Beasts & Barbarians: The Dread Shard (Savage Worlds)
Publisher: Gramel/Studio 2 Publishing
Page Count: 16
Release Date: 03/13/2014
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com
Beast & Barbarians is a campaign setting for Savage Worlds, so know that you’ll need the core books (DriveThruRPG has a great bundle for those that are interested) in addition to the core Savage Worlds book. Of course this means that even though The Dread Shard is priced very reasonably at only $1.99, the actual price tag for playing it is going to be a lot higher – about fifty dollars when all is said and done without some sort of deal going. The adventure also makes use of the optional Tattered Banners supplement, which adds even more to the eventual overall cost of playing this two dollar adventure. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in B&B – just a warning that you need more than a single book to play this adventure.
The Dread Shard takes place during a great celebration in the city of Dalaxium. Governor Lucius has figured out how to harness the power of a meteorite known as the Dread Shard and has hosted this party as a precursor to the revelation he will be unveiling. Unfortunately, the Dread Shard is appropriately named as the party is actually a doublecross and the entire town is basically put to the torch by the evil Valk. There is a lot of death and betrayal in this one and at times it felt like Vince Russo from late 90s WCW was writing this with all the attempts at NPCs swerving each other. Although a bit trite in this regard, it does put the players in a very unusual situation. After all, there is now way they can defeat several hundred Valk warriors as they lay siege to Dalaxium, so PCs have to decide on their course of action, be it trying to escape the carnage or finding some way to shut down the onslaught. There isn’t a happy ending for this adventure and certainly not for the citizens of Dalaxium, so this adventure is probably best played by people who don’t treat RPGs as something to “win.”
The Dread Shard goes into a lot of detail (well, as much as sixteen pages can anyway) about the festival, games one might take part in there and also some detailed notes on prominent NPCs the players can encounter or befriend. A fourth of the adventure consists of character stat blocks and another four are the sights and sounds of the festival. That’s half your page count right there! If you really want to make The Dread Shard feel impactful, have the players use Dalaxium for their home base for several adventures or even play an entire session or two just around the games and people as the festival. That way, when the carnage begins, the players (and their characters) will feel it all the more. It won’t be just some generic location where the players are for this session, but a place they care about and friends being put to the sword.
A note of caution is that The Dread Shard assumes you are extremely familiar with Beast & Barbarians, along with its particular vernacular and terminology. There is no attempt to explain anything about the setting or B&B specific jargon, so this adventure is not something you can pick up and just play if you only have the core Savage Worlds book. If you don’t have any of the B&B core books, you will be totally and utterly lost, which is a shame, as the adventure is quite nicely done otherwise.
Basically, if you are a big time fans of the Beasts & Barbarians setting for Savage Worlds, you’ll want to get this adventure. It’s extremely detailed for the brief page length, it’s quite cheap and it’s a pretty unique adventure to experience. For everyone else though, you’ll want to pass since you’ll need to invest heavily in the campaign setting and the core rulebooks from Pinnacle to make heads or tails of this piece. If you do pick this up, remember that the quality of the adventure is determined by how detailed you make the festival, as well as how tied to Dalaxium the PCs are. If you rush this thing or play The Dread Shard as just an adventure of the week, it will be a lackluster and forgettable experience. If you take the time to really make the city come to live, its fall will be all the more impactful and important to both the characters and the people playing them.