Savage Worlds Setting Review: Titan Effect
If you like the idea of the Secret Avengers and love conspiracy theories, Titan Effect (by Knight Errant Media) might be the Savage setting for you! Titan Effect is a modern-era covert operations setting with superpowered agents throwing down for control of the future of humanity. I backed the Kickstarter and received the final setting PDF recently, so let’s dive in:
The PDF is 140 pages at 7″x10″ (graphic novel format). It begins with a grayscale comic that sets the scene of Afghani fighters with AK-47s trying and failing to fight off werebeasts. From there, the book provides a solid overview of the world, including the presence of psychic powers and bio-engineered super soldiers, as well as the various covert factions contending behind the scenes for power. PCs by default are members of SPEAR, an independent covert ops agency that fights to prevent chaos and preserve peace. Rival agencies include the Olympians, a sinister cabal of eugenicists and their corporate/military arm, ARES Corporation; The Directorate, a group of Russian psychics trying to restore the Soviet Union; TYPHON, a post-human terror group; and the Order of the Holy Mystery, a secret and ancient branch of the Roman Catholic Church.
Character creation is fairly standard for Savage Worlds, but does require use of the Super Powers companion. One thing I would have liked to have seen was an option to play a non-powered character – this could be similar to the MARS backgrounds in Savage RIFTS where non-supers start with more experience to compensate. PCs have certain mandatory skills from basic training, and the setting provides several new Hindrances and Edges. One of my favorite of the latter is CQB (for Close Quarters Battle), which allows use of submachineguns, assault rifles, and shotguns in close combat. This Edge fits thematically with the idea of special ops teams breaching enemy strongholds and moving in fast and hard a la the SAS or Delta Force. In the Skills section, Titan Effect uses the Athletics and Thievery skill combination from the Pinnacle Flash Gordon setting.
The setting also provides some new Powers for use with the Super Powers Companion rules, as well as a revised method for equipment selection based on the characters’ seniority in SPEAR. The latter is an excellent method for representing a combination of a powerful sponsoring organization and realistic resource constraints. Multiple new weapons are provided in the gear section, maybe more than are strictly necessary, as many differ only in small ways from each other; however, the Tom-Clancey-esque flavor of the setting probably attracts players who would care about the minutia of firearms. Some nice espionage gear and modern armor rounds out the gear section.
Titan Effect uses several setting rules from both the Core Book and the Super Powers companion; making the companion mandatory isn’t an issue for me, but may be for some players. The Setting Rules also include some basic rules for hacking and demolitions, as well as a “Psychic Surge” rule allowing characters to trade Fatigue for improvements to their superpowers. Certain powers that don’t fit the theme of the setting (like Super Sorcery) are banned, and the remainder are grouped into four families – characters can only take powers from one family (or two with an Edge).
In the GM section, the book includes a more detailed alternate history of the world and a breakdown of the structure and personnel of SPEAR. Each rival organization also gets a lengthy background section, including details of how they relate to the others. This section taps into a LOT of conspiracy theories, so if you know who the Trilateral Commission, Opus Dei, and the Bilderburg group are, you’ll have fun with this alternative take on them. The GM section also includes optional rules for things like psychic dampers that have the potential to be game-breaking, and therefore should definitely be used in moderation and for maximum effect.
A lengthy part of the GM section covers the various steps of a SPEAR mission, from briefing through kitting out to debriefing afterwards. Along with this description comes a really nice mission generator and a set of story hooks that should allow any GM with a modicum of experience to put together an adventure in short order.
The “Watch List” provides a bestiary of opponents both mundane and superhuman, with most of the key players in the various factions detailed out with statistics. One thing that I would like to have seen was more “middle manager” level characters in the rival groups, since those characters are more appropriate opponents for less-experienced PCs. The description of the key characters in the Watch List is excellent.
One thing that unfortunately didn’t make the Kickstarter cut for Titan Effect is a Plot Point campaign, although there are certainly plenty of hooks that could form the basis for a long term story. Overall, I can definitely see the appeal of Titan Effect, and hope that Knight Errant comes out with more supporting material over the next few years.
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