Friday, June 28, 2013

Playing Savage Worlds - Agents of Oblivion

I have now for a while been running a Savage Worlds game. Ever since Savage Worlds first was published I have been curious about the game. For a while the system was everyone's favourite at rpg.net and cropped up as soon as someone had a game they liked, but wanted a nicer rules set to play it. It seemed like it was the game for every setting. The fad passed, and then it was FATE. At last, I got the Savage Worlds game.

First off, let me say that Pinnacle really is first class. Maybe you heard that the explorer edition of the rules had a really bad glue, so that the book came apart? I emailed Shane Hensley and I got a new book. Class act.

 The game is labelled as "fast, furious and fun" and is known for settings which mash up something familiar with magic or that extra two fisted pulp style action. I kind of like that style, and decided I had to get the Agents of Oblivion setting book.

So, how does it play?

It turns out that our first one off, a short canned adventure, went quite well. We had a car chase, a sneak attack on a mansion and a big fight with explosives and a vehicle. In addition to that also some interpersonal action and roleplaying. It felt like this was a system that could handle lots of moving parts without being cumbersome. It was also clear that the card based initiative worked quite well. Everyone could see that cards on the table and knew who's turn it was. I also liked the tangible effect of the poker chips we used for bennies. Without them, the fight with the major NPC would have been very short and anticlimactic.

I will get back to that last part.

After that we have started to run AoO proper, not with pre-gens. It turns out that either I explained it very confusingly, or the concept of dice sizes as ranks were confusing. I think it is simple enough, so I blame myself. Then we started the first mission proper, Deep Calls to Deep, of my own invention.

This was a X-Files kind of adventure with mysterious stuff happening in a small town. They went there, talked to people, looked for clues and did the regular investigative things and weird stuff kept happening. There was just one firefight, which worked just as well as the first one, and some hacking. The rest was talking and mostly searching or knowledge based skills. This worked alright, and at no time did I feel the system got in the way, or felt clunky. But, did it feel fast, furious and fun? Eh, well. Maybe not as much.

I'm thinking that maybe I was really running a Call of Cthulhu scenario. Maybe Savage Worlds is more Masks of Nyarlathotep than a purist Trail of Cthulhu adventure, if you catch my drift? Unless you have hordes of minions, fast action and chases, maybe investigative games are just as well run with BRP as with SW? Since I have the Big Yellow Tome of BRP, maybe I could just use that instead? I think the conclusion is that if you want to play Savage Worlds, maybe you should use those rules a bit more. Play something involved, crunchy and watch it run smoothly. I'd almost say that the more rules you use, the better it works. 

My decision is to make my next mission crunchier. There will be more fights, more chases and I will, to put it plainly, work the rules more. I don't think I've been in a situation before where the game so clearly demanded that you actually use them. Often it works well to break them out when needed, but now it felt like I should have done it more often. Odd feeling.

Then there was that thing about that fight, where I used lot of bennies to save the bacon of my NPCs.

I can imagine  some of my dear readers thinking that is just wrong for the GM to prolong a fight to have his pet NPC do more than the dice allows. Sure, I can understand that sentiment. Let me then counter with the fact that those extra rounds allowed for some really good ideas from my players, and some hilarious scenes of mayhem. It was worth it.






3 comments:

  1. Before I became ill a while back I played in a few sessions of SW. And, while I had no difficulties (and enjoyed myself) a number of my friends (long time role-players in many systems) also had a great deal of difficulties in understanding the "dice size" concept.

    To me this was not a problem at all; but two other gamers ended up quitting the game because they just couldn't wrap their minds around the concept . . . so I think that it might not be your explanation or the concept itself but something to do with how some folks minds are "wired".

    Also I very much agree that SW is great for combat but less well suited for investigations or role-playing.


    -- Jeff

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  2. Odd, now I get even more indications there is a problem for many to grok the die type system. I find it fairly easy to grasp. Interesting.

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    1. Yes, I don't understand the problem . . . it seems very simple (and fairly elegant) to me . . . but some seem to really have trouble with the concept.


      -- Jeff

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