Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: All For One Savage Worlds Edition


Even though I just finished a French-ish swashbuckling campaign and I’m trying to playtest Regency/Gothic, I couldn’t help buying the Savage Worlds conversion of Triple Ace Games’ All For One: Regime Diabolique. What can I say? I love swashbuckling.

The short response is that if you’re a lazy bastard like me, this is a godsend I could have used three months ago. If you’re more of an old-school DIY type, you’ve probably got everything you need between your copies of Flashing Blades and D&D. Heck, if you’ve got Honor + Intrigue and Flashing Blades, you could extrapolate everything in this book into the game system of your choice… but I’m lazy and I’m happy Paul "Wiggy" Wade-Williams did the work.

(Also, Robin hates learning new systems, so she’s happy to stick with Savage Worlds.)

Cardinal Richelieu with his makeup on...
... and with it off.


The high concept of AFO:RD is that it is literally the setting of Dumas’ musketeer novels – Milady deWinter and Rochefort receive game stats and Wiggy constantly name-drops D’Artagnan and references the Richard Lester films ad nauseum -- but Cardinal Richelieu is a prince of Hell in disguise.
 
This then results in a setting of supernatural adventure, where musketeers are as likely to encounter werewolves and vampires as they are Spanish soldiers or English spies (in fact, based on the cover and interior art, it looks like they’re expected to fight werewolves a lot). Which I like. A lot. I basically just did it, after all. “The Brotherhood of the Wolf” is one of my all-time favorite films (as are the swashbuckling and sorcery of the Pirates of the Caribbean tetralogy) so the setting fluff of AFO:RD is very appealing. It’s like Solomon Kane with a lot more drinking.

The Good

Despite protestations in the introduction that the book does not contain a detailed examination of life in 1636 France, it actually does. There is enough background flavor to let someone with only a passing familiarity with the era flesh out a believable, entertaining world. The secret societies introduced toward the end of the book add a lot of potential plot hooks and generally fit perfectly with the setting (though the radicals and free-thinkers seem a bit more Enlightenment-era to me).

There are relatively few new Edges and most of those are centered around expanded fencing rules. I like this. I hate Edge bloat. One of the things that makes me nauseous about D&D 3.+ and 4E is the infinitely-expanding list of feats. Savage Worlds has to stay lean and mean to be fast and furious. Introducing dozens of new Edges adds extra pounds the system doesn't need. Trust me; I know what extra pounds feel like.

There's some nice, simple setting rules that enhance genre emulation. Every Wild Card gets a lackey Extra, fencing schools are handled in a way that adds some nuances missing from the earlier Wiggy-headed Pirates of the Spanish Main rules, and PCs are allowed to gamble for additional starting funds. The Social Dueling rules are simple and elegant.

The art is pretty nifty, too.

The Bad

It is, frankly, badly organized. The stitches really show where this version was quilted together from the Ubiquity core rules and the various Richelieu's Guides. A substantial section on the traditions and tools of alchemy is included 21 pages after the in-game rules for it, for example, while a picture of a preening musketeer dandy is repeated at least once. Honestly, I don't really mind, but it may be a sticking point for some (and definitely undercuts the quality professional work in the rest of the book).

The Ugly

Unfortunately, the book also contains some of my pet peeves. From the GM section on defining swashbuckling:

The morality is swashbuckling is usually clear-cut -- the heroes are the good guys and the villains are the bad guys.
I’ve never made it all the way through every line of The Three Musketeers (I tend to gloss over the tennis), but I have read most of it. Do you know how the novel ends?
D'Artagnan fought three times with Rochefort, and wounded him three times.
"I shall probably kill you the fourth," said he to him, holding out his hand to assist him to rise.
"It is much better both for you and for me to stop where we are," answered the wounded man. "CORBLEU--I am more your friend than you think--for after our very first encounter, I could by saying a word to the cardinal have had your throat cut!"
They this time embraced heartily, and without retaining any malice.

D’Artagnan and Rochefort become buddies! I was shocked when I read that the first time, but this moral ambiguity, to me, is a feature, not a flaw of literary swashbucklers. But the pernicious influence of "The Princess Bride" has kind of wrecked that approach, and Wade-Williams falls into the same trap with a GM advice section that emphasizes the same black and white morality as 7th Sea.

(Kudos to Honor + Intrigue for not doing that.)

There’s also some… problematic… choices in how he chooses to handle gender equality. Since 99.99% of my games are run as duets with my wife, empowered roles for female players concern me. That’s why Robin and I have chosen to run most of our “historical” campaigns as deliberately pseudo-historical campaigns and ignore thousands of years of gender inequality. Wade-Williams chooses to circumvent this by inventing an ahistorical cadre of female Queen’s Musketeers – which is obviously intended as a way to integrate female players and PCs into the game – but he kind of fumbles the whole thing by having this mark of progress be part of Richelieu’s evil plan to upset society. Ouch. And the only female player character archetype is a spy working for Richelieu. Ouch! I know there were more female archetypes in the Richelieu's Guide that introduced the Queen's Musketeers. Why weren't they included?

In Conclusion

This was an important product for me to buy because of how it can inform Regency/Gothic. They're both supernatural settings using Christian mythology and emphasizing social conflict, so seeing how one of the guiding lights of Savage Worlds handles his version is very helpful.  Despite my complaints, this is a fun setting with excellent detail.  Wade-Williams has a masterful handle of the game system and exploits the use of setting rules brilliantly.  This is a model for Regency/Gothic to aspire towards and a setting I hope to run soon.

I'll just ignore the explanation for female musketeers.

3 comments:

  1. Sean, quick question for you, given the bad and the ugly in your review.

    Since I'm only interested in strip-mining the content for my own purposes, am I better off grabbing the all-in-one SW book or the various bits put out for Ubiquity?

    I don't use either set of rules.

    Thanks!
    Flambeaux who comments at Mike's Really Bad Eggs

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Savage Worlds version contains the majority of the Richelieu's Guides for a much better price. It doesn't have the Barbary Coast, Wondrous Devices, or French Colonies guides in it, but that's about all that's missing.

      Delete

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