Greetings readers… today’s blog features a review of an epic fantasy setting for Savage Worlds called Shaintar: Legends Arise.
|Beware the hat.|
I should start out this review by explaining that I’m biased when it comes to Shaintar. First, the author is Sean Patrick Fannon – a personal friend and colleague that I have interviewed here on the Warden before.
I’ve had the pleasure of playing Shaintar with Sean twice before (three times if Sean counts a Shards of the Stone session way back in the early 2000’s), and it has always struck me as a very interesting and fun setting for an RPG.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’ve been a fan of Sean’s writing since back in the 90’s with his work on Champions 4th Edition, specifically the books The Mutant File, Allies, and High-Tech Enemies. And one of these days I need to get around to reviewing those very books here…
So now, gentle reader, you’re aware that I am perhaps not the most objective reviewer of Sean’s work in the RPG field. Having said that, let’s move on to look at the actual product.
Shaintar promises us “epic fantasy” as a genre, and that is a tall claim—many settings have tried before, with perhaps the Forgotten Realms coming closest (and many would argue that the Realms are more “High Fantasy” than “Epic”).
|The cover for the version of Shaintar that this review is based on.|
The book begins with an omnibus of the setting, describing Shaintar’s rich history – developed by Sean over decades of actual RPG campaigns he’s run using Shaintar – and discussing its people. The magic of Shaintar and the sources of power are quite interesting. Rather than Law/Chaos and Good/Evil that are present in many other fantasy settings, Shaintar uses a different axis. Light and Darkness, balanced by Life and Flame. Traditionally, Light and Life are “good,” whilst Darkness and Flame are “evil.” Light is channeled by priests and paladins, whilst Darkness powers necromantic rituals of death and decay. Life is used by druids with the power of the natural world, while Flame is the source of destructive magics and is used to summon demons from the Abyss.
This is just the briefest overview of the setting’s interesting laws, and there’s much more to it than what I’ve presented here. Suffice it to say it is quite interesting to read how things work in Sean’s world – it is set up quite well to meet its goal of epic fantasy.
Chapter two introduces the reader to the heroes of Shaintar – the different races and professions that make up the world and are appropriate for player characters. The chapter starts out with a description of “Greyson’s Gray Rangers,” an organization perfectly suited for beginning adventurers. The rangers provide a cause, direction, and support that really help a GM with an adventuring paradigm. It’s nice to see this support built-in. Additionally, other professions are discussed that include fantasy staples (from Soldiers to Druids to Priests to Rogues) and some more unusual choices (such as Ex-slaves, wanderers, and emissaries). The races of Shaintar are quite imaginative and provide a prospective player with tons of great choices, from the Brinchie (Cat-men) to the Dregordians (lizard-people) and many more.
I often judge an RPG based on how many characters the book inspires me to make. Shaintar: Legends Arise gives me ideas for at least a dozen different characters that I’d love to play in this world.
It is worth noting that Shaintar: Legends Arise uses some interesting adjustments to the Savage Worlds system. Player characters simply begin with appropriate gear rather than spending a bunch of time spending money at the store, for example, and the damage dice explode like all the other dice in Savage Worlds. These rules adjustments are intended to keep the energy high during a game and I think they succeed quite well at this goal.
Next come some brief overviews of skills and languages, followed by a discussion of appropriate Hindrances for Shaintar. This is followed by new Hindrances and Edges, including some very interesting special Edges that player characters can earn by interacting with specific characters, items, and storylines in the setting. These Edges are like badges of honor your character can carry with him as a reward for his great deeds.
Next comes a section about gear, containing some of the unique weapons, armor, and other items found in Shaintar. It really helps bring to life that your character is from a completely different race or culture when you can back that up with a specifically-designed weapon that fits your race’s particular fighting style! In addition, this section includes a discussion on Shaintar spells and powers for those characters who channel magic.
The section on setting rules is one of my favorite parts of the book. Sean details several bits of advice for the GM and guidance for how the game mechanics of Savage Worlds best fit into Shaintar. The thrust of this section is a means to help a GM make a session of Shaintar feel memorable and cinematic, providing the player characters with ways to use their unique abilities (and the Savage Worlds boost mechanic, “bennies”) to enhance the fun of the game for everyone.
The book ends with a glimpse at the expanded world of Shaintar, giving the reader some hints as to possible expansions of the setting. A lot of these windows into the larger world are intriguing, and many of them are going to become a reality thanks to Sean's Kickstarter forLegends Unleashed.
|The awesome new cover for Shaintar!|
I should take a moment here to mention there’s a Kickstarter for a much more developed look at Shaintar called Shaintar: Legends Unleashed, produced by Sean’s own Evil Beagle games. The Kickstarter is doing quite well, and at the time of this writing is wrapping up with only a few days left. If this review has left you anxious to learn more about Shaintar, I encourage you to go to the kickstarter page and help support it!
Shaintar is a setting that does what it says on the tin: it brings the heart of epic fantasy to life and breathes something exciting into a fantasy RPG that I haven’t seen in a long time… probably since the grey boxed set of Forgotten Realms for 2nd edition Dungeons & Dragons. The setting of Shaintar is extremely rich with detail and opportunities for excitement. Adventure seems to drip off every page.
Another reviewer said (I am paraphrasing here) that “Shaintar is what I wished my first D&D campaigns were like,” and I would echo that remark.