Exclusive Preview – Getting Lost In “The Now,” A 5e Ozploitation Setting
by Anton Kromoff
Welcome to the table.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Jason Fischer and talk about his forthcoming tabletop role-playing game Bullets & Bleedthroughs.
Anton: Hello Jason, and thank you so much for chatting with me. Before we dive into the “The World of The Now,” give our readers a little more insight into who the person behind the project is.
Jason: Hey Anton! Truly there are quite a few folks behind this project at Outland Entertainment, but I’m the writer of the game and the associated novels. I’m an Australian author who is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, working with comics, short stories, TV and novels. I’ve picked up a few awards and accolades for my work, but most of all I am always having 100% fun with what I do.
I’m known for my obsession with all things post-apocalyptic, and in my short story collection “Everything Is a Graveyard” I kill the world with everything from zombie camels to drop-bears (seriously, Google it!). Finally, I love a good pun more than life itself, and I was twice a state finalist in the Karaoke World Championship.
Anton: How long have you been involved in the tabletop role-playing space?
Jason: I first fell in love with TTRPGs in the early 90s, after HeroQuest led me to the infamous D&D red starter box, and then everything AD&D 2nd Edition (seriously, I had all of the maroon “Complete” books) into games like Shadowrun and Vampire the Masquerade. Oddly enough I was more interested in inhaling the rulebooks than playing the games themselves, which probably spoke to my future as a Forever DM and an aspiring game designer. Then….I fell away for a decade or two. Lost interest, and got my kicks out of computer RPGs.
I fell back in when I ran a writing workshop that used D&D mechanics to help with character creation, saw the simple beauty of the 5e system, and I went straight out and found myself a gaming group. Now, I also run an organization called Spectrum Writing that helps creatives on the Autism Spectrum, and one part of this operation is the ASD&D program – we are now running eight autism-specific Dungeons and Dragons games!
Anton: Bullets & Bleedthroughs takes a lot of inspiration from the 1970’s alternative Australia with distinct notes of Mad Max, The Salute to Jugger, and all those fun baked in dystopian settings. What made you choose this setting to spin your tales?
Jason: True, I am a post-apocalyptic tragic, and an absolute fan of the 70’s Ozploitation genre (and full marks to you for spotting the references!). As to why I created the setting? It all goes back to an early family trip to central Australia as a teen. The reality of Australia is that 90% of our nation huddles against the coast, its backs to the sprawling emptiness in the center. The first time I saw all of that vastness, the sheer distance of things awoke a sense of horror in me that’s never gone away. There’s a sense of menace out there, the promise that the land itself can and will kill you if something goes wrong.
I took that as my baseline and added everything I’ve ever loved and wanted in a story. We’re talking Mad Max, Stephen King’s Dark Tower, the Dark Sun D&D campaign setting, Sean Williams’ Books of the Change, and Terry Dowling’s Blue Tyson series. Most interestingly to me, I was certainly inspired by Vance’s Dying Earth books – but the part that some readers overlook. The fact that it is a gloriously baroque world, where the characters are fun rather than dreary and doomed, and that they carry around a droll gallows humor at all times.
I tested the waters with a series of short stories in this world which were well received in the early 2000’s, and then dove into the world of Now and never really climbed out.
Anton: On top of some of the familiar set dressing, there is also a really interesting history of magic in the world with the time before seeing magicians hold positions of affluence and power before this great cataclysm that led to the current events of the setting. Can you talk a little bit about how magic plays a part in this world?
Jason: The magic of the human settlers speaks a little bit to colonialism and its power imbalances, leading to the dispossession of indigenous peoples, which is of course a large part of Australia’s history too. In the Now, the magic is the tool that the Magicians of the Before used to force their entry into the world, a desperate escape from a cataclysm.
Given that the Magicians were the leaders in the Before, they tried to enforce these politics in the refugee camps and then the early cities, but time and various failures brought everything down to a land of fortified enclaves and warlords. Much of what they knew has been lost and is more a thing of myth than common practice. The main Magicians recast themselves as a pantheon of gods, before falling out and destroying each other. You know, it’s basically Australia meets Hogwarts…
Anton: The Taursi are one of the new playable species presented in the book. Can you tell us a little bit about what makes them special and unique?
Jason: I adore these guys! These are the indigenous people of the Now, and resemble seven feet-tall bipedal echidna-men. They were originally created for one of the short stories, but took on much more importance in the novels and now the RPG. So they are hunter/gatherers with a unique skill – they can eat sand and brew sharp glass in their innards, their spines spreading out to act like a heat sink as they do it. This glass can be made into a sharp weapon, or even crafted into starglass, a type of sun collector that lights up at night. Moreover, they have the limited ability to jump into other planes and back again.
There is of course, much more to this race than meets the eye, and the true origin and destiny of the Taursi is explained in the attached novel “Papa Lucy & the Boneman” …
Anton: There are a lot of cool new classes presented, but the one that seems the most non-traditional and has a lot of room for exploration is the Jesusman. Can you go into what these extradimensional monster-hunting adventurers are for our readers?
Jason: The Jesusmen are a caste of outlawed monster-hunters and knight-errants, forced to operate in secret. They are the surviving followers of an ancient Magician known as the Jesus, whose only instructions were to find the predators that don’t belong – and blow them all to hell. Their lives are brutal and short, and their only reward is prejudice and even hunting parties should their true identities be discovered.
During playtesting we had a lot of fun with our player-character Jesusman, who was operating in the midst of a brutal Mob who held with a different faith. They, er, came to an arrangement…
Anton: The mandatory material components in the “Magic of the Now” section is a really cool bit of flavor that as a storyteller I think would be a hard and fast table rule when running Bullets & Bleedthroughs. What made you lean in that direction?
Jason: It came about as we tried to make the game 5e-compatible. As there is no currency in the Now (it’s all Mad Max style Bartertown bartering) there’s no way of gauging what a gold-piece priced spell component is, which breaks that part of the rule-set and how arcane foci work. So to add flavour and to keep the rules working, we’ve said, all components have to be there for the magic to work. We had an optional rule for Sacrificial Components – basically if a spell requires an expensive component, you may be able to substitute an item of personal value, up to an including the life of a friend or pet! Did we mention the game is BRUTAL?
Anton: Now I don’t want to give too much away because there are some seriously fun and challenging NPCs and creatures in this book but one of the entities with stats that really stood out to me was Papa Lucy. Papa Lucy is the namesake of the novel also set in this world “Papa Lucy and the Boneman” can you tell us a little bit about Papa Lucy?
Jason: As a forever DM and novelist, Papa Lucy is in fact my favorite character to both write and play. He is that arsehole that you cannot help but forgive and love, over and over. He is funny, charming and witty, impulsive yet decisive, and with absolutely no regard for anything but himself and his own plans and desires. The best sort of villain, who of course thinks that they are the true hero of the tale.
A powerful Magician in the Before, Lucy led the escape into the Now as their old world erupted in flame and death. He saved the human race, but of course, he had an ulterior motive. Later, he sought out and found an artifact that makes the One Ring look like a mood ring. Papa Lucy is now virtually unstoppable, more ambitious than ever – and missing.
Anton: Now that you have a novel and a tabletop role-playing game under your belt, what is next on the horizon for you?
Jason: I’ve got stacks of things in the To-Do pile – the 3rd book in the Books of Before & Now, called The Bride and the Bird-Man. Outland Entertainment are re-releasing my series The Tamsyn Webb Chronicles of which I’ll be writing the next book Dead Last. There’s a couple more novel series in the pipeline with these fine folks, as well as a graphic novel and some other stuff. I’m also working on a TV show that has gotten some serious interest from big players, of which I (sadly) cannot say much more right now. But stay tuned!
Anton: Before we part ways, let our readers know where they can follow you and keep up with your work.
Jason: Absolutely! My website is at http://jasonfischer.com.au/ where you can also find my mailing list.
Until next time, may you avoid the Graygulf flames of the witches of The Now.