Category Archives: New Campaign

“Well, I’m going to have to pee first” and other notes from our first session of Savage Worlds

Last week, for the first time in over 20 years, I sat down to enjoy an evening of role-playing.  My girlfriend, her 16 year-old son and a couple of his young friends made up our group.  I had spent the past couple weeks preparing a Savage Worlds adventure and working to help my players with their characters.  The stars aligned on Thursday evening and I finally had everyone ready to roll. 

Living in the middle of nowhere as I do, there are no gaming stores (or even bookstores) nearby.  As I hadn’t yet received the dice that I’d purchased online, we settled on using a “dice-roller” application for our iPhones.  Some generic figure flats (courtesy of the Pinnacle website) served as minis and I had taped together some large hex-paper as a battle-map.

The boys were ready to dive in (though not overly eager) and my girlfriend was prepared, though quite nervous.  It had been rather curious to watch her over the previous weeks.  While she had certainly expressed interest in giving it a try, she seemed a bit apprehensive.  When I questioned her about this, she explained that she was afraid that she wouldn’t be “any good at it” and was afraid that she might do something wrong.  I assured her that she would be fine and instructed her to simply picture herself as a character in a movie, taking whatever actions that she would feel most fitting.

Once getting everyone settled in around the table, my group seemed eager enough.  All brand new to the world of tabletop RPGs, they sat there waiting to see what all the fuss was about.  During the character creation, we had decided that the party all knew each other, from earlier travels.  However, I started the evening off by having everyone go around the table and introduce their characters.

This took a bit prompting as nobody wanted to go first.  However, once the ball got rolling (and with a few probing questions), they each took their turns and did a rather nice job of it.  One by one, they described their physical appearance, as well as dropping in some background information, which we’d either already decided upon or stemmed from their Hindrances.

From there I proceeded to explain to the group that their party was in the wilderness, en route to a city to the north.  From there, they would be able to strike out in whatever direction they chose.  They had made camp for the evening and settled in for some much-needed rest.  Without prompting, one of the boys suggested that they keep watch during the night, just in case some nasty thing came shambling out of the woods.  While this is a fairly standard practice, I took it as a good sign that this little group of novices would think of such a thing.  I guess, as with other examples to come, it showed me that they were already putting themselves in the shoes of their characters.

As the first light of morning slipped into the forest, I notified the party that they were interrupted in their slumber (or watch) by cries for help in the distance.  Each sat up and listened and again I informed them that without a doubt, someone was screaming for help, further up the road.  “What are you going to do?” I asked them.

“I want to go see where the noise is coming from,” responded my girlfriend,”but I’m going to have to pee first.”

“I thought you just went to the bathroom before we sat down.” I asked.

“No, I don’t have to pee, my character does.” she looked confused.  “I thought I was supposed to do what my character would do.”

Her son rolled his eyes, while the other boys giggled.  “Mom, there’s no peeing in role-playing games!”

“Now wait,” I corrected him, “She can do whatever her character would do.”

By this time, we were all laughing a bit and I again poised the question “So you’re sure you want to stop and pee, before running off to see who’s calling for help?”

“Look, I’m a 40 year-old woman, who just spent the night sleeping in the forest!” she exclaimed.  “I’m gonna need to pee before I do anything!

I’m still getting  a chuckle out of the exchange.  Not only was it a bit of lighthearted fun, it again showed that she was really thinking out the role-playing thing.

The boys clamored off down the path, weapons in hand.  Coming to a clearing, they viewed a small caravan being attacked by a band of wildly painted savages.  As expected, they immediately charged in to join the fray and we broke out the cards for initiative.

Upon catching up, my girlfriend was less certain of the situation (but with an empty bladder).  She questioned the wisdom of diving into battle and wondered whether it would be wise to get involved, seeing as “someone could get hurt and we don’t even know what this fight is all about”.  Again, very logical thoughts, especially from one who was new to adventuring.  Ultimately, the savages turned their attention on the newly arrived PCs and she sprung to action, helping her comrades.

I had done some “test” combats while I was considering using Savage Worlds, but this was my first in-game experience with the combat system.  I must say that I loved it!  Despite being new to the rules, I never once had to slow things down by flipping through rulebooks or consulting tables.  The Fast! Furious! and Fun! tagline certainly applied.

The opponents consisted entirely of extras and the battle played out quite nicely.  A number of Skills & Edges came into play without slowing things down a bit.  The whole thing was very easy to narrate as the adventurers cut their way through the savages.  Most importantly though, the room was full of “oohs & aahs” while the players waited for dice to be rolled and we all laughed quite a bit.

As the combat wound down, a number of questions arose regarding the savages and the caravan.  This gave the PCs a chance to interact with both each other, as well as the surviving NPCs.  The seeds were sewn for a possible follow-up to this encounter, should the party decide on this course of action.

With that, I wrapped up their baptism into role-playing.  I purposely wanted this first session to be short.  The boys start to wither if they’re away from World of Warcraft too long, and I don’t want Savage Worlds to seem like a chore to them.  I believe my girlfriend genuinely enjoyed herself.  She’s a busy woman though and it may take a while for her to actually be drawn to it.  Ideally, if I can keep spoon-feeding them, them will come to a point where they are begging to play as long as possible.

That night when we crawled into bed, I poked her and said, “Would you do me a favor?”

“What’s that dear?” she replied.

“If I’m ever mowing the yard and you hear me screaming for help, please check on me before you pee.”

 

 

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Character creation within Savage Worlds

Throughout the process of choosing a system, I have met a lot of great folks.  One of the great things these days, is the wealth of content available on the Internet, and the ability to quickly learn about different options that are available.

Ultimately, this is what lead me to Savage Worlds in the first place.  As I started mentioning it in my blog, I’ve had a number of people ask me about it.  Because of this, I have decided to give folks a quick run-through of the character creation process.  With luck, this will be of use to people who are either curious or riding the fence, trying to decide on a new system.

Being a generic system, the first step really lies entirely with the GM.  Obviously, playing an elf wouldn’t be an option in a 1930’s pulp action setting, and an alien superhero in red & blue tights wouldn’t exactly be at home in a high fantasy campaign.

Once the GM has a feel for what type of campaign they wish to run, a number of questions will be answered.  The core Savage Worlds Explorer Edition gives you enough information to create just about any type of setting.  That said, there are a number of sourcebooks available (both from Pinnacle Entertainment Group & 3rd party publishers), which give richer information for different types of settings.

From there, you get down to the “nitty-gritty” of actually generating the characters.  In Savage Worlds, you have basically 4 things to consider:  Attributes, Skills, Edges, and Hindrances.  Of note particular note is the omission of “Character Class”.  That’s important (and one of the main reasons why I went with the system) because within Savage Worlds, you’re not pigeon-holed into playing a rigid template.  You simply create the type of character that you want.

For the purposes of this explanation, I’m going to describe the process of creating my girlfriend’s character, for our upcoming game.  This should give a decent example of the steps, as well as offer some insight into the thought process of someone totally unfamiliar with the system.

“Shayleer Ravenswing” Character Creation

She’s a 40 year-old (yes, I got permission to mention that, this time) mother of two, who has never even been slightly introduced to RPGs.  She reads a bit and catches the occasional movie but aside from daydreams, has never had the slightest reason to ponder taking on the role of an imaginary character.

I armed her with a brief lesson on what a role-playing game consisted of, and gave her instructions to think about fictional characters she enjoyed (any genre).  Then, I asked her to just rattle off some qualities which might be appealing to her.  I told her to do this without consideration of what would “be good”, instead focusing on what she’d like to be like if she were in a movie.

With little or no hesitation, she said “I want to be sexy and I want to kick butt!”

After my laughter subsided, we continued.  The former was easy enough but I needed to dig deeper on the latter.  Queries about how she wanted to go about the “butt-kicking”, filled in the blanks a bit.  She informed me that it wasn’t about “breaking through walls” but instead, she wanted to be nimble and sneaky.  This put me a bit closer to the pin. 

Finally, because of the setting, I asked whether she saw herself doing this by magical means or through physical training.  Without missing a beat, she said that magic would have nothing to do with it.  She informed me that she pictured a character who’s in great physical shape, and therefore sexy, nimble, & sneaky.  I took this as a great sign because it seemed that she was already “connecting the dots” and coming up with her own reasons for the character to be a certain way.

HINDRANCES

Hindrances are both a game mechanic and a great RP tool within Savage Worlds.  Basically, a player may choose disadvantages for her character in return for “points” which may be used in other areas of character development.  While it’s not necessary for a player to take hindrances, it adds a lot of depth to the character and helps to afford other beneficial traits later.

Suggested Hindrances are offered in the Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition, but the guidelines are there to come up with just about anything.  As with the rest of the system, a lot rests in the decision of the GM.  If a character in a desert setting wanted to take a “fear of polar bears” Hindrance, it would obviously be a little silly.  The player and GM need to work together on this to come to agreement.  She went with the following:

     Phobia (minor):  Fear of spiders.  Both monstrous or of the household variety

     Stubborn (minor):  Self explanitory and she’ll have no trouble role-playing it (::ducks::)

     Enemy (major):  Upon hearing this one as an option, she really fleshed out her background.  She decided that her young sister had been abducted as a child, by a barbaric warlord (Brom Bolg).  Shayleer swore to avenge her sister and has spent her life being a thorn in the warlord’s side.  As such, he’s not terribly pleased with her and wants her dead.  There were a number of different ways that she could have taken this disadvantage, but she was fond of the idea of constantly being hunted, so we settled on “Enemy”.

EDGES

Edges are special abilities which define your character.  These could range from a wizard’s spells to a warrior’s special attacks.  Spells in particular, warrant a better description at another time.  Instead of choosing from a static list of spells, players create their own, based on various effects.  As my girlfriend opted against magic, I won’t cover that here.  This is what she went with for Shayleer:

     Attractive:  Basically a bonus to her charisma, which helps with the “sexy” aspect and allows bonuses to certain persuasive skills (see below).

     Acrobat:  Again, due to the physical background she described.  Allows bonuses for acrobatic manuevers as well as to her Parry score.

     Assassin:  A good fit with her desire to be “slinky” and intention to avoid going toe-to-toe with opponents.  Grants bonuses for attacking unwary foes.

ATTRIBUTES

Your 5 basic traits (Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength, & Vigor) aren’t too far off from any variety of other RPGs.  Where things get a bit different is in the values.  Instead of simply being given a number value, Savage Worlds Attributes (and Skills) are assigned a die-type.  These will range from d4-d12, with the higher type being better.

Attributes start with an initial value of d4 and players are given 5 points, with which to raise them as they see fit.  When it becomes necessary for a character to test an Attribute or use a Skill, the player rolls the associated die-type.  A roll of “4” or better would indicate a success.

Various Edges have Attribute requirements.  Higher Attributes make the purchase of higher ranks of Skills somewhat cheaper.

     Agility:  d10 (she spent 3 points here, as this attribute basically defines her character)

     Smarts:  d4

     Spirit:  d4

     Stength: d6 (spent 1 point as a requirement for “Acrobat”)

      Vigor:  d6 (spent 1 point here as a requirement for “Attractive”)

SKILLS

To round things out, we have Skills.  Skills represent particular areas of knowledge that a character has.  Each is linked to a particular attribute.  A player has 15 points with which to buy skills.  A single point buys the skill at an “entry-level” of d4, with increases in die-type costing an additional point, up to the character’s linked attribute.  Skills may be purchased in values greater than the linked attribute at a cost of 2 points per die-type. 

Shayleer’s skills are listed below:

     Fighting (Ag):  d10

     Climbing (St):  d6

     Stealth (Ag):  d8

     Boating (Ag):  d6

     Persuasion (Sp):  d6

     Streetwise (Sm):  d6

Wrap-Up

With all the numbers in place, all that is left to do is fill in the blanks of her character background.  I must say that I’m feeling rather optimistic so far.  She really seemed engaged in the process and it looks like she’ll be talking about ideas for her history, well into the night.  There are worse things in life than finding a mate who enjoys your hobbies!

     Thank you for reading.  Please feel free to use the comment space if you should have any questions, tips, tricks, or advice for me.  I’ve really been enjoying “meeting” all of you folks out there.  Good Gaming!!!

 

This post references the Savage Worlds game system, available from Pinnacle Entertainment Group at www.peginc.com. Savage Worlds and all associated logos and trademarks are copyrights of Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Used with permission. Pinnacle makes no representation or warranty as to the quality, viability, or suitability for purpose of this product.

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Entering Savage Worlds

When I dusted myself off a few weeks ago, my first obstacle was choosing a game system.  I was aware that D&D was still out there, in its 4th incarnation, but really had no idea what else had come around in the past 20 years.

I had been lurking the r/RPG at Reddit.com and the folks there were full of suggestions.  Based on the fact that I had been a big fan of the Hero System back in the day, a number of people pointed me towards Savage Worlds.  They also did this because I had explained that I would be running with brand new players, who had never experienced a tabletop RPG before.

The appeal to the Hero System for me had always been the customizable aspect of it.  The ability to create (or recreate) any spell, power, or ability was very enjoyable.  As I understand it, GURPS runs with a similar system and I have considered looking into that at various times as well.  While I felt that both of these might be a bit “clunky” to run for my fledgling players, the Savage Worlds emphasis on “Fast!, Furious!, & Fun!” seemed to fit the bill nicely (while still offering a good deal of customization). 

Further investigation was what really sold me on Savage Worlds.  Pinnacle Entertainment Group seems to offer a great deal of support for their product.  Their licensing stance ensures that there is plenty of quality content available from other companies, as well as from countless fan sites.  Finally, it’s hard to argue with an initial investment of $9.99 for the core rules.

After a quick read-through of their free “Test Drive Rules”, I decided to give it a spin.  I promptly ordered the Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition & Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion. 

Having spent the day reading through the Explorer’s Edition, (still waiting on my Fantasy Companion) I’m pretty excited to get rolling.  All in all, I would say that it’s a pretty fair balance of being customizable and “rules light”.  I can’t imagine having to spend too much time flipping through rulebooks mid-game, and I think that will fit nicely with new players.

Now I’ll spend the rest of the evening formatting my first adventure for the system.  Then we’ll be ready to roll.  With luck, this week I’ll have my first game-night in 20 years!

***

If any of you out there have experience with Savage Worlds, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the system.  In addition, any tips that you may have would be greatly appreciated.  Good Gaming!

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