Having just seen Mad Max: Fury Road, I’m thinking – once again – about post-apocalyptic settings and scenarios. Fury Road has a lot in common with Max Max: the Road Warrior, and to a lesser extent with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. It’s that non-stop chase that fuels so much of the excitement in the movie.
At its heart, the war rig on which the characters fight is just a setting piece. In a movie, the setting only creates hazards or benefits when narratively convenient or to help move the plot forward. In a game, this may work the same, or the setting may create benefits or drawbacks that apply to all or most of the characters’ actions.
In the Mad Max movies, fighting on a moving vehicle – be it a train or a war rig – leads to plenty of complications. The vehicles in the movies are unstable platform when narratively useful, but in an RPG that is kind of a binary rather than a convenient plot device. In something like D&D, there are penalties for unstable platforms. It might be interesting to actually provide a bonus for those characters who have specific skills or other mechanical indicators that they are trained or better prepared for the difficulties than your average thug. Maybe allow Acrobatics to remove penalties equal to the character’s proficiency bonus. I’d probably due the same for a character with a sailing backstory (like the deck of a ship in choppy waters) or similar.
But that’s me.
For a game like Centurion or Nefertiti Overdrive, in which you can place Conditions on opponents, something like unbalanced, poor footing, or even falling down would work well with the setting. Otherwise, for a very abstract system like Nefertiti Overdrive, I wouldn’t be applying any penalties, but I would really try to have the players use this feature in their descriptions, and I would be using it when character’s fail as a nice excuse. In this sense, it works much the same as it does in the movie – it doesn’t really hinder the characters unless it is dramatic for it to do so.
In the end, I like situations like fighting on the back of a speeding train to add ambiance to an encounter rather than use it to penalize my players. I think this kind of setting detail can really help differentiate encounters and will let players exercise their imagination trying to weave it into the action.
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