This is a hard one for me. This is 90% of what I want for a Savage Worlds Fantasy game, but since I am looking forward to playing through Pathfinder 2e I am saving the Pathfinder home setting of Golarion for that playthrough. So, for Savage Pathfinder - Golarion is out.
And I know the Runelords adventure path is being written for this. But no, I don't want to play "this is the classic world" versus "this is the 10 years after" sort of thing. If I play there, one rules system gets to shine so they won't compete. There is, however, an answer that does some creative recycling.
So, I have a number of old Pathfinder compatible game world books for different settings, and I got thinking. If I want to save Golarion for PF 2e, any of the old Pathfinder compatible campaign settings are fair game for a Savage Worlds Pathfinder playthrough. Let's break out the books and see what we got.
Note this is not rating one better than another, because this is not a complete list, nor is it intended to pick a winner. There are some considerations in tone, ease of use, and the pulp feeling of Savage Worlds (and the Pathfinder style content) and where the best fit for this would be given my interests, time, and preferences for a fantasy setting using these rules. Everyone has a favorite setting for different reasons.
All right, let's find a new world and re-use one of these old books!
This is an interesting setting since it has a war between the gods (civilization) and the titans (chaos), and it feels like civilization has won the fight. This setting feels most like the old Mystara D&D setting to me, sort of a fully settled theme-park world with every option you would want in a fantasy kitchen-sink setting.
This is my third favorite since it feels more like a "civilized fantasy" setting where the great risk is in losing what the gods have built, so you will get a lot of corruption plots mixed in with politics. There is room for exploring ancient temples and sites, but a lot of the world feels explored and mapped out, and just starting this world will require a fair bit of research and putting things together to get an idea of a region and its conflicts.
This setting also feels more high fantasy, higher magic and technology levels, and a well established civilization. The art of all the different people is a great resource, and makes me feel this is a world that cries out for a lot of social RP and intrigue. If you are looking for that more political fantasy setting with a strong axis of alignments and kingdoms, this is a great choice.
This one feels like a lot of reading to wrap my head around a place, especially with how it fits in with the surrounding places on the map. The book is beautiful, full of information, character sketches, and maps, so this is a high-value setting and a solid world to play in.
Let's take a D&D-ized version of a cleaned-up Conan the Barbarian and a cleaned up version of Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos and put all the standard fantasy tropes in there, like elves, dwarves, halflings, and the rest. It still has that Conan feeling with lots of unexplored land, a huge map with 99% of the place names unexplained and ready for you to fill in, and enough explained places to give you an idea of what the place is like.
Thule is a great "this is not Conan but it is Conan" option and one that I am currently playing with the Savage Worlds Fantasy companion. This is my first choice in a ported over Savage Worlds setting since it has a bronze-age and pulp feel to it, 99% of the world is unexplored and for you to fill in, and if you get the general idea of a home city you don't need to read or know much else to fill in the surrounding area with your own places and creations. Everything you make will be Conan-themed, so the work of coming up with places, characters, and locations will already have a clear focus and feeling.
This is my favorite setting at the moment since the ease of getting started is there, and you can instantly drop in any Conan style trope as the adventure (the snake cult takes a village as servants to build an evil temple) and have an adventure that feels like it belongs without a lot of tying into the existing world and factions, and a lot of reading and research on the game master's side.
The terrain is all matte-painting impassible jagged peaks, jutting rocks, crashing waves, searing deserts with spire rocks, and twisted jungles right out of any overdone Conan book cover or incredibly over the top fantasy art. Everything in this world is a trope or stereotype of that savage setting feel, so it is easy to imagine things with that over-the-top style. The temple is on top of a cliff on a rock outcropping that looks like a skeletal hand. Hey! Cool! Put the skeleton-headed wizard and his strange followers in there and we're done.
Where Dark Sun wanted to be Conan and ended up being Dark Sun, this is a great Dark Sun replacement world with a lot more varied terrain and low-tech brutal bloodthirsty savage world feeling. This is less social RP and intrigue, and more beat up the evil cultists, talk like Arnold, save the innocents with sorcery and bulging muscles and great swords.
Also, any of the Pathfinder tropes (such as the goblins) can be easily (and hilariously) themed along Conan style tropes and they will fit right in. Add Lovecraftian corruption for the hat trick. Cue the Pathfinder style "Conan Goblins" worshipping the giant stone octopus head they found on the beach with the odd purple meteorite eyes that corrupt...done. Easy conversion. Feels like Conan, a little Cthulhu, but Pathfinder-like. Let's play.
Conan and go, as I like to say.
Note there is a Savage World PDF for this one, but since I am using (and have) the Pathfinder book, I will stick with that since I am porting in the SW Pathfinder content into this world. As mentioned, I am playing this through with the older SW Fantasy Companion (as a test game) and would love for my hardcovers to come so I can dive in without having to reference PDFs all the time.
My number two choice is Midgard, sort of a steampunk style fantasy clockwork world with some beautiful art, a full-color map, and plenty of city maps and places to explore. This is a less dense version of Scarred Lands with less of the "grand plot" of gods versus titans, and more of a city-state driven world with lots of places to fill in between the points on a map. I would say Midgard and Scarred lands are very close, but what makes me like Midgard better is the lack of a larger metaplot and a more dynamic world where the map is supposed to change. Kingdoms are supposed to rise and fall, change will happen, and the campaign as presented is assumed to be a "year zero" starting point from which your story happens.
The art and maps are also beautiful, and evoke a lot of interesting ideas and feelings, so that helps push it to a strong second place behind the easy-to-create-for Thule setting. Midgard has a lot of potential to be interesting without a lot of reading and legwork, since each area is presented cleanly and you could live out of one chapter and ignore the rest of the world.
This setting, while having clockwork, falls more in a mid-ground of fantasy with a survival feeling to the world, sort of like a Skyrim where life is hard and the land brutal. There is enough art to set a mood, and to me this feels like a Forgotten Realms replacement with strong set piece places, but a lot of room between them to come up with your own plots and adventures, while still having room for intrigue and social RP. Also, less GMNPC than the Realms is a huge plus, though if you wanted to, you could easily slot interesting NPCs in (based on the abundant art and feeling) and have fun.
The places feel more iconic and the map a little less dense, which makes me feel like I have room for my own places and creations. The gearforged feel more like an Eberron or steampunk influence, so it is possible to use techno wizardry for them and they would fit right in, but their presence also shifts this more towards that more modern anything goes interpretation of fantasy and less towards the classic feeling settings.
Kingdoms of Kalamar
I have the old 3e book for this one. I lost the maps. It is worth mentioning because it is a detailed setting and a classic one, but I feel the test of time has taken the polish off of this one considerably. It feels like an epic, fun setting, I just wish it was updated with new art, better maps, and a more cohesive feeling and presentation to the world. It does kind of feel like an alternative Greyhawk style setting to me, and that is how I would play it with all the deathtrap dungeons, adventurer focused economies, and evil kingdoms with evil places style of feeling.
This one does feel more D&D-ish like the old Greyhawk, and less like Pathfinder, so I would have a lot of work to do wrapping my head around getting the feeling ported in. To me, that early D&D 3e feeling is key, and this setting has that in a strong way, but it is different than Pathfinder and more of a dungeon-y sort of dark fantasy dungeon deathtrap feel - at least that is how we played Greyhawk. Still, if you are looking for that early 3e feeling, this is a strong choice with a lot of room for your own creations, while still having a lot of information at hand to tell you what is where. The maps are not the best, and I want more art, but I could get by.
I do like all the personal stories mixed in with the kingdoms. There is always some sort of personal adventure hook in the descriptions of the kingdoms somewhere, like one noble jealous of another, treachery in a thieves' guild, a wax museum of monsters, or other interesting "on the street" level information useful to making a place come alive from a personal perspective. Greyhawk has that same sort of feeling for us, where it wasn't just about the location, but some of the important people there who made it come alive.