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Hellfrost is Triple Ace Games’ epic fantasy setting for Savage Worlds and comprises three 128-page hardback books (the Player’s Guide (£17.64), Bestiary (£18.53), and the Gazetteer (£18.53)) and is supported by a growing number of scenarios and free downloads as well as GM screen inserts and a very nice canvas map.
Rather than review each item individually, I thought I’d take the package as a whole and review that.
Firstly, the production values. As I’ve already said, each of the main books is hardback which gives them a nice, durable feel. Additionally, the covers are slightly embossed and look absolutely beautiful. Inside, is full colour with the pages of the Player’s Guide slightly glossier than those of the Bestiary and the Gazetteer (which, I presume, is because of the change of print partner from Studio 2 to Cubicle 7). This isn’t a problem though as the paper in the Bestiary and the Gazetteer is high quality. The art inside ranges from very good to excellent easily capturing the feel of the frozen wastes of Rassilon.
Secondly, the books. The Player’s Guide provides everything, aside from the core Savage Worlds rules, needed to create characters for Hellfrost. It opens with a brief overview of the world and its history before moving onto the character creation rules. There are 5 races (humans, engros, frost dwarves, frostborn, and elves) of which both humans and elves have sub-races or cultures (4 for humans (anari, finnar, saxa, and the tuomi) and 2 for elves (hearth and taiga)), a variety of new hindrances and edges, and some appropriate additions to gear before moving onto its biggest section – magic.
First up is Hedge magic, which isn’t actually magic at all (and doesn’t require an Arcane Background edge but does require a Professional edge) but allows the use of herbalism. Next we get the main Magic section. The biggest change is the removal of power points, replaced by “the Siphoning”. Basically, anytime an arcane spellcaster (miracle workers are unaffected) rolls a 1 on their arcane skill check they must roll on the Siphoning table. Effects range from permanently losing their Arcane Background edge, through being Shaken and unable to use any powers for a short while, to gaining a bonus on arcane skill rolls for 24 hours. Other changes include the actual Arcane Backgrounds (druidism, elementalism, heahwisardry (high wizards), hrimwisardry (frost wizards), rune magic, and song magic).
Following this are full details of the 24 deities in the Hellfrost pantheon, 75 new spells (and amendments to those spells already available in the core rules). The next new addition is Glory. Glory represents the characters reputation and can be increased (and decreased) by their actions. Every 20 points of Glory enables the character to gain a benefit that reflects their increased reputation. Of course, its possible to lose reputation and, if this means you Glory drops below one (or more!) of these thresholds then you lose access to the benefit until you increase it again.
We then have a chapter detailing life in Rassilon including the calendar, daily life, the land, and a potted history followed by details of better known organisations that characters may be interested in joining.
Finally, there are some generic setting rules covering temperature, terrain and movement, specific rules for healing and damage from cold, divine aid (beseeching a deity for help), and weregild (the monetary value attached to every man and woman).
The Bestiary is very much what it says on the cover. There are a few pages of, NPC-specific, rules such as treasure, monstrous abilities, encounters, and archetypes. Additionally, there are guidelines for creating relics in Hellfrost
Finally, the Gazetteer provides detailed information on the different regions and lands within Rassilon including current events within each. Also included are details of other organisations although these, unlike those presented in the Player’s Guide are evil and not, immediately for the player’s eyes.
OK, I’ll get this out of the way straight away… I love Hellfrost! It’s the campaign setting I’ve been wanting for years – so much so that I may just get rid of my Forgotten Realms campaign setting boxes and books (1st, 2nd, and 3rd edition (A)D&D)!
Hellfrost has the depth and detail of the Realms but without any of the poorer aspects. In fact, my only negative comment about Hellfrost is that there isn’t enough art. Don’t get me wrong, the art that is there is very good (or better) but the Player’s Guide could have done with some pictures of the different races. Likewise, the Bestiary doesn’t have art for every entry. This is a minor point though really and shouldn’t detract from anyone who might be interested in buying the books.
The number of books might put some people off. After all, if you buy all three it will set you back £54.70 (based on the prices in the Triple Ace Games store) – just over £60 if you don’t already have the Savage Worlds Explorers Edition. This is a fair chunk of change, but these are the only books you need to buy and, to continue my comparison with the Realms, over £20 cheaper than the books you need to play the new 4th Edition version.
What if Savage Worlds doesn’t “float your boat”? Even here you’re sorted. Just pick up the Gazetteer and you have full details of a campaign world that can be used with any rules system you care to mention.
Aside from my comment about the art, I’m really struggling to find negative aspects to Hellfrost. Even without my blinkered vision I think it’s safe to say that Hellfrost is an outstanding product – and the sheer weight of free PDFs that Triple Ace Games are giving away in support of the setting just reinforces my view. Hey, I must love it – I spent almost £40 on the canvas map of Rassilon (and it’s lovely!) and will continue to buy the scenarios as they are released.