Posted on April 1, 2010 by spikexan
Available at RPGNow.com
Have you ever discovered a game, but wish you found it earlier? Maybe your gaming group has changed and you miss a key player. Perhaps your group wished for a game about X, but no such game existed. Once the desire passed, out came game X. To a degree, that is how I feel about Suzerain. About five years ago, I started a campaign for two friends. They were excited about the premise; however, they were less than excited about the game engine–Savage Worlds in this case. Their problem (and mine too really) rested squarely on the advancement piece of the game. Characters in Savage Worlds feel pretty damn powerful after a few sessions.
Playing once a month for five years creates some incredibly potent characters with this system. I wrapped up that campaign last weekend, mere weeks after discovering this unique little game.
To give you an idea of the scope this setting details, let me give you an example:
Savage Worlds equals Han Solo
Suzerain equals Loki
This is a game about immensely powerful beings, altering reality, and establishing pantheons (in some cases).
I love the layout, both to the book and to the PDF. The indexing is extremely detailed, which is helpful with a book containing such a wide berth of information. The borders, sidebars, backgrounds, and fonts are tasteful and artfully rendered. A printer-friendly version of the PDF also exists (at 196 pages, it may be more attractive to some); however, the full product looks super. Aaron Acevedo’s layout and overall art design holds strong throughout the book. I’ve reviewed Acevedo’s work before and continue to love his work.
The artwork does feel a bit strange at times because of the change in scope; however, the setting permits this. Super hero artwork adorns one page followed by a fantasy piece which is in turn followed by a sci-fi sketch. A small stable of artists worked on this book, which contains a generous amount of artwork. Some of the full-page contributions (pg 185 is a personal fave) are simply amazing. I don’t like CGI artwork, but the pieces of it within this book really captured my imagination.
Suzerain promises an excellent take on gaming by looking at long-haul characters. Some characters never seem to die. Campaigns live and die around them. This setting makes an effort to explain that sort of immortal character. By doing so, this setting messes with the Savage Worlds base a little bit; however, the changes feel like a natural evolution.
The setting to Suzerain is all settings. The game explains that the game can start in whatever reality the GM and players wish; however, there is a more “true” reality lurking beyond once the players become, well, true players. Getting the attention of the true reality isn’t an easy feat, but it proves to be a mindbending experience. For me, using this setting as a secret would be wildly entertaining. Let the players make their moves and get comfortable in that they are the biggest, baddest entities on the block. Then, in the midst of their glory, throw them kicking and screaming down the rabbit hole. Let them play with the true big boys. Once they get comfortable here, hint that there may be more. A hint should suffice to keep them waiting for that rabbit to happen along again. This experience isn’t wholly new.
Many games play with the concept of layered realities. Also, Suzerain flirts with the idea of being a generic system, but only enough to give it a passing mention. It isn’t like GURPs where the general method is same system for multiple things; however, those multiple things rarely clash (even though they can).
In Suzerain, things are going to clash! Players can start the game within the Suzerain setting.
There is no reason why players couldn’t jump right into this game with players sporting 120 XP, although it is perfectly ok to start with a 0XP character (might be challenging though). Based on this setting, one could be a four-color super hero, another could be a blood-drinking vampire, and the third could just be a tough private investigator who just happens to be on the level of Holmes himself. It would make for a different type of “buddy cop” game; nevertheless, the rules for doing it exist here and they are pretty well thought out.
System differences also exist. Much of it thankfully rests on name changes. Bennies, for example, are referred to as Karma in this setting. Power Points are referred to as Pulse. These are the two biggest changes. The Wild Die in most Savage Worlds’ setting is a D6, but it graduates to a D8 here (Edges can extend that further). The corebook also offers excellent support materials in the introduction. I wasn’t able to check all the links out; however, the links I happened upon were quite cool. One thing Karma (Bennies) do in this setting is probably a house rule for many gaming groups. Karma can be spent by players to blackmail the game master. If you’re in a fight in an alley, a quick piece of Karma says there is a heavy trash can waiting to be used. More Karma may mean something even cooler is in that trash can. Players like to influence their environment; this game offers explicit rules on making that happen.
There are several new Edges, Hindrances, and Powers within the book. Edges like Trickster God give players an idea of what level you’re playing. These characters alter reality both through the before-mentioned Karma mechanic and also through these characters’ ability to alter time and space (yep, you’re that cool). It may sound like a mini-maxer’s dream game, but it actually works for various other gaming archetypes.
The adventures in the game are an excellent starting point for this campaign and most likely where I’d suggest beginning. The author gives a good feel for the kinds of challenges the players should face along their path to greatness. They bounce across many genres and are a fun read.
All in all, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. At first glance, it looks like a typical fantasy settings; however, I couldn’t be more wrong. My scores for Suzerain are:
Layout: Five out of Five Dice (Gorgeous)
Artwork: Four out of Five Dice (Across the board with many more hits than misses)
Writing: Four out of Five Dice (Great book, not what I expected at all, which is a good
Overall: A strong Four out of Five Dice (I’ll be testing this out on my gaming group)
Thanks to Savage Mojo Ltd. For my free reviewer’s copy of their great game.
Review by Todd Cash