That Savage Worlds / Deadlands Thing

Since I decided to make a post a day, I’ve been bursting with ideas for things to write. Ultima, Marvel (the RPGs and the comics), Dragonstar and others will have to wait. Today’s post is about Savage Worlds.

For those who aren’t on the Savage Worlds Yahoo Group, I have been a Group Owner for a while, though it was Gary (Screenmonkey) who started the group. I’m also the maintainer of the most comprehensive Savage Worlds FAQ there is, though I’m waiting for Deadlands Reloaded to come out before I (finally) post the most up-to-date version. I’m also listed in the “special thanks” section of the revised Savage Worlds Rulebook (Yay!) because I helped fix all the page numbers. I’ve also written some stuff for Shark Bytes, the unofficial SW fanzine. So I’m kind of an expert on the subject, even though I’ve never written anything official (yet).

The story of Savage Worlds itself must always start with Deadlands. Deadlands: The Weird West, now known as Deadlands Classic came out in the mid-1990s. Deadlands Classic used “dice pools”, which are varying amounts of dice of different kinds, standard playing cards, poker chips and a few other props. (Classic is a little complicated, but not too bad when you figure it out.) It was quite a big success for a while, spawning all kinds of supplements and spin-offs including Deadlands: Hell on Earth (future-post-apocalyptic Deadlands campaign), a collectable card game called Doomtown, GURPS and d20 versions of the Weird West and a miniatures war-game called Great Rail Wars. Great Rail Wars used a very simplified variant of the Classic rules, with one die per roll instead of a dice pool and was a fair success for a time.

I missed all this the first time around. I lived in London at the time and our group was really into White Wolf games, particularly Vampire: The Masquerade. So when Deadlands Classic was available and it came to a choice between DL and Werewolf: The Wild West, we went with the option that required fewer dice, no cards and no poker chips.

Fast-forward to 2002. Pinnacle Entertainment Group is on life-support, but Shane has announced a new set of RPG rules loosely based on the old Great Rail Wars system (remember, GRW was not an RPG, it was a wargame) called Savage Worlds. I downloaded the Test Drive (free) rules and got involved in the Savage Worlds Yahoo Group, helping update the FAQ and the rest is history.

For those who aren’t familiar with the recent history, here’s the current events:

The Savage Worlds Rulebook originally came out in March 2003, to much online fanfare. It sold out in less than a year. When it came time to reprint it, Shane and Zeke decided to improve it by adding a bunch of new stuff, fixing typos and such and adding glorious color! The revised version can be purchased in hardback or as a PDF “ebook”. The original version can only be obtained used, but it doesn’t have much collector’s value (yet…).

Evernight was the first “Savage Setting” published. It’s a fairly linear swords & sorcery campaign with some nice twists, though (in my opinion) is far outshined by the quality of later books. The linearity is deliberate, and although some players may complain about being “railroaded”, it’s the only way to tell that particular kind of story. Besides, there is now tons of swords & sorcery SW supplements/articles and such to allow a GM to expand on the material in the EN book if he so wishes.

50 Fathoms was the second Savage Setting, a sort of cross between Pirates of the Caribbean and Pirates of Dark Water. Sailors and Pirates from Earth end up stuck on a different world named Caribdus. Caribdus is a sort of pirate heaven with much treasure and perilous adventure to be had. The natives range from the human-like Massaquani to the giant-crab-like Scurillians. Magic is based on the four classic elements, though only certain races can use it. The Heroes can be pirates, privateers or just a bunch of treasure-hunting mercenaries.

Rippers is the third Savage Setting book, although it is the most recently published one. It’s set in Victorian-era Earth where all of the classic monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster have teamed up in a group called the Cabal under the leadership of Jack The Ripper. The Rippers are a coalition of various monster-hunting societies which use Rippertech, the process of surgically grafting monstrous body parts onto humans. Some of the Cabal leaders, notably Jack himself, are former Rippers. Classic gothic horror, action and a touch of Lovecraftian madness make Rippers one of my favorite Savage Settings. (Incedentally, there was also a tragically short-lived miniatures wargame line, which used Vampire Wars minatures, that came out just after 50 Fathoms. That’s why Rippers is number 3 instead of 4.)

Necessary Evil is a super-villain campaign setting. The Earth of Necessary Evil was your typical Marvel/DC style superhero Earth until alien invaders betrayed and slaughtered the heroes. Now the Supervillains (and jsut a few surviving heroes) have formed an underground resistance movement to eventually drive the invaders out. Four-color superheroic (or villainous) action, with a very nice superpowers add-on that replaces the one in the SW rulebook. The campaign is pretty good too.

Tour of Darkness is a Weird Wars setting in the Vietnam War. The Weird Wars books are a sperate line to the rest of the Savage Settings, although Tour of Darkness uses the Savage Worlds rules. It starts out as a relatively ordinary military setting, and can be played completely historical. But there’s also a great deal of Weirdness that the GM can inject into the campaign if so desired…

Deadlands Reloaded (actually titled Deadlands: The Weird West, but DL:R is it’s nickname to distiguish it from Deadlands Classic, GURPS and d20) is the Deadlands setting book for Savage Worlds. It’s not out yet, but we’re fairly sure it will be the next one out.

See the FAQs for more information. http://www.sharkbytes.info/navigation/faq.html

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