Review: Savage Worlds Fantasy Toolkits

Posted: 11 May 2011 in Reviews

Pinnacle has produced a number of genre toolkits, typically three for each genre: A bestiary, a world builders’ guide, and an equipment book. These are all optional with a capital O, intended to act as examples and guidelines rather than strict rules. My copies are PDF downloads from RPGNow.

This review is about the fantasy toolkits, which were published in 2005, and like much of the SW line, written by Paul “Wiggy” Wade-Williams; I suspect they may eventually be replaced by the Fantasy Companion.

Fantasy Gear Toolkit (81 pages)

The main sections are these:

  • Introduction (1 page). The stock outline of the content to come, plus the usual SW admonition to use, change or ignore them as you wish.
  • New Setting Background (1 page). The fantasy toolkits use this as an example of how to create a setting.
  • Tools of the Trade (9 pages). Expanded rules for non-magical armour, weapons and adventuring gear; ships; siege engines and sieges.
  • Making Magic (4 pages). This is about constrcuting magic items, and includes the new character Edges required to make them, and the costs of various enchantments.
  • Magic Items (61 pages). Here we have a discussion of the types and placement of magic items, the treasure table which we’ll see again in the Bestiary Toolkit, random tables suitable for stocking dungeons with magic items, and descriptions of the various items on the tables. This chapter has an old school D&D vibe to it, although there is not much overlap in the relics themselves with D&D.

Fantasy Bestiary Toolkit (62 pages)

The main chapters are:

  • Introduction. One page. Much like the one in the Gear toolkit.
  • Making Monsters. Two pages. This covers how to build your own monsters from scratch, with a worked example, and a treasure table, used to determine what loot the various beasts have with them. The guidelines for monster creation boil down to “give it whatever stats, skills and abilities you think fit the description”, which is the default SW approach and one of the reasons I like it.
  • Bestiary. 54 pages. Here’s the guts of the book; dozens of new monsters, some generic fantasy creatures, others new. I’m pleased to see a load of human archetypes in the product, although I would have preferred them to be collected in a separate chapter rather than mixed in with the dinosaurs and mythological beasties.

In addition, there are sidebars of several types scattered throughout the book:

  • Adventure Seeds. There are 20 of these, each based on one of the monsters in the book.
  • Encounters, including philosophy, traps, and encounter tables for various terrain types.
  • Treasure types for monsters from the core rules.

Fantasy World Builder Toolkit (70 pages)

  • Introduction (1 page). The usual stuff.
  • The Drawing Board (6 pages). The reader is encouraged to start creating his setting by thinking about the style of fantasy (high, low, historical, technological, weird); the hook that will draw the players into it; and what is going on in the world. Plot Points (story arcs) are also discussed, with some samples. This section closes with a recap of the example setting from the Gear Toolkit.
  • World Creation (9 pages). The pros and cons of top-down and bottom-up world construction. DIscussions of, and rules for: Climate and terrain types; ecology; weather; hazards (rockfalls, forest fires, quicksand etc.); and travel.
  • Building Nations (15 pages). This explains how to create cultures and kingdoms, whether human or not. There are capsule descriptions of ancient cultures to plagiarise, suggestions on customising stock fantasy races to make them unique to your setting, rules for creating new races, different types of government and their effects, laws, and economics. These lead into advice on placing your new nations on your map, capsule descriptions of standard settlement types, and thoughts on calendars and their possible impacts on magic.
  • Religion (7 pages). The chapter looks at creating gods and pantheons, the powers and duties of clergy. There’s an example pantheon, too.
  • Arcane Magic (10 pages). The heart of this section is tweaking the Arcane Background edge to provide a variety of different types of spellcaster – rune magi, alchemists and so on. It also includes rules for familiars.
  • Major Players (4 pages). Organisations and powerful individuals who have an impact, either as friends or foes. The book suggests tying these to Professional Edges – a number of examples are provided.
  • Using Powers (14 pages). How to tweak the standard powers and trappings to customise your setting, and a grimoire of new powers.

Conclusion

Cheap, cheerful, does what it says on the tin. However, like most of my RPG library, I flip through these every so often for inspiration rather than keeping them close at hand while I play, or design a setting. The thing I use most often is the Traps Table from the Bestiary.

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Comments
  1. Erin says:

    I suspect they may eventually be replaced by the Fantasy Companion

    From your descriptions above, the Fantasy Companion replaces most of the Gear and Bestiary Toolkits, but ignores much (most) of what’s covered in the World Builder volume.

    I picked up the FC about a year ago and my initial impressions were that it fell short. It’s dominated by retreads of races and spells from the SW core, scads of magic items, and hordes of monsters.

    One one hand, it saves you the time of creating all that stuff on your own. On the other hand, it provides almost no advice on building (or starting) a fantasy campaign, which was disappointing because I was looking for some “SW Innovation” on that very topic.

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