Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Quattro con Carnage - Session 5 - Savage Worlds

Get Savaged!

If you've been following along with our Quattro con Carnage 4-in-1 experiment, you know that we've reached the halfway mark in our little quest through four different systems.  Actually, that's no longer correct, but I'll get back to that point towards the end of this write-up.  This post, session 5, marks an important transition in QcC as we move from systems that could be considered old school renaissance (OSR) to a more modern RPG system.  After two weeks of the stalwart and steadfast Basic Fantasy RPG, and another two weeks of the zany randomness of Dungeon Crawl Classics, we turn to a system that embraces pulp action adventure like no other I've ever tried! 
So break out your wild dice, bennies, and playing cards, because its time to play Savage Worlds!
For those of you who are new to Savage Worlds I'll give you a very brief primer.  Developed by Shane Lacy Hensley of Pinnacle Entertainment Group (PEG), Savage Worlds is a generic RPG system designed to maximize action-adventure gameplay while minimizing gamemaster preparation.  Compared to the other games we've tried, as well as others on the market, I would consider Savage Worlds to be "medium crunch".  The tagline "Fast, Furious, Fun" used by PEG to describe the Savage Worlds system carries through the entire deluxe rulebook.  Creating a character can take less than ten minutes, or more than several hours if you want to dig through all of those great books you have on your shelf. 
Savage Worlds works on a die-step mechanic, so all attributes and skills are ranked in the following order:
d4 - d6 - d8 - d10 - d12 - d12+1 - d12+2...
To perform an action or make a test the character rolls the die-type associated with the skill or attribute, as well as a wild-die.  The wild-die is always a d6, and only player characters and important NPC's and adversaries (wild-cards) get to roll this special die during a test.  The highest result of either die determines success.  Typically rolling a "4" or higher means a success, although in melee combat a player character must beat an opponent's "parry" score.  The system also uses a concept called exploding dice.  If you roll the maximum value on a die, roll it again and add it to the original score.  If you beat your target number by four points or more, that's considered a raise and extra special goodness may happen, such as additional damage, or an added effect.
Here's an example of a typical action: 
Marc's character, Lomman, is trying to persuade a group of evil gnomes to back away from a combat.  His persuasion die is a d8 and he needs to typically beat a target of 4 to use this skill.  But since the party had just murdered a whole team of evil gnomes, the GM decides this is more difficult and assigns a penalty to the roll: a -2.  Lomman rolls both the d8 for his persuasion die, as well as a d6 for his wild-die.  The d8 turns up as a 5, which would usually be a success, but at a -2, the end result is a 3.  The d6 rolls a 6!  Explosion!  Marc rolls another d6 and gets a 5.  The total result for the wild-die is an 11, -2 for the penalty, so the end result is a 9.  This is a success with a raise, so the GM decides that the evil gnomes not only stop combat but two of them completely flee the scene in fear. 
Quite the opposite of typical OSR games, to build a character in Savage Worlds the players work with "point buy".  There are five attributes for each character:  Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength, and Vigor.  As a Novice character with zero experience points, a character starts with a "d4" in each of these attributes, and the player is given 5 points to raise them.  Each point raises an attribute by one step (d4 to d6, d6 to d8, and so on.)  Characters also gain fifteen skill points to do the same, with a cost of one skill point to start at a d4 for a skill, and an additional point as the skill ranks stack up.  Each skill is tagged to an associated attribute.  While it is possible to raise a skill above the attribute it is connected to, it costs two skill points per die type to do so, not one. 
To further expand upon a new character, players can choose edges (similar to feats in the d20 systems), as well as hindrances.  Edges give characters new and exciting abilities, magic, and connections to the campaign setting.  Hindrances give the players interesting opportunities for role-play, as well as points that can be cashed in to raise attributes, skills, and buy new edges. 
Converting our heroes of Tannryth from Dungeon Crawl Classics to Savage Worlds was a breeze.  Three of the players had created Savage Worlds characters before and only needed minimal pointers in making the translation, which was great!  The results were pretty exciting! 
Please note that each character was created with twenty starting experience points, placing them at Seasoned rank, with four additional advances.

Dramatis Personae con Carnage

Umbrin, played by Jeremy
A guard-for-hire from Tannryth once in the employee of a wealthy Archon
  • Attributes:  Agility: d10,  Smarts: d6,  Spirit: d4,  Strength: d8,  Vigor: d8
  • Edges:  Mighty Blow, Frenzy, Combat Reflexes 
  • Hindrances:  Bad Luck, Cautious, Greedy
  • Skills:  Fighting d10, Gambling d4, Healing d4, Intimidation d6, Notice d6, Riding d4, Shooting d8, Streetwise d4
  • Spells/Powers/Signature Gear:  Battle Axe (one handed again!)
  • Notes:  In Basic Fantasy RPG Umbrin was rather vanilla.  In Dungeon Crawl Classics he was pretty awesome as a concept, but really couldn't hit anything.  Savage Worlds really brought the best features of a classic fighter to the forefront.  I don't want to spoil anything but if there was one character during this first game that really came to life, it was this amazing warrior!

Lomman Senan, played by Marc
A devout crusader of Ogmios looking enforce some "justice healing"
  • Attributes:  Agility: d6,  Smarts: d6,  Spirit: d10,  Strength: d6,  Vigor: d8
  • Edges:  Arcane Background: Miracles, Power Points, Holy Warrior
  • Hindrances:  Vow (Ogmios), Pacifist, Quirk (Constantly thinking about Elven ladies)
  • Skills:  Faith d8, Fighting d8, Healing d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d8, Knowledge History d4
  • Spells/Powers/Signature Gear:  Healing, Smite, Deflection
  • Notes:  Lomman's edges and hindrances really flesh out the "cleric" feel of the character.  The wild and crazy disapproval risk is obviously gone, however once Marc rolls "snake-eyes" on a Faith check we'll get to have a little fun with his patron deity. 

Rydian Ornitiar, played by Andy
An Aarenian relic-hunter who longs to recover a lost family artifact
  • Attributes:  Agility: d6,  Smarts: d12,  Spirit: d8,  Strength: d4,  Vigor: d4
  • Edges:  Wizard, Rapid Recharge, Power Points
  • Hindrances:  Lame (using this for the "weakness" afflicting Rydian while under the effects of the Queen of the Ever After's Quest), Vow, Quirk (gives bad advice)
  • Skills:  Fighting d4, Spellcasting d10, Knowledge Arcana d8, Shooting d6, Investigation d8, Persuasion d6, Notice d4
  • Spells/Powers/Signature Gear:  Bolt, Armor, Elemental Manipulation
  • Notes:  In Dungeon Crawl Classics Rydian was a "blaster master", and little has changed.  If anything, as Rydian has progressed from Basic Fantasy RPG as a "Fighter/Mage" to more of a pure magic-user in Savage Worlds. 

Jorin Everlast, played by Craig
A pilfering initiate to the Embrace who just "made bones" 
  • Attributes:  Agility: d8,  Smarts: d6,  Spirit: d6,  Strength: d6,  Vigor: d8
  • Edges:  Thief, Assassin
  • Hindrances:  Wanted (Major, the Embrace), Loyal, Quirk (Hates big people)
  • Skills:  Notice: d4, Climb d6, Lockpick d6, Stealth d8, Fighting d8, Shooting d8, Streetwise d4, Throwing d6
  • Spells/Powers/Signature Gear:  Short sword, short bow
  • Notes:  Jorin was a thief in Basic Fantasy RPG, and then a small death dealer in Dungeon Crawl Classics.  Now in Savage Worlds Craig was able to take some of the best concepts from both and blend them back into his Halfling. 

Drogos, played by Andreas
Dwarven blacksmith, last survivor of Happenstance, and holy convert to Ogmios
  • Attributes:  Agility: d8,  Smarts: d6,  Spirit: d6,  Strength: d8,  Vigor: d8
  • Edges:  Hard to Kill, Arcane Resistance, Arcane Background (Miracles)
  • Hindrances:  Curious, Greedy, Vow (Minor)
  • Skills:  Gambling d6, Fighting d8, Intimidate d4, Repair d8, Streetwise d6, Throwing d8, Blacksmithing d6, Faith d4
  • Spells/Powers/Signature Gear:  Trusty Hammer, Spells: Smite, Summon Ally
  • Notes:  Since Drogos was the newest character, having just joined during Dungeon Crawl Classics, Andreas had a blank slate with which to work.  While Lomman looks more like a Cleric, Drogos has the look and feel of a dwarven Paladin... albeit one that struggles with gambling, greed, and extreme curiosity!

Happily Ever After

Trapped at the bottom of The Fall, now within the confines of the Ever After, our four adventurers and their new holy blacksmith took a long look around the desolate landscape.  The ground was covered in mud, dirt, and ash, with sickening black pools of stagnant water dotting the landscape every dozen yards or so.  The few trees that stuck straight out of the ground were just broken, leafless branches.  Visibility was reduced to one-hundred feet due to the thick and choking mist, and the only sound was a hissing wind that occasionally would change to a dull, high pitched wail.  But the crew were here for a mission, and with Rydian's physical condition deteriorating due to the Queen of the Ever After's quest-curse, they needed to get their bearings quickly. 

Rations would only last a couple of days, and there were only a few gallons of fresh water between the five souls.  Luckily, they were all adorned in heavy winter gear and were thus protected somewhat from the strange elements.  But they weren't expecting the wastingWhile the team were talking, the four original heroes noticed their new dwarf's hair had turned a bit more white, and his face had aged several years.  Rydian softly explained to the party that non-elves were subjected to this wasting, and that every day there was a risk of supernatural aging.  The elf mage wanted to take the team south-west to the elven cities within the Ever After, but when it was revealed that the Lost Chasm the team sought was to the north-west along the edge of the Fall, Rydian found himself overruled. 

So the team marched, trudging through mud and soot, pushing through damp and weird mires, and desolate landscapes while trying to resist the urge to stumble into the slime below.  But only five hours into their trek the party was subjected to an event that Rydian would later reveal to be an Afterslide.  The entire landscape shifted forty-five degrees to the west, and the party started to tumble.  Luckily for the group they were able to grab a hold of the few trees standing about, and while Rydian missed the branches, he tucked and rolled out of danger.  Fatigued due to the mass of mud that collapsed upon him, the elf still kept from getting dragged underground to his potential doom. 

Unfortunately the Afterslide pushed the party away from the Fall, which they were using as their compass.  But bright thinking by the ex-guard of a foresting company, Umbrin, got the party quickly back on track.  Since visibility was limited to one-hundred feet, the warrior had each party-member stand in a single-file line, with one-hundred feet separating each member.  Slowly Umbrin commanded his "troops" to move in a circle, with his own position acting as anchor.  Since the Fall was only four hundred feet away, it didn't take long to find the shear cliff-face and return to their trailblazing. 

Making camp was easy for Rydian, who had no problem sleeping in the slime and muck, but the rest of the party was less than excited about the prospect of sleeping atop a churning, moving surface.  Umbrin chopped down several trees for Rydian to light with a flick of the elf's fingers, but was disturbed when the broken branches sprouted poor, pathetic faces that started to wail and cry.  No matter, they still burned just fine.  While Rydian told a dark and depressing tale of his Uncle Thad, who had been killed by an Afterslide, the rest of the team set up their camp.  Without sleeping bag or tent Lomman was forced to sit on his shield propped against a tree.  Jorin climbed a few branches and perched himself high above the ground, not too far from Drogos who fashioned several broken trees as a cot.  Umbrin took one look at the elf and figured if the pointy-eared dandy could sleep on the ground, he could too. 

The party was rotating watch, but when Lomman went to wake up Drogos the entire team was treated to the fierce shriek of a terror-filled dwarf!  Drogos stood up abruptly while shaking his arm.  The rest of the team looked on in horror as the dwarf showed that the "tree" he was resting upon had swallowed his limb up to the elbow.  The face on the broken branch was grotesque and obviously quite angry, chewing away with a sickening glee.  Drogos carried the branch towards the fire, hoping to burn it off, when he realized that there were six more pogo-stick like mini-treants hopping through the mud. 


While Drogos burned the branch off his arm, revealing the sore but functional limb to still be intact, Lomman stepped forward and tried to talk the Treeples out of combat.  But the sight of their friends burning, chopped up, and in obvious pain caused the Treeples to react quite violently.  Each of the tall creatures sprouted a pair of splintered arms with razor-sharp points.  Jorin and Drogos were both skewered horribly, while Lomman, Rydian, and Umbrin each parried the rather clumsy Treeples.  Rydian started firing bolts of fire at the creatures, and when multiple blasts did little to affect the tall plant-men, the elf invested his power into one big firebolt that took down a creature.  While Drogos ran forward, hammer in hand, and Jorin pulled the giant splinter from his belly, Lomman ran to the Halfling and started performing healing rites.  There were still several Treeples left, and the party wasn't able to fend them off.  Everyone looked to Umbrin with hope and fear in their eyes. 

Grimly the human warrior turned to the remaining four Treeples and clutched his axe.  Gritting his teeth the savage Umbrin let loose a terrible warcry and started a-chopping!  The first Treeple Umbrin struck exploded in a blast of splinters that sprayed a nearby creature, blasting it into oblivion as well.  Turning his frenzy on another Treeple, Umbrin hacked it in half and then grabbed both halves and swung them at another in a fit of rage.  The rest of the team just looked on with both fascination and disgust as Umbrin murdered every last Treeple standing.  It was truly a mighty deed!

 "I was a guard that worked for a guy that dealt with lumber… so I know how to cut the hell out of some trees," Umbrin quietly stated. 

With the Treeples out of the picture the party sifted through their remains.  Lomman warned the party not to loot the dead in this cursed place but Rydian didn't care.  He grabbed three of the splinters and fashioned them into very effective arrows, while picking up a long "club" that remained on the ground.  The Treeple Cudgel was long and on one end there was a petrified visage of the once-living creature as a club-head.  After a few more hours rest it was time again to move on. 

Another five hours into the next day's march the party saw a figure floating in the distance.  It was an alluring and strangely out of place elven female, dressed in white garments, hovering above a pool of stagnant water.  Everything about this scene felt absolutely "wrong" but the curious Drogos, and elf-lady-loving Lomman just couldn't resist.  The dwarf and cleric had to approach, and when they got close to the pool the beautiful radiance of the image couldn't be denied.  Drogos was especially captivated, and even when Rydian tried to explain that the image was some kind of phantasm or illusion, the dwarf refused to step away.  The elven female moved towards the dwarf and asked if he would like to dance, and Drogos just nodded.  While the elf and dwarf romantically spun above the sickeningly sour pool, Umbrin happened to hear a strange sucking sound. 

Just below the floating feet of the elf, the entire pool had drained and only a mouth remained.  A big, eight foot wide mouth!  It was a Sensual Worm!  The creature's elven illusion soon disappeared and Drogos fell into the beast's maw.  Despite a few arrows from Umbrin and Jorin, the creature had the dwarf in its gullet before anyone could react.  But then it began to belch and convulse.  The worm pushed up and out of the ground, and soon all thirty feet of the creature was laid out above the sinkhole, a giant mass stuck in its throat.  When Drogos tumbled free of the worm's mouth, he explained that he summoned an ogre using his Summon Ally spell, and the ogre was most likely still inside the worm's throat. 

While still trying to figure out what the hell just happened, the party happened to look north along The Fall and noticed another hole in the ground, although this one was much larger.  Could it be the Lost Chasm they were seeking? 


Most Notable Quotations

"I took 'hates big people' since Umbrin kinda pisses him off every time he talks." - Craig had no problem selecting his hindrances. 

Andy - "Are there roads in the Ever After?"
Marc - "Where we are going we don't need roads."

"I'd say the hell with town, lets just get this shit done and get out of here." - Umbrin didn't want to waste any more time in the wilds of the Ever After. 

"That dirt ate my uncle!" - Rydian explains his trauma during a bedtime interlude. 

"Ooh, I wonder if the pools are flammable?" - Andreas never found out... sadly. 

"The fact that the trees grow faces when they burn makes me a little iffy to sleep on them." - Umbrin chose the ground. 

Jim - "Your arm is in the mouth of one of the faces in the branches."
Jeremy - "Called it!"

"That's like a GM Intrusion, but we don't get paid!" - Marc was not a fan of the GM using his own bennies. 

"Four weeks!  FOUR WEEKS!" - Jeremy's warcry.  In four weeks of gameplay, Umbrin hadn't been worth a damn in combat.

"Does it do 'treeple' damage?" - Marc punned. 

"I just realized I'm getting swallowed… so… is it watery, is it dry, is it Sarlacc'y?" - Andreas was looking for the right adjective. 

Behind the Schemes

This adventure represented our first night in Savage Worlds as well as our first time trying a taste of a classic Hex Crawl.  I had several more ideas that we didn't get to use, including a chase scene with flying undead goblin heads, a second Afterslide, and a Wave of Ash.  They will have to wait for a future campaign. 
For most of our group, this was their first Hex Crawl, and I tried to explain that the concept was similar to a fantasy "Oregon Trail."  The party had to find ways to navigate the terrain while doing away with foul beasts and gaining treasure and experience.  We had a bit of a debate about the gear and equipment, and whether or not I as a GM should have let them prepare better for this portion of the adventure.  To me, full preparation would have made the scenario too easy, and I think that the risk of running out of food and water, and not knowing all of the possible dangers made this part of the campaign much more dramatic. 

One other point I'd like to make is that the entire group enjoyed the concept of the Interlude.  In Savage Worlds, during any rest the GM can call for an Interlude, in which a chosen player has to tell a story of their characters' past.  Not only does this give the players a chance to expand upon their backstory, it also helps them develop the campaign mythos as a whole.  Maybe Rydian's Uncle Thad will need to show up in undead form at a later time!
Earlier I alluded that our Quattro con Carnage may not be limited to four systems.  True, I will be running one more session of Savage Worlds and then two of the Cypher System (still using these characters), but then +Marc Plourde will run two sessions of Green Ronin's AGE system, using the Dragon Age RPG sets.  I'm especially excited for this part (which we are nicknaming "Cinco con Queso" for now) since I'll be a player!  More details to come!

Oh, and in case you were interested, I thought I'd provide the stats I used for our big-bad tonight!  Enjoy!

  • Attributes:  Agility: d4,  Smarts: d6,  Spirit: d6,  Strength: d12+2,  Vigor: d10 
  • Skills:  Fighting d4, Notice d8, Stealth d8
  • Pace:  4
  • Parry:  4
  • Toughness:  9(2)
  • Special Abilities:
    • Armor +2
    • Piercing Arm: Str+1d6, AP 2 non-rigid armor

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