Friday, September 17, 2010

Tommy's Take on Druids, Goblins and Unkindness

Expanded Professions: The Druid

Holy smokes...now this is what I'm talking about. Misfit Studios officially tosses their hat into the Savage Worlds ring with a tiny supplement...of awesome. For $1.55 you can download a three page PDF that adds a Druid Professional Edge and then...expands it. What this product really is, is nine Edges starting with Druid and then allowing access to a number of special features and abilities,including a new Legendary Edge that allows the Druid to tap into the senses of all the animals in the surrounding area.

Yeah.

Another Edge piggybacks off of the Beast Master Edge and allows the Druid to impart cool abilities on their animal companion, or even boost the animal's stats. Yet another Edge allows the Druid to be powered by the land, complete with a table you can use to modify the Druid's power points with depending on where they are actually AT (a desert bumps the Druid's points down -4, while a jungle rockets them up a whopping +6, for instance).

Some people will say "too many edges" and "use what's already there"! I say "Holy crap, I wanna play a Druid, at least until some more of these come out...what's that? 'Champion' just came out? I need to pick that up..."

I am obviously very much a fan of this concept. The addition of more Edges (that have a reason for existing) can help dispel that notion that Savage Worlds "ends" at Legendary...and this supplement has a neat trick or two rolled into Edges that some might have tried to place into the Powers system.

If future releases hold up with this one...and I kinda hate Druids, so there you go...Misfit should have a bright future as a licensee.

Monster Brief: Goblins

Like the Expanded Professions, the Monster Briefs are short PDFs at $1.55, taking a given subject matter and "blowing it up" a bit.

In this case, we get an expanded focus on Goblins, complete with a couple of variations. The product is a mild letdown from the awesomeness that is the Expanded Professions, but still very cool. First up, we get introduced to the Beast Wrangler, a goblin that trains various animals for chaos and violence. This entry is mostly hampered by a reference to giant rats from the Pulp GM's Toolkit, an earlier Savage Worlds product that is now a bit on the obscure side due to the push for the various Companions (though the Pulp Toolkit is still available).

Goblin Lords are actually kind of impressive...having enough going for them statistically to be a threat, especially to lower ranked characters, even before you realize that they are also going to be surrounded by a whole tribe.

Goblin Wolf Riders are fairly self explanatory, and include vargrs, which are like dire wolves but big and mean.

The Monster Brief concludes with Ragefur mushrooms, a *very* scary mushroom that can send goblins into a furious berserker rage before possibly killing them...and then it does BAD stuff to non Goblins that eat it.

You know, its just not quite as cool or as useful as the first Expanded Profession, but this first Monster Brief is still a very encouraging sign as to what could be coming down the pike.

Unkindness

Unkindness caught a bit of infamy as Blackwyrm Games kind of jumped the gun when it was released, beating the August 1st "start date" for ICONS Licensees by a couple of months. This led to Adamant Entertainment initially pulling the license, but later reinstating it.

Unkindness is, in theory, a dual statted adventure for Hero/Champions and ICONS. In reality, It is a Hero/Champions adventure in which they decided to add some ICONS stat blocks in the back of the book. Any references in the adventure to rules are Champions rules, including a chart for attempting a knowledge skill check, which is only published in Champions terms and has no ICONS equivalents posted whatsoever. Literally, the ICONS support is limited to statblocks for the villain (The Raven King), his minions and a pair of important NPCs.

Is it super hard to convert the adventure to ICONS? Not really...but that's not the point. There shouldn't be any conversion work to do when there is an ICONS logo on the front of the book. If there were a BASH Logo on the front of the book, I would expect all rules to also be given in a BASH equivalent as well.

Does that mean the book is all bad?  Not as such, no. The adventure is interesting, featuring an ancient, mythological artifact and a series of robberies (that are connected and not in the usual ways) and a villain who both gets to be brough down decisively AND has room to come back in a far less contrived manner than your typical villain. In fact, no less than 27 system generic plot seeds are provided, giving you ample material to work with if you wanted to make The Raven King a recurring nemesis. It is worth noting that there is a revelation/subplot in the adventure involving (non-sexual) child abuse that pushes this adventure into more adult territory than your typical superhero entry (and I mean actual adult...not "boobs and guns" adult).

The art is pretty weak and this is one case where I think the coloring hurts it. It appears to have been colored by marker, and while the art isn't the strongest anyway, a better coloring job could have helped cover some of the deficiencies.

Even still, my single biggest complaint with the book is how, approaching it from an ICONS perspective, it feels very much like stat blocks were added in for the hopeful sales boost, but this was released as very much a Hero product otherwise. Disappointing, as more of an honest effort to serve both audiences advertised would have raised my opinion of the product considerably.