||Beasts & Barbarians is a gritty, sword and sorcery setting for Savage Worlds placed in a land filled with a stark variety of people and creatures (although there are no elves or dwarves here). As with many sword and sorcery settings, Beasts & Barbarians is brimming with heroic opportunities and barbarian debauchery. It is a land heavily influenced by fantasy stories from the pulp fiction of many years ago. And most of all, it is a setting designed for cinematic action and big adventures. But it’s not all hulking barbarians and scantily clad damsels, all types of characters can be found; just don’t expect to be walking around in full-plate armor carrying magical weapons. So what can you expect? Short-story oriented adventures resulting in enough money to keep you drunk for days.
Beasts & Barbarians is not only an excellent Savage Worlds setting, but a great depiction of sword and sorcery compared to any system. With Savage Worlds’ inherent modularity, it’s easy to add in heroic mechanics alongside gritty mechanics without breaking the system. Creating characters akin to pulp and heroic fantasy is so easy that very little changes from the core rulebook. This helps to decrease the amount of prep time needed to play. Players may find themselves a little taken aback by the lack of magic, but that’s the dark side of the setting. This isn’t epic fantasy and magic is dangerous.
Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Beasts & Barbarians is a beautiful book, albeit with a bit too much spacing. It’s a well-laid out and formatted book with some excellent illustrations to support the sword and sorcery aspect. Even the dark background helps to enhance the gritty nature of the setting. I would have preferred additional illustrations in the bestiary section for some of the more obscure beasts and bookmarks for the PDF are a definite must. These are very minor issues and the publication is still of a high quality.
Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Considering it is a Savage Worlds setting, Beasts & Barbarians has all the standard new mechanics such as Hindrances, Edges, Equipment, and Arcane Backgrounds. Out of these, what stands out the most is the Arcane Backgrounds and the Adventure Generator (which is designed in a mechanical way). The Arcane Backgrounds change the regular mechanics to a more dangerous version where characters should be cautious with magic, especially sorcery. This is an excellent addition to the grittiness of the sword and sorcery setting. The Adventure Generator, on the other hand, is one of the most awesome tool-kits I have ever seen for designing an adventure. By dealing out four cards, using this tool-kit, you have everything you need to create the framework for an awesome sword and sorcery adventure. However, much of this tool-kit can be applied elsewhere for use within other settings and even systems. After seeing it, you may never create an adventure any other way… maybe.
Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
Those who enjoy pulp fantasy, heroic fantasy, and dark fantasy will definitely find this sword and sorcery setting falling into areas they enjoy. Fans of epic fantasy looking for a 180-degree change of pace will find sword and sorcery to fall into that desire. But most of all, fans of Savage Worlds will find a great use of the system and many of its capabilities within the pages of Beasts & Barbarians.
Overall: 9 out of 10
Beasts & Barbarians is not only a great sword and sorcery setting, it is a well-designed Savage Worlds setting that utilizes the flexibility of the core rules to bring out the most colorful aspects of the setting. Game Masters will also find that adventures within the Beasts & Barbarians settings are very three-dimensional and utilize rules within Savage Worlds many settings tend to avoid such as chases, social interactions, and heroic setting rules. Remember, the setting may be dark and gritty, but the characters are over-the-top heroes who boast, quite loudly, about their adventures within the tavern after saving the damsel in distress.
[5 of 5 Stars!]