Weird Wars Rome (Savage Worlds)
Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
Page Count: 99
Release Date: 09/18/2013
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com
As seems to be the norm these days, Weird Wars Rome was a successfully Kickstarter release for the Savage Worlds system by Pinnacle Entertainment. Although not as successful as Pinnacle’s first Kickstarter project, Deadlands Noir, Weird Wars Rome did get 831 backers and raise nearly $47,000 dollars, which I would call a pretty good job on their part.
I should point out, you do need the core Savage Worlds rulebook to use Weird Wars Rome. This is just a supplement and campaign setting for the game, so if you purchase Weird Wars Rome without Savage Worlds, you can’t really use it. Keep that in mind before deciding if you want to buy this, as you’ll have to double down if you’re new to Savage Worlds.
I should also point out that Weird Wars Rome really isn’t that weird. In fact, the bulk of the book is a very dry and well written look at Rome from 753 BCE through 496 CE (although the book uses the archaic BC and AD nominations). You get a look at the world during this time frame, the military structure of Rome, a list of locations and a lot of combat mechanics for things like siege engines, shield walls, naval actions and more. This is a very intense book, but be prepared for something that reads more like a history textbook rather than your usual RPG campaign setting book. This is fine, and I personally liked how detailed and seriously Pinnacle looked at Rome, but I know that for some gamers, their eyes will glaze over and they will find the subject matter dull or boring. I have to say in terms of technical writing, Weird Wars Rome is one of the best historical fiction campaign settings I’ve ever looked through, as it addresses just about everything that could come up save for a list of various religions and how each Roman god was worshipped along with the size of the congregation. Of course, that can always be a later supplement.
Making a character for Weird Wars Rome is a little harder than in other games. The premise is you are a Roman soldier of some kind, and as such, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for female characters. It’s not that the game is being sexist; it’s simply a matter of how Roman society was and staying true to the assigned gender roles of the time. Weird Wars Rome directly addresses this issue and does try to come up with ways to insert female PCs into your games, which is a nice touch. As well, a lot of the “classes” that you have to choose from have high Vigor and Strength, which makes sense since you are fighting, so don’t expect to necessarily have a d12 (or even a d10) Spirit on your starting character. Now, not all classes require you to have a minimum d6 Strength and Vigor. For example, a Medic style character only has a D8 Smarts requirement, and an Equities Calvary character doesn’t have ANY stats requirements, but does need a d6 in the Riding and Fighting skills, along with the Equestrian Edge. So yes, while characters will probably be combat focused, there is still room for an agile or Spirit oriented character.
One area where Weird Wars Rome truly excelled was with the artwork. I have to admit, I was blown away by each piece in this book. Whether it was the cover, where a Roman soldier was trying to go one-on-one with a muck monster, to one a full page piece where two zombie legionaries were duking it out, this is one of the best looking releases of 2013, and it’s well worth picking up just for the art. Pinnacle assembled a truly excellent collection of artists for this book, and it is a coin toss between this and Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition in regards to who is going to win our “Best Art” award this year.
So here’s the big elephant in the room: why invest in Weird Wars Rome when things like Cthulhu Invictus already exist? Well, there are several reasons. The biggest is a system preference. After all, if you don’t like Call of Cthulhu‘s modified BRP system, you can just play Weird Wars Rome and throw in Mythos monsters. After all, there’s even a sanity system for WWR. In my case, even though Call of Cthulhu is my personal favorite system, I don’t really care for Cthulhu Invictus, and I feel Weird Wars Rome captured the feel of the time period better and the Savage Worlds system works better for the large amount of combat that goes on in this game. Both have their place, but I’d give the nod to Weird Wars Rome as it’s more detailed, better written and prettier.
My only one real complaint about Weird Wars Rome is the list of monsters in the back. I was hoping for a bevy of Greek and Roman mythological beasties, but there wasn’t really a lot there. You only get nine pages of creatures, and some just don’t fit. The mummies presented are far more D&D style, with rot abilities rather than being something more akin to the mummies you’d expect from a historical setting. The werewolves listed are more Hollywood Lon Chaney Jr. style ones than the actual version of lycanthropes that appear in Grecian and Roman myth. The Strigoi are closer to modern 20th century vampires than their historical counterparts. So on and so forth. I was really disappointed to see the book drop the ball with the monsters, as that’s where the WEIRD in Weird Wars Rome comes into play. Without some quality creatures, you just have a low to no fantasy Roman era RPG. That’s fine, but I really feel the monsters section could use a complete and total overhaul and that the book could have spent more time on the weird aspect, as the title is a bit misleading because of it.
Overall I’m quite happy with Weird Wars Rome. It’s highly detailed, well written and sports some gorgeous art. It has a fun adventure generator and even a Legacy Plot Point Campaign that can last centuries and give players generations of characters to play through. Fifteen dollars is a bit pricey for a PDF that’s under 100 pages, but Pinnacle does tend to be more expensive than the average publisher, so this is in line with how they do things. I won’t say you NEED to pick this one up, but it is a fun read and an excellent setting to try out. If you’re not in the need of a good Roman based setting, then you’re not missing anything by not picking up Weird Wars Rome. If however, you have wanted to try to set a game of any kind in ancient Rome, than Weird Wars Rome certainly is the best version I’ve seen so far.