Review: Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion

Posted: 15 August 2012 in Reviews
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I was curious about how this differed from the earlier fantasy toolkits, if at all; and when those cunning blighters at RPGNow introduced a discount for items that have been sitting on my wishlist for a while, well, how was a chap to resist?

SUMMARY

The Fantasy Companion is the Savage Worlds supplement for GMs running a fantasy campaign, and judging by the comments on the Pinnacle forum, most people use either a published setting, or the core rules and this companion, when setting up a fantasy campaign.

My view on first flicking through this was that I had wasted my money, as there was so much duplication. However, I warmed to it a little on a more detailed reading. What you get is most of the content from the Wizards & Warriors genre pack and the Fantasy Toolkits, merged into a single, better laid out book.

CONTENT

A lot of this has been covered before in other SW products, so the Companion is perhaps best thought of as an optional upgrade. Chapter by chapter, then…

Characters (8 pages)

First we look at races; there are eight fully-statted races: Dwarf, elf, hobbit halfling half-folk, half-elf, half-orc, human, rakashan (cat-people), and saurian. After this are rules on languages (the half-Smarts optional setting rule) and creating new races. SW Deluxe has these rules already in the core rulebook, but SW Explorers’ doesn’t. The free Wizards & Warriors genre pack has most of the stock races.

Next, new Edges. Familiar lets your mage PC have a familiar; Adept, Assassin, and Troubadour allow you to play a D&D-style monk, backstabbing thief, or bard respectively; Knight is not quite a paladin, but would do nicely as a C&C knight. Other Edges mostly reflect racial abilities. All of the Edges are new if you only have SWEE, although a few of them overlap with the W&W pack and a couple exist in SWD.

Gear (11 pages)

Adventuring gear overlaps quite a bit with the core rules, although shelter, clothing, food, etc are expanded upon. Weapons and armour are new items, not ones from the main rulebooks. I have got to work the pump-action crossbow into play somehow, it’s just too cool for school.

Sidebars in this chapter explain long-term overland movement rates by terrain, and there is quite an extensive (by SW standards, anyway) section on siege warfare, including a price list for fortifications and siege engines.

Arcana (27 pages)

This chapter expands on the core rules in the area of magic and miracles.

First we get a list of templates for deities; god of justice, goddess of healing, god of war and so on. Each of these is described in terms of aspects (that’s "domains" for you d20 players), duties, sins, and a list of the powers to which the god grants his priests access.

Next up, new arcane backgrounds: Alchemy, sorcery, ritual magic. Alchemy lets you make the casting roll in the privacy of your own laboratory and get some expendable patsy to deliver the spell to its target; sorcery grants the innate ability to dispel other castings; ritualism is slow and steady, but less risky than other approaches. The default assumption of the Companion is that AB (Magic) excludes healing powers, but you can always change that. Arcane Backgrounds are commonly rewritten for each new setting, as one of the key things that differentiate milieux is the way magic works; so this is more useful if you are creating your own world.

Third, an expansion on trappings – what are the mechanical effects of saying your Bolt power has a trapping of fire vs ice vs lightning? This is already part of SWDE and (in a less detailed form) the World Builders’ Guide, but new for SWEE.

Fourth, a full spell list, including all spells in the core rules. There are 55 powers in the FC, compared to 50 in DE and 31 in EE; I liked the increase in available powers from Explorers’ to Deluxe, but the Companion didn’t have a "killer app" for me in the powers department.

Treasure (53 pages)

This is mostly an extensive random magic item generator, almost identical to the one in the Fantasy Gear Toolkit as far as I could tell; the main difference I spotted was the optional treasure table with black powder weapons in it. There’s also the treasure type table from the Fantasy Bestiary Toolkit.

If you have the Toolkits, as I do, this section is of limited value. If you don’t, it will give you a D&D style treasure generator.

Bestiary (56 pages)

Again, if you have the Toolkits, this is of limited value. It repeats some, but not all, of the monsters in the core rules, and adds statblocks for a number of common human and demihuman encounters, as well as a range of monsters not found in the core books – mummies, naga, gargoyles and what have you; a subset of the Fantasy Bestiary Toolkit.

What’s Missing?

Almost all the world creation and nation-building stuff from the World Builders’ Guide, as well as some of the spells. A variety of monsters, the random encounter tables, the traps table, and the adventure seeds from the Bestiary. I didn’t spot anything missing from the Gear Toolkit, but given the difference in page counts I suspect there is something.

What’s New?

Magical black powder weapons. Statistics and costs for fortifications. A wider range of god templates for priests to follow.

What’s Different?

The Toolkits explicitly said they were guidelines only, and didn’t feel that tightly integrated to me. The Companion is a single, prescriptive piece – more "this is how it is" than "you could do it this way if you feel like it". Your call whether that’s a good or a bad thing.

FORMAT

This is nicer than the Toolkits on several fronts; better art, better layout, ability to suppress page backgrounds via Acrobat layers (rather than having one version of the file with, and one without).

Also, I prefer to have a single file (the Companion) rather than three (Bestiary, Gear, and World Builders’ Guide).

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

The Fantasy Gear Toolkit included Edges allowing a character with AB (Magic) or AB (Miracles) to create magic items – potions, scrolls, relics and whatnot. The Fantasy Companion does not, and I would prefer that it did; that comes down to an individual GM’s interpretation of magic.

Pinnacle sometimes use "Explorers’ Edition" to refer to the size of the book, and sometimes to refer to an edition of the rules. I’d prefer that they used different terms, to reduce the chance of confusion.

One thing that would be really useful to me is a summary sheet for all the Powers, like the ones for Edges or Weapons. I keep meaning to do my own, but inertia rises triumphant.

My favourite bit from the Bestiary Toolkit was the traps table, and I’d like to see that here too. Go on, Pinnacle, you know you want to – it’s only a quarter page.

CONCLUSIONS

This seems to have been written with the Explorers’ Edition rules in mind (for example, the Guts skill is still included, although not a setting rule), rather than the Deluxe Edition, so it’s less useful if you have the latter.

It also seems aimed at GMs converting or creating their own world, rather than running a published SW setting – setting books cover most of this territory in a more focussed way, so again, less useful if you’re already intending to play Evernight, Beasts & Barbarians, or whatever.

Finally, I’d say there’s a deliberate design decision to duplicate entries from the core rules in a number of places, though not all; that’s good if your priority is to avoid flipping through several books to find something, and bad if your priority is to pay for a particular piece of text only once; your call.

Overall Rating: Tricky, but I’ll go with 3 out of 5. I could see the rating being anywhere from 2 out of 5 to 4 out of 5, depending on what other SW products you have. I’ll use some bits of it I’m sure, but it’s going to be a reference work rather than something I feel the need to have on hand constantly.

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