Monday, December 26, 2011

Tommy's Take on Necessary Evil Explorer's Edition

Necessary Evil is one of those products that I never felt received enough love. I feel that way, see, because it's one of the major factors that totally hooked me when it came to Savage Worlds, as it was our first attempt at an extended campaign.




WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: There are two versions of Necessary Evil, the original release and the Explorer's Edition. The Explorer's Edition is slightly more colorful and a bit more expanded, bringing the rules and stats in line with Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition and adding an additional resolution to the Plot Point Campaign.

The PDF is $14.99, and 192 pages, and was the first attempt at Savage Worlds supers (which has set the template for most future attempts, including the Savage Worlds Supers Companion). The premise is that aliens known as the V'Sori showed up and completely sucker punched the entire world, wiping out most of the world leaders and superheroes. The PCs are second strong supervillains, forcibly recruited by Dr. Destruction (think Dr. Doom if it somehow eluded you) into his organization OMEGA, for the purposes of throwing off the shackles of alien enslavement. In fact, the campaign opens with the PCs on a prison transport, being freed by Destruction, and being set out on a mission. From there, the campaign largely consists of missions being given to the PCs by Dr. Destruction, taking out V'Sori encampments, freeing other super powered prisoners, stealing alien tech and so on. In addition to the V'Sori (who are blue-skinned psychics), the PCs have to deal with K'Tharen soliders (giant shark men), Drones (humans who have been turned into mindless cyborgs), superpowered traitors and even the odd hero who remembers the villains as threats to the world, and not as the world's best hope for salvation.

The campaign includes a few other shout-outs, including stand-ins for Captain America, Bucky and Superman (who arrives in a horrifying "Oh, Crap" moment at the original campaign a Drone enslaved by the V'Sori). My group was about three quarters of the way through the campaign when Real Life derailed it (and I have been mad at the world since), and we alternated steadily between the missions that the book provides and the missions that I cooked up (many of which spawned from "out of the box" actions by the PCs. For instance, a V'sori traitor manning a surveillance outpost helps the PCs in one mission, after it was over, one of my PCs returned to him and killed him, having a mad on for all things V'Sori. When he didn't check in, the V'Sori came looking for him, then used the equipment to identify the PC, since the traitor wasn't alive to keep his identity hidden. This led to a brutal ambush a few sessions later and the death of an NPC team member. Good times).

Many of the missions are painted in very broad strokes, requiring the GM and the PCs to hang the extra meat on the bones (I find most Savage Tales work this way, and honestly, I call that  a plus), while the Plot Point campaign steadily builds to a Secret Wars-like standoff between the PCs and the V'Sori, with Dr. Destruction taken out of the mix early on, leaving success or failure in the hands of the PCs (as it should be). Explorer's Edition added a new "Epilogue" that could be used, anywhere from minutes to years after the fact, when the PCs have an opportunity to travel to the heart of the V'Sori empire and end it once and for all.

In order to facilitate the campaign style, Necessary Evil replaces the Savage Worlds Powers system with the Super Powers system, a list of powers and modifiers that do not use Power Points. The system can cover a broad spectrum of characters, including low powered vigilantes (Power Points can be used for Equipment and Edges, not just Eye Beams and Flight). Between PCs and NPCS, we have modeled weather wielding mutants, man-bulls, demons, Wolverine-like scrappers, Hulk clones, Voodoo Priests and poisoning seductresses and then some. For my part, I largely prefer the Super Powers system to the Power Point system, EXCEPT for superheroes. There are also a number of Setting Rules to help out, including Knockback rules and reduced lethality...which just meant my players fought harder to kill their foes.

In addition to the Powers (Flight, Decay, Ranged Attack, Telepathy, etc), the setting of the campaign - Star City (made when a Beyonder-like entity fell to Earth) - is laid out, district by district, with many of the Savage Tales tied to parts of the districts. A helping of sample archetypes are also included (The Sorcerer became a regular NPC in our group), for use or inspiration.

WHAT WORKS: As noted, I largely prefer the Super Powers system to the Power Point System. The campaign is one of my favorite pre-written campaigns, even if it is very "directed" (by Dr. Destruction, of course), because basically everything has to be done by the PCs. The campaign has a couple of nice twists, one being the origin of the V'Sori and the other being Dr. Destruction's true plan. I am truly disappointed we never reached that point, because my players were WAY off base.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: My only real gripe is that while I prefer the powers system in this book, it just never felt as flexible to me or my players as the Powers system in other supers games. If you have the Super Powers Companion, I did provide a solution to this on my blog. Some of the powers, namely Decay, come across WAY too weak to actually be worth buying, in our experience.

CONCLUSION: One of my favorite Savage Worlds releases, due in no small part because of the sheer amount of fun we had with the campaign. The PCs experienced rousing success, crushing defeat and even heartache, a range of experiences that I have been told are impossible with both Savage Worlds and supers RPGs...and yet, here we are. If you already own the Super Powers Companion, and you don't want to make your own campaign, I am very fond of the provided campaign. If villains vs aliens doesn't sound very good, then you might just consider getting the Super Powers Companion instead.