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Savage Worlds Sword & Sorcery settings overview

The new Conan movie is out, and everyone wants to have their share of harsh attitude, strong beverages in crowded taverns, scantily clad wenches (or fierce and proud amazons), loinclothed barbarians and fearsome sorcerers. If you're Savage Worlds fan, below you'll find brief introduction to several S&S settings and sourcebooks for Savage Worlds. But first I'll mention very briefly some non-Savage Worlds Sword & Sorcery options.

First non-savage worlds games that come to my mind are Runequest/Basic roleplaying and Iron Heroes. Runequest was a bit non-heroic when I last checked it out (but it may have changed), while IH is extremely heroic. GURPS was also my favorite system once, and it actually has a sourcebook for Conan. If you're looking for simpler system, I've heard good things about Barbarians of Lemuria. And if you want to play in Conan's world, nothing prevents you from using Conan rpg's just as sourcebooks - for example GURPS sourcebooks in general are of very high quality. Wikipedia will tell you more about actual Conan rpg's.

Background for this overview

I used to lead an Iron Heroes campaign, but the system has become too cumbersome to my taste and everyone involved in the campaign (including me) have now forgotten most of the game. So I'm going to start a completely new Sword & Sorcery game. I'm using Savage Worlds as the system, and have chosen to use Beasts & Barbarians as my setting. I went through and looked for the setting for quite some time, so I thought of sharing my insight about what's available.

I haven't read all the books or pdf's (which I may always refer to as books) completely - from some I've only skimmed through and read parts that were defining, and some I've read only partially. Amount of Sword & Sorcery books (and those claiming to be S&S), including fan-made content, was larger than I thought and I was forced to delay this article in order to check through those sources I had just found.

Defining Sword & Sorcery

Concept of Sword & Sorcery is a bit vague, and I've seen some settings claiming to be S&S that I don't consider them to be such. While I can look some things through my fingers, I want S&S to be humans only -game. There can be other humanoid species, but they are truly evil, savage or both - not available for players and encountered only rarely. An evil taint in some human's blood may be acceptable, but elves, dwarves and other similar races turns a setting pretty much straight into a 'regular' fantasy setting.

Magic exists but it's rarish - even if heroes might see sorcerers quite often. Depending on setting, Divine magic might be fine, but usually religions in S&S should be just socially influential powers, even if strong ones. Sorcery is the main method of magic, and it is supposed to be dangerous. Slaves, barbarians, fat merchants and minimally clothed barbarians and ladies(?) are essential parts of the genre. Default era for the setting feels to be early medieval, but there are exceptions to this.

I've listed several archetypes after many book descriptions. Most books list a bunch of character archetypes which are typical for the setting, from which I've picked some that tell about the game and it's world. Most or all of them list Barbarian, thief, adventurer, bandit, merchant, warrior and sorcerer, so I won't be mentioning them later.

Savage World of Solomon Kane

This book is Pinnacle Entertainment book including Savage Worlds rules, or at least majority of them  - those that fit the medieval fantasy game. Solomon Kane is a character of Robert E. Howard's, and got his own movie some time ago.

The world of the book is late medieval or early modern world (around year 1600) and more accurately areas are Europe, America, Africa and far east. Plot points have well details of life on that period, and together with common information of that era, makes the book an excellent resource for historical roleplaying in that era. Guns do exist and exploration is a big thing.

Magic users are sorcerers and shamans, and magic system is power pointless - shortly, if casters don't take extra time they take penalties to their casting rolls. There are some great edges that you can't find in core rules, like Close Fighting, which gives a knight fighter parry bonus against melee opponents with larger weapons or Fleche that allows attacking an opponent while moving, denying his disengaging attacks.

Archetypes: This setting is a bit more realistic, as it's based on historical earth. No loinclothed barbarians here! Example unique archetypes are Antiquarian, Explorer, Inquisitor, Musketeer, Missionary.

Beasts and barbarians

Image from Beasts & BarbariansThis is the setting of my choice, a complete package with multilayered world description, good set of edges, setting rules and great amount of other goodies. I wrote a review of it a while ago, so I won't write much more about it here. The setting is somewhere between ancient era and early middle age, iron weapons being common mainly in Faberterran empire.  

Example archetypes: Lotus master (~=Alchemist), Gladiator, Courtesan, Monk.

Review of the B&B

Beasts & Barbarians at drivethrurpg

(The image on right is from B&B)

Legends of Steel

This was the first Savage Worlds setting book I bought, and I still like it. It's a bit bare-bones, but some GM's might actually prefer it. There's no items except a few example relics and no powers. There's a good amount of edges, and some background edges are quite powerful - nothing really overpowered but something GM should be aware of; for example, a character can be immune to poisons or be able to automatically tell if someone lies.

There's several pages of setting guidelines and rules, including story phasing, using taverns and making players understand that it's ok to be captured sometimes. You can find some additional material to the setting from Evil DM's blog.

Instead of list of archetypes, list motivations is given. A vengeance-searching character might try to hunt down raiders that killed everyone in your village, seek vengeance against a local lord that killed his girlfriend or try to destroy a rival clan that ambushed your people.

State descriptions are excellent; Overview, Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are given for each city/state. Developed a bit further, I could see this format as a future of rpg settings - more about this topic in a later post.

Link: Legends of Steel at drivethrurpg
Mongo's campaign, an example of LoS play

Savage slaygoria

While this isn't what I was looking for, I could definitely see having great time with this setting. Barbarians slaying demons while metal is playing in stereos, oh my! If Sword & Sorcery is beer, you could think of this being booze fermented from that beer.

Archetypes: Sorcerous seductress, possessed, mad wizard, Brooding anti-hero.

Enemies: Cultists, demons, giants, dragons... From the pdf, you can find 15 pages of powers, descriptions of 24 hells and a lot more!

If you're interested, go ahead and check it out - it's free! You can find it at Rel's Den.

Unofficial Conan conversion

If you want to GM specifically in Conan's world, you should check Savage Sword of Conan. It gives you edges that improve your armor while half-naked (like most settings do), and discourages armor with extra penalties. The pdf seems to have nice amount of content, from history and description of nations to gods, calendar and monsters - mainly world -related stuff. There's very little player crunch in the book.

Example archetypes: This book has quite typical set of archetypes. 


Other Sword & Sorceryish materials and upcoming settings

I'm not sure if these can be read to Sword & Sorcery, but they have elements of such at least.

Another more modern S&S'ish setting is Triple Ace Games' All For One: Régime Diabolique that is set in France in 1636. While I have no personal experience on this setting, Intrigue in French courts, Swashbuckling musketeers, magic and horror sound like a great mixture!

Links: Game  Store

Savage Rome and Warlords of Aros might be worth checking for. Especially Rome has more fantastic elements, but these materials might have good amount of stuff you could use in a S&S game in ancient Rome or WoA's ancient setting.

Savage Roar: (8 pages) - based on TV series Roar.

Game of Thrones (unofficial): Sorry, haven't seen the series or read the book, but looks S&S to me. More chivalric one than barbarian -based though - anyway, if you're interested in the world, file's here:

And that doesn't sound to be to different from Arthurian legends, so maybe it's good to mention Savage Pendragon (unofficial) here too:

Slaine: (unofficial)While this setting isn't pure sword & sorcery, it has a lot of it's spirit:

If American-inspired myths interests you, you should check out preview of the upcoming Totems of the Dead . Term-wise, Spear & Shamanism would be more fitting name than Sword & Sorcery. The preview look almost like a complete player's guide. 

Final thoughts 

Each of these settings has it's place. Official settings can be bought very easily (and many of them very cheaply) these days and there's some good stuff in the free settings too, so it's really about your matter of taste what you should get. I hope I gave you a good image of the settings to help you decide what you should get. 

If there's something I've ignored or I should add, please let me know!


Average: 3.5 (38 votes)


While not Sword and Sorcery

Submitted by Chuck (not verified) on

While not Sword and Sorcery but Sword & Planet, Savaged Mars from Adamant is pretty good for a few Edges and inspriation for S&S games.

Great article. I as well

Submitted by AstroCat (not verified) on

Great article. I as well searched far and wide for a good SW S&S setting pretty much following the same path... all the way to B&B. :)

Thanks for the hint! I

Submitted by Shaper and Maker on

Thanks for the hint Chuck! I actually have this pdf from Haiti aid pack, but for some reason I've never really looked at it better. And I don't know if I will anytime soon, as there's so many settings that interest me more :)

Thanks AstroCat - Beasts &

Submitted by Shaper and Maker on

Thanks AstroCat - Beasts & Barbarians feels to have become quite popular, and at least to me it came right out of nowhere! 

Good article with a great

Submitted by ChaoticGM (not verified) on

Good article with a great overview. I was wondering If I missed something but now I know I really checked everything. So far there is not *the* book or setting around for me. I hope Totems of the dead will be the one. I dig Beasts and Barbarians though, great resource and the best S&S book around!

What is it that has made you

Submitted by Shaper and Maker on

What is it that has made you turn down settings so far, ChaoticGM? What is it you are looking for, can you tell it or is it just a feeling?

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