Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chronicle 016: A bit of everything

A bit of everything

So after running Savage Worlds the other week, I started thinking about what adventure or adventures I would want to run for the Anime USA convention in November. While some people on another message board strongly suggested focusing on one game, I think I'm still going to try and have three or four ready. While this means generating enough characters for each game, I believe I can make it work. The adventures lend themselves well to allowing practically any type of hero to be played, so I could easily use the archetypes in the book and then select which ones I felt worked best for each game. Then when it came time to run, I'd pull the appropriate characters and off we'd go.

However, this year I'm going to allow the players to customize their characters to a point. Savage Worlds makes this very easy. I can simple pre-select two or three hindrances (both major and minor) and put them on the character sheet. Then the player can choose which hindrances they want, if any. And then duplicate that process with edges. While some players will load up on the negatives to get the bonuses, others I foresee wanting to keep the characters pure. Which is great. But one thing comes to mind though. I may have to create a character generation guideline -- which may turn some people off, as those who just want to play won't want to deal with "figuring things out."

So I am open for some suggestions. Do I create the characters 100% or leave parts unknown for the player to fill in? Do I have multiple games on hand, or run just one game, and make it awesome?

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While I mull that over I'm starting to look at another RPG. With Fantasy Flight Games releasing the BETA test for their Star Wars RPG I thought it would be cool to give the setting my own twist. So I picked up, and dusted off, my copy of Dark Hersey. (Forgive me if I am repeating myself from a previous post). I'm currently reading through the Classes section of the book, and starting to generate some ideas. I'm getting adventure ideas in mind, but I do have a copy of Wizard's only Epic Adventure for Star Wars called Dawn of Defiance. I intended to use this adventure with the Saga Edition rules, but then I thought it would be even cooler to use Dark Hersey (or Rogue Trader, if I can get my hands on a copy of the book). So here I go on my next quest. First to read the core rulebook or Dark Heresy or Rogue Trader, then to read through Dawn of Defiance.

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I don't know why I have such a problem with creating a single character. Not that I have a problem with the actual creation process, instead its limiting myself to ONE IDEA. Sometimes I can go into a game knowing exactly what I want to play. But in the past month I've noticed a major hesitation in committing to one choice. Two for instances:

1) The brothers, Chris and Tim, asked for me to join their Sunday Pathfinder game. As far as I know, the players are just Tim and our mutual friend Byron (the host of the podcast: Rho Pi Gamma). While each player was willing to play two characters they (Chris and Tim) wanted to get another body in on the game. And since the three of us had been rping rather recently I came as the logical choice to fill a chair. So I set out to create a character., in which I created four. Here-in lies the problem. I only need ONE character and I came up with four. I had a general idea for a character, but knew there could be several ways to take said character. Here are the classes I looked at: Samurai, Monk, Cavalier, and Rogue. In the end I chose the Samurai, but it was a hard elimination process. The Samurai won because he had the most compelling background story. But the fact that I even had to do this entire process is ridiculous. While I didn't go through entire character creation with the classes (which I find myself doing now for another game), I had to really dig deep to limit myself to a character class.

2) Chris and Tim are heavily involved in roleplaying in forums (AKA play-by-post), and got me into it some time ago. More to allow me to kill time while at work, but also to give me further opportunities to roleplay. Which has been nothing but awesome so far. But in one particular game they are using D&D 4th edition rules, and requested I play my famed Kennedy character. I warned them that he probably wouldn't be the exact character that brought him into infamy, but I would give it a shot. So we posted a couple of times and then I introduced an NPC into the game. As it's turned out I want to make this character into a PC. So I'm now finding myself struggling to choose not only a class for this character, but a race as well. At least I've limited myself to two races: Human or Half-Elf, but I'm stuck with three classes (Sorcerer, Wizard or Warlock) and each have two intriguing builds I can choose from. While that is potentially twelve different builds, I have chosen to limit myself. I'm taking one build and choosing a race, then the other race gets the other build. This way I can see what the potential differences could be and not spend all my time creating characters (although I'm far too late for that anyway).  

I think my biggest problem is that I'm a visual person. I need to see the character in all its glory (sometimes -- as I stated in the Pathfinder game, I was able to make my choice based only on background story). But in the latter case the character's background could fit any of the listed classes or races. So what to do. I may just have to ride this one out, but if anyone has a suggestion for me, please post a comment. Thanks!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Chronicle 015: Savage Worlds II


This past week I had the opportunity to not only run one Savage World game, but two. Both were canned adventures, one from the Deluxe Edition book, and the other I found on Pennacle's website. The players in these games were the same brothers I had in my first adventure, and both played their rolls well.

The first game, which was Thursday night, was entitled: Blood in the Snow. This was a Viking adventure, set in a fantasy world (though we had discussed making it historical), much in the line of Beowulf. In this game I introduced an additional roleplaying option called an Interlude. This mechanic is intended to help break-up the monotony of back-to-back skill challenges, or combat scenes, and offer players a chance to R-O-L-E-play their characters.

In this instance the two vikings set off into the frozen north to find the captured daughter of their, now dead, leader. At one point the heroes had to climb a large cliff, and the adventure called for an Interlude. Though this was only a one-shot adventure, a combat heavy one at that, I thought it was a great opportunity to have the players stretch their acting chops. So I drew a card and had each one tell a tale from their character's past. Each explored a different story, one told of Love, while the other told a story of Desire.

What I like about this mechanic, is that it allows players to FINALLY divulge their backstory/backstories.  Many games just let the players plod along and, unless you have an amazing GM or players, that backstory remains a mystery. That is why so many players just write-off this aspect of the character sheet, as it is never explored. But now Savage Worlds has found a way to work it in. And not every adventure requires, or needs, an Interlude -- during lengthy campaigns, or combat heavy scenarios, having an Interlude is a perfect way to mix things up.Now the players can let their inner thespian, or inner Tolkien, out in a new, and fun way.

The Interlude doesn't have to be long, but if the player does well at describing their past event, you (the GM) could give them a Benny for a story well told. Sure you will have people who do better than others, but hopefully you know who your strong storytellers are, and who has to work hard to express their thoughts. The brothers took these Interludes in stride and ran with the concept. The youngest told of a lost love, while the elder told of his desire be respected, feared, and a ruler of men. While this had no effect on the story, if it had, it would have given me plot hooks to use in the future.

I encourage everyone, GMs and players, to use this mechanic in any game you play. I believe it to be a valuable tool, that will make your game more enjoyable. It will add further flavor to your game, and give everyone at the table an insight into the characters around them. This will hopefully provide the players with an opportunity to bond with one another and, as I said above, provide the GM with source material to use later (the GM shouldn't have to do all the work to write an adventure.

The second mechanic I used (which I used in both games) was that of Setting Rules. Setting Rules allow you to tweak the current rules of the game to provide a different feel to the game, Some rules you may want to have in effect for every game, while others you will only want when you really want to get dirty. And when I mean dirty, I mean, driving home the point that not all heroes are invincible. When taking a wound could mean loosing an arm, or possibly falling to your death on a failed roll. These rules could also benefit the players by allowing them to re-roll damage (normally something not allowed in any game), or getting back up after being hit with a nuclear bomb.

While these rules may not fit every game on the market (or off market), but the concept is there. These rules allow you to set the tone of the game. Want to run a bloody war game? Use the Gritty Damage rule where every wound the hero takes could mean loosing an eye or limb. Or how about a game of spellslingers? Use the No Power Points rule, where magic users take a minus to their rolls, rather than tracking their spell cost -- this means more Fire Balls vs Undead mooks.

But as I said, these rules may not fit every system. Lets take Star Wars Saga for example, and you want to use the Gritty Damage rule. You're not going to roll on the Injury Chart every time your Jedi takes a hit from a blaster bolt. But should she fall to 0 hp, then perhaps she sustains an injury to her leg, and gains the Limp Hindrance for a session or two. Or lets take an instance from the movies, when Vader severs Luke's hand. While the mechanic for Luke to loose his hand isn't in the Saga rules, this new Setting Rule, now provides a dramatic effect on the game. Luke lost his hand, and was temporarily give the Hindrance: One Handed. This mechanic helps when a game that has gone stale in combat, where wounds are merely superficial, and unless you die, mean nothing.

The second game I ran was on Monday, in which I ran a scenario from the Deadlands campaign setting, called Hungry Night. While I know little to nothing about this setting, this particular adventure could have been run in any of the Savage Worlds. This game saw a similar ending to the first game I ran, in which the eldest brother ended up overkilling the villain. In both scenarios he Aced his damaged rolls several times, which dealt massive amounts of damage to the bad guy. Which is opposite of the results we had in the Viking game, in which this same brother used the Puppet  spell to capture the villain and end the game.

Why has there been overkill in two of the three games? Because I allow the player to roll +1d6 for each Raise that they get on an attack.  The rules state that a player should only get 1d6 no matter how many Raises they get, but I feel it's better to reward the player for an excellent roll, than to limit them. [A Raise is 4 over the TN you're trying to hit. Example: Chris is using his sword to slash at a vampire. The Vampire has a Parry (or TN) of 8. Chris rolls a 6 (on a d6) and a 2 on his Wild Die. Since he Aced (rolling the highest number on a die) his d6 roll, he rolls it again and gets another 6. So he rolls again, and gets a 4, for a total of 16. This gives him a raise of 2. Awarding him +2d6 on his damage roll!]

I won't go into any details about Hungry Night, as I intend to run this scenario at AnimeUSA, but I will say that this is a very enjoyable scenario. If either player wants to comment on this, please feel free, but try not to spoil the game for anyone else. I hope to run a few more Savage World game before the convention, but if not, at least I know I have one solid game to run. Although, I could run the previous two adventures if I wanted to mix things up. Even though my players have been enjoying my games I know there are things that I am missing or have been in error about. But for the time being I'm trying to stick with Pennacle's ideal of "Fast, Furious, Fun."