Review: Evernight

Published by Pinnacle themselves in 2003, Evernight is one of the earliest Savage Worlds settings. 146 pages, written by Shane Lacy Hensley, creator of SW itself.

THE MINSTREL’S TALE

Two pages of historical background, presented as a tale of earlier heroes, told to the PCs by a minstrel. This is not immediately relevant, but towards the end of the story arc, players who were paying attention should go “Aha!”

PLAYERS’ SECTION (27 pages)

This is your standard setting background fare; a quick three page overview of the world of Tarth and the kingdom of Valusia, which your PCs call home, is followed by character creation – a one page refresher of the SW approach, then details of the races of Tarth (the usual suspects – dwarves, elves, half-elves, Halflings, half-orcs, humans).

There are notes on which Edges and Hindrances are not appropriate, and a few new Edges; the professional edges stand out as most interesting for me, allowing a PC to be a Red Knight (paladin) or Sun Priest (cleric). The gear is mostly what you’d expect for a fantasy setting, although Valusia has black powder firearms, which jars a little for me – I blame Warhammer for this intrusion of clockpunk into my nice clean high fantasy worlds, as regular readers will know. Still, there they are.

Arcane Backgrounds are limited to Magic and Miracles; these have been tweaked along D&D lines, so that priests always know Healing, and wizards never do. There are a handful of new spells, of which my favourite is Pawn of Mizridoor, which mechanically just summons a fighter to do the wizard’s bidding, but has nice trappings.

The chapter closes with nine ready-to-play Novice characters or archetypes. I always applaud their inclusion in a setting, and do so again here; many of my players don’t have the time or inclination to spend hours reading setting material and rules to figure out exactly what they want, and it’s easier just to hand them the archetypes and say “Pick one.”

EVERNIGHT PART II (8 pages)

Up to a certain point, namely the appearance of the Masters, Evernight is a standard fantasy campaign. Once they appear, things change, and this second players’ section is unveiled. It covers new edges and archetypes, a new economy triggered by the other changes, and a brief description of what the Masters’ appearance looked like and caused. (I’m leaving this deliberately vague to avoid spoilers.)

GAME MASTER’S SECTION (11 pages)

Everything up to this point could be read by the players, but from here on we’re in GM territory.

This is the secret history of Tarth, and begins with a question: The elves live in the forests, the dwarves underground – what have they been hiding from? The answer is The Scourge, and this chapter explains what it is, why it went away, and why it has come back.

It continues with the setting-specific rules; magic items, and lighting (most of the campaign takes place in darkness, hence its name).

THE DYING OF THE LIGHT (79 pages)

This is a campaign in 33 scenes, split between five acts, and accounts for well over half the book. The first phase, pre-Masters, is fairly straightforward – it’s in this part of the timeline that the free Red Swamp Adventure is set. Things change with the arrival of the Masters towards the end of Act 1, and from then on the campaign focus is on repelling the invaders from Valusia.

Should the group succeed and wish to continue in the same vein, they can go on to tackle invaders in other regions. Personally, I think the story is dramatically complete at the end of Act 5, and would close the campaign at that point – Savage Worlds seems built on the assumption that campaigns start, run to a natural end point, and then stop, as opposed to the more open-ended Old School approach.

BESTIARY (6 pages)

Here we find a couple of dozen monsters, most new, a few now present in the core rulebooks.

Beyond this are five pages of player handouts, and the obligatory character sheet.

CONCLUSIONS

Evernight was written before the Plot Point approach stabilised, and is more of a railroad trip than the standard SW campaign. It’s also less polished than later Pinnacle work, with minor errors such as chapters with one name in their headings and a different one in the table of contents, and less attractive page layouts – but you can’t blame them for improving their product range.

In a sense, Evernight is an homage to D&D; many of the monsters, classes (professional edges) and spell restrictions are reminiscent of the earlier game. Where it stands out is in fusing that ANSI standard fantasy setting with the tropes of alien invasion.

At the time, I would have rated this 4 out of 5, as it gives the GM the tools to run a standard high fantasy game, a Warhammerish clockpunk fantasy game, or the full-on grimdark alien invasion fantasy campaign. Pinnacle and others have raised the bar since 2003, though, and in today’s market I’d reduce that rating to a 3 – average.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Evernight

  1. Evernight is a great idea — changing the tone and even genre of a campaign part of the way through — but it is hobbled by the linear plotting. I’d love to see a new, more open edition, in the same sort of style as the Plot Points; there was some talk of a revision a few years ago and I seem to recall that there’s a Polish or French version that is more of a second edition than a localisation.

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