Reviewed by I O’Reilly
‘ “Shanghai Vampocalypse” is the kind of game that unfolds in layers like a mystical onion’
Okay, you got me already. Although, probably any game that uses the phrase ‘mystical onion’ is going to get my vote, so what else do we have to judge?
Vampires. Ancient martial arts. People with big farty guns.
Again, everything is ticking those little mental boxes loud and clear. “Shanghai Vampocalypse”, as you have probably guessed already does not try to take itself too seriously. Set in the “Suzerain” setting, where the characters play Demigods/astral heroes/defenders of reality who jump dimensions and time streams to combat nasty kinks in the reality-matrix-doodahd, you can see why. In this campaign setting we see our characters been plunged forward to an alternate Shanghai of circa 2058, where another evil Demigod is warping reality and trying to unleash a plague of nano-virus vampires on the world.
Given its wackiness, it’s the kind of setting and game that I would generally read through for inspiration but generally never play with a group. However, the enthusiasm the Suzerain team have got is definitely infectious. Helped along by the gorgeous artwork (every page is fully designed and illustrated), “Shanghai Vampocalyse” is the sort of game that grabs you by the ears and makes you interested.
The setting for the campaign is pretty well detailed too. The future Shanghai is set in a reality where the Cold War has ended and China has won. Half of the planet is apparently a war torn waste, and the powers that be have created mutant ‘nano-virus’ soldiers who, unsurprisingly, have managed to escape their cages and their duties. These are the super-fast “Twenty-Eight Days” sort of vampires, not the Bela Lugosi ones (although that might have been a whole lot funnier). As a campaign setting the book is beefed out with some more Edges and Hindrances (as its based on the Savage Mojo System), and a bucketful of extra encounters and NPC’s to play with.
Some of the best pieces of the book once again are the Savage Tales (as in the “Savage Suzerain” core); useful mini-adventures, NPC’s and fillers to either flesh out the main plot point Vampocalypse campaign or to chuck into your Suzerain dimension-hopping game. The only problems I have with the book is that it’s remit is almost too limited. At times it feels like “Shanghai Vampocalypse” is attempting to be the ‘Sci Fi’ Suzerain setting, but it sadly doesn’t provide enough in terms of Edges, Hindrances and tech to qualify. It has some nifty ideas on nano-technology which could be expanded a whole lot more; for example the Gripswarm idea is brilliant but how about a nano-swarm that added armour? Metallized natural weaponry? My other gripe is that is doesn’t have in depth maps, and when we’re talking futuristic cities and laboratory installations and military checkpoints, I would have loved to see some sample hex maps.
On the whole, “Shanghai Vampocalypse” is a brilliant campaign supplement, and worth the money. A bag of ideas and encounters that could keep your players happy until well after they’ve run through the campaign, but could do with a little expansion.