Sunday, June 28, 2009

Slipstream - Savage Worlds

I picked up Slipstream when they released the hardcover version, which was a while back. It is one of the settings released by Pinnacle, the guys who made Savage Worlds. Since I found out about this game, last year, it kept screaming, "Buy me, goddamit!" So what is Slipstream? Do you remember the old Flash Gordon serials or the Filmation cartoon or 1980 movie with the Queen soundtrack? Actually, this would be a good test to find the age demographic of my readers, because I'm sure that no one under the age of 30 knows what the fuck I'm talking about. Slipstream is pulp sci-fi - rayguns, rocketships, robots, tyrants, and space pirates. This book embodies all the pulp action of those old serials, complete with appropriate Edges, rules variants, and enough worlds, aliens, and creatures to keep a good game going for a while. Of course, if you ever run out of content in the book, there are rules for creating your own world fragments (there are no planets in Slipstream, just their shattered remnants) and aliens to make sure you always have something new. Yet this book does have it's drawbacks. Clocking at just under 160 pages, it does have a lot of content, including the plot-point campaign (something found in every Savage Worlds campaign from Pinnacle), but I would say that's still not enough. For instance, the lack of a detailed, organized, and cohesive reference section for aliens is, probably, Slipstream's biggest weakness. There are numerous aliens in the game, but only nine races are really put into good detail: Anarchs, Babelonians, Bird Men, Earthlings, Lion Men, Psiclops, Robot Men, Valkyrians, and Septosians. All of them would make for good characters, except for the Septosians, who are giant slugs with arms, best known for smelling like onion farts (on a good day). Doesn't really sound like a heroic race, does it? What stumps me more is after these nine races, there is a listing of most (I'll get to that later) of the other major races found in the universe, which includes their home fragment, one descriptive sentence and a list of racial Edges/Hinderances for each race. That's it. Sometimes, that's servicable enough, but not always. Here's a couple of examples from the listings: Lupine (Lupos): wolf men... Pretty self explanatory, right? Now tell me what kind of alien this is: Vergelmirion (Vergilmir): small agile humanoid... Would you guess that these are lemur men? Not even in the entry for Vergilmir in the world fragments listing (later on in the book) gave a good description of them. It just said they were small, had prehensile tails, and liked shiny things. I actually found out what they looked like when I saw one in the figure flats .pdf file they released online. While some of the aliens aren't described well enough, others aren't even on the list. Take the Brockians. They're badger men and the only mention of them in the book is in an adventure in the plot-point campaign, where you meet a Brockian pirate captain. The pirate captain's stats show the Brockian's Edges/Hinderances, but why were they not listed with the other races? There's other races excluded from the list, but you get my point. Another thing, which I wouldn't consider a problem, really, is the plot-point campaign is a little different than in other Savage Worlds games. Take the Rippers game, for instance. The plot-point campaign in Rippers is pretty loose. A lot of the adventures don't actually require you to play them in any particular order, or at all, for that matter. But in Slipstream, the campaign plays out like an adventure serial, just like in the old films. That means once you finish an adventure, the most logical step is to move on to the next plot-point. Let's say, at the end of an adventure that you saved a lion man noble from Queen Anathraxa's soldiers, but he tells you that the queen sent out a fleet of warships to attack his home fragment of Simba. If you decided to go somewhere else to, say, find treasure or hunt down pirates, then go to Simba and stop the fleet, not only would you be too late, you'd look like a royal douchebag in the process. That's not how these heroes roll, bitches. While the serial nature does lend to the style of the genre you're playing, you can see how it leaves little room to do anything in between. With that in mind, I say this to all GMs: If you want to use the plot-point campaign, but you also would like to make your own adventures, save the campaign for later. You'll have more freedom that way and you can bring the long obligation of saving the universe on the players when everyone's good and ready. All complaints aside, I still like this game a lot. Regardless of its flaws, it did a lot of things right. Dashing space jockeys, bizzare creatures, a multitude of aliens, a tyrannical queen who drains the life-force of the men she sleeps with to stay young and beautiful (if I were to ever die, I would choose "death by hot sex"). This book really does capture the style of the genre perfectly, from the rules and backstory to the art and presentation. This book oozes pulp sci-fi. It has been long awaited by many and it delivers on many fronts. You can get a copy of this game just about anywhere: your local brick-and-mortar geek store (just order it if they don't have it), or you can go online and buy it (and other Savage Worlds products, in both print and .pdf formats) at the Studio2 Publishing online store. Now if Pinnacle releases a detailed supplement on all the alien races, we'll be good to go. Kaiser out

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