The Players :
Bobby Thompson (Matt) - Runaway Runner
Morgan Stevens (Star) - Psychotic Psychic
R.H. Milsten (Cliff) - Paranoid Paranormalist
Today we played a one-shot of Savage Worlds. This was my first time playing the system.
The story began with our characters on a bus, headed for Edinburgh, Wisconsin. We each had our own reasons for being on this bus, and out of boredom we got to know each other. This was done in the form of an "Interlude", a Savage Worlds mechanic which rewards roleplay. In this interlude, Bobby introduced herself to the other two characters and tried to get them talking. Both Morgan and RH kind of creeped her out for various reasons.
After a while the bus driver started having vehicle troubles. We arrived at the tiny little town, and the bus pulled up to a mini-mart, where we did a little shopping. Later, the driver told us that the bus couldn't be repaired tonight, and we would have to sleep on the bus. Then he left to use the restroom, and never came back. Soon the store kicked us out so they could close, and we noticed just how dark this town really was.
Outside the mart, we tried knocking on the bathroom door, but there was no answer. Luckily Morgan was good at picking locks. Once she got the door open, we found that the bathroom was empty. Having no place else to go, we returned to the bus. Then we saw some shapes moving in the darkness, which turned out to be undead dogs. One approached the bus door, the other tried to get in through one of the windows.
We spent a round or two fighting the dogs, when three undead humans emerged from the darkness as well. RH fended them off at the doorway, while Morgan used her psychic abilities to attack from the distance. Bobby, armed only with a switchblade, didn't contribute quite as much as the others. Late in the battle, Morgan used an action card to make one of the dogs flee, and eventually we killed the rest of the monsters. It was a difficult fight, and Bobby was at -3 wounds for the rest of the session.
We decided a building would be safer than the bus, so Morgan picked the mini-mart's lock and got us back inside. We stocked up on whatever we could, including flashlights, food, guns, and ammo. Then we hid in the back room for a while. We rested a bit, which allowed RH and Morgan to recover some power points, but nobody could heal any damage.
After a while we heard something scratching at the back, and a crash as the front door was pushed open. Two more undead dogs managed to chew a hole in the back door, as three zombies made their way through the store towards the back room. Morgan blocked the doorway to the back, while RH and Bobby dealt with the dogs who were now sticking their heads through the hole in the back door.
|Trapped like rats.|
|My standard rolls for pretty much the entire session.|
|The Huntsman approaches.|
And that's how we left off: The three of us injured and bleeding in the back room, alive for now but knowing we might not survive the night. The Huntsman was still out there, and would probably reform within the next couple of hours. I suggested that Bobby run out of town to find help (running was her only real specialty), and the DM ruled that she continued to run for a few hours, only to arrive at the same town again.
"Savage" is right. Although nobody technically died during the session, it was a real bloodbath. I liked the story a lot - it's the first time I've really played that kind of spooky/horror story in an RPG, and I'd like to do that again sometime. It was the perfect October one-shot. But the system itself would not be my first choice.
Things I liked:
The exploding dice was fun. Even when it was being used on us by a monster, it was oddly fascinating to see just how many additional die rolls we were going to end up taking.
The Interludes were fun, even if I didn't really do well on mine. Anything you can do to encourage roleplay is all right by me. It makes the characters more real to me if I can see their personalities in action.
I liked how skills had us rolling different types of dice, instead of rolling a d20 and adding a bonus. Note, I don't actually like it better than d20, I just like the novelty of doing it different.
This isn't really about the system, but I thought it was a nice touch how all the pregens had unisex names, so you could play the male or female version of each.
Things I disliked:
When you take damage, you take a penalty to your die rolls. So if you're wounded, the game gets harder. I hate games that do that. It's just like Monopoly, where the person to get an advantage early on often ends up keeping the other players down for the rest of the game. Yes, it's more realistic, but I think it's pretty obvious by now I don't care for realism. If you really need an in-game explanation for why your stats don't get worse as you get injured in D&D, I'd just chalk it up to adrenaline.
The lack of healing was also a big issue. If I'd known in advance how necessary having a medic is in the game, I definitely would have chosen a different pregen. My character's one big skill was running, but I never really used it because I didn't want to abandon my teammates. My fault picking a pregen based on their fluff rather than looking closely at their skills.
Things I'm on the fence about:
You use standard playing cards for initiative. It was interesting, and easy to track, but I don't know if I like the idea of mixing dice and cards. It's just one too many things to bring to the table.
I also thought the wounds system was interesting. While I didn't like the negative modifiers, I did think it was neat how the final blow would have you roll on an injury table. I don't care for it in a high combat game, but I think it would be cool in a game that's mostly roleplay.
And that's really the bottom line for me. I think I might enjoy Savage Worlds if I only had to slay a few monsters a day, rather than having to face a continuous onslaught of zombies. It's probably unfair to judge it without having played a more combat-ready character, or without playing in a party that has a proper doctor, but from the little bit I've seen it looks like a pretty deadly system. And that's never been my preference.