Review: Triple Ace Games – Sundered Skies (Savage Worlds)


Sundered Skies
Sundered Skies is a dark fantasy setting for Savage Worlds supported by Triple Ace Games and written by Dave Blewers.
By Aaron T. Huss

Sundered Skies is a dark fantasy plot-point setting for Savage Worlds placed in a world filled with madness and despair. A cataclysmic event tore about the world, throwing land masses into the sky to wander magically. The space between these now floating islands is filled with an eerie glow that can throw you into madness. Those who are brave enough man skyships that sail the space between the islands (horizontally and vertically), trying to survive in a world filled with despair. These skyships survive by trading, salvaging, relic hunting, or turning to a piratical life. But beware the denizens of the world that travel throughout the void (that space between the islands) for they are powerful and a bit chaotic at times.

In the world of dark fantasy, Sundered Skies includes elements of chaos but focuses more on the difficulties of survival and madness (due to sailing throughout the void). Within these pages you will find a world clinging tightly to what little they may have left with a small sliver of hope should our heroes come through in the end. It is truly a gritty setting filled with moral decisions and possibly criminal acts. If you’re looking for rainbows and unicorns, you won’t find them here. But if you’re looking for a rich setting filled with depth and opportunities, you won’t be let down.

CHARACTERS & GEAR

Sundered Skies starts quite properly with all the information players need to get started with the setting and character creation. Racial backgrounds have been created with associated bonuses and/or penalties. There are seven races total including drakin (a dragon race), dwarves, elves, glowborn (those born out of madness), humans, orcs, and wildlings (a slave race). Moving on from that is a set of new Hindrances and Edges to coincide with the setting, like those associated with the void, and new Edges to coincide with the different races. To bring these characters together is a pre-generated character (or rather a sample character template) of each race and a favorable character type (like human reformed pirates).

The Gear section contains a good number of equipment tied directly to the setting. Sundered Skies utilizes black powder weapons so a nice selection is present. In addition, lots of options for putting together skyships are here including “shells” or rather descriptions of the ships minus all the add-ons. Sundered Skies also includes weapons and armor that can be made out of imperfect materials. This results in degradable weapons and armor (the mechanics are given as the material) giving another mechanic that adds to the difficulty of survival.

SETTING MECHANICS

There are plenty of new mechanics related to the setting including religion (and the magic tied to it), madness, skyship combat and travel between the islands. Religion is given as a listing of the different deities worshiped throughout the Sundered Skies, the associated icon, allowed powers, duties (what the worshiper is supposed to follow) and sins. 7 deities are detailed (plus a couple unfriendly deities) including The Artificer worshiped by the craft loving dwarves. A variety of new spells are detailed that often coincide with the flavor of their associated deities.

The mechanics section then moves into the unique rules associated with the setting. A part of this is glowmadness, the madness that comes from excessive exposure to the void, adding another method of character loss. As with wounds, glowmadness follows a path of 5 steps from nothing to glowmad (and the 3 steps in-between). Following this is the much-anticipated rules for skyships with a good portion dedicated to combat. This is very dynamic combat which includes boarding and falling overboard. Rounding out the mechanics is travel between islands, a necessity during game-play. There is a nice chart showing how many weeks it takes to travel from island to island which actually flows directly into the Gazetteer that begins the setting description (quite a nice segue).

SETTING DESCRIPTION

A quite complete Gazetteer begins the setting description, informing the reader about all the major locations within the Sundered Skies. This Gazetteer is essentially an overview of these locations rather than a fully detailed description. More importantly, though, you get to learn about how the Sundered Skies has come to be. I will not share any of this as its quite an interesting story and would potentially spoil the plot-point campaign.

Now that you have an understanding of the major locations and the background of the Sundered Skies, you need (or rather the Game Master needs) to know more about the different islands. Following the background story is a well-detailed listing of the islands including locations that characters may be drawn to, Savage Tales associated to those locations, Plot-Points associated to those locations (both of these are page references and not the actual adventures), scarce goods, abundant goods, and the associated elements, pilgrims and creatures of those islands. While this is detailed, there is still a lot about the islands you don’t know (not that this is required for a core rulebook).

ADVENTURES

Adventures is a collection of adventure seeds and charts associated with some of those adventures. These are organized by adventure type (according to what the characters want to do next) and include adventure, employment, trade, crime and salvage. These are the types of things characters do between (or leading up to) plot-points or completely outside of the plot-point campaign should they finish it and wish to continue with their characters.

SAVAGE TALES

Savage Tales is a large collection of fleshed out adventures including the associated plot-point adventures and a large list of those that can be run between the plot-point adventures. This is a large collection of adventures that a GM can place quickly within their campaign and subsequently add more details. While they are “fully-fleshed out”, according to the description, they are truly overviews rather than the guts and step-by-step action of a full adventure module. Just to note, there are over 30 Savage Tales!! That’s a lot…

ADVERSARIES

One of my favorite part of new and unique settings is the bestiary that is created to coincide with that setting. Often times a bestiary can really complete the “look and feel” of a setting by creating creatures that properly match the atmosphere being created. Sundered Skies does not let down in their adversaries section. There is quite a large listing of adversaries varying significantly in nature, although more illustrations would be beneficial. Considering the design of the setting, skyship combat is imminent so plenty of character adversaries are included, ready to be sprinkled across the potential skyship conflicts. In addition to skyships, the void has to filled with other potential hazards (after all, the islands are all floating and you’re not walking across the land). For this, a number of flying creatures and void-styled creatures are detailed to create encounters other than skyships. Finishing this setting-styled creature list is a group of those associated with the dark fantasy that is present throughout the entire setting. To round out the list are plenty of additional creatures that can truly exist everywhere but are available for more options.

OVERALL

I find Sundered Skies to be a wonderfully developed setting with plenty of unique qualities and an excellent incorporation of skyships (or airships). The setting is very rich and full of potential inside and outside of the plot-point campaign. It’s definitely a setting that embraces gritty or edgy game-play by incorporating those desperate actions for survival rather than bringing in a lot of horrific elements. The setting is truly filled with chaos and despair rather than horror and lots of moral decisions (although some do exist). If you like dark fantasy then there’s a very good chance that you’ll like Sundered Skies.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 7 out of 10
Sundered Skies is a beautiful book. It is full color, reads very easily, exhibits a wonderful presentation of mechanics, and flows smoothly from beginning to end. In addition, there are lots of great looking illustrations, although not always in the right places. While the illustrations truly match the mood of the setting and the atmosphere being created, there are numerous places throughout the book where an illustration is very beneficial but none exists. This is very apparent within the Islands and Creatures sections.

The setting is very focused upon the uniqueness of the islands, but very little illustrations appear depicting those islands. In addition, there are loads of new creatures, very few illustrations to go with those creatures (or rather with those not found in the Savage Worlds core rulebook). With that said, there are lots of illustrations depicting skyships and the heroes you would find on those skyships which look awesome! In fact, there are illustrations alongside the group of pre-generated characters that how the gritty side of the setting.

One other publication decision that I’m at odds with is the text. There is a shadow that resides behind all of the text and can sometimes cause words to get jumbled when several short letters (like i,l, and t) are next to each other. Yes it gives a semblance of the darkness of the setting, but it does overpower the text periodically.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
A number of new mechanics are introduced for Sundered Skies including the large amount designed for skyships. While the basics with new Edges, Hindrances, and Spells are found, the more interesting mechanics are the new races and skyship rules. Sundered Skies takes a different approach to standard fantasy races by giving them a dark twist. In addition, instead of simply including other common fantasy races, new ones are created to coincide with the setting. This is a perfect approach as it helps to enhance the atmosphere being created within the setting. The rules of skyships are extremely detailed and thorough ranging from the basics of speed, armor, and weapons to effects of crew size, docking, and repairs. These wonderfully detailed mechanics can easily be translated to other types of capital-styled ships.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
Sundered Skies is extremely unique and really takes you well outside the realms of epic fantasy. Not simply because the setting is filled with darkness and madness, but because everything from the races to the character professions to the skyships represents how difficult survival can be within the Sundered Skies and how important it truly is for our heroes to succeed in the grand scheme (which is the overarching storyline). Those looking to ride a Pegasus while wearing your shining armor should keep on truckin’. Those looking for edgy adventures should find plenty of opportunities to perform activities ranging from hunting relics to full piracy!

Overall: 9 out of 10
For those who like a little grit in their fantasy games should delve straight into the Sundered Skies setting and set off on any number of adventures or campaigns. While it is a plot-point setting and there is a designed plot, you can ultimately turn the setting into a playground for particularly ambitious players who want to sail the Sundered Skies in the ultimate skyship, possibly hunting the most deadly pirates and participating in the gladiatorial events. They can venture from island to island, learning their secrets and attempting to crack their own investigation wide open to discover how the world became the way it is. There is only one thing to remember, you have to avoid the onset of madness while you’re fighting against those chaotic creatures and searching the skies for whatever items you seek. This setting is filled with loads of potential.

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