I think prospective GMs would do well to mix and match the two vibes a bit, to be honest.
Meanwhile, I just read my copy of Trash Planet Epsilon 5 3, an Electric Bastionland hack for cyberpunkish games on a trash-strewn landfill planet. It’s… a little light, but pretty impressive for how much it squeezes into so few pages.
So that got me thinking: how directly could One of Us be used with Into the Odd/Electric Bastionland? This is the system I’ve been using with a group of new players, and very much enjoying, lately, after all: it’s very simple, and much of the fun is in the flavor, which is communicated through character careers and setting details.
And One of Us is pretty much all character careers and setting details, so: I think, yes, it can be used… with a little tinkering, anyway. As a challenge, I am trying to do this with minimal work, since I many not end up doing it in the end… but it’s a fun think to think about.
Here’s what I would do to make it work:
We don’t have HBO in Korea, but the series’ DVDs were available in the Carrefour store in Jeonju when I lived there.. and in a sadly fitting irony, Carrefour only lasted a short time in Korea before being shut down, just like Carnivàle.↩