Savage Ringworld is one of the my gaming group’s rotating online campaigns. Inspired by Larry Niven’s Ringworld series, we set the game on a megastructure similar to Niven’s (right down to the “Fist of God” Mountain that threatens to destabilize the entire construct). The campaign is powered by Savage Worlds Adventure Edition and augmented by the Savage Worlds Science Fiction companion and myriad source books.
Related Savage Worlds Posts:
- Post: Savage Ringworld – Building the Savage Worlds Source Book Library
- Podcast: Season 3, Episode 2 Savage Ringworld
- Podcast: Season 3, Episode 19 What is Savage Worlds?
The Rules for Savage Ringworld
There are a lot of role-playing games we could have gone with for this campaign. Dungeons & Dragons – which includes a smattering of science fiction weapons in the Dungeon Master’s Guide – would have been an easy choice. In one edition or another, D&D powered most of our campaigns. Heck, we’ve got a home brew Star Wars campaign based on our own re-tooled version of the D&D 5e rules.
Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS is a logical choice, given its generic – yet highly expandable – rule set. It fine-tuned, ultra-specific skill system would nicely complement a hard science fiction campaign. Heck, I even thought about running Evil Hat’s Fate. The Disapora RPG shows you can run hard SF or more science-minded space opera using the Fate rules. Heck, the ringworld superstructure practically cries out to use Aspects to describe it.
In the end though, we went with Savage Worlds. We wanted a break from the omnipresent Dungeons & Dragons. Very few of us played GURPS (or even wanted that level of crunchy rules) and Fate didn’t quite fit the feel of what we were going for.
Savage Worlds though, that hit the sweet spot. It’s a fun game system we all have experience with and we all own some version of the core rules. As a generic system, it easily had a dozen or more source books that we could mix and mash. It’s use of skills, edges, and hindrances meant we could easily spawn as many cultures as we wanted. All those source books meant we had tons of monsters and other threats to go up against.
And … it’s a hell of a lot of fun. The game’s core mechanic is straightforward: Roll a skill die and a “wild” die. If either dice comes up with its maximum value (e.g. a six on a six-sided die), it explodes. You get to roll that die again, and add its value to your original role.
Compare the results of either a target number; meet or beat that number, and you succeed. Don’t succeed? Spend a bennie – you get three of them – to re-roll the dice.
It makes for fast moving action that occasionally explodes off the rails. It fit our more space opera-y take on Savage Ringworld while still allowing us to pull in some hard science trappings when we wanted to.
The Setup for Savage Ringworld
For our setting, we jettisoned all of Niven’s lore (or have we? Time will tell…) but kept the focus on Big Science stories. For those unfamiliar with the Ringworld, Niven envisioned it as an incremental step toward a Dyson Sphere. It’s a ring the size of Earth’s orbit, with a star at the center.
It’s orders of magnitude larger than the most famous mega rings, namely the namesake Halos from the Halo video games. The modern rings in Halo (there were older, larger ones, not featured in the games) were certainly big:
- The Halos encountered in the modern times are 10,000 kilometers in diameter; this size is roughly similar to that of Earth, which is 12,756 km in diameter. While the original twelve Halos had a diameter of 30,000 kilometers, concerns about their structural stability and transport led to the second series of rings being reduced in size. The surface of each ring is 318 kilometers wide, with a depth of 22.3 kilometers to 47 kilometers. The overall circumference of the ring is 31,415 km and the interior surface area is 9,985,200 km2 – roughly the size of Canada. Source: Halopedia: Halo Array
However, a Niven-class ringworld is orders of magnitude larger:
- The Ringworld is an artificial ring about one million miles wide and approximately the diameter of Earth’s orbit (which makes it about 600 million miles in circumference), encircling a Sol-type star. It rotates, providing an artificial gravity equivalent to 99.2% of Earth’s gravity by way of centrifugal force. Ringworld has a habitable flat inner surface equivalent in area to approximately three million Earth-sized planets. Source: Larry Niven Wiki: Ringworld
Niven’s ringworld makes Halo’s ringworld look like a sandbox. Literally.
As in the books, our ringworld experienced a catastrophic impact that deformed and broke through the ring’s super-strong material. The impact resulted in a supermountain known as the Fist of God. It caused catastrophic environmental effects for thousands (likely hundreds of thousands) of miles around the impact site.
Quoting form Ringworld itself:
- He saw the, system of the Ringworld, sterile, tidily clean, empty of ramships, empty but for a G2 star and a daisy chain of shadow squares and the Ringworld. He saw a foreign body passing near, too near. He watched its hyperbolic fall from interstellar space, and he saw its path interrupted—by the underside of the Ringworld. In his vision the foreign body was about the size of the Earth’s Moon. It must have been ionized plasma in the first seconds. A meteorite can be cooled by ablation, by the boiling away of its own skin. But here the vaporized gas could not expand; it had forced its way into a deforming pocket of the Ringworld floor. The landscape had deformed upward, its carefully planned ecology and rainfall patterns shot to hell over a region greater than the surface of the Earth. All that desert … and Fist-of-God itself, raised a full thousand miles upward before the incredibly tough Ring floor ripped to let the fireball through.
In our campaign, the Fist of God event took place 150 years ago. Survivors of the event traveled to the mountain to investigate, eventually founding Fist of God City. The growing, multi-species metropolis now serves as a hub of science, culture, and civilization. As the campaign opened, several civilizations realized that something is wrong with the ringworld … and that the Fist of God event may be the cause of it. They dispatch representatives to the mountain in hopes of learning more about the event … and how to restore the increasingly unstable megastructure.
Kaya Kalu, Seasoned Female Human, “New Lagos S.T.E.P. security officer” (played by Jon): Kaya grew up in New Lagos, one of the most heavily populated and technologically advanced cities on the Ringworld. Recruited to work security for the New Lagos Science Team Expeditionary Program, providing the protection for explorers as they ventured into the more remote parts of the Ringworld, including to the Fist-of-God.
Kevin Cellory, Seasoned Male Human, “Motivational Speaker” (played by Tom): A motivational speaker and life coach from the People’ s Republic of New Texas who believes he’s trapped in a video game. His goal is to discover the nature of the ringworld’s impact crater, believing this to be a natural ‘save point’ that could allow him to exit the gaming ecosystem and return to consciousness.
Guy Rockwell, Seasoned Male Human, “Lt. Commander” (played by Ken): Guy is a redshirt and sole survivor of the crash of the U.S.S. Saratoga, of the United Federation of Sentient Species. A one-time security officer with aspirations of transferring to engineering, he served on the Saratoga for three years before its unfortunate wreck on the Ringworld. He granted himself a field promotion to Lt. Commander as the ranking (and only) member of the Federation on the Ringworld.
Pequom, Seasoned Male Human, “Space Druid” (played by Jim): Pequom is a spiritualist unaware that his theology – and his miracles – are actually manifestations of exceedingly advanced technology.
Ruwyn Seasoned Male Human, “TechnoWizard” (played by Bob): Ruwyn comes from a distant and relatively isolationist section of the Ringworld. Most of his region has fallen into pre-industrial levels of society, with all higher technological functions being carried out by a privileged and exclusionary order known as Wizards.
Terminal Junction, Seasoned Plantoid (played by Damon): A member of the vegepeople species, plant-based creatures between 3′ to 4′ in height. Not much is known about them or their culture, but they tend to display a primitive hierarchical culture, divided into castes.
The Savage Ringworld Campaign
The Ringworld campaign kicked off during the pandemic. We ran a eight to 10 sessions, including an adventure to re-enable parts of the Ringworld’s transportation system and another facing biomechanical librarians who’d become obsessed with protecting knowledge … by preventing anyone else from acquiring it. We rotated through three game masters (myself included) and then the campaign then went on a short term hiatus. That turned into a long term hiatus as we decided to playtest homegrown Star Wars rules based on D&D 5th Edition and a Forgotten Realms campaign
The campaign’s not dead; we all enjoy Savage Worlds and I’m itching to get behind the screen. To that end I’ve started brainstorming ideas for future adventures, as well as new threats with which to challenge our heroes. I’m pouring through my myriad science fiction and Savage Worlds source books looking for inspiration … for more on that quest check out my post: Savage Ringworld – Building the Savage Worlds Source Book Library
- Larry Niven Wiki: Ringworld
- Wikipedia: Ringworld Role-playing Game
- Nuketown: Visit Ringworld, Halo’s High Concept Inspiration
Cover art for the Ringworld graphic novel. Credit: Tor/Seven Seas