As I mentioned in my review of Savage Suzerain, I recently bought Dogs of Hades without realising it was a Savage Suzerain setting book; this isn’t clear from the cover or the RPGNow page, where I can see I need Savage Worlds for it, but not Savage Suzerain. That didn’t bother me, as Savage Suzerain was itself on my wishlist, but if it would bother you, you are now warned.
In a nutshell: Ancient Greeks in Spa-a-a-a-ce!
The book is divided into the standard sections for a Savage Worlds plot point setting…
- For Players: A short player’s introduction explaining what you need to play, and a soundbite description of the setting – Greek epics meet Frank Herbert’s Dune. One page.
- Athena’s Garden: History and cultures of the setting are painted with a broad brush in a couple of pages; my feeling is that we’re looking at a parallel universe analogous to Greece and the Mediterranean in about the 5th century BC. Except with Earthlike worlds (“Gardens”) replacing islands, and starships replacing biremes. And then the Imperium of Dune slathered over the top. Nothing wrong with that.
- Characters: Character creation for this setting. About 18 pages. This covers the archetypes of the milieu, including the usual fighters and spies as well as Logicians, this setting’s answer to Mentats; characters’ cultural backgrounds; everyday life; new and modified skills, hindrances and edges. A departure from the normal RPG tropes here is that female characters are second-class citizens, rather than equal to their male counterparts; since my players are about 50/50 male and female, I might tweak that a bit. I always find a character’s hindrances more entertaining than the edges, and there are some nice new ones – Easily Distracted, for example, which forces you to draw two initiative cards and play the lower of them. The Fatal Beauty edge is also nice, allowing the character to Stun an opponent with his or her sheer good looks. Logicians (a variant of the Savage Suzerain Perfected “race”) have a nice pack of edges and powers all their own, balanced by not being much use outside of their speciality.
- Realm Rules: Setting-specific rules. You have already layered Savage Suzerain over Savage Worlds to get this far, but there are some additional tweaks too; it is possible sometimes to Fatigue one’s opponent rather than Shaking them; groups of four or more characters working in formation get combat advantages; the specifics of divine aid and divine wrath for each of the gods (who are real in this setting, and can be influenced, although they get grumpy if you don’t keep your end of the bargain) – I particularly like that Dionysus gives you more help if you’re drunk. 6 pages.
- Athens Gazetteer: The history, politics, geography, technology, military organisation and so forth of Athens, the capital world of the region and probable PC homeworld. This is a balkanised world, dotted with city-states of one or two million citizens each, constantly jostling for power and prestige. Glaring at the Athenian Hegemony (Athens and colonies on barbarian worlds) across a handful of buffer states is Sakalid space, the Sakalids being Athens’ main enemy in an extensive and bloody war some 30 years before the game starts, and (to my mind anyway) filling the role of the Persians in this version of Greek history. Athenian technology was granted to their ancestors by the gods, notably Athena, who saved and nurtured them after humanity’s near-destruction several thousand years before the game begins; in essence, they look like ancient Greek weapons, armour and so forth, but function like higher-tech equipment; force shields, energy lances and so on. The section ends with equipment lists. 22 pages.
- For GMs: 6 pages. I was quite prepared to accept “These guys are ancient Greeks in space. Deal with it and get on with the game.” However, this section gives a deeper layer of explanatory backstory. I doubt I’m giving much away there, there is always something like that in the GM’s section.
- Dogs of Hades and Savage Tales: A plot point campaign in ten “verses”, with 20 shorter scenarios, intended to take the characters from Novice to Heroic rank, after which Suzerain proper would cut in. It’s a suitably mythic tale of murder, lust, greed, revenge and seafood. No, seriously, seafood. Between them, these take up about 70 pages. I could get about a year’s worth of play out of them at one session per week, and longer at my current reduced pace.
- Men and Monsters: NPC and creature statistics. 15 pages, include key NPCs for the PCs’ probable home city-state, generic NPCs, and nonhumans.
- Maps: 10 pages of pretty maps, zooming in from interstellar to regional level.
So, reflections having read the game but not played it…
- It’s a violent setting, and there is no magic healing to speak of. Somebody in the group better tool up with healing edges, and remember to pray to the healer god while using them.
- Logicians are fun.
- It could be run just as a Savage Worlds campaign, without bringing Suzerain into play at all; I’m very tempted to try that.
This one goes into the “play someday” pile rather than the “mine for ideas then discard” pile.