Review: Savage Kingdoms
So an interesting title has made its way across my desk. A game of Heroic sword and sorcery, Savage Kingdoms. This was a Kickstarter that slipped past my radar back in March of last year. Likely because we were getting deep into preparation for Storm-Con.
Savage Kingdoms is inspired by Robert E Howard and is designed to play out as a more gritty dark fantasy RPG. With the huge success of TV shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings currently on the air. This genre is ripe for a good game system and will likely find many gamer’s eager to cut their teeth on it.
Step into a world of heroic sword-and-sorcery, a realm that never was but
always should have been. Here there are barbarous warriors, grim knights,
remorseless mercenaries, daring thieves, mysterious priests, power-hungry
sorcerers, and corrupt nobles. Darker things, too, tread the world,
gorgons and demons and the last of the great dragons.
Will you have the courage and cunning to stand against the darkness?
Create virtually any hero you can imagine within
the context of an inspiring and detailed setting.
The single-die game mechanic allows for swifter
and more visceral game-play, enabling players and
game-masters to focus more on narrative storytelling.
Build your hero today and start exploring
the Savage Kingdoms!
So now you have an idea of the mood of Savage Kingdoms lets talk about some of the mechanics. Savage Kingdoms is a difficulty based single dice system utilizing an exploding D20 mechanic. Players roll a D20+skill level vs a DL or “Difficulty Level” to determine success of failure. On a roll of a 20, a player rolls again and adds the roll to the result. This continues as long as 20’s are rolled. If a natural 1 is rolled you roll again and subtract the result.
Character creation is done in a few steps based mostly off point buy mechanics. Attributes, Talents, Weaknesses and Skills all come from a point buy budget. Any points from Weaknesses give you more points to spend in Talents or additional Skills.
There are six attributes in the game. Agility, Physique, Vigor, Intellect, Magnetism and Willpower. Each of these or combinations of these combine in several ways to affect the rest of your Skills and minor attributes.
There are no classes in SK, all players are able to pick from a wide selection of Skills and talents to individually customize their character in any number of ways. Savage Kingdoms has taken into account that some gamer’s like classes so they have given several skill and talent builds to emulate many common classes.
Much of this book is dedicated to Character creation and all that goes with it in the world of Savage Kingdoms. Race & Culture, Talents, Weaknesses, Skills, Age & Lifespan as well as life paths dominate mostly half of this book. This is to be expected form a core book and it is nice to see that there is a lot of content here.
The second half of the book is mostly for your Game Masters. Covering topics of Actions & Combat, Orders & Sects, Cosmology & Magic. As well as Gear A Gazetteer and a Bestiary.
Overall it is streamline and solid it will likely flow fast and smooth once you become accustom to gaming in the Savage Kingdom Setting. Based around a single D20 the game has already gone a long with to do most of the heavy lifting for you as far as mechanics go.
The classless system lets you build characters the way you want. Combine this with the vast selection of Talents, Weaknesses, Skills, Races and Cultures. This goes a long way to keep no two players ever being exactly alike. Weighing in at nearly 300 pages there is a ton of content his this book to draw from.
The SK setting has a very Rich timeline to draw inspirations from. From the age of Dragons and Titan before man walked the earth. All the way up to the Cataclysm and the Following Gorgon wars less than a Decade ago.
The Gazetteer is brief but well detailed giving each location a distinct feel that will add a lot to a game. I particularly like the denizens portion in each region as a game Master. I like things like this to be able to reference in my games. It helps encounter and subplots in so many ways and always improves the overall game play.
Savage Kingdoms focuses more on mysticism then high magic. Even so there is still plenty of magic and spells to be found in the system for lovers of the arts.
In this case one of this systems biggest pro’s is potentially one of its cons as well. In the hands of min maxing players Savage Kingdoms runs the risk of becoming a points arms race. Choosing between the right stat, race, talent, skill and spell to maximize ones bonuses to their rolls. Also some players may find that a system that lacks levels will not feel as rewarding.
I only have two other small cons with this book and not the setting. First I wish that each of the chapters would have had a larger full-page header denoting the start of a chapter. As Savage Kingdoms is not only a 306 page book and jammed full of content. It is also done in a two column style layout. It was easy in the beginning as I was skimming chapters and later going back over other portions of this book to miss where chapters would start. Once I became accustomed to the layout this became a negligible issue
Secondly I found myself craving more art in this book. I know that art can be expensive but it evokes thought helps to solidify your reader’s mind with the world you are bringing to them. That said if I found myself wanting more art it is also because the content interested me. And To be fair I will say that this is not a major company and art can be very costly unless you have an artist on your team.
Would I recommend it/ Whats my rating for it ?
I would! I find that it would be a good go to game for Low magic slightly gritty game settings. There is a ton of content to be implemented into your game and the Savage Kingdoms crew has already kickstarted the Savage East expansion and their bestiary is already out on DTRPG.
Also there is so much in this book that my tiny little blog can hardy do it justice for the bang for the buck you will get from this product.
Starting this blog, I have decided to expand my reviews to include a rating system.
As my reviews have grown in number I have decided just a simple yes or no as far as recommendations would no longer be enough. So Savage Kingdoms has the honor of being the first RPG (runkleplaysgames)) D20 rated game.
I rated Savage Kingdoms at a 14. This is a solid system and setting that many gamer’s will have fun with. It also has a con of rules and content for both players and GM’s alike. It fits a Niche setting that could use more good products and this is one of them. For me the only thing keeping this product from a 15 is its layout. Had the book been in color with instead of black and white. And a touch more art It would have taken this book to the next level. That said this is a fine product and a rank of 14 is my highest rank of above average on my scale.
You can look at my Rating scale HERE.
You can head on over to DriveThroughRPG and pick up a copy on PDF by clicking the image it will take you right there.