- Feels like Borderlands
- Massive amounts of detail
- Translation errors
- Layout could be improved
- IP concerns
Savage Borderlands is a fan adaptation by Brice Naudin of one of my favorite video game series to work with the Savage Worlds Deluxe rules. You can find a copy here. I helped edit some of the early versions of this game for translation and various small grammatical mistakes. Overall, I really like Savage Borderlands. Enough, in fact, that I’m planning an entire campaign! (Stay tuned for more on that).
Savage Borderland’s Best Points
Right off the bat, one of the best things about Savage Borderlands is that it feels like the video game. It’s made to feel that way, sure, but it does a very good job of it. With the inclusion of mechanisms like “New-U” stations, “Fight for your Life”, and random item generation, this is absolutely the pen-and-paper version of Borderlands 2. Everything about Savage Borderlands feels right on the money with regard to theme and mood.
One of the biggest advertisements for the Borderlands franchise was the sheer number of possible guns the game could generate. It’s a key aspect of the Borderlands franchise. Savage Borderlands takes that into account! There are some rather large sections of the book devoted to generating guns, grenade mods, and shields. Weapons are generated using successive rolls of a d20. Every roll determines something new about the item you’re generating. It’s got some flaws and inefficiencies, but it’s REALLY cool.
Additionally, Borderlands is known for the wide array of enemies you face during the game. Savage Borderlands provides a very nearly comprehensive bestiary of enemies from Borderlands and Borderlands 2. Around half the book describes the enemies and their abilities. Sure, it’s a bit clunky, but you simply cannot fault the level of detail and thought that went into statting out these enemies.
My favorite thing about Savage Borderlands is, arguably, its creator. Brice is extraordinary. After I first discovered Savage Borderlands I contacted him with some suggestions for repairing some grammatical and translation errors. He was open to the suggestions and implemented them. Throughout the next couple of months we communicated about different aspects of the game. We talked about what he wants to include in the future, what his vision was for Savage Borderlands, and more. I can say, with some confidence, he’s an awesome guy.
Probably one of the best things about Savage Borderlands, especially when compared to other RPGs based on someone else’s intellectual property, is that it doesn’t try to fit the kitchen sink. This book focuses very clearly on the mechanisms, enemies, and world of Borderlands and Borderlands 2. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Tales from the Borderlands, and most apocryphal information are simply left out. Additionally, in respect for Gearbox and 2K Entertainment’s intellectual property, Savage Borderlands doesn’t include a lot of information from the games, merely ways to translate material into a pen-and-paper format. What this does is make for a streamlined book that gives you just what you need to know and little else.
Savage Borderland’s Worst Points
Of course, a streamlined book like Savage Borderlands, leads to a few problems. Certain types of equipment are left out. Some of the coolest features of later materials are missing (i.e. – Cryo and Laser effects, O2 Kits, Vehicles that don’t suck quite so badly, etc). Clever readers can extrapolate new mechanics from what already exists, and Brice does have plans to release a supplemental volume detailing just those kinds of things, so all-in-all it’s still a very solid plan.
Given that Savage Borderlands was written in French and subsequently translated to English, there are going to be some translation errors. As amazing as Brice’s English is, he is not a native speaker. In fact, most of the errors I identified in my first pass, and that I have identified in subsequent reads are simply mistranslations or errors that come with the nature of translation by a non-native speaker. I’ve read RPGs with far, FAR worse issues written by native speakers. It’s not really too great an issue, it simply disrupts your immersion in the world as a reader.
One of Savage Borderlands’ biggest flaws is that it’s still in development. As more people discover this book, Brice gets more suggestions and ideas on how to improve mechanisms. As a result, there are significant changes between what I first read and edited, and what is available now. That shifting landscape makes it difficult to be certain you’re getting the best version of the game possible. Of course, what else should you expect from a fan-made and highly supported game? With Star Trek: Adventures, the creators are still making modifications after they’ve sent out collector editions of the books. At least Savage Borderlands is upfront about the modifications and makes a change log available.
As mentioned briefly before, nearly half of Savage Borderlands is taken up with the Bestiary. Unfortunately, it’s not because of the sheer volume of enemies (though there are a lot). It’s more because every single enemy ability is described in full for every enemy. That’s true of several areas of this book. Instead of copying and pasting a description and changing only the name of the enemy or section, Savage Borderlands could benefit from a section that lists common features of weapons, enemies, etc. That would allow the reader to use the names of the abilities and other key words to reference that index of abilities and terms, without having to skim over descriptions to get to the next section.
Without any doubt the biggest issue Savage Borderlands will likely face is that it’s another company’s intellectual property. As far as I can tell (and no, I’m no copyright lawyer), Brice isn’t doing anything that violates copyright. That doesn’t prevent companies like Gearbox or 2K from asking him to remove the content from the web. When combined with the reports I’ve read of other attempts at a Borderlands RPG being taken down at request, it paints a clear picture. At any moment, this awesome contribution could be removed. Since that’s the case, I’d recommend picking it up now!
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