The physical copies of the Savage Worlds Rifts books are finally here and I am completely happy with them at this point, that "point" being holding and reading them but not using them in the heat of play. In the kickstarter I went for the hardback versions of the main books because most of my recent Savage Worlds books have been hardcovers. Beyond this ...
- The ref screen is the nice heavy hardcover material and it's in the lower, horizontal format I've come to prefer in my limited use of the things these days.
- The cards are well done as every single card has a different illustration. I already have a few different decks I'd say are appropriate for a Rifts game but these are the nicest looking of any of them.
- The bennies are surprisingly heavy. It feels more like a stack of coins than a stack of chips. Maybe I just haven't spent enough time in casinos, but I was genuinely surprised at the weight of these things.
Part of the fun with Savage Worlds is the physical part of the game. Props and handouts are nothing new in RPGs but this game makes physical items, beyond just dice, a part of play and it's another opportunity for reinforcing the genre or setting. Poker chips for Deadlands, bullets for Weird Wars, coins for fantasy games, and specially chosen decks of cards can add just a little bit more immersion to the game. Hopefully these will add a little something when I get to run this one.
Beyond the physical elements I thought I would share some thoughts on the content as well. Between the Player's guide, the GM's guide, and the Foes book the authors do a really good job of covering the setting and providing the tools you need to run and play the game. Experience shows, and presenting a game that is clearly made to be played is a big improvement over a lot of games that to me look more like they are meant to be read. Things like mentioning that class X has a power or piece of gear in the class description only to find no mention of it in the relevant section, talking about certain groups or monsters as common opposition within the setting only to leave them out of the monster section, and describing common but impactful elements of a setting then failing to describe any mechanics for them - these are all common but aggravating flaws in new RPG's in my experience and I am not seeing any of that here. It's written to be used by your players, and there's a lot of common sense. Mechanics for Ley Lines! Tables for what happens when a rift opens up! "Monster" entries for all of the PC types like Borgs and Juicers and Glitter Boys! A discussion of how money works in Rifts! These are all things that help a GM describe and administer a world as the players start moving through it! Again I haven't run this version yet but I am seeing a lot of those things that came up in Rifts specifically years ago and that come up in games in general covered in the actual game text here.
A few things I am not overly thrilled about:
- The "Tomorrow Legion" - this is the "Rebellion", the "Round Table". the "Freedom League" of the setting. It's also very new. to the setting as in "created for this book". To me, as such, it sticks out like a sore thumb. One of the interesting wrinkles of the setting has been that there really isn't a pure good-guy faction in the world. The Coalition is xenophobic and does a lot of bad things but they also defend a lot of otherwise defenseless villages from a lot of terrible things. Various other magical groups are more tolerant but they also tolerate demonic summonings and other forms of bad/harmful magic. The cyber knights are a loose (very loose) group of ranger/paladin/lone ranger types but there aren't many of them and they occasionally go bad. This group changes that, especially since they are positioned as THE organization for players to join.
New players will probably think this is grumpy old gamer syndrome and from a practical point of view it is handy to have a group that the players can jump right into from the start. My counterpoint: we've played this game for 26 years without the "tomorrow legion" and we haven't noticed the lack. The good thing is that while it's there - and even in the title of the Player's guide - it's certainly not necessary to the setting so I can ignore it and go on.
- "Castle Refuge" - the name of the Tomorrow Legion's base. Really? Could it be any more generic or obvious? It just smacks of not trying very hard. Maybe name it after the founder or a legend or something a little less literal?
- Different Dragon types - the original Rifts book used the dragon types from the Palladium RPG. It made sense as the two were connected. Other types have been added over the years and that's fine. The choices for dragon hatchlings in this book are ... one type. "Flame Wind Dragon Hatchling" is the only choice given. There were of course favorites among the choices in the old book but to only have one option here is a little disappointing.
Honestly these are minor complaints. The whole game is a triumph in design, execution, and inter-company cooperation. It looks great and I can't wait to play it.