Sunday, May 13, 2018

Tommy's Take on Lankhmar: Savage Seas of Nehwon

Pinnacle has a new Lankhmar book on Kickstarter, with a couple of days left to go. They asked me to take a look and provide an honest review, and I'm, always down for cracking into a new Savage Worlds book, so here we go.

DISCLAIMER: I've freelanced for Pinnacle in the past, but I accepted no money or compensation for this review, aside from the digital copy I'm reviewing, nor am I currently under any freelance contracts with Pinnacle.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: As of this writing, the Kickstarter still has about three days left to go, and has rolled well past its funding goal. I would imagine PDFs will be released shortly after payments clear, as Pinnacle tends to operate. There are no Stretch Goals in the Kickstarter, but there are some add ons available. Pinnacle is calling this a Kickstarter "Booster", a no-frills, single product Kickstarter designed to provide support for their existing lines, but I kinda think this is what Kickstarter was supposed to be in the first place, before it grew into the...unique beast...that it has become. The digital pledge is $15, the print is $25, and you can even get a softcover boxed set for $99. I previously reviewed Lankhmar: City of Thieves three years ago.

But what's in the book? As the name implies, while City of Thieves focuses closely on the city of Lankhmar and city-based adventures, Savage Seas of Nehwon has a focus on nautical adventures. A handful of pages are devoted to setting material: The various seas of Nehwon are described in a paragraph or so, as well as how the city of Lankhmar interacts with the seas (smuggling, piracy, and so forth).

The plus side to that is that means there's a lot of mechanical heft that can probably be lifted for even non-Lankhmar games. New Edges and a new Hindrance (Seasick) are in this book, no surprise, with a heavy nautical focus. New Leadership Edges like Master & Commander are perfect for someone captaining their own ship, and Weird Edges like Storm Chaser and Wind Sense can give a character an extra advantage in storms or during chases. Two new Powers are introduced here: Becalm and Mend. Becalm allows a caster to right the ship during turbulent weather, as it were, and Mend can hold a damaged vessel together.

10 ships, as well as a sidebar covering the colors of flags used in Lankhmar and what they mean, are listed in one chapter, with the vessels ranging from rowboats to yachts and everything in between.

New Setting Rules provide incentive to wear lighter armor, imposing a Swimming penalty equal to an armor bonus, which fights the feel of Lankhmar (where folks aren't generally heavily armored). The Ship Combat rules are extensive, modifying the Vehicular combat from Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition to focus specifically on boat combat, replacing the Critical Hit and Out of Control tables with boat-specific ones. Modifiers are included for using ballista and catapults in the water, as well as time it takes a boat to sink, a number of ship maneuvers and even guidelines for determining storms (length and intensity).

A new Adventure Generator is included, using a mix of d20 rolls and card draws to determine how the characters get involved, their relationship to any patron, their objective, their motivation, the central location of the adventure, table for further determining people and objects, opposition, complications and even supernatural manifestations. A sample adventure is provided, but since I like these things, I'm going to put one together here just to show it off:

Involvement - (9): Merchant
Relationship - (16): Relative
Objective - (11): Rescue
     Card Draw - Black: Object
     (6): Furniture
Motivation - (5): Vengeance
Location - (11): Player/Passenger Ship
Opposition - (11): Noble
Complication - (3): Innocent
Weather Condition - (9): Wind from the Right Direction

Gotta love random charts. So, let's say the uncle of one of the PCs reaches out to them. They're a merchant who feels slighted because of damages done to their business by a noble. Perhaps the noble had his men seize an heirloom chair, bed or armoire due to an unjust debt inflicted on the uncle. The noble is having the furniture loaded onto a passenger ship for transport, and the PCs have to board the ship and take it back. The problem? Maybe the noble's family is on board the ship and standing between the PCs and their do they get it, and get it off the boat, without hurting somebody, especially somebody who maybe doesn't deserve it? Good news is, the weather is in their favor, at least.

The Savage Tales include a derelict ship with a monster on board, subterfuge between the Sea King's wives, a heist on an island, a rescue mission, a manhunt to find the sole witness to exonerate an innocent, a kidnapping, a ghost ship encounter meant to be dropped into the middle of a long voyage, and another encounter meant to follow on the tail end of a shipwreck. There's a great variety here, but all play back into the nautical themes of the book requiring sea travel at some point or another.

The bestiary is aquatic-based, with nearly a dozen new listings from giant crabs and sea spiders to the wicked Drowners from the Deep and the Blade Octopus (which I haven't decided if I find to be comical or scary).

MY TAKE: I would use this for the random adventure generator alone. If you want to replicate sea adventures for Lankhmar, the lean page count (96 pages) is used to great effect. If you're happy with keeping your adventures to the city streets, this may not benefit you so well. If you have the money to spend, you may well find the mechanical bits to be worth it for any nautical-heavy campaign (though it looks like some of the setting rules cover the same ground as 50 Fathoms, which I'm not super familiar with, so I wouldn't rush out and buy it just for the setting rules).

This is one of those cases where I'm not putting my money where my mouth is, even though I own Lankhmar already, mostly because I'm about to undergo massive dental surgery (in less than 24 hours), and so my gaming budget is presently non-existent...but as Lankhmar is a setting I'd love to run someday, I'll aim to pick it up down the line.