Inside Pulse 12

Tabletop Review: Savage Insider #9: Tales of the Weird (Savage Worlds)

Savage Insider #9: Tales of the Weird
Publisher: Mystical Throne Entertainment
Page Count: 70
Cost: Pay What You Want
Release Date: 07/05/2013
Get it Here:DriveThruRPG.com

I’m not really a big Savage Worlds gamer. I enjoy Deadlands Noir and the Savage Worlds Horror Companion, but generally I stick to other systems. I’m a big fan of gaming magazines as I love to read about the industry, so when the latest issue of Savage Insiderpromised to be an all “weird horror” issues, I had to pick it up. After reading the seventy page issue, I found things both good and bad about the publication. Of course that’s true about any gaming magazine since it’s a hodgepodge of articles. Basically, I found it to be better than other gaming magazines like Pathways and Kobold Quarterly, but not as enjoyable as Gygax Magazine or The Unspeakable Oath. The positive is that Savage Insider seems to be one of the better gaming magazines right now that actually publishes on a regular schedule, but that’s just my first impressions from this single issue. I’ll have to pick up a few more issues to see if that holds true.

One interesting thing about Savage Insider is that it’s part of a new trend in digital RPG products, which allows the gamer to “Pay What They Want.” So yes, you can get the magazine for free if you really want to. This doesn’t make you a cheapskate. Think of it as the first hit is free. I DO think that PWYW games do need a suggested price, but that’s just me as a reviewer and it becomes hard to recommend a piece on content quality per price tag. The previous Savage Insider magazines are free at DriveThruRPG.com, so consider picking them if you like what I have to say about the magazine here. I know I will be!

There are thirteen articles in this issue of Savage Insider. Two of them are short stories, neither of which I cared for because I’d rather be reading articles about gaming content. I can read short fiction anywhere, after all, but at least the stories weren’t terrible, right?

  • From the Designer – This article is a discussion by the EIC about changes coming to the magazine and an overview of the “Weird Horror.” It’s a single page that does what it needs to. 1 for 1.

  • In the News –This is several pages of recently releases and upcoming products for Savage Worlds. I was impressed by the sheer number of Savage Worlds products coming out and many of them look pretty interesting. My favorite were the pulp adventures by Adamant Entertainment, but there was a wide range of different themes and campaign settings showcased, all of which used Savage Worlds rules. Excellent job here. 2 for 2.

  • The Enemy in the Shadows – A long rambling dull story about Nazis dealing with the mystical horror of invading the USSR during WWII. It’s something I’ve seen and read several dozen in my lifetime, and I’m just bored with this same exact story being retread right down to the Baba Yaga references. Snore. 2 for 3.

  • The Mask Peddler – A fun article about different magical masks and the effects they can have on a PC that dons them. Excellent job and it got me thinking of all kinds of adventures that could be done with these. 3 for 4.

  • The Asylum – a generic paint by numbers adventure that would work best with the Realms of Cthulhu setting for Savage Worlds. It’s an 1890s fantasy horror about an asylum and a crazy scientist corrupted by his quest for knowledge. It’s not a bad adventure, but it’s pretty paint by numbers and woefully generic at times. It would be great for younger gamers, but veterans of systems like Call of Cthulhu and Chill will probably be bored with this as it’s all things they’ve seen, done and killed before. 3 for 5.

  • Thule Society – This is a nice nonfiction article about the actual Thule Soceity, its origins and how to use such organizations in your gaming sessions. This was wonderfully written. 4 for 6.

  • Combat Deadliness – Two pages on making attacks more deadly in order to raise the fear factor in your players. It didn’t do anything for me and it felt more unbalanced and not properly vetted than anything else. 4 for 7.

  • The Ministry of Decisions – another piece of fiction. It’s better than the first in the magazine and feels a little like it was ripped from The God Machine Chronicle Onyx Path Publishing recently released. It’s not great, but at only three pages I was amused and entertained. It’s not something I’d seek out to read again, but it was good as filler between articles. 5 for 8.

  • Dust to Dust – A neat little adventure set in the 1930s. My only problem is that is doesn’t FEEL like the 1930s. This is the era of the Dust Bowl after all, and Dust to Dust (Not to be confused by the Vampire: The Masquerade adventure of the same name) doesn’t feel the 1930s at all. There’s no real attempt to flesh out the time period or to make the adventure feel like it’s actually in the time period. Hell, it could be easily dropped into any very rural community at any time in the first half of the 20th century. The writer really should have done a better job in this regard. Aside from that, Dust to Dust is a well written creepy affair worth playing through. The adventure could have really used a bit of editing or tweaking, but it’s a free six page adventure in a technically free magazine, so brevity and depth are obviously going to be the first things cut with this space allotment. Overall, I’m very happy with Dust to Dust and will enjoy inflicting on my players at some point. 6 for 9.

  • Semi-Divine – a discussion on the Demigod “rank” in Savage Mojo’s Suzerain campaign setting. I can’t say I’ve ever been interested in it, nor did this article make me change my mind, but it’s well written and should bring in some new players to the line, which means it served its purpose. This didn’t really fit the “weird horror” theme of the issue though… 7 for 10.

  • Accursed – A preview of the upcoming campaign setting by publisher Melior Via. It seems pretty interesting, as players are all affected by various curses from witches. I don’t know if it is a setting I’d ever personally use, but the article did make it sound quite interesting. 8 for 11.

  • Book Reviews – This is more a review of Savage Worlds products than, say, the type of books reviewed in the New York Times, but what do you expect – it’s a gaming mag! There are only three products reviews (approximately one per page of the article) and they’re okay for the length. They aren’t really in-depth (This review of the magazine is longer than any of the reviews for example) and in the age of the internet, reviews in a magazine feel more like product placement than anything else, but they are nicely done and hey, I’d hire the writers to help with some of the massive backlog of tabletop review products we have here at Diehard GameFAN. 9 for 12.

  • Calendar of Events – I missed this from the old days of Dragon Magazine in the TSR era. Basically, this is a write up of all the gaming events going on from July to October. It’s great to see everything. They only problem is that the magazine came out on July 5th and something like CONVergence was already running for two days at that point, you see? I think it would be better done had it been August to November as running a list of events for the same month the magazine comes out can be a tricky thing to pull off correctly. Still, this is a wonderfully done article and I like seeing the word get out about events in this manner. 10 for 13.

    So not bad, right? Ten out of thirteen articles got a thumb’s up from me which is basically a 77% quality rate. I’ll definitely be back to check out future issues of Savage Insider as well as perusing through the back issues of the magazine at some point. If you’re a fan of the system or just a fan of gaming magazines in general (I have a lot of friends who are), Savage Insider #9 is well worth picking up. I’m definitely glad I did.

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    • vickeya

      Thanks for reviewing Savage Insider! I’m the assistant editor and it’s good to see someone go through it feature by feature. Our contributors are always eager for feedback and it will be nice to point them here for some.

      I’m also the author of Dust to Dust. I whole-heartedly agree with you about it not feeling like 1930s. When I wrote it, it was meant to be modern-day. Unfortunately, since the issue’s design evolved over six months to be a specific span of time and it’s original concept morphed a bit, by the time the piece was due, I had completely forgotten Aaron’s final intent. He tweaked it just a bit – removing the pieces that made it feel modern-day.

      I’d just moved and he knew there was no way I had time to re-do Dust to Dust and the issue still make its release deadline. Faced with choosing between having only one adventure in the issue or keeping an imperfect piece, he opted for the imperfections in my adventure. I have plans to add to Dust to Dust and release it as a separate piece with more aspects better fleshed out and it to be re-edited.

      As for the calendar, we’ve traditionally run an overlap between the last issue and next, just in case we can’t release on the first day of the release month (like this time). That means Issue 8 also featured July conventions, at least the ones I knew about at the time. Traditionally, we have had an issue every quarter, but that changes with this issue. Had I thought about it, I would have included more months since we aren’t releasing one in October, which we ordinarily would. I’m glad that you are happy to see the calendar in the issue as I’ve often wondered if anyone even looks at it after all the work I put into finding and verifying information on cons every issue!

      Thanks again for such a detailed review and letting us know both where we can improve and what you think we’re doing well!

      Vickey A. Beaver

    • Mariah Malczewska

      Thank you for your review of the Mask Peddler piece, we’re glad
      to hear you liked it! We’d love to hear what you do with the gear and stories
      they’ve generated.

      Cheers!

      Mariah and Brett, DarkSmile Games

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