Sunday, 8 January 2017

Shaintar - a fan's review

The Elevator Pitch: Shaintar is all about the Epic story, the fight of Good v. Evil. But not little mundane evils. Heroes don’t just go out and kill kobolds for copper pieces. Even if the story begins with saving just one person or a small farmstead, it may be part of a bigger plot. The PCs are meant to matter in the story. They are meant to make a difference in the world.

The Tone: As mentioned in my first point, Shaintar is meant to be EPIC mainly, but the world is big enough that you can find a more specific genre for your group’s fantasy tastes.
  • Horror can be found in the darkness of Shaya’Nor, the Shadowlands where Werewolves, Vampire Lords and Liches hold sway.
  • Fighting a totalitarian regime as a group of secretive rebels, with a Three Musketeers feel? The people being oppressed by the Prelacy of Camon need you.
  • You want to go up against a more obvious threat? The Kal-a-Nar Empire with it’s legions of soldiers as well as their alliance with the Queen of Hell is the target.
  • Adventure on the high seas can be had anywhere between Nazatir and the Pirate Archipelego.
  • Gritty urban adventure also await you in the city Camden (aka the Snake’s Den).

Archetypes: There are a wide variety of character types available in Shaintar. There are the common fantasy races of Humans, Dwarf, and Elf and then there are variations and new options such as the Winged Elf, the Wood Elf and High Elf. Half-elves have formed their own nation and are referred as Korindians. You can also play one of the Goblinesh races (Goblin, Orc and Ogre), and two unique races; the reptilian Dregordians and the feline Brinchie.

Professions are many and varied and a player can choose to play an Orc Sorcerer if he really wants, it might be a little more challenging but always possible. And speaking of spell casters, there are a few different types; the Alchemist, the Priest of Light, the Druid, the Sorcerer (aka Wizard) and the Adept (aka psionicist). There are also Necromancers and Acolytes of Flame, but both of those are exclusively NPCs.

Grayson’s Grey Rangers: To help explain why a disparate group of ‘’classes’’ are grouped together, the creator of Shaintar has created an organisation that is part US Marshall, part Texas Rangers. They help patrol and defend a wide area called the Wildlands, allow the heroes to have easy access to gear, training, info etc. as well as a reason to be travelling together.

Magic: As far as magic goes, Shaintar is a high magic setting. Users of magic in one form or another, are fairly common. But magical items are not so common. A sword that conveys a +1 to fighting and damage is a big deal and will have a history, perhaps a name. It costs a lot to craft such items even if the PCs have access to the proper edges. And the creation of items with powers that are always on, require a permanent sacrifice of PP (aka Essence). I’ve already mentioned the types of magic-users.

Shaintar is meant to be more Epic, where the heroes perform great deeds despite overwhelming odds. Many of the setting rules reflect this, and here are the short versions:
-Shaintar uses the Blood & Guts rule (where WCs can spend a Benny to reroll damage).
-Bypass the Skull; -6 to hit, +4 damage & only ½ Toughness.
-The Deep Magic allows all spell-casters (except Alchemist) to use Soul Drain edge for free.
-Defeat the caster, defeat the spell; Once the spell caster is KO or dead, any spells with a duration end as well.
-Extra Effort; spend a benny to add +1d6 to your result (this can Ace).
-It’s a Surprise: a +2 bonus for a clever action, but that would not warrant the +4 from the Drop.
-Lead from the Front: Whenever a WC chooses a Leadership edge she also can improve a skill lower than its linked attribute, or gain a new skill.
-More for the Casting; by spending more time to cast a spell, he can increase the duration of a spell by 10 (3 rounds to 30 rounds, i.e. 3 minutes, etc).
-Pain Management: Spend a benny to switch wounds to fatigue or the reverse (used very little in my experience).
-Open for Nominations: Every player gets a ‘’Nomination Benny’’ she can hand over to another player for good role-playing or clever thinking, etc.
Below is a quote from the creator of the setting, Sean Patrick Fannon, and is the final setting rule;
''-The Golden Benny is awarded almost exclusively for birthdays — anyone having a birthday in the week leading up to or after the current session gets it. For significant events, like milestone anniversaries, getting married in the first place, accomplishing something fairly awesome in real life, or doing an act of great kindness in the world, I might also award such a benny. The Gold Benny is a pretty major deal. For one thing, it’s the Life Saver. At any time, it can be spent on the behalf of any character to negate all damage suffered in a given round — even damage that kills a character! The GM has to find some way to explain events such that, somehow, it just didn’t happen, or something happened to change the results.
Alternately, the player can spend a Gold Benny — again, on any Hero’s behalf — to cause any Trait roll to automatically succeed with a raise. If further effects can be gained by continued rolling, the initial roll, including the Wild Die, is considered to have Aced. Damage can be affected in the same way by a Gold Benny.
The other way to use the Gold Benny is; “Activate Deus Ex Machina” Plot Device System, whereby I, the GM, is expected to entertain the players with some creative and over- the-top narration of how amazing circumstances and/ or the involvement of greater spiritual beings have interfered to give the Heroes some huge leg-up in their current, very dire, situation. It may sound awful to some of you GMs, but trust me; it has become the highlight of most of my campaigns.
After all, there are always new dire situations to throw at them...''

Support: Ever since their very successful KS a few years ago for the Shaintar; Legends Unleashed book for ranks of Heroic and Legendary, there have been a lot of stretch goals unlocked that give us GMs and players more info on different aspects of the world and most of them are available now at DrivethruRPG, RPGNow and With an average of 3-5 bucks each. You don’t need all of them, but they do flesh out the setting quite nicely. And they have some ideas for adventures but nothing totally fleshed out.

There are One-sheet adventures and well as a few detailed ones that cross-over with other settings like Accursed, & Ainereve. And since part of the history of the world had the continent isolated by the Veil and that said Veil is falling slowly but surely, one could cross-over into the Suzerain and Rifts Earth quite easily.

Experience & final thoughts: I’ve run this setting for two of my friends, that lasted about 3 years and we were able to wrap up a long story arc. This was at the table-top. I was able to learn a lot about Savage Worlds and Shaintar, and so did my players. We had been 3.5ed players for a long time and even I had to break a few bad habits or D20 ways of thinking. Now, I’m much more loose with the story and the action, trying to draw the players into it, especially by letting them describe/narrate their die roll for an awesome action or trying to do more than just ‘’I swing, I hit, I do this much damage’’.

I find that I can craft much more in depth stories and plots when the opponents are not just nameless monsters holding potential loot for the heroes. When the enemy is another human, elf, etc. there’s the potential to find out more about that foe. Interact with them, role-play. And with SW, I can write up an NPC quite quickly, without looking into the rulebooks most of the time.

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