Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tommy's Take on the Savage Worlds Horror Companion


Earlier on in the lifespan of Savage Worlds, Pinnacle began releasing the Toolkit PDFs. As the popularity of Savage Worlds has grown, they began releasing Companions, which incorporated material from the Toolkits, along with new material. The first was the Fantasy Companion, the second the Super Powers Companion (culled from Necessary Evil rather than a toolkit) and now, the Horror Companion. It should be noted that I absolutely love the two Horror PDFs (Toolkit and Bestiary).

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The Horror Companion PDF will run you about $15, so be aware of that.A couple of years ago, I would have complained about that, but I use digital stuff more and more, so as I become comfortable with the utility, I become comfortable with the prices. The PDF is 145 pages, cover and all.

Let's dig in.

Right off, we get new Hindrances and Edges. Doubting Thomas is bumped up to a Major Hindrance, and if you are using Sanity points (a setting rule included in this book), they lose Sanity at a faster rate. Bullet Magnet is pretty self explanatory, and would be HORRIBLE to have in a Deadlands posse with a Grim Servant o' Death. Victim just makes you a magnet for all kinds of nasty.

Some great Edges are included, such as Relentless (allowing you to act if you get even a Success on a roll to become Unshaken), Monster Hunter (assuming your hero has a focus on a certain kind) and One of the Chosen, just a good all-purpose Edge for tacking onto your champion/Slayer/etc. Other than that, anything new?

Holy crap.

Rules for playing as monsters. Yeah. Angels, Demons, Dhampyrs, Patchwork Men, Phantoms, Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies. And yeah, while most of these are pretty "set" in powers and abilities, they're a great jumping off point for doing your own thing.

Given how put-out I was by vampires and werewolves no longer being an option when Deadlands become Reloaded, color me excited.

The equipment chapter very clearly has a horror bent to it, with different substances that weapons can be made of (like cold iron and its effects on demons) as well as bits like silver nitrate bullets and UV flashlights.

The setting rules get a little campy, with "sprays of blood" (use a cone template to show the splatter when someone dies) and "marks" that add up to damage penalties when someone does Bad Things (making them more likely to die, ala horror movies). We also get the Sanity rules, which is a secondary stat that can be lowered...personally, I prefer the Realms of Cthulhu version, which treats Sanity as "mental wounds", although I like the Psychosis table in the Horror Companion more.

We also get rules for casting Rituals (complete with modifiers for things like sacrifices), as well as simple systems for Signs & Portents (a fortune teller can be a good thing) and Warding and Binding (always relevant for these sorts of things).

New powers include Binding powers, Consecrate Ground, Grave Speak (conversing with the dead) and Summoning spells.

There are also a number of creepy Arcane Items, like a hockey mask that provides regenerative powers and turns its wearer into an emotionless killing machine, dust that makes the dead speak, knives made from werewolf teeth and voodoo dolls.

A good portion of the book is taken up by the bestiary, with Wild Card creatures like the Black Coachman as well as lesser creatures such as the Blood Mist. Some "generic" stat blocks are also included, like Slayers. Many barely re-skinned D&D classics are also included, if you're like me and thinking "MAN this makes me wanna play Savage Ravenloft". I didn't check closely, but MOST of the Horror Bestiary looked to be present, and updated to fall in line with SW Deluxe Edition.

The GM section takes an approach not unlike that of Realms of Cthulhu or Agents of Oblivion, essentially categorizing elements of the campaign (like where occult knowledge is Open or Closed...does everyone know about vampires and werewolves, or just the PCs, etc). The rest is a lot of stuff that's been said at one time or another in these sorts of things.

WHAT WORKS: The updated Bestiary, the swell new powers and PC Monsters. Yes, it may not be your cup of tea, but I love-love-love-LOVE seeing that in here. The fortune telling rules also look great (and simple), as well as the ritual rules.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The GM section is nothing special, and nothing we haven't read before. The cover is another cheesecake scantily clad cover like the other companions, which is kinda disappointing.

CONCLUSION: Probably my favorite companion thus far, as I felt like the Fantasy Companion kinda lost something from the Toolkits and I like Necessary Evil and its plot point campaign more than I like the Super Powers setting rules and slew of NPCs. This one, on the other hand, felt packed full of goodness and whatever it may have lost from the Toolkit PDFs, it more than made up for with better organization and the monster races. Best companion by far, in my book.