This one is a guilty pleasure of mine. When I tell people about a TV series called Jeremiah, most do not believe me. I would tell these same people: “It’s a post-apocalyptic drama starring Luke Perry (RIP), and Malcom-Jamal Warner. What more you want?” But it’s true, dear readers. Today’s review is a TTRPG based off an obscure show that most people don’t believe is real. Welcome to the world of Jeremiah.
The setting of Jeremiah takes place 15 years after a plague called the Big Death wiped out everyone over the age of innocence (aka anyone who reached puberty). The children inherited this new world and had to survive on their own. In typical post-apocalyptic fashion the world that remains ekes off of the old one, and is dotted by settlements as diverse as the people who inhabit it. The players of this game are one of these now adults who cling to memory of the old world, while trying to survive in the new one.
SIDEBAR – Jeremiah is a show that I really do enjoy, save for one small caveat. If you plan on watching this series, you must stop after the first season. DO NOT WATCH THE SECOND SEASON! I’m not even joking in the slightest. I saw the first series when it aired and didn’t get around to the second until about seven years after it originally aired. Those seven years of excitement were soon crushed under the weight of this aberration.
In case you are wondering why this happened, the original show-runner (J. Michael Straczynski) essentially had a falling out with the parent network, and so the task of creating a second season was left to either the interns or a sentient document shredder that pasted random clipping together to make semi-coherent nonsense. Regardless, the end result took something that was beautiful and defiled it.
It should also be noted that the first season must have been an incubator for later stars of Battlestar Galactica, as many of those actors can be found dotted throughout several episodes. In summary, definitely watch the first season, but pretend a second season never happened. You can thank me later!
Jeremiah uses the D20 OGL system (D&D 3.0) and utilizes the mechanics to it’s fullest effect. Just like D&D there are ability scores, feats, and character classes. The one thing that stands out during character creation is determining background. This is a multi-faceted section that determines region of birth (within the U.S.), upbringing (Inner City, Suburban, or Upscale… interestingly no choice for Rural), childhood pastimes (grants skills), and most importantly: Big Death Survival. The last one is a chart where you roll to determine how the Big Death impacted you as a child. This could be a positive or negative skill or ability with a reason. Overall, this section alone grants new skills, modifiers and knowledge.
The character classes combine some familiar archetypes with new ideas:
- Brain Boy – As expected by the name, this is a class for high intelligence based characters. They are inventors, puzzle solvers and have a capability to use old world technology.
- Guardians – This is a class for a solid front line fighter. They can take hits from multiple foes and keep on moving.
- Jock – Much like the Guardian, the Jock is about combat. However, they excel in dishing out damage as opposed to taking it.
- Mystic – Unlike other classes the Mystic has some innate abilities allowing for things like seeing the future, altering dice rolls, and even reviving characters at later levels.
- Scavenger – It doesn’t take a Brain Boy to figure this one out. The Scavenger excels at finding things or making use of things that others would trash. They also have a solid Jury Rigging ability.
- Sheppard – This is the leader type class. They excel in anything communication related. Persuading, Negotiating, Intimidating, etc. If it’s something that can be said, they are the one’s best to convey it.
- Thief – Masters of the five finger discount, B&E, dodging, running and athletics.
- Trader – This is the other charisma based class. Where the Sheppard is good for nearly all communication, the Trader is hyper focused on bartering/trading and confusing people. Think less legit merchant and more like a snake oil salesman. Since this game has no monetary system, a trader will ensure that the group gets what they need.
- Wanderer – The nearest comparison would be a ranger, but also a spy. They are good at evading, and can collection info as a form of plot currency.
It should also be noted that the GM has access to a few NPC classes to make life a little easier when creating the inhabitants of the new world. A nice feature so you don’t have to spend hours determining if said NPC is a wanderer or trader, etc.
Grace Points – Your characters begin the game with two grace points. According to the book: “Players may spend these points in order to alter the game in some meaningful way. They may be spent to avoid certain death, to miraculously defeat an important foe or to discover some type of vital information not otherwise available to the character.” The idea of this is very cool because it allows the players to do something that can move the game forward if they are stuck, or take out a problem if needed. You only receive more grace points by being heroic or selfless in some way. The setting of Jeremiah, despite the bleak nature, is about hope. With that being said, any player acting like a total psychopath will have Grace removed as punishment.
Leveling Up – Characters level up slowly with a nicely revamped XP chart. For instance, getting to level 2 only costs 10xp, but you are only awarded like 2-3 xp per session, so even that could take a while.
Once you are past character creation, the bulk of this 250+ tome is dedicated to the following:
Trade – The book provides a robust equipment section, along with an alternate bartering system/mechanics. Items have a trade value that can be used for acquiring things of equivalent value. There is even a chart for increasing/decreasing value on a type of item depending on the location. For example, a location hit with famine will drive the value of all food (in that location/region) up.
Lore – This section give brief snippets on what happened to the rest of the world. The creators of the book gave some general idea what things are like in certain regions/continents of the world, while expanding the lore within the U.S.
Series Recap – The last section provides a summary of each episode in the series. As noted in the sidebar, if you are wanting to punish yourself you can read all about the second season here. Between watching season two and reading it, the latter is the lesser evil. Despite my misgiving with the lesser season, this section will catch up anyone who is unfamiliar with the plot of the series.
The book contains everything you would need to run the game along with providing expanded mechanics. I particularly like the Grace mechanic and how trade works. All of these aspects combine to make the setting of Jeremiah something worth playing… especially for a post-apocalyptic game.
There are plenty of other games in the post-apocalyptic genre. Unless you watched the show, I’m not certain why you would pick it up. Also, in the current state of the world, you may not want to play a game in a post-plague setting.
Jeremiah is a solid setting with a trusted game mechanic to back it. Try it if you want something new, or at least watch the first season of the show!