On Solomon Kane and Savage Worlds

pathofkaneAnyone who’s read The Desert of Souls and knows their way around Robert E. Howard’s stories probably could tell I was a fan of Solomon Kane, owing to the brief appearance of a certain cat-headed staff near the novel’s conclusion

Given that I’m a huge REH fan and a gamer, it seemed only natural that I finally lay hands on the Savage Worlds game line dedicated to Solomon Kane himself.

In my rare moments of down time over the last weeks I’ve been learning the Savage Worlds system in preparation for running some “investigating the unknown in the time of the 1600s” adventures for the family.

The Savage Worlds of Solomon Kane books are gorgeous, well presented with lavish illustrations, and crammed with information about the time period, the setting, and adventures — lots and lots of adventures.

My only critique is that I’m not finding a lot of the adventures quite right for my players, who love a good mystery. In the main book, many of the Savage Tales are little vignettes that end in a monster fight, which I believe will get tiresome. If I’m to run these I’ll need to do some doctoring to a lot of them as well as create more links to ongoing villains. One of the expansion books, The Path of Kane, offers a villain in Europe who’s tangentially connected to a number of other cases of re-animation. Him I can use, so I was hoping, as I read into the Africa portions of the same book last night, to find a similar “linked villain” in the dark continent. Alas, no. Perhaps the New Worlds section will have one, or the chapter on Cathay and the Orient.

savagesolomonOverall, I’m enjoying the adventures in The Path of Kane more than many in the basic book, though there’s inspiring material in both.

I’m a little disappointed that the plot point campaign in the central book (plot points are a way to interlink adventures)  is to seek out magical weapons so that they can be used in the final adventure to womp on a big ‘ol monster. It’s kind of cool, but I wanted more, and I suspect I wasn’t alone, for three more Solomon Kane books, each stuffed with supplemental adventures/monsters, have followed. The adventures within are evocative and all but they’re just not tied together as well as might be nice. The Savage Tales book 50 Fathoms is a great read up of interlinked necessary adventures and other stuff to do: I wish these Kane books were more like that.

In their defense, the Solomon Kane Savage Tales line was probably set up to emulate the Solomon Kane stories, which really aren’t interlinked at all. The Savage Tales books even acknowledge that the player characters are supposed to wander, as Kane did. In the original series there’s no real “season” or story arc, so I’m probably faulting a design decision that was made to deliberately emulate the feel of the Kane stories. What’s here is good; I’m just wishing I could use it as easily as I can 50 Fathoms, which I can run unchanged “out of the box.” This stuff will require some gimmicking to do what I want with it.

There are scores of ideas and monsters in these books, not to mention statistics I won’t have to generate on my own, so I think I can invent separate villains for regions that are tied to many lesser events in the wider world. “Level bosses,” if you will. I might even base those villains on the ancient immortals who are running around in The Bones of the Old Ones. Having written about those guys and gals, I know them pretty well, and they’d make pretty scary bad guys.

(Update: I’ve continued to comb through the books and think about them, and I’ve changed my opinion a little. In short, two thumbs up, but you can see my additional comments here.)