Posted on May 6, 2010 by spikexan
Available at RPGNow.com
There are some games I appreciate for their simplicity. Between a day job, two kids, nurturing a media addiction, and writing, I still like to squeeze a game into my schedule. Saddle Sore is a game that can help make things fit a bit easier for Marshals with hectic timelines. This tidy 34 page book is chock full of adventures that happen “between adventures.” It’s a nifty little idea I’ve seen before in an article, Game Chef entry, or indie-rpg (I think the title was “Something Happened on the Way.” I’d love to know the answer to this mystery if anyone can help). Most game groups work with this dynamic:
Session One ends, plans are made for the next session, and everyone goes home.
Session Two begins with a recap of what happened, a blurb that “some time has passed,” and the formula repeats.
What Saddle Sore does is fill in that “some time has passed” blurb with an actual adventure. The book is full of micro-adventures that are ripe with possibility. After all, “some time has passed” is a good way for players to write off wound damage. For those using Saddle Sore, those little aggravating wounds stick around and tend to complicate things. Good stuff.
This is a brief book; however, the artists at Pinnacle kept to their remarkable standards. It holds to the same layout as the Deadlands: Reloaded line (excellent fonts, visually tasteful sidebars, and such). The artwork doesn’t drop jaws, but it’s generously distributed throughout.
I’ve seen books with slightly bigger page counts have minimal art. Not so with this book. Aaron Acevedo and Simon Lucas provide plenty of pieces with barroom brawls, ornery rattlesnakes, and more. What excited me about this book are the micro-adventures (even some micro-micro story seeds at the back of the book). These short adventures make for an interesting mix. There are gold mines, Phineas Bartum, a ghost train, and much more. These adventures are dangerous enough to get cowpokes killed easily enough, but they truly stand as more role-playing opportunities. For example, Edges can be earned through the successful completion of some adventures.
The story seeds at the end of the book are great fun too. Marshals can simply pick one that is right for their group or let the deck decide (each seed is linked to a playing card). These seeds range from mistaken identity, missing money, and bad omens. Some are designed just to mess with players while others, with the proper love, could flourish into much more.
What this book is about is inspiration. Wade-Williams puts Marshals onto a course with enough information to keep everybody happy. The trick though comes through what is done with the intentional holes. You can play these by the book and get a good run from them or you can use them as springboards and inspirations to get some serious mileage out of them. The book gives the rope. How you hang yourself with it is up to the reader! For gaming groups (mostly for Savage Worlds fans, though Aces and Eights players could tweak this with minimal fuss) with hectic schedules, this would prove to be a welcome addition to a library. My scores for Saddle Sore are:
Layout/Artwork: Three out of Five Dice (good)
Writing: Four out of Five Dice (I would have liked to see at least one adventure set Back East)
Overall: Four out of Five Dice (useful little joker)
Review by Todd Cash