Originally posted at http://krazyivansrpgs.com/review-savage-worlds-horror-companion/
System: Savage Worlds
Producer: Pinnacle Entertainment
Page Count: 144 pages
Retail: $14.99 (PDF), or $19.99 (Hard Copy)
The book is broken up into several sections. Each section is examined individually below.
This section of the book offers a good number of new edges, and most of them are not dependent on horror setting rules. Several new horror-themed races are presented, from angels, to werewolves, to zombies, that can easily be ported into non-horror settings. Be warned however that some of these races are quite powerful compared to those found in Savage Worlds Deluxe.
Tools of the Trade
The equipment section of the book is very useful if you are running, or playing in, a modern setting. Unfortunately, there is not much equipment that would be useful in a fantasy style game.
This is really a mixed bag. Many of the setting rules fit the horror genre just right. The rules for Forbidden Lore are particularly well written with just the right mix of risk to reward. However, some rules like ‘Buckets of Blood’ are overly cinematic (this one has buckets of blood spewing all over the area whenever anyone dies). What should be the crown jewel of this section (considering how many of the new Edges interact with it), Sanity, are overly harsh in my opinion. This is mainly due to how few Sanity points characters get, how easy it is to lose them (particularly for characters with a low Spirit rating), and how hard it is to get them back (particularly for characters with a low Smarts rating). I was expecting more a slow burn, like in a Call of Cthulhu campaign, but got a flamethrower.
This sections has no less than 14 new powers for characters with the Arcane Background edge. All of them are fit well into the horror genre, and mostly have to do with summoning, controlling, and enhancing all manner of creepy crawlies like demons, spirits, and zombies. One thing was a bit of a turn off, however, is that not one of the new powers is available to Novice characters. Most of the new powers come in at Seasoned and Veteran ranks, with a couple for Heroic ranked characters.
Welcome to Krazy Ivan’s Cursed Item Emporium! The section on magical gear is full of things that might be useful to the player, if they don’t mind a some complications. There are also a few ‘standard’ pieces of kit that offer some kind of advantage against the supernatural without any kind of cost. All in all the gear presented here is right at home in a horror game. My problem is that a good many of the cursed items are of the ‘save or die’ type, meaning that they have a particularly serious effect on a character if they fail a trait roll (usually Spirit, and usually with a significant negative modifier). This wouldn’t be so bad, except a bunch of these items dictate player behavior. I am not huge fan of taking away player agency.
One thing this book doesn’t lack is interesting creepy crawlies for your players to deal with. There are more than 100 of them in fact, and around 50 of them are wildcards. That last point is pretty important because most of those 50-odd wildcards are of the ‘urban-legend’ variety; these are the type of monsters that perfect for playing the antagonist in any traditional horror story. Pretty much all of the creatures in this section can easily be dropped into any Savage Worlds game, horror themed or otherwise.
The Game Mastering section of the book starts with advice on running horror games in multiple styles running the gambit from action horror (think of the movie Van Helsing), slasher horror (think Friday the 13th), and ‘greater evil horror (think H.P. Lovecraft). Advice for running horror games in multiple settings including Sci Fi, Fantasy, Modern, and Historical is included. Ideas are given for making the existence of the supernatural either public knowledge or hidden. There are some ideas for building campaigns, creating a proper atmosphere for horror gaming, and ways to create memorable villains. All in all there is nothing really new here, particularly for a ‘Seasoned’ game master. That said the section is an interesting read, and is not a waste of pages.
The artwork is mostly well done, but a little pulpy for my tastes. While this isn’t surprising for a Savage Worlds supplement, it’s not exactly what I want in a ‘horror’ supplement. I also wish that there were more pictures of the things in the Creatures section of the book. The artwork is well placed, and in most cases is related in some way to the surrounding text.
Page border graphics do not bleed into the text, and do not effect readability of the text. The fonts themselves are crisp and clear, except for the page and section headings. The headings use a typewriter-style font that is a bit fuzzy, but is in keeping with the horror genre. The headers are legible in any case.
The book is organized along the same lines as Savage Worlds Deluxe, which means if you are familiar the core book then you will have an easy time finding things in the Horror Companion. If you do have trouble finding things by flipping through the book it’s not a problem because the book;s indexing is excellent.
I may have some issues with the art style, and lack of creature photos, in this book on the whole the amount of good, useful material. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to run a Savage Worlds horror, urban fantasy, of straight up fantasy game.