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Author Topic: Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion [SWADE]  (Read 790 times)

Ocule

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Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion [SWADE]
« on: August 12, 2022, 02:35:25 PM »
So this product is available for pre-order currently and you'll get the pdf immediately but will need to wait on hard copies. I wanted to get my thoughts out because Savage Worlds has been my go to system since Deluxe edition and i've spent a crazy amount of money on collectors items and books. I own all the old companion books, the entire solomon kane line, rippers, deadlands, deluxe edition, and some other misc stuff or pdfs. I wish I could say better things about this but hopefully this is useful.

So some basic updates from the previous Fantasy Companion, the page count was increased to 272 compared to the old book's 161 pages, so we are getting a little over a hundred more pages of content. The price has also more than doubled for the book with the hard copy coming in at nearly 50 dollars, and the pdf at 25. This up from 10/25 it was before so the big question is do we get twice the content? The art on the cover is representative of the art in the book, most of the artwork is recycled from the core rulebook and the art that isn't plays it incredibly safe to the point of being uninspired. It feels sanitized, dull and repetitive. While the book tends to talk alot about different sub genres of fantasy, the actual artwork doesn't really reflect this with the exception of a few nods to antiquity like an egyption archer and a spartan warrior. The layout itself is legible, and the background images dont get in the way of reading, so thats a plus though im hit with a few walls of text where they probably should have added in artwork but there are a few pages that just arent really broken up with art.

The first chapter goes into race creation, which is renamed ancestry. I'm not a fan of this renaming but it's not a huge deal, i'm still going to call it race because thats what we've always called it and I dont see any reason to change it. So the first thing I need to say about this is this chapter feels really preachy but a bit more subtle than say wizards of the coast or paizo as they talk alot about "evil cultures" and breaking stereotypes because players are heroes rather than how to play a character from an "evil culture" ie dark elves. There is a race creation table that adds to the core rulebook so you still need the core rulebook on hand to actually make use of it, in the old companions you had the whole table reprinted with the new options. It also includes some errata for the core book racial powers. This means if you want to make the most up to date race to share, you might be left trying to figure out which companion or sourcebook is the latest release.

On the actual races there are a ton of them, though nearly all of them are D&D races with the serial numbers filed off. We have dragonborn, Genasi, tieflings etc just all under different names. Included are these racial variant tips on how to make sub races, but at first impression they aren't really that useful because they only really suggest adding abilities but you'll need to rebalance the race entirely if youre using the point buy system, and some of the suggestions they make I dont really agree with. Like if all elves are magical, give them arcane background as a racial ability and at least personally I find that i shouldn't be able to recreate a racial template at character creation using a vanilla human, otherwise it just because an edge tax rather than a template. On the upside the actual full templates are mostly pretty solid and useable as is.

One of my worries with savage pathfinder was that classes will make their way into the companion, i'm glad to say this isn't the case and the book just refers you to savage pathfinder if that's the experience you want. However alot of the pieces of the classes did make their way into the edges and hinderances section to be taken piecemeal. Some of these would really be better off as setting rules such as corruption mechanic for magic is a hinderance instead of baked into an arcane background. Otherwise this section is really just a compilation of fantasy themed edges across various game lines very few new mechanics are actually introduced here. We have things like close fighter from Lankhmar, dirty fighter etc. It isn't bad to have them in one place instead of needing multiple books.

None of the edges are race locked, and not all edges are appropriate for all settings. One of the things the gm should do before running a fantasy game is go through all the edges especially power and weird edges and decide if they're appropriate for their campaign setting. If you run a low magic game you probably don't want the non magic characters getting access to powers through "gifted" which acts as a pseudo class system. Oh and a houserule we came up with on the discord made its way as a hinderance, at least a variation of it.

Chapter 2 covers gear, and is mostly just all the usual things you can expect. Once again true to savage worlds the prices are all over the place, and are priced with relation to how useful to a player character rather than reflecting any in world economy. If youre making your own world you'll probably come up with your own prices anyway. But you'll find gear for most fantasy settings up to black powder weapons, though there is little reason to use a musket over a heavy crossbow as written.

Strongholds are in this section as well, this is probably the weakest section in the book, it looks like a stripped down version of the mechanics in rippers.

Setting rules are pretty short, i expected a bit more here on how to tailor the game to different sub genres. Bound and Entangled is nerfed with the justification that because it's more common in a fantasy setting it's too powerful. Stream attacks make an appearance, but really the biggest addition here is betrayal, which is similar to knock out blow from their pulp lines and an optional rule to make magic healing a bit more difficult by making it follow the golden hour and limiting number of attempts overall i like it. Giving baddies conviction for heroes failing to stop them is pretty good, but overall this section is a bit skimpy.

Arcane backgrounds, another section i was dying to see. Overall i'd say this is a good lesson in how the core backgrounds should be customized for a setting. The SWADE core backgrounds are so boring and bare bones that using them as is a waste. However we see the return here of "armor interference" because they just couldnt let go of the D&D trope and the diabolist gets corruption. It makes sense here how those things ended up in the hinderance section it seems like they put it in there to save space later.



Crafting arcane backgrounds like Alchemist and Tinkerer seem to be a straight improvement over the core rulebook's weird science and can give their creations out for others to activate. I'm still not a fan of just saying they prepared them ahead of time but the player decides when the power is cast that they have it prepared. Especially if you opt for no power points this system kinda breaks down.

Trappings are still as flavor only as when swade came out, which is expected. Still not a fan of that, i prefer the old companions way of baking modifiers into trappings. Battle magic is pretty fantastic though, allowing powers to affect a larger area on a battlefield with much bigger ranges, though its entirely for game balance it doesn't effect wild cards. It's a bit of a peeve of mine for things that only effect extras because of how meta that mechanic is. We have a form of prepared spells ahead of time for a benefit which i can dig it. A sort of pseudo vancian style magic. Ritual magic here is pretty skimpy compared to it's full rules in other game lines, the rules in lankhmar, ETU, Horror Companion and Rifts are certainly superior in nearly every way. The biggest adaptation seems to be the way that the difficulty of the ritual is decided with the new dramatic task rules but they're missing a bunch of the modifiers from the other lines that really drive home the idea of ritual casting.

Next comes up the Items section, and like most TTRPGs cost is based on usefulness to the player rather than any kind of in world economy. They renamed dollars to gold but otherwise function the same. It is understood youre just going to call it whatever your world calls it. They did give us firearms here in the way of black powder weapons however they seem slightly worse than heavy crossbows. The musket has less range, weighs more, does the same amount of damage with no additional AP. Honestly the GM should just add a point or two of armor piercing just to make up for the fact that firearms were hell on armor or other similar mechanic.

This section also goes into strongholds, which is pretty weak overall and the upgrades are tied to the party's advancement and then about a page or so of historical castle information for the GM to be familiar with castles though it does include some information that isnt really accurate. Like boiling oil is mentioned as a common defense tactic but this mightve happened a few times but wasn't really a common tactic. Oil is expensive and you'd need alot of it. There are plenty of resources on youtube or on books that its okay for this to not be too detailed. Though if they wanted to address real castle sieges they couldve included sappers. The traps section is okay, useable and takes into account how hard a trap is to spot rather than a straight pass/fail.

Setting Rules
This section is a little weird as it comes with errata for a power that is disguised as a setting rule. A few other alternate rules that are small tweaks but betrayal and difficult healing are the ones that stand out as something that actually change the game. It basically gives us an answer to how to have magical healing in a gritty game. There are a few others here too but nothing really that wasnt already being done like a way to give villains conviction.

Arcane Backgrounds
Okay here is what I was looking forward to the most. We have variations on arcane backgrounds from the core book and it showcases how they can be changed to fit various roles and more is just an example of how the core backgrounds should be used. Each arcane background comes with a power list, and a few limitations. Earlier in the book under hinderances we got corruption and armor interference, though with this companion armor interference is now included in almost every arcane background. I'm not really a fan of this and should have been optional. However it makes sense now why they printed these things as hinderances instead of under arcane backgrounds with 14 arcane backgrounds they saved a little bit of space to not reprint under every single background. Each arcane background comes with a 2-3 new edges to support it and there is quite a bit of redundancy between them but it's a start. I'm still not a fan of the weird science variants but it's an improvement over the core rulebook. Alot of the ability to distribute magic items is now baked into the arcane background, but it still feels extremely meta and not very natural. Priestly types now have domains with their own power list.

They did make epic magic a thing here, so im happy to see that especially since it allows end game mages to feel powerful. Magic items are a thing now as well as special materials. It's about everything you'd expect from a magic item section my eyes kind of glazed over here, personally i prefer deliberate magic items to random ones so im bound to just make up my own anyway. There are some rules for crafting but theyre pretty basic.

The bestiary here is actually pretty good, and takes up almost half the page count. My only complaint here is they wouldve been better served with a how to build your own monsters rather than just a big list of new ones. But having a big list of new monsters is also good.

Thats the end of the book and then there is Appendix A which covers world building. This is the part I was looking forward to even more than the arcane backgrounds bit. They name drop every fantasy story they can think of, with a small blurb as to what it is and suggested setting rules. This part is actually disappointing because very little is reflected in the rest of the book. They name drop Conan, Gor, Barsoom yet no art or special mechanics are listed for those type of games. They have paragraph or two telling me what the genre is, suggested setting rules and some examples. I dont feel this book really helps me actually make any of these stories except for High Fantasy. This appendix shouldve been the meat and potatoes of this book but instead was an afterthought. It's followed by a section on the planes, this section is fine as an appendix because this is usually setting specific. I'd have liked to see more of how to build a world's cosmology rather than a few example planes from D&D with the serial numbers filed off.

There is an index so thats a plus.

Final thoughts:
Art and Layout 1/5: This is awful and uninspiring. Walls of text without art to really break it up, plus bland safe art that doesn't represent the various genres of fantasy, and ticking of representation boxes without actually representing the various cultures those medieval people wouldve been from is just frustrating.

Content  3/5: The book is useable, if you play savage worlds fantasy it is a good resource to have mostly because it compiled alot of edges from various lines to make it happen. But there is so much missed opportunity here it is painful. They need to dig up the old world building toolkits from wiggy and use them as a guideline.

Cost 1/5:  The increased cost is kind of absurd for what it offers. Its a 250% increase in cost you're paying 50 bucks for this if you want a hard copy. One of the selling points of savage worlds was it's cost of entry. But now to collect the core book and it's genre companions you'll pay more than trying to get a PHB, MM and DMG. Assuming each book is 40-50 bucks. Especially for a book that needs to be crowdfunded.
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