XCOM 2 as a tabletop RPG?

XCOM 2 Promo teaser art

Firaxis recently announced a fall 2015 release of XCOM 2, a follow-up to XCOM: Enemy Unknown and the expansion Enemy Within. If you haven’t seen the teaser, check it out. It’s enough to get me very excited. XCOM 2 takes place a few decades down the line, assuming the world leaders abdicated to the aliens, who now run the show through supposed beneficence. In this case, the XCOM organization is a covert, guerrilla effort to reveal the dark side of the alien occupation to the global public, and attempt to supplant the massively superior global overlords. So it presents the classic XCOM effort: against all odds, save the world and humanity by subverting and appropriating advanced alien tech to eventually level the odds and triumph as underdogs.

XCOM 2’s focus on stealth, macro-strategy, and almost a psychological/propaganda effort rather than just military firepower vs alien firepower has been bringing my mind back to my white whale of rpg design: a compelling tabletop experience that offers the best of the XCOM franchise’s tone and emotional power.

Reviving Former XCOM RPG Efforts

For a number of reasons, I have not been happy with my former efforts towards an XCOM RPG from a few years ago, exploring use of Cortex Plus, Fate, and some others. Lately however, I am becoming convinced that Savage Worlds might be able to deftly handle the tactical, yet human elements that a tabletop XCOM experience needs.

Savage Worlds would also allow a slider-scale of rules detail (crunchiness) depending on players’ preferences, allowing greater refinement of equipment or vehicle detail and differentiation, for instance, or a more mathematical vs abstracted economic system, on top of a foundation that in itself would remain fast, furious, and fun, true to the Savage Worlds catchphrase. Most importantly to me—since I’ve strongly ascribed to lazy GMing practices of many modern games—a Savage Worlds system for XCOM could allow substantial tactical options for players (and GM) but remain light and minimalist for GM administration.

Not Re-inventing the Wheel

Now attempting an XCOM-like experience using Savage Worlds has likely been done well by others. In fact I know of a number of play-by-post and tabletop campaigns that have run XCOM with Savage Worlds to great effect, or are even currently active. Nevertheless, I haven’t been able to find a consolidated XCOM resource for Savage Worlds. (I have no interest in re-inventing the wheel, however, so if you know of any such related efforts or resources, please drop a comment or link and let me know!) Therefore, I am keen to bring to bear some of the random generators and tone ideas from my former XCOM rpg explorations to enhance a tabletop Savage Worlds XCOM rpg experience.

Moving Ahead

Now, I have not posted regularly on this blog for a long while, due to heavy involvement in life’s changing seasons, so I can’t guarantee what pace new XCOM explorations might find their way to this site, but I wanted to declare my interest and the direction of my musings in case anyone shares similar interests or has ideas that could help my efforts. Given the popularity of the franchise through Firaxis’s recent offerings gives me great hope that I am not alone in finding riveting means to experience XCOM-like stories together with friends on the tabletop.

My next steps are reviewing what ideas went before that may be worth bringing forward to this effort, then assessing what, if anything is needed to help Savage Worlds’ systems capture the fundamental feel of XCOM stories. What do you think needs to be in a tabletop rpg version of XCOM?

About Adam

I'm a husband, father, explorer of the inexhaustible, and synergy cultivator. Starting with D&D, my explorations into role-playing and game design have brought me to savor mining diverse systems, initially Cortex Plus, then PbtA, ORE, Forged in the Dark, and now anything I can get my hands on.