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Hael is a fantasy setting for Savage Worlds. The core book, published by Storyweaver, is just over 150 pages and is comprised of about 20 chapters of setting information for both player’s and gm’s. The book also has quick play sections that include information from the Savage Worlds core book which makes this release a pretty much all inclusive setting book.
The basic premise of Hael is that the orc’s and gnoll’s joined forces a little over 800 years before the current time. They grew tired of the treaty/oath breaking humans and decided to launch a military campaign to establish dominance and order. Eventually they conquered the humans and halflings and divvied the continent up with the orc’s taking the northern half and the gnoll’s occupying the southern half. The other races fled into the wilds as slavery became prevalent and basically maintained a barbaric lifestyle. As time passed the orc’s (now calling themselves the Daeorcs), and the gnoll’s (now the Yaena) continued to evolve into civilized peoples. Eventually slavery is outlawed and the barbaric races of human’s, halfling’s and Kirene – four armed humanoids – slowly start to get assimilated into the civilized Daeorc and Yaena societies. This brings us to the current year in Hael. Peace has been held for some time but the introduction of two warring alien races has created new tensions. The Daeorc’s have aligned with the mysterious Stranger’s, and the Yaena have entered into an agreement with the technologically advanced Nuclarine. The motivations of each alien species is clouded at this point and this tense confusing climate provides the backdrop for adventures in Hael.
I like this book a lot. The setting is a skewed fantasy world with a dash of science fiction thrown in and parts of it are reminiscent of books like Blackmoor and Carcosa, which is a good thing in my mind. Unlike most other fantasy settings, the Daeorc’s are the baseline as opposed to the human’s. This is enough of a variation to give Hael a fresh feel and make choices and options during character creation different than other games.
In addition to the cool setting, presentation is another bright spot. The book is complete and yet isn’t an unwieldy size. While there is a lot of setting information, it is efficiently presented making the world of Hael very accessible. Furthermore, unlike some releases that seem to think that quality is directly proportionate to the number of new edges you have, this book takes an economical approach that reinforces the setting while maintaining the core Savage Worlds ideology.
This is a great book. I wasn’t really in the market for a new fantasy setting but this is one of those books that inspires creativity and just makes you want to play in it’s sandbox. I was actually turned off by the “humans are the minority” element at first but after reading the book I’m fully on board. I highly recommend giving this a read. I will be discussing the two excellent recently released adventures for Hael in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!
[5 of 5 Stars!]