Tag Archives: savage worlds

Games That Really Disappointed Me

A thread on TheRPGSite about “Games You Really Wanted To Like But Couldn’t” struck a chord with me.  Here’s some of the games I really, really wanted to like but was sadly crushed by. Chime in with yours!

Rune. After Feng Shui, which I loved with an intense love, I was really looking forward to Robin Laws’ next game, and Vikings are cool, so it seemed like a shoo-in. Then when I got it, it was a weird budget-driven thing that I couldn’t even begin to attempt to run. You can’t put in a trap, you have to take the trap out of the budget for opposing elements…  Spreadsheet time! To create a Rune adventure you’d have to do days of prep and math, there is no “winging it.” A warning shot of what has mostly gone wrong with RPGs since in many ways. Recently I saw the 2e clone Myth & Magic trying to put in an “XP budget” thing in their scenario building and it gave me post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks to Rune, I said “Rip that out POST HASTE boys!”

Savage Worlds. With Savage Worlds there isn’t enough meat there unless the GM is willing to be off-the-cuffing stuff, and ours wasn’t. “I’m sorry, that seems like a valid Strength trick but the game only defines Smarts and Agility tricks.” “Oh well then this system is boring as all get out as written.” Also probably the GM’s style is to blame, he’d just suddenly take 15 minutes to build a big HeroClix battle mat and put the exact same generic goblin and dwarf minis down on it (we never fought dwarves or goblins, they were just stand-ins) and look at us and say “What do you want to do?” “To what? Where are we? What do those goblins represent? Are they attacking us or something?” But we gave it two campaigns. Once the final one ended with us getting killed by the traditional SW “guy you can’t hit ever except on super lucky dice explosions” we boycotted.

With FATE, I’ve tried Spirit of the Century and Dresden Files. Spirit of the Century was just too big.  411 pages for a “pick-up” RPG?  There was no way to bootstrap a group into playing it.  With Dresden Files, it wasn’t really the core mechanics that got us. Well, maybe it was. I just remember the wizard continually outshining other people in their specialty, and then us taking an egregiously long time to cast some detection spell. “Do we have enough juju to make it work? No? OK, we put in… Some grass, because he was on grass when he was abducted! Still not enough? We put in… A phone book with his name in it! How about now?” We stole Aspects and just added them to our Pathfinder characters in some campaigns, that works well enough. Might give FATE a try in another circumstance, but it’s operating at “two strikes.”

D&D 4e, because I actually liked D&D in Basic, 1e, 2e, and 3e; then 4e took a big steaming dump on everything the game stood for.

M&M 2e and Spycraft 2e. I loved 1e of both, and I was fine with upgrading and bought the books for both new editions sight unseen. And with both, they took a fine RPG and ladled on big levels of complexity and made it read like an encyclopedia full of definitions and not a game. They were completely un-charming and in both cases after reading some, even with my previous understanding from the earlier edition, I didn’t really want to power through reading the rest of the weighty tome. There’s a game design philosophy that sometimes comes into vogue that says “Make it read like a big ol’ dictionary, and they can just piece it together from all the individual definitions!”  And that’s about as easy as learning a foreign language from a dictionary. Game designers, stop being lazy. Write a game.

I think it’s at this point I decided giant complex games were not for me any more and started eyeballing lighter approaches (though sadly Savage Worlds was supposed to be the lead candidate there).

Those are the games that I really, really wanted to like, that many people told me I should like, but that in the end I like so little that if our group was like “Let’s play X” I, who generally go along with whatever game system without comment, would have to say “Uh… I don’t know if I’d really enjoy that.”

Sinister Adventures Adds Savage Worlds Support!

Nick Logue’s RPG imprint, Sinister Adventures, has put out some good lil’ PDF tidbits and is about ready to put out their first large, blood-soaked adventure, Razor Coast.  They have a couple more things in the pipeline.  They had already announced that their products would support both D&D 3.5e and Pathfinder – when  you buy, you get to pick which print copy you want, and you get both PDFs for your trouble.

This was cool enough, but today they announced that their stuff will also support Savage Worlds!  SW is an increasingly popular alternative for groups (including ours) who want a game without the huge rule weight of modern D&D and don’t like retroclones.

I’ve been waiting for Razor Coast eagerly, and being able to run it in either system will be a big draw for me because it means more potential for reuse.  So props to Sinister for this big move!

Final Savage Worlds “Legends of Steel” Session Summary Posted

In Legends of Steel Part IX, our brave heroes take on the invading Yarite army all by themselves, and are laid low by the invulnerable boss riding a demon wyvern.  But first, Manoj’s girlfriend poisons half the party; we strangle that elder from last time for the crime of “douchiness,” and Singh and Manoj are told by the Witch-Queen to “dance for me my little monkeys!”  Enjoy.

I don’t know why the final battle scene only is one page in the summary, it took about 182 hours of real time.

Penultimate Savage Worlds “Legends of Steel” Session Summary Posted

In Legends of Steel Part VIII (10 page pdf), some wyvern-riding moo-rons show up and convince the local yokels that pass as the government in this farm town that they should hand us over to the evil empire.  In retaliation, we murder three wyverns and everyone who dares open their bitch mouth to us.  And Manoj gets a crazy psycho stalker girlfriend!

We were pretty confused and frustrated by the RP session after that.  So the hapless city, now that we’ve murdered their prospective new overlords, feels they are probably going to be razed to the ground in retaliation by the bad guys’ army.  This is probably accurate; from what we can see a bunch of Catholic schoolgirls could raze them to the ground.

So then they want someone to take a message asking for help to their King.  We volunteer, if only because it will get us out of this dunghole.  They go to have an Important Council Meeting that they try to get us to come to.  Being averse to boredom, we go get drunk instead.  Then this local elder shows up and makes the following pitch “behind the back” of the local baron.

1.  Some people don’t like kicking taxes upstairs to the king.  But everyone’s scared of acting on this.  And the Baron is scared of asking for help.

2.  So we should delay the King’s forces in getting here.

3.  Because they will then throw off the invading army by themselves, and have enough mojo left over to throw off the King’s army too.  Freedom!

4.  And we should do this because we “owe them” for provoking the bad guys’ wrath.

My rebuttal, admittedly somewhat obscenity-laced, was:

1.  “Sounds like you’re a bunch of scared motherf***ers all the
way up the chain of command. What do you need us for?”

2.  …

3.  “But your farm town here couldn’t fight off a dozen drunken goblins on a good day.  You’re asking for help to fight the one army, but now you think you can take two?”

4.  “I’m sure you mean to say there’s something else in it for us…  Because if we owe anyone for the impending violence, which you brought on yourselves in the first place, you’d think we’d owe the Baron, the actual legitimate ruler of this place, and the King.  And not some random fat f**k like you.”

But no, that was his best offer.  I tried to help what appeared to be the railroad plot out.  “If only you were to offer us positions of power in this new regime…  Or money or booze or something…”  But no.  So I told him he’s better f**k off or else he was going to get three feet of steel rammed through his guts real soon.  The rest of the players all nodded sagely in agreement. He scuttled off.

The elder, and the GM, seemed somewhat taken aback.  But we were getting grumpy and don’t like nonsensical adventure hooks – come to a party with an offer that has an up side.  If we just want to kill people there are a lot of takers – why should we kill for you?

It’s one thing if the hook is what “good” or “heroic” characters should do, which is a mistake in a game where most characters are amoral mercenaries, but in this case it isn’t even the good, or brave and glory-filled, option. It’s the craven and bad option for zero compensation. Huh?

More Legends of Steel Session Summaries

Here’s a double helping of Savage Worlds goodness.  We have completed two  more sessions of our “Legends of Steel” swords & sorcery campaign and I’m getting caught up with publishing the summaries.

In Part VI, we rally and kill the contingent of bad guys trying to get the Green Sorcerous Rock of Unholy Death or whatever it is.  The main problem is that they have two werewolves with them.  The first one we end up having to kill with a sling juryrigged from an Indian chick’s halter top and silver pieces.  We prep a little better for the second one, and wipe out the rest of the baddies.  As I always like to say, “Wolfman has nards!!!”

In Part VII, the “Witch-Queen of Yar” sends some folks through a gate to ask for the stone too.  Some of the party wants to just hand it over.  But I, having just read Robert E. Howard’s “The Black Stranger,” decided to pull a daring double-cross.  As we were conducting the exchange, I asked “You know, the last group of guys gave us two werewolves to fight. What’s your offer?” and attacked!  Sadly, they got the stone anyway, but we got to fight a bunch of undead thingys and actually see the Witch-Queen in person.

Legends of Steel – Two New Session Summaries Up!

Our gaming group has been playing a Savage Worlds campaign set in the “Legends of Steel” swords & sorcery milieu.  Our brave heroes – well, at least we’re definitely batting more than .500.  We only lose less than half 0f our fights.  Mainly, we consort with Indians and pirates – it’s like some demented Never-Never Land, with us as the Lost Boys.  You get to decide who’s Tinkerbell.

Anyway, we’re up to five sessions completed.  Read all about it!

Here’s a bonus sample:

Baba Ali explains to the others that Radu is the Dark City, inhabited by sorcerers, beastmen, pirates, priests of forbidden gods, mortgage agents, same-sex couples and other monsters. They recently went to war against the city of Albana, summoning dragons to scorch the towers and merchant fleet. The city is one of the few where sorcery is openly practiced, among other perversions. Baba Ali lowers his voice when he tells the others that the city retransmits Major League baseball games with implicit oral permission, not explicit written permission! The others are horrified.

Savage Worlds “Empire of Ashes” Campaign Concluded

The eighth and final session summary’s posted from our short Savage Worlds homebrew campaign, “Empire of Ashes.”  Our “heroes” follow the cursed Black Pearl to the Ancient Warlock Plantation Home and kill the heck out of undeads, and face a death knight/lich/ancient warlock kind of guy!

Bruce, our erstwhile session scribe, closes us out with these immortal words.

Lord Versane proclaims, “All’s well that ends well! Now, where have those naughty scullery maids run off to?” The others laugh uproariously. And in the darkness, the zombies scratch against the windows and lurk among the blighted trees.

Don’t worry, if you want more Savage Molesting, we’ve already started a new SW campaign, Legends of Steel!

Sixth “Empire of Ashes” Session Summary Posted

Now that this new noble guy is safely dead, we consolidate our position in:

Valix Drogue’s old manor is now officially Versane Manor, and we get the dead noble guy’s majordomo to make that nice and legal.  Chuck the GM handed out minions for each of us to run!  The assassin, the majordomo, the doctor, a squad of infantry, a squad of archers, and a double batch of household slaves.  I got the assassin.  We set the rest to guarding/improving the house.  Everyone is quite good-natured about Versane delcaring himself clearly in charge of everything.

Chuck apparently expected us to do something else – rush off to the aid of the city, or something.  Not us!  We have a manor!  We clear a graveyard, some hunter’s cabins, and a local village of undead.  Now we just need some more peasants to staff it.

And they’re all jealous of my horns.

Versane

Fifth “Empire of Ashes” Session Summary Posted

This was a short session, as we went to see Watchmen beforehand.  (And everyone liked it, despite all the naysayers out there).

This session starts with some noble and his retinue rolling up and claiming they own the manor house we just cleared of undead!  Turns out the guy’s the husband of the lady we let loose from Valix Drogue’s dungeon.  Apparently he had something to do with her being in there, as he is with a new mistress already.  I was fine with that, and willing to take a job to go finish her off, but the guy had the balls to offer us 2000 silver for the job.  Killing a noble’s worth 10k at least, 2k is an insult.  So when the assassin showed up for him – we decided to help her out.  No one insults Versane and lives to tell about it.

The session scribe had to leave early, so here’s the quick version of how it finished:

Versane and the assassin fought the Groarg captain and two tough mooks for like ten rounds with no one hurting anyone else.  Finally their sorcerer opened the door and zapped Versane, who filled him full of arrow holes for his temerity.

Downstairs, Garret engaged guard after guard out in the yard, not hurting a one of them, while Ardreth and Seth zap-and-stun them off him.  They were down to three opponents, two of them stunned, when Ardreth decided to come upstairs and help.

Sadly, all three of those guys downstairs then activated in ninja mode.  Two of them ran up and slashed Seth into little pieces.  Bennie spends and fleeing only bought him like a round.  Garret engaged and finally killed the third one but too late for Seth.

Ardreth showed up and zapped the crap out of the Groarg captain.  He still  fought all three of us us off for like five rounds with three wounds on him.  We finally killed all of them, as the two guards who killed Seth showed up.  They saw we were badass and ran off.

And… that’s about it!  The assassin killed the Baron and the paralyzed chickie. The majordomo and doctor surrendered (well, the majordomo just tried to stay between us and the Baron, but that was less “combat” and more “step around him”).

So yes, Tim died again.  He loves making new characters anyway.

Fourth “Empire of Ashes” Session Summary Posted

Another episode of our dark fantasy, Savage Worlds shenanigans has arrived!  It’s not enough that we’ve killed Valix Drogue and everyone who ever knew him in the city.  Now we’re off to find his country manor and kill everyone who ever knew him there as well.  Because that’s just the way we roll.

We’re somewhat beaten to the punch by the demiplane of Ravenloft, as his manor is now surrounded by mists and inhabited by undead.  We fight a witch or something, and a lich or something.  And ghost light pillars and bone piles.  We were unclear on a lot of it.  But Bruce’s session summary is quite entertaining, read it at:

The session kinda went bad and people were grumpy towards the end; there was even a bit of GM/player squabbling.  This is a common enough problem so I’ll talk about it frankly.  Your input on similar situations and potential resolutions is welcome!

Seed Issues

1.  Chuck, our erstwhile GM, runs a good game but has one weakness – description.  When game world descriptions are incomplete or confusing, it hinders the PCs from being clear on what’s going on.  We had a number of encounters where there was pretty much no setup, just minis put onto a tactical map and we’re off to combat.  “Are those goblin minis the zombies again this time?”  Tactical maps and minis can actually be even more confusing than not having them when some of the minis/features are representative of what’s going on and others aren’t, and there’s not a clear explanation of what the party sees.

2.   We have a fairly large group for this game and it can be chaotic anyway with people rambling on about random stuff. Even from the start, there were times where the GM was trying to get a word in edgewise for like 5 minutes while people babbled on loudly about whatever story, movie review, or whatever came to their mind.  (I’m guilty of this one too.)

Now, these two things can both be overcome, until the “death spiral” starts.

The Death Spiral

Here’s what happened.  Confused players got a little disaffected and bored and started paying less attention and being even more disruptive.  People would wander away from the table for long periods or be doing other things.  Our host was running some kind of loud industrial equipment at inopportune times by halfway through the session.  During the final combat, it had gotten so bad it was comical.  Chuck was trying to explain what these ghost light pillar things were, and every time he tried to clarify it the host’s girlfriend would hit “puree” on a food processor located 4 feet from us.  Needless to say, this was obviously wearing upon the GM’s poise.

As we’re gamers, and therefore by definition good Marty McFly conflict avoidance types, we all just let this build up till near the end open arguing broke out between the GM and players about a typical “you’re trying to weasel your way out of a trapped area now that it’s been triggered” thing, which was of course not what was really bothering anyone.

So at the end, things ended normally, but I think with negative aftereffects, with some players less enthused about the campaign and the GM less enthused about doing a lot of work for seemingly less than grateful players.

What To Do?

I’m sure everyone will get over it, most of these guys have been gaming together for a decade or something.  I’m “the new guy” because I’ve only been here for five years.  So this isn’t a crisis of Biblical proportions.  But how do you stop the spirals from happening?

It’s easy to say “nip it in the bud early.”  But no one wants to be a hardass out of the gate, and some amount of game disruptions and/or weak descriptions just happen, you can’t make a federal case out of it when it happens on occassion.  But then you start to feel like interrupting the flow of things to address problems is harder later on.  Once it’s already been going this way, it’s hard for the GM to say halfway through the session, “Look, you guys shut the fuck up and pay attention if you want me to be running this game!”   (Though frankly I would have backed that play.)   How do you get back on track, and “gently?”

Third “Empire of Ashes” Session Summary Posted

Well, we’re certainly not heroes in the traditional sense.  We murdered fifty men to get a trinket back.  And we’re OK with that as long as there’s money, honor, booty, and drugs in it for us.  (Heck, it sounds like we’re not even getting it back to its rightful owner, but that’s someone else’s problem.)

It could have gone better – after killing Valix Drogue and everyone else in his zip code, we lost half our party to some meddling priests!  Some of it was bad luck, some of it was that we were wounded, some of it was battle fatigue.  We’d pretty much been in back to back battles for three sessions and so rather than negotiate or use tactics, Garret just started a fight and we were scattered and uncoordinated.  Who dies and who lives?  You’ll just have to read the session summary!   Our experiment with Savage Worlds and Chuck’s homebrew setting continues, in:

Second “Empire of Ashes” Session Summary Posted

In our second session of Chuck‘s Savage Worlds game, we kill and kill and kill our way towards Valix Drogue the plumpy rogue.  Read the session summary for the gruesome details.

We’ve gotten used to the system now and it’s going smoothly.  We had seven players, however, so the card-based initiative was a little problematic with getting cards to and from people down a long table and seeing when they need to go in combat – admittedly, mainly a problem because some players were too busy discussing Robot Chicken episodes to pay sufficient attention to the game.  I fully support Chuck using a Taser on any player that needs it.

Also, we’ve earned two advances and have spiffed our characters up some.  As an archer, I’m finding there’s not many good edges for novice Archers to take so I’m focusing on bumping my stats and skills until we get to the Seasoned “rank.”

Bruce the Mostly Absent was here this time.  It was nice because his character was more “good” than the rest of us so it provided a suitable foil (no one else really minds when I have a Muppaphone constructed from the heads of our dead opponents).   Once we beat Arturo the Fence, he was cooperative so I was going to let him go with only the penalty of chopping off one of his hands for being a filthy filthy thief.  I was even letting him choose which hand!  What more could you ask for?  Bruce’s Vashaen was like, “That’s monstrous!”  Paul’s Thul-Eth said “What, you’re going to let him live!?!”  Call me the happy medium.

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