Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tommy's Take on Darwin's World Campaign Guide

I hoped to get to this a bit quicker than this, but life is what happens when you're making other plans. Let's tackle the Darwin's World Campaign Guide. Apologies for the brevity, but my original review got eaten when my laptop randomly shut off. Whee.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: First off, holy crap...222 pages. The first big was a tight 76 pages, and for only about $5 more ($14.95 in PDF and $24.95 in print) you can get the Campaign Guide. As you may recall from my review of the Survivor's Handbook, I wasn't blown away by the Twisted Earth setting, though I thought the rules were great. We'll see if this book can sell me on the setting itself.

The Adventuring chapter dives into surviving the Twisted Earth and all of the struggles that entails, adding rules for gamma radiation, new diseases, chemical contamination and parasitic infection. Despite fun with mutations, radiation is BAD and will kill you. Diseases range from things like rabies and tuberculosis to the Plague Zombie contagion and the Muta-Virus. This chapter also discusses the topics of drugs and slavery, which are both prevalent, before wrapping up with a pretty extensive scrounging/scavening table.

Chapter 2 covers adventure locations, but is more of a generalized affair than a guide to Twisted Earth. For instance, trade towns are discussed in general, then a detailed example is provided with a sidebar giving ideas on how to use it if you don't want to use Twisted Earth. Other locations include the Survivor city of Styx (10,000+ strong, an admitted rarity for the genre), Fallout-style Vaults and Cities of the Dead (Los Angeles serving as the example). A number of minor locations are provided, a paragraph apiece, like power plants, universities, military bases and prisons.

Chapter 3 is the first chapter that is very Twisted Earth specific. Each Faction is defined by Typical Backgrounds, Attitude, Symbol and History, with a pair of stat blocks per Faction every major faction (and most minor factions) having an art piece serving as an example of each. Some Factions include the anti-technology Brethren, the militarist goods-mongers The Cartel, The Doomriders (who aim to "cleanse" the world via rape, murder and pillage), the flesh-eating Ghouls, the Rangers (who serve as the only law left in the world), and more. The Factions cover the gamut of evil folks, good folks, deranged psychos and people just trying to scrape by.

Chapter 4 is the bestiary, which immediately begins with the caveat of "apply mutations as you see fit". It is an impressive bestiary at that, including Abominations (no two of which are ever the same), Giant Amoebas, Ch'kit (giant bug people), Cyclats (one eyed bats that shoot energy beams), Gronts (dog-things the size of horses), Marionette Worms (parasites that infect people and animals, then take control of the corpses), Monstrous Cockroaches, Night Terrors (jet-black, skeletal humans), Plantmen, Sandmen (burrowing mutants), Shadow People (a near-mythical race of psychics), Terminals (those who should probably be dead but hang on, the creepiest of which are the Abortion Terminals) and Two-Headed Mutant Bears because, well, how do you top that?

Chapter 5 is all about the machines, detailing the difference between robots, androids, droids and cyborgs...the main differences being that robots are programmed for certain tasks, androids are humanoid and droids can take on any shape. There's a set of base stats to build off of, with a massive selection of modifiers to play around with and build unique machines with. Some of the machines included are Pleasure Androids, War Droids, Police Droids (which were in use heavily before The End) and more.

Chapter 6 covers the Artifacts of the Ancients and it completely blows up the Gear chapter from the first book, adding chainsaws, Not-Lightsabers, Powered Armor, all kinds of grenades, laser weapons, electro-saw throwers, flamethrowers, X-Ray Goggles, translation devices, pain collars, jetpacks and a lot more.

WHAT WORKS: Despite being the Darwin's World Campaign Guide, much of this book can serve any needs you may have for a Post-Apocalyptic Savage Worlds game. The art is very well-placed and well-targeted, providing examples of the various monsters and factions without overwhelming the book.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The setting still doesn't really "pop" compared to other PostApoc settings, and the Terminal Abortions may be a bridge too far for some folks.

CONCLUSION: Darwin's World seems like it can handle the basic assumptions of most Post Apocalyptic games for Savage Worlds, and this book only has one chapter that seems geared specifically for Twisted Earth (even then, you can still reskin the stat blocks easily enough). I have no idea if there are any more Darwin's World releases planned for Savage Worlds, but the two books released do a great job of serving as a Post Apocalyptic toolkit.