When you pick up the Sci-Fi World Builder Toolkit for Savage Worlds, there are a few things you should know. First, the name of the game is Fast! Furious! Fun! and the toolkits keep this spirit in mind; meaning you’ll get stripped down, generalized rules and information to help you build the world you’re interested in creating. Second, this is for those who are creating a game from scratch (so to speak) and does not include any fully developed campaigns.
With all that in mind, I’ll give you a quick rundown of each of the sections in the book, which will hopefully give you a much better idea of what you’re getting.
The first chapter kicks off by putting the reader through a series of questions and outlining how you should go about creating your own universe (or campaign) from scratch. It covers all the basic styles of play – from Hard Sci-Fi, to Pulp, to Cyberpunk, to B-Movies – and throws out a few ideas for each subgenre.
For those who remember the Traveller world system with fondness, you won’t be disappointed in the Sci-Fi toolkit’s use of tables to randomly create worlds. The entire process comes with a detailed description of each component, with plenty of examples on interpreting the results and tailoring alien races to various environments.
Trade & Travel
With both of these issues being a huge component of almost any Sci-Fi game, this chapter gives you a number of different options (from the quick to the detailed) to handle the market and interstellar travel.
No Sci-Fi game would be complete without a set of rules to govern space combat, and Wiggy keeps things simple with a set of new guidelines to handle combat in space. He not only clarifies a few things about ship-to-ship combat, but also rolls out examples and solutions for situations that might arise from boarding parties.
With a new setting comes new “styles” of characters and this supplement gives you a number of examples for creating new edges, professional edges, and even organizations that might work well in a Sci-Fi game.
Everyone who comes from a Traveller background has no doubt had a few players who were simply ga-ga over the use of psionics. Knowing this, the Sci-Fi toolkit breaks down a number of ways you might use the Arcane Background to develop a realistic set of psionic powers, with a second section describing possible new powers.
The last section concerns time travel and essentially doesn’t attempt to provide a structured rule set so much as show the narrator how to handle time in a setting where time travel is possible. It comes with a number of examples showing the various problems with temporal loops and provides ways to keep the action flowing without getting lost in the complexity of such a system.
For me, the most useful chapters were the World Design, Trade and Travel, and Starship Combat. I thought the first chapter of the Psionics section was good enough, and even though I enjoyed seeing some new powers in the second section, I couldn’t help but notice the constant use of the word “spell” in many of the descriptions (if you’re going to just pull them out of other products, at least remember to rename them!).
I enjoyed the way Wiggy uses a guideline structure in his Drawing Board chapter to help step you through the process of creating a campaign idea. As a former playwright (and current wannabe screenwriter), I could easily identify with this kind of process.
My two complaints are the same that I have with a lot of RPG products these days. First, there’s the lack of proofreading (or at least inept proofreading). I found at least one typo per page (often more) and the use of archaic and clichéd language was often distracting. For example, the use of the phrase “such like” appears throughout the text:
Slipstream focuses heavily on the pulp style of gaming central to the setting and has guidelines for breathing in space, languages, pulp spaceship combat, and such like.
Those are minor problems and easy fixes for future editions, though according to the forums it seems to be taking quite a while to fix problems with earlier editions.
Second, I’m not entirely sure why this and the other Sci-Fi toolkits aren’t included in one document. If you want to run a Sci-Fi game you’ll likely want all three, and since you’re only releasing these things as pdfs, why not slap them together into one document and save us the hassle of buying, downloading, and printing out three different documents?
Despite those two (fairly minor) complaints, I’d give this particular toolkit a very positive rating. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone thinking of running a Savage Worlds Sci-Fi campaign, particularly for the various bits and pieces that will probably make your life a little easier.
Next up: the Savage Worlds Horror GM’s Toolkit.