History of the (Savage) Worlds, Part II

Continuing on from the previous list of the same name, the history of the various savage worlds for the Savage Worlds roleplaying game. As the game took off and became popular, the number of worlds—and the production values for their books—jumped dramatically (hence why I split the distinction between the first wave and later books).

Starting in 2007, Savage Worlds saw a number of changes in how its books were marketed. The major change was a shift away from a hardcover core rulebook towards the “Explorer’s Edition,” a cheap, player-oriented core book with all the rules needed to play… in a convenient small paperback size. Pinnacle started off the new run with Deadlands: Reloaded to showcase the changes, and backed it up with some major licensed properties, Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane and WizKids’ Pirates. With these bigger worlds came the change that all the supplemental rules needed to play the world—the ones not in the Explorer’s Edition—were included in the setting book. The art quality went up and the books went with glossy color, and the price jumped to include all these changes.

And, as the above logo points out, Savage Worlds got enough popularity and acclaim that other companies began licensing the rules for electronic and print publications.

Deadlands: Reloaded (2006): The previous flagship for Pinnacle was an awesome game called “Deadlands,” a cowboys and zombies game of a supernatural wild (weird) west. The award-winning Deadlands eventually succumbed to the d20 craze, and then died out; at one point its rules were dumbed down for its own miniatures/board game, Great Rail Wars. These, in turn, were modified to become the Savage Worlds system. It was only a matter of time before Deadlands would show up as a Savage World. A group of angry Native Americans unlocked the secrets of the happy hunting grounds right in the middle of the Civil War, leading to a stalemate as monsters roam the lands and the dead rise from the field of Gettysburg; it is this world in which your gunslingers and card-mages will eke out an existence. I still like the original Deadlands rules better than the Savage Worlds version, but those are getting harder and harder to find, and the Savage Worlds edition still retains a lot of the old Deadlands tradition.

Runepunk (2007): A stepping stone for Savage Worlds, being the first big “savage world” hardback to be published by a third party. As the name implies, it’s a world where technology and arcane magick developed simultaneously, a dark steampunk-fantasy environment where players can be ghosts, demons, mechanized people, ratlike things, and a variety of classes/occupations. A good tie-in for Rippers, Runepunk is like a China Mieville roleplaying game, only a little more over the top. Like always, it’s got its own plot point campaign.

Pirates of the Spanish Main (2007): Starting off right with an RPG licensed off WizKids’ immensely popular (at the time) constructible miniatures game, Pirates boasted some high production values. Not only did it have a detailed overview of the Caribbean and all the factions involved, including an island-by-island rundown, it also had rules for incorporating the little constructible ships from the WizKids game. Pirates also started a trend of containing all the core rules necessary to run a Savage Worlds game in the setting. It’s not quite as unique or creative compared to the earlier games, but it’s a solid book in its own right, and ties in nicely with 50 Fathoms.

Savage Worlds of Solomon Kane (2007): Another strong license for Pinnacle was the Solomon Kane license, from the Robert E Howard estate. Howard is famous for creating Conan the Barbarian, but Kane is a fascinating figure in his own right: a landless puritan who traveled the globe fighting evil. That’s the game in a nutshell. While it’s a stretch to come up with more awesome adventurers like Kane, there’s enough here to do it right. The plot point campaign is set up for the players to all know Kane himself, and follow around doing adventures much like he did in Europe and Africa.

Sundered Skies (2008): Yet another fantasy realm, with another interesting twist, new and interesting rules, and a new and interesting plot point campaign to contain it. I’m beginning to wonder how many fantasy worlds they can think up, design a metaplot for, publish it one book, and abandon thereafter. Anyways, Sundered Skies is a world ravaged by apocalypse, where the fantasy races ply the sky on floating islands and skyships, fighting off sky pirates and strange beasts in their attempts to save the world from even further destruction. Sort of like Crimson Skies with less ‘30s pulp and more elves and dwarves.

Necropolis 2350 (2008): Another third-party license, Necropolis takes a far-flung future world enmeshed in religious fanaticism, which is under constant siege by the evil undead forces of darkness. In a nutshell, it’s the religious overtones of Warhammer 40k against an army of necromantic foes. (Well, different from Necrons.) I can’t really say much more about it; it’s a high-tech religious world fighting off undead; if that doesn’t scream 40k I don’t know what does. There’s a bunch of adventures for Necropolis, and a supplement to upgrade the timeline through 2355, so it’s fairly well supported.

Slipstream (2008): A long time coming, Slipstream is the Savage World of 1930’s pulp science-fiction radio dramas. Think Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon for inspiration, and go. This world of rayguns and animal-people is actually a pocket dimension where normal physics don’t work, complete with an evil empress to defeat (plot point say what?).

Hellfrost (2009): Made by the same people who did Necropolis 2350, Hellfrost is another take on the “falling fantasy world.” Unlike Evernight, this time it’s a realm with many kingdoms of men, dwarves, and elves, which is slowly falling to the powers of foul magics and neverending winter. I’m still not sold on the idea of Savage Worlds rules for fantasy, but Hellfrost is certainly an interesting world set; there’s plenty of adventures and supplemental material for it, making it one of the most fleshed out savage worlds out there.

Realms of Cthulhu (2009): It was only a matter of time before a Lovecraftian savage world showed up. It’s a lot like the Chaosium CoC game, focusing on investigators uncovering dark secrets and fighting off whatever baddies are uncovered. The book is a little light on the mythos and is a pretty simple combination of Savage Worlds and Cthulhu, which is a bit sad, but there’s enough to run with and plenty of new Cthulhu-style rules. Also of note is the Mythos Tale Generator, which is a great adventure generator to play around with.

Weird War II (2009): After bringing back the Deadlands license, it was only a matter of time before this reappeared. In an alternate World War II, the Allies create an OSS branch, the Office of Supernatural Information (or something like that) to fight off the weird supernatural occurances. It’s heavily inspired by the old DC comics like “Weird Wars” (yeah, I know, no shit) and the Haunted Tank segments of G.I. Combat. The world is pretty horrific, filled with zombies and werewolves and Nazi super-soldiers and all sorts of occult mischief; the original was one of my favorite setting ideas. Savage Worlds has seen Weird Wars adventures since Savage Worlds began, so it’s good to finally have a codified world and rules set to run them with.

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