Sunday 20 September 2015

Review: Savage Worlds Horror Companion

Since I picked this up at half price I thought I'd add it to my collection of Savage Worlds reviews.

As usual, this focusses on the ability to use the Companion for skirmish wargaming. If you want an RPG-centric review, this is not the place to find it.  404: Return to Google and try again!

The Horror Companion seems pretty squarely aimed at the vampire-werewolf-monster hunter trope.  There isn't much alien horror to be found.  You'll see a few words repeated in this review - "generic"  "typical" "minimal."  There's enough to do what needs to be done, without a lot of trimmings or originality. 

I'm ignoring the gamemaster's section as it's more generic advice anyway and certainly is of no interest from a skirmish gaming viewpoint.

This Black Judge has just realised the Horror Companion is rendered irrevant by simply owning the base Savage Worlds game

Characters, Edges, Hindrances
There are 18 new Edges and Hindrances, some (occultist, necromancer, monster hunter) more useful than others.  The few new Characters include angels, demons, Frankenstein-esqye monsters, werewolves, ghosts, zombies.  Basically, your generic horror staples.

The dozen or so weapons (stakes, repeating crossbows, holy water, silver/UV bullets & grenades) are again the "essentials" and don't break any new ground.  Equipment is again limited in scope and pretty generic - ghost hunting goggles, motion trackers, mirrors, UV lights, crucifixes.  Again, the essentials.  In all cases the choices are sensible but minimalist.  Nothing new is added.

There is about 30 pieces of unique equipment (evil hockey masks, voodoo dolls, warding rings, vampire coffins) some useful, some less so.


Magic is more serious.  Failing magic rolls will cause Sanity loss as well as the usual backlash.   Any time an individual suffers a gruesome death there is an AoE blood spray template - which causes a morale test to any splattered in gore - and renders the area slippery for the rest of the game.  A nice touch.  Furthermore, particular dates (All Hallow's Eve, full moon etc) can enhance the powers of various creatures as you would expect.  Magic is not as pervasive as in fantasy, but you can perform extended rituals to make it more powerful (extend range, duration, effects). Failing a ritual is usually rather dangerous.  (I.e. from fatigue loss to a portal from the netherworld sucking everyone in, or energy frying everyone involved)

Sanity (2+ Spirit) is a resource that can be lost each time you fail a Fear check.  If it reaches 2 or less, the character must pick a Minor Habit until it recovers to 3+.  Once it reaches 0 the character becomes deranged/psychotic.  Psychosis include vacant staring, flashbacks, the shakes, addictions, paranoia... worst, becoming a maniacal villain under GM control.   This is a useful addition.

There is fortune telling section which has little application to wargaming and is pretty vague and GM-centric anyway. 

Wards require a spirit roll at -4 to break (i.e. werewolf warded by silver/vampire vs crucifix) and work automatically; bindings include a pentragram/circular trap but the rules tend to be more long-term RPG plot-based affairs and less useful for skirmish wargames.


There are only about a dozen new spells which tend to revolve around summoning, banishing, blocking or binding undead/spirits.  To be honest, you could easily get by with the usual generic Savage Worlds spells as this really doesn't add a lot to the game.  


There are about 70 pages of critters and it makes up the bulk of the book.  Finally some originality is shown - with entries like aswangs (Philippino vampires), ama-no-jaku, black coachmen, malevolent trees, creeping hands, flying heads, haunted cars and portraits, rug fiends (!), evil jack in the boxes, seaweed fiends, evil rock musicians, ventriloquist dummies, weresharks - as well as all the horror "staples."   The downside - all the horror "staples" are covered in the Explorer's Edition, so unless you really want weird stuff like rug fiends, the Horror Companion doesn't really do much.

Characters, edges, abilities tend to be the bare minimum for generic horror adventuring, only the most common tropes.  Magic didn't add much of any import.  The bestiary was extensive but....

...the fact the base Savage Worlds Explorer's addition has a strong pulp focus means the Horror Companion (which covers similar territory) adds very little to the base game.  The expanded Sanity table and the extended bestiary would be the prime reason to get this.  But....   ....the base Explorer's Edition covers all your basic generic horror critters anyway, and even has simple Sanity rules.     In short - if you already have the excellent base Savage World's Explorer's edition (which you should) there is no real reason to own the Horror Companion. 

Recommended:  No.  On special, perhaps. Otherwise, no - it simply doesn't add anything particularly worthwhile to the excellent Explorer's Edition base rules to be worth paying for. (Which is even more ironic, as the Explorer's Edition is a nice, full colour softcover book that costs the same as the Horror PDF...)


  1. The AoE blood spray template does sound very cool though!

    1. The blood spray AoE and improved Sanity rules were my favourite additions.
      Still not worth the $10 I paid for it and certainly not the $20RRP.

    2. How do you define how much an idea is worth? I mean, when you buy a book for the content, what does that content have to be for the book to be worth what you paid for it?

    3. How long is a ball of string?

      If a book had a single funny joke or cool quote in it, but otherwise was inane, boring and stupid, would you regard it as worth the $25 hardback price?

      Would you recommend it to your friends? I wouldn't. I'd tell them the joke and save them the money.

      People often say this when I say videogames are overpriced. I.e. in World of Tanks, a single tank can be $70. Or in Mechwarrior, a single mecha can be $50 (some packs of 10 mecha are $240). A single golden skinned mech is $500(!)

      Now, those people say to me, "it's worth it to me" "I can afford it" - and my favourite - "I spend more than $200 on beer every Friday, so this is actually cheap"

      They say "you can't put a value on my fun." True, I guess.

      But when you compare what they spent on a single character for a videogame ($70) for the price of a full game, like Skyrim ($25)....

      ...I also reserve my right to say "it's overpriced, you're an idiot."

      Likewise, I think a single house rule is not worth the price of a full rulebook.

      As I said in the intellectual theft post, an idea is not a game.

    4. The length of a ball of string is a complex ratio best expressed in knot theory. That said, something I've heard is that people will bear whatever cost if they think they're getting good value. I've certainly dropped three figures on books that have had very good ideas, and similar on books that had terrible ideas and great presentation of those terrible ideas. All things considered I think I'd pay more money for a single, good idea applied in all sorts of different ways than a book full of half-baked bodges. Take Settlers of Catan. Its big idea, insofar as I can tell, is that people can trade. Without trading it's a so-so game, but with trading you get this great social component. Bohnanza is better, I think, because it reduces all the work you have to do before you can get down to trading. Given an equivalent price, and without the opportunity to re-purpose all those handy hexagons and widgets, I've say Bohnanza is the better value because it executes the idea of trading better.

      And then there's revealed preference. If someone is willing to buy something for $200 then it's worth $200 to them, and if enough people are willing to pay $200 for something to let the producers turn a profit, it's worth more than $200. The fact that you were willing to pay $20 for this companion suggests that you felt the $20 was worth it to find out what it was worth to you.

    5. "That said, something I've heard is that people will bear whatever cost if they think they're getting good value."

      ......True. I find this particularly applies to useless things that appeal to artistic or intellectual vanity.

      Overall this is a somewhat circular, unprovable argument.

      But there is also such thing as accepted market price. In Australia, a hardback novel sets you back $25-30. A softback costs $10-20. A movie ticket costs $12-15.

      If you pay triple the "accepted norm" it will be regarded as highly priced. Perhaps not by a collector, but by the "average guy."

      If you pay for a movie that only goes for 10 minutes, most folk will feel like they haven't got their $15 worth. A book with a single 10-page chapter might be reasonably regarded as overpriced at $25.

      Likewise a rules supplement with only a single useful paragraph might be regarded as overpriced at $20 or $10 for that matter.

      Just like a $30 joke book with a single funny joke. You might be comfortable recommending it to your friends, but I'm not.

      "All things considered I think I'd pay more money for a single, good idea applied in all sorts of different ways than a book full of half-baked bodges."

      ....I'm reviewing a supplement. Does it have enough useful, original content to make it worthwhile? Does it value-add to the original rules?

      Copyright Law (in Australia) enables you to copy 10% or one chapter of the book.

      That may be a useful rule of thumb. If the rulebook/supplement doesn't have a chapter or more than 10% of useful content - is it worth buying?