Friday, January 8, 2010

Tommy's Take on: Extreme, A Savage Setting

Extreme is a “freebie” setting for Savage Worlds, released by Black Orifice Games.  It's a 10 page PDF designed as a rules mod, with a little bit of setting tacked on, to take Savage Worlds up that extra step or so to hit the high-octane, action movie genre.

The PDF is full-color with art, and is divided into three sections: An Introduction, a Player's Section and a GM's section.  You can get it at http://www.webjam.com/the_black_orifice and right there on the front page in the downloads section.  It requires the Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition, though you could probably run it with Pinnacle's free Test Drive rules in a pinch.

The Introduction is pretty straight-forward, spelling out the aim of the game as a fairly black and white world with no misunderstood villains but instead brutal drug cartels, child slavery rings, demented anarchists and the like.  This is the world of Commando, Taken, Die Hard and Dirty Harry, pulp taken to its modern (non-superpowered) extreme.

The Player's Section

Character creation is first.  Humans are the sole race allowed, but the major change is that this is the first setting that I have owned or read thus far in which all supernatural elements are stripped, meaning no Arcane Backgrounds.  However, the setting adds some nice new Edges and Hindrances, such as Mistaken Identity (in which you resemble someone you wouldn't want to resemble) and Hard Target, which makes you harder to hit the more you move (for the guys who are wading through waves of mooks shooting at them).  The setting adds Story Hooks, which are additional hindrances that must be usable in getting the character tied into the plot.  Once that becomes apparent, said character's Wild Die gets upgraded to a d8 for the adventure as they become the Lead Character.  This is a very nice rule, because they also count as regular hindrances, potentially giving Extreme characters an extra Edge up on the average Savage Worlds character.

The author helpfully provides a list of archetypes with sample builds, ranging from cops to nerds to honorable criminals, and survivalists, if you need the inspiration.

From there, the setting expands the tiers of Savage Worlds characters from Extras and Wildcards to Mooks, Ordinaries, Unnamed Wild Cards and Named Wild Cards.  Ordinaries and Unnamed Wild Cards function as Extras and Wild Cards in the Savage Worlds rules.  Mooks are Extras distilled down to a single trait die, and they lose even the ability to become Shaken.  Named Wild Cards are Wild Cards with Plot Immunity – That is, they only die in a big death scene, not just at the end of a random combat.

There are other rules tweaks, my favorite being that when you use a bennie to become Unshaken, you have an “adrenaline surge” and ignore all Wound penalties that round.

GM's Section

The GM section begins with an article about gaming in the genre, warning you against placing your PCs in morally grey areas.   Some might complain that this is too simplistic.  I disagree, as there are a great many games, within Savage Worlds and without, that do Shades of Grey by default.  Not a thing wrong with this one discouraging that, in my opinion.

The setting steers the GM towards having a single Lead Character per story, which means that a background hook from that character is what is being used to propel the plot, giving them a d8 Wild Die as mentioned above.  This is less constraining than your typical “lead guy/back-up” campaign set-up (like with, say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) because if you play multiple adventures, then everyone can have a “turn” as the Lead.

The “setting” part mostly comes in the form of premade antagonists, such as a shadowy government organization, a charismatic arms dealer, a brutal crime cartel, and a super secret conspiracy that is secretly behind all of them, providing a nice hook if you chose to string together a multi-”movie” campaign.

The document ends with sample trait listings for mooks, as well as a handful of sample NPC villain write-ups.

Conclusion

A very nice rules mod.  I caught a typo or two, and I don't understand why there had to be a new name for Extras.  The art is nothing to get excited about, but I've paid for products that had way worse, and there's only about three pieces...the PDF is pretty full of text.

I enjoyed this.  I could see having some over the top, tongue in cheek fun with this, even in a “multi-picture” campaign...where I would recommend a bare minimum of 5 xp per adventure (to ensure an advance after each one).  Black Orifice has hinted at more free settings to come...I'll definitely keep my eye open after this.