7/10/2015

Frugal GM Review: Savage Characters Volume One

Frugal GM Review: Savage Characters Volume One
Last week I was offered another Savage Worlds product for review and I seriously considered turning it down, or at least putting it off, because I don't play Savage Worlds and reviewing two Savage World products in a row felt a bit much.....

....then I realized why spend my own money when I want to blow it all on some special deals?

Seriously though, Savage Characters Volume One is one of those products I'd never pick up for myself, for the aforementioned reasons, but I'm really glad this opportunity fell into my virtual lap because I'm highly impressed. There is maybe one real issue for concern with this product and anything...well everything else I could come up with as criticisms is nit-picky....as in I had to really look hard for stuff to suggest for improvements.

Very little difference between huge file and not so huge file
1st off this $4.99 download consists of two files for some reason. One is a HUGE file clearly marked as "v1" and the other a smaller file marked as "v2". I have no clue what the differences are and have to assume that they were differences in distillation settings as they both seemed to be "printed" using InDesign CS6 with a run through PDF Enchancer (Which I think is how DriveThruRPG handles the security and watermarking). My best guess would have to be the settings for the graphics as often PDF distillation will "downgrade" higher resolution graphics to more appropriate settings. Either way, the graphics in this PDF are great, even when blown up to an absurd amount.

Odds are Savage Characters Volume One is a product you will keep on PDF unless you get it professionally printed. Everything is full-color and pretty to look at, but I'm sure murder on your printer and ink if printed at home. If you are wanting a print off of the book.....I'm guessing you want version 1?

I'm going to just assume that the average user wants this as a PDF product and go from there. In this day and age accidentally getting two versions isn't a big deal since I'd just delete the larger version 1 and work with the 19.7 MB version 2. My tablet will be much happier that way. The PDF is password protected/locked down and for the most part this isn't a big deal because I can't see needing to work with the file much anyway.....except for the one (& only) big problem I had with this PDF: there are no bookmarks! For a 156 page PDF no bookmarks is a HUGE deal and something I should probably remove a star for right there. The book is broken down into four sections, with each section pertaining to a different genre and having five characters per genre. Being able to navigate to the section I need is kind of huge here....

I did notice, however, that the lack of bookmarking is offset somewhat by the fact that each section uses a different color palette for the background. Dark Ages & Dragon Gods has basically a brownish overlay, Demon Streets and Made Men is purple, Ghost Lands & Sixguns is a yellowish-brown, and finally Theta Ships & Iron Men is green. While I'm sure this is more helpful in a printed product it is still a nice touch for the PDF and does make it a bit easier to scroll through the pages.

The art within each genre is consistent and it seemed clear to me that there might be four different artists working on the book since each genre's art is different. As much as I tend to think I like a consistent art style, I'm finding myself drawn to products with a variety of styles and tend to prefer that to one artist, or even multiple artists using one style. The important stylistic consistency is where it belongs in the overall layout of the book.

I will point out one of the nit-picky bits here....If you look at the graphic on page 81 in the beginning of the Six Guns & Ghost Lands section it is a painting of an Old West main street. Half of that graphic is used on later pages, but twice it is used mirrored, which I don't get. Obviously the "right" side of the street graphic was available, but instead of using that the "left" side of the street was used. I just don't get that decision. My eye caught that as just so wrong....but others may not even notice.

Original graphic and subsequent (mis?)use of said graphic.

Really though the meat of this product is the characters held within. There are twenty of them, five per genre, and they could be used as you would about any character. Each character starts out with a bit of background, a description, and followed up with great full-body picture. As a GM using this as a PDF I don't know if a full picture is needed, but it is appreciated. I really like how the background and description is relatively brief. As a GM I really just want the highlights...please don't give me pages of intricate background detail....I'm not going to read it! Each character is fully statted out at the legendary rank and then listed at their novice rank. I thought it a bit weird that the entry would start at the highest rank and then show the lowest because when you turn the page it shows the advancement/progression. This highest to lowest to progression back to highest seemed a bit odd to me, but it might make perfect sense to a Savage Worlds GM and it isn't off-putting or even distracting...just a bit odd.

Now Savage Characters Volume One is clearly a book of characters and if things ended there It'd probably be a good, albeit a much shorter, book. What really makes this product stand out to me, and makes up for the minor issues, is all this "bonus content" that is barely hit upon in the product description on DriveThruRPG. Way to bury the lead there James!

Each genre has a nice little write up and then each character has a series of adventure hooks (five for each character) with a sentence or two on how the PCs can interact with this character as part of the hook. Each adventure hook is setup for a different level, but I don't see why they have to be constrained to those specific levels.

Also bundled with each character are some new rules (new races, hindrances, settings rules, etc.). Technically not every character has something new, and this leads me to another nit-pick. Out of twenty characters, two don't have anything new &/or special about them. That's a lot of dead space on those two pages and just doesn't feel right. Everyone else has at least one minor new thing and to leave out Gustavus Klepf & Zawd the Saurian seems like a missed opportunity.

Frugal GM Conditional Five Star Review: Savage Characters Volume One
Overall though I really did like this product despite the minor rough edges. I'm reluctant to give it four stars, so I'll go with my gut and give it five conditional stars with the assumption that Mr. Davenport will update the PDF with some bookmarks. Hell, if he gets me the base file I'll bookmark the damned thing and send it back (it would take less time than I spent working on the graphics for this post). If I was a Savage Worlds GM I think I'd definitely pick up Savage Characters Volume One for the list price of $4.99. I'm not sure the twenty characters spread across four genres is worth the fiver, but adding them to what I consider the "bonus content" is. The new settings, races, hindrances, edges, and gear.....that is a lot of stuff.