Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tommy's Take on Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion 2nd Edition

I love Necessary Evil. Like, a lot. It's my favorite campaign I have ever ran. I vastly prefer the Savage Worlds Super Powers system to the regular Powers system. That said, I have never had the desire to run a Savage Worlds Super Powers game since finishing Necessary Evil. Why? As fun as Necessary Evil was, I never thought the system was quite flexible enough for a standard supers game (I was willing to accept the limitations in Necessary Evil as a setting conceit).

ETHICS IN GAME JOURNALISM DISCLAIMER: A few things: 1) I am currently working under a freelance contract for Pinnacle, though that should have no bearing on this review. 2) This review contains affiliate links to RPGnow. Using those links to buy stuff make cause me to gain a cut of the sale. 3) This was not provided to me as a comp. This was bought and paid for out of my own pocket.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The print book is $19.99 and the PDF is $9.99 and the book is 96 pages (and one of the first in the new graphic novel sized format). This has the same super powers system as provided in Necessary Evil, in which Power Points are used to buy the powers, but not fuel them, though some powers were tweaked and/or expanded. You will need a version of the Savage Worlds core rules to use this. By my count, there are 66 unique powers (I may have miscounted), with some purchased in levels and some purchased for one cost, though most powers have further modifiers you can get. For instance, your Melee Attack may add 3d6 damage, have Armor Piercing of 2 and may, if you Focus your attack, allow you to just bypass armor altogether. Oh, it should probably count as a Heavy Weapon, but it's inherently Lethal, which is bad for heroes. You wind up spending 10 points, but you get a high end replication of Wolverine's Adamantium Claws.

What's that? You remember that one issue of Marvel Comics Presents, in which Wolverine is climbing the walls with his claws? You don't want to add another power (in this case, Wall Walker)? Spend a benny and, if you have a good explanation, you can use another power, so long as it is less than the amount of points you have in the original power. This was a feature SORELY lacking from the original power rules. One notable omission here is that, as written, you can't gain a modifier this way, and you may want to justify that Cyclops is whipping off his visor so he can unleash stronger optic blasts (using the Enhanced Damage modifier). Alas, using rules as written, you can't actually do that, even with a benny, though it seems like an unfortunate omission.

In addition to Power Stunts (the above paragraph), there are a number of great setting rules included here, like Power Tricks, which can allow you to lower an enemy's attributes, bump him down the Initiative order and other effects. Did you just use Water Control to douse an enemy, right before your partner blasts him with electricity? That's Synergy and that's a bonus. If you just want to combine attacks, that's another option, allowing for more teamwork than your usual Savage Worlds game, a staple of the supers genre.

Another setting rule takes the reduced that of death and runs with it, providing a Defeat table that any character who should have died gets to draw on. Actual death is still a threat (on card draws of a 2), but permanent injuries are a little more common, and Jokers might mean you are radically changed, complete with power point reallocation.

Another FANTASTIC addition is Power Level. Set the power level of the campaign and that determines how many power points you have. You don't get any more. Doesn't mean you don't advance...you can always boost attributes and get Edges, but the powers are fairly locked in. Oh, you want a little wiggle room in that? That's okay, they set lower totals to start with, if you choose, so your players can work up to the power level threshold.

Headquarters are also a thing, and they are built out of a pool derived from the number of characters in the group and their rank. There's a whole list of features to build from, and a sample selection is provided that will look more than a little familiar to comic fans.

A large selection of characters are provided, divided by power level. Basic cops, criminals, aliens, demons and kaiju are included, before the super villain listing begins. Pulp villains include power suited Electron and the delusional investigator Snoop. Street Fighters include The Black Samurai, the psychotic Chainsaw and the evil biker Hell's Angel. This power level features the most villains, in fact. Four Color Villains include Black Hole (who is one), Crusader (who is actually a hero, but whose rigid sense of justice may cause him to cross paths with some heroes), Harlequin (who has a split personality that is triggered by the Action Card deck) and The Necromancer. Heavy Hitters include Baba Yaga and Surtur. Cosmic Level Threats are guys like Asmodeus.

SIX POINT SUMMARY:

- I would love to hear the rationale that led to the Decay power costing MORE in this edition, when we found it to be completely worthless in Necessary Evil.

- Power Stunts are a MUCH needed shot in the arm to this system. I devised a house rule for this a while back, but it never should have needed it. A rigid supers system just cannot accommodate anything more than a specific setting built around that conceit.

- Going from "maps of supervillain lairs and the Lair power" to "full blown HQ section built by the team" is a massive improvement.

- Power Tricks, Synergy, Combined Attacks and The Defeat Chart are all great flourishes that improve the supers experience in Savage Worlds.

- While non of the supervillains included in the book screamed "USE ME!" to me, being able to see how multiple character types are modeled is hugely beneficial in a system like this.

- Power Levels are another great addition, one that acknowledges that MOST (not all) supers stories don't have steep power creep.

I was not a fan of the original Super Powers Companion. When the subject came up, I resoundingly pushed everyone to Necessary Evil instead. When they announced the second edition of this book, I was underwhelmed.

I was wrong. I wish I'd had this book when I ran Necessary Evil, because my thought process on Savage Worlds as a supers system might be radically different. I will never choose Savage Worlds as my default supers system, but with this book I would no longer dismiss the idea out of hand if my players wanted to do it.

I still want to know who thought Decay was too cheap of a power, or just what I'm missing, because that one boggles my mind.