Sell-Swords of Mars, Blood Legacy of Mars, and Sky-Tyrant of Mars
Sell-Swords, Blood Legacy, and Sky-Tyrant of Mars are adventures for the pulp sci-fi fantasy setting MARS (powered by Savage Worlds) written by various authors and published by Adament Entertainment.
By Billiam Babble
Mars! The red planet of War! Swords, guns, strange multi-armed tribal aliens, minimal clothing, alien tech, brutal classical empires. Looks like we’ve all got the red-fever at the moment. These three modules are released as part of an ever expanding range of products sold alongside the MARS: Savage World Edition roleplaying rules (review to follow). The sci-fantasy setting, which draws mainly on Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series, is hotly in demand by gamers at the moment (or maybe it’s those boobs ‘n’ blades Franzetta covers), whilst we’re all driven into a frenzy about the John Carter of Mars Disney movie -already released as I type. I believe that many customers of these products are “mining” ideas for their own campaigns, regardless of the system they are using – especially when the product is cheaply priced. With this is mind, I’m looking at these modules in the broadest sense of settings and adaptability to your own fantasy, sci-fi, or sci-fantasy rules.
These three new releases from Adamant Entertainment are very different from one another. My favourite is Sky-Tyrant of Mars by Umberto Pignatelli. Sky-Tyrant requires only the Savage Worlds main rules to play (in my case that’s the Explorer’s Edition). Its scenes rush forward into each other with the excitement of Star Wars or Indiana Jones. Pre-generated characters also help greatly in implementing the setting, which is just about generic enough to not require the core settings book. This adventure jumps from straight-forward encounter survival to being part of politics (but still with action). Sky-Tyrant is for the more “cinematic” action favouring players. The accessibility of the scenario means that it is also perfect for conversion to other systems (or maybe different settings).
Blood Legacy’ and Sell-Swords’ are definitely written for games masters who like a longer, broader campaign, but again both are very different.
In Blood Legacy of Mars the background reads like a Roman-Borgias-Hamlet paranoid love, daggers and intrigue story. This paragraph from The Advice for GM sums up well how-to-use-this-book – making it very different from, say Sky-Tyrant:
“This adventure is organized differently from most Savage Worlds adventures. The plot is convoluted, and has several potential branches. Because of this, the main NPCs are given extensive write ups in the Dramatis Personae section in the last chapter, along with a list of their personal plots, plans, and goals. Locations which will be visited more than once during the course of the adventure are detailed in the last chapter as well, for convenience. Refer frequently to that section as you read through the adventure. In addition, a relationship diagram has been provided, showing the main NPCs and their conflicting intentions, to help you keep it all straight.”
I really, really, really want to post a picture of that “relationship diagram” – it is truly a masterpiece of interconnected PC motivation and all that intrigue and double-crossing stuff (which makes my brain hurt – but in a good way) – but since it’s such an integral part of the product it would be wrong to do so. If you straightened out a bowl of spaghetti and added square meatballs, that’s what the diagram looks like. Excellent attention to detail. The line-art art in this adventure is also absolutely superb. Definitely an adventure for the readers, talkers and thinkers, spiced up with sexual intrigue and disputes resolved in drunken viscous brawls. There is something definitely rotten in the Confederation of Baltan. Tell the players to keep notes on everyone they meet. Suggested additional rules are in the main MARS rulebook for the descriptions of Minor NPCs. Also, if you’re enjoying the setting and need equipment resources etc, it’s probably near-compulsory to buy the MARS rulebook.
Very different in purpose and play is Sell Swords of Mars, and not for novices! You may have to check your library first:
“This adventure requires both the Savage Worlds rule book and the MARS setting book in order to play. For best results, the GM should have access to the Savage Worlds ‘Showdown’ rules (available as a free download from the Pinnacle website) and the supplement WARRIORS OF MARS. In the event that you do not wish to run the larger encounters using the ‘Showdown’ rules, it is possible to stage them using the Mass Battle rules on page 120 of the Explorer’s Edition of the Savage Worlds rule book.”
(p2, Sell-Swords of Mars)
Got all of those? Then you’ll do just fine. :)
This adventure is truly epic in scale. It’s a war, with heroes, troops, vehicles (airships and Wellsian alien tripods!), some political ramifications, glory and salvation. There’s a useful flowchart in the back of the adventure, where the variety outcomes of the battles and decisions which will still lead to the final showdown. I’m guessing that there’s plenty of hours of play here, but again, definitely for veteran players who’d like to branch out into mass combat.
Sky Tyrant of Mars: Fast-action pure-pulp sci-fantasy, awesome. Possibly very adaptable to games other than Savage Worlds.
Blood Legacy of Mars: Intricate plot with intrigue, lots of potential role-playing character interaction with many NPCs. Ingeniously organised. Intermediate-to-expert refereeing required.
Sell-Swords of Mars: Truly an epic, by definition – War! You’ll need a pack of extra rules if you’re staying with Savage Worlds. It’s reads like a very exotic guide for Warhammer 40K with a much better plot.
Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Well presented, exquisite layout. Clear to read flowcharts and tables. The illustrations vary in quality from vintage stock, classic reworkings of pulp cover art to text specific pieces. All three adventures are very easy on the eye.
Mechanics: 7 out of 10
The mechanics in each adventure vary greatly because of the variety of contexts and different play styles. What you get for the Savage Worlds system is appropriate with minimal importing of “stand-by” stats (with the exception of very minor NPCs and improvised encounters). However, source material of the MARS SW Edition is recommended. Plenty of familiarity with special mass battle rules is strongly advised for Sell-Swords.
Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
For sheer “fun” factor I’d give Sky-Tyrant 10 out of 10.
Blood Legacy looks fairly daunting, but once totally immersed in the facts, I’m sure this would be an extremely rewarding experience to play 8 out of 10
Sell-Swords in some ways is almost a tactical board game – I prefer my role-play on a smaller scale 7 out of 10 – but experienced players might really take to this battle campaign.
Overall: 8 out of 10
All three adventures are very well-written, but the proof will be in the playing.
Blood Legacy of Mars 8 out of 10
Sell-Swords of Mars 6-7 out of 10
Sky-Tyrant of Mars 10 out of 10