At East Texas University, Demon Hunting is On the Curriculum

In the Texas town of Pinebox, football is king and something with tentacles is lurking in the local swimming hole. In this variant for the Savage Worlds RPG system, you might battle chupacabras or zombies, but you still have to ace your anthro final tomorrow.

East Texas University positions the players as students at the titular fictional school. Immersed in Texas culture and collegiate drama, they'll also face cultists, demons, ghosts, and the rest of the usual cast of supernatural baddies. Written by Preston DuBose and Ed Wetterman, the game is initially available via an already successful Kickstarter campaign.

I was initially hoping that East Texas University would be a little more True Detective and a little less Buffy, but once I dug into it a little, I was won over. This is basically a setting book and rules extension for the Savage Worlds RPG. If you're not familiar with Savage Worlds, it's a fairly rules-light system intended for use in a variety of high-action pulp settings. It's got a fun "exploding dice" mechanic that lets you chain really good rolls together, and uses a deck of standard playing cards for initiative.

ETU takes the playing card angle and expands on it, which fits the Texas setting pretty well if you like to imagine cowboys playing draw poker over the cook fire. In addition to initiative, the book is filled with tables that are resolved with the draw of a card. For instance, there's a whole series of charts that let you create adventures on the fly just by drawing cards for the antagonist, goal, complication, and other factors.

If this were just a Scooby-gang monster hunting RPG, I might be a little underwhelmed. But the aspect I find really compelling is that the characters are intrinsically tied to life at the university. You'll find details on tons of NPCs that populate the school, and rules on making sure you're passing your courses and moving on to your next semester. It adds a bunch of fun complications to your adventures. You can't just take off and run around waving guns and shooting zombies. You might have to wait for the weekend to go explore the abandoned mansion, and your character's skills will be put to use bluffing professors or the school's suspicious grounds crew.

The college setting adds some other atmosphere too. You could join a sorority (or run afoul of one). There might be professors around with some expertise in the occult. You might wind up investigating a supernatural incident at a bar filled with drunk students on a Friday night.

This isn't just Collegetown, USA, it's worth noting. ETU goes to great lengths to detail some of the culture of East Texas, from the importance of football to common expressions you might hear in your dealings with townies. "Always drink upstream from the herd, son."

I've already got adventure ideas brewing just thinking about this particular blend of setting and supernatural tropes. What if you transplanted Innsmouth to East Texas? They'd obviously worship something other than Dagon, and be something other than fishy. I'm thinking centipedes. It's a Geology Club field trip gone wrong in The Shadow Over Muleshoe!