Posted on April 27, 2010 by spikexan
Available at RPGNow.com
People like to play games and be things they aren’t. Sometimes it means playing an elf; sometimes it means playing a gangster. Games like Mob Justice, Haven: City of Violence, and even oddities like World of Darkness: Mafia or Marvel Super Heroes’ Deluxe City boxed set strived to bring various criminal elements to gaming. There are many more examples out there (some good and some, uh, not so good), but today we’re looking at the Wellstone City setting, which works with the Savage Worlds game engine. Get out your handgun, make sure you don’t hold it sideways (there are rules on why you don’t do this), and take a walk on the wrong side of the tracks as we see how a Savaged Mobster (or other gritty urbanite) looks.
Kevin M. Rohan wore many hats during the creation of this game. It’s a fact I found impressive, especially since he did such a solid job under each one. Let’s take a look at the book’s layout first. Pages are bordered in a fashion so that they look like folders. Sidebars are laid out with smart looking gray coloring. Page numberings are encircled by a shotgun casing.
Each chapter has an image of Wellstone City’s waterfront. I can’t swear to the true city’s identity, but I’ll throw in my guess that it’s Music City, USA. The fonts used in headers and sidebars is a bit quirky, but easy to read. It’s a good layout for this book.
Ben Overmyer and Rohan ran the book’s artwork. The artwork breaks into two parts: cartography and character sketches. The sketches run the gambit between cops and robbers (a priest is even thrown in for good measure). And these are truly sketches. Most offer no background whatsoever. The drawings are good, but a depiction of a gunfight or high speed chase would have fit nicely within these pages. The cartography is sound, but not jaw-dropping.
The cartography does have a strong relationship with the writing, so game masters can easily map out their adventures while seasoning them with the locales and personalities of each area.
This book is one of those cases of a strongly conceived setting. Quentin Tarantino wrote that “personality goes a long, long way,” a fact that rings true here. Chapters One and Two focus on the special aspects this game brings to the Savage Worlds line. There are rules for firing guns and a fair amount of new Edges and Hindrances. We also get some special urban gear for those looking to further deck out their characters.
Chapter Three introduces the Wellstone City setting, district by district. There is a generous mix of prisons, bars, and more for players to investigate. Most have detailed histories slapped to them; nevertheless, most game masters don’t treat setting material as gospel. If your group wants to own the Kraken, a nifty little bar, then go right ahead. This chapter also ends with a solid timeline of events ranging back to colonization.
You can do the same with Chapter Four, which takes a look at the Organizations that make life “interesting” for those living in the City. Even the seemingly good guys (like the charitable Kinzey Foundation) give off a secretive vibe. Maybe those hostels they run all over the city are actual fronts for slave traders. This chapter wraps up with brief descriptions of some of Wellstone City’s finer NPCs. Stats are no provided, but meaty descriptions are. Game masters can always pluck in their own numbers.
Chapter Five comes to the rescue for those needing stats right the Hell now. Readers are treated to gangsters, cops, assassins, freelancers, and much more. The few characters I number crunched work just fine for dropping directly onto a character’s sheet to if your gaming group is looking for a quick pick-up game.
The book finishes with an adventure entitled Public Transit Assassins. This is an excellent introductory adventure for this game as it deals with the critical aspects of the game, such as forming alliances. The game also takes players throughout the city (with is an island city roughly a fourth the size of Rhode Island). In many ways, the adventure feels like Grand Theft Auto.
And I think fans of that video game would be one audience hungry for this tabletop game.
I personally know my interest in the former makes this product more appealing. I’m also a fan of the genre, so Wellstone City clicked for me on several fronts. Savage Worlds delivers a powerful gaming engine for games in this theme. Massive firefights are handled well. Players can run their PCs while lesser grunts take the brunt of the battles. Fun stuff. I’m giving Wellstone City the following scores:
Layout: Four out of Five Dice (goods stuff)
Artwork: Three out of Five Dice (The artwork, while good, was sparse and too static)
Writing: Four out of Five Dice (a well-conceived setting ready for quick-play)
Many thanks to Silver Gryphon Games or my free reviewer’s copy of their game book.
Review by Todd Cash