Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tommy's Take on Wellstone City

This is another one of those "Been meaning to review for a while now" books...Wellstone City by Silver Gryphon Games. Maybe it's me, but Silver Gryphon seems to fly under the radar as a Savage Worlds licensee, and if there's one thing I like to do with this blog, it's shine the light on the stuff that's slipping by...which doesn't REALLY have an effect, as it IS The Most Unread Blog on the Internet. Ever.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Wellstone City is a modern noir Savage Setting, available from RPGnow in PDF format (78 pages) for $4.99 or softcover for $19.99 (and you can get a bundle which basically gives you the PDF for free while you're waiting for the book to show up).

The setting is Wellstone, a rough and tumble city of brutal violence and shady characters. If your thought process is that noir filtered through the Savage Worlds lens comes out a lot like Sin City, you're probably on the right path.

One thing that stands out right off is that, honestly, I tend to ignore the setting fiction, and I actually enjoyed it in this book, the author setting a nice tone.

Right off, Wellstone introduces some Setting Trappings: Everyone gets the Connections Edge, Rank requirements are removed for Edges, negative Charisma canbe used for Intimidation attempts and so on. While there is a new Hindrance or two, Wellstone City provides several new Edges, from Combat Edges like Combat Shooter (allowing characters to use even crossbows and rifles in melee combat) or Untouchable (meaning even Federal Agents keep their hands off).

They also add in more depth to the ammunition rules with Hollow Points, Mercury Filled Bullets, Tracking Bullets and much more. There are even Dragon Rounds which can turn a shotgun into a flamethrower!

Wellstone City itself is an island off the coast of Lousiana, divided into a number of boroughs like Little Italy, Little Haiti, The Spanish Quarter and The Battery (this would be the industrial area). The island itself has its history laid out, as well as each borough and their respective features, like Doc Murphy in Little Italy, who does the "under the radar" medical operations that folks go to when they can't afford to have hospitals asking questions about their injuries. A timeline is given from before 1560, when indians fought back and forth on the island, to the presence of European countries, to the effects of various American movements on the island.

Wellstone City is a battleground for a number of factions, such as The Black Dragons (a harrowing mixture of Triad and Yakuza), Blackhand Security (a private security firm waging war with organized crime), the police and government, a number of smaller gangs, and more...oh, and Freelancers (in theory, this is where the PCs fit in).

A slew of stock NPC stars are given, including a number of freelancers (all Wild Cards), generic mob bosses, a variety of gangsters and more. Startlingly complete in its number of variations.

The book also includes an adventure, Public Transit Assassins. It is designed to be a big "welcome to Wellstone City" for new players, although it can be used with characters who are new to Wellstone or are long-term residents. A number of options are given to kick the adventure off, designed to give the PCs an excuse to be in the same place at the same times as a mysterious phone call occurs. It leaves them with the opportunity to make a new ally or two, as well as an enemy or two.

The book does also feature an index.

WHAT WORKS: A great feel to the book, especially in the flavor text, which I really only tend to mention if I enjoy it quite a bit. The new Edges amp up the adrenaline a bit, combind with removing the rank requirements. To say nothing of a whole slew of stock NPCs for the GM to use.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: As settings go, this is real barebones, meaning that a novice GM might struggle wirh it a bit (or I may be the only guy who still reads "How to GM" sections). A couple of things make me question the game's focus...evoking Sin City, for instance, and then adding penalties for using bigger and badder guns.

CONCLUSION: Some nice rules options back up the modern noir feel, althoughI don't feel as though it's really aiming for "gritty" as some claim...and not that that's a bad thing. I think Savage Worlds is great for a Marv-like rampage, for instance. The ammo rules really cater to the folks that say Savage Worlds isn't crunchy enough, and the adventure does a nice job of getting the characters started in Wellstone City. A really good setting for an experienced Savage Worlds GM who is up on his noir, but someone new to noir or GM Savage Worlds might come up a bit cold. Also, last I checked, there was supposed to be an Interface Zero version of Wellstone City coming, and if that's still true, I can't see that not being great.