Strap on your rocket packs and whip out your ray guns – the Slipstream setting for Pinnacle’s Savage Worlds RPG brings pulp science-fiction excitement with both blasters blazin’. If you’re wondering why characters can breath in space, just repeat to yourself, “It’s just a game, I should really just relax.”
This is, admittedly, a somewhat late review of Slipstream – it came out in August of 2008. But Robot Viking wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye back then, so we have some catching up to do. If you’ve never played the Savage Worlds RPG, here’s a little background: it’s a universal rules system designed for fast play and minimal GM prep work. It’s the ideal game for those “Hey, let’s roll some characters and play something different” kind of nights. Pinnacle and third-party licensees have released a steady stream of settings and rules variants in the last few years.
A Savage Worlds setting isn’t a sandbox for a GM to play in, it’s slice of a world built around a cohesive storyline. The players explore the world by progressing through Plot Points that carry them from the beginning to the end of their adventures. Along the way, they can branch off and explore an assortment of side quests known as “Savage Tales.” It’s interesting to see an RPG based on story structure rather than world building.
What does Slipstream bring to the table? A little Flash Gordon, a little Barbarella, a little John Carter of Mars, even a dose of Star Wars. The book presents a handful of detailed alien races, a huge list (with traits) of additional alien races, plus an alien race construction kit, in case you’d prefer to create your own. Characters can select from traits, hindrances and skills well suited to the space pulp setting, plus flavorful edges, such as “Trademark Rocketship.”
My favorite element of Slipstream is the effort expended trying to explain the quirks and idiosyncracies of classic pulp sci-fi within the game world. Slipstream is actually a pocket universe accessed through black holes. It’s inhabited by thousands of weird species, some native, many hurled there unexpectedly by a black hole. Whole planets have been sucked in and nearly torn apart. As a result, instead of spherical worlds in orderly orbits, Slipstream is filled with “fragments,” chunks of worlds moon-size (Earth’s moon, that is) or less. This helps explain the monolithic biomes prevalent in so many stories. Ice world? Check. Desert world? Check. Jungle world? You betcha. The weird cosmology also explains (sort of) the presence of a thin atmosphere between planets. Humans need a bubble helmet at most to survive in space.
The Plot Points present an episodic tale of heroes flung into conflict with the evil Queen Anathraxa, and the Savage Tales offer lots of options for bizarre difficulties and interplanetary (or rather, inter-fragmentary) adventures. The players will save the pocket universe itself…or die trying.
Slipstream has full-color art which is well-done and captures the pulp feel wonderfully. I only wish there were more images of the rocketships that are statted out, and clearer images of some of the alien races. Descriptions are nice, but an action shot of an Anathraxian Warship or a Skalinite Freighter would help define the styles of each race a bit better.
Nitpicking aside, Savage Worlds is worth a look. There are so many settings to explore, you’ll soon forget all about elves and wizards, and some two-fisted action-adventure in the Slipstream universe is a good place to start.
[Image by: Pinnacle Entertainment Group]