I realised this week that I’m actually playing a hybrid of Savage Worlds Explorers’ and Deluxe editions, using Explorers’ for character creation and management, and Deluxe for everything else.
This has come about for three reasons; partly, my favourite GM screen and character management software don’t yet support Deluxe; partly, I don’t want to go back to my players and tell them I’ve nerfed the Bolt power; but mostly, I just can’t be bothered.
The alternatives I looked at were…
- Switch to HeroLab. Previous comments on that are still valid, so no.
- Create a homebrew data file for MetaCreator. My day job is in IT; when I get home, I just want stuff to work, without having to hack it.
- Create my own character sheets and GM screen in OpenOffice or Word. Too much retyping.
- Return to pencil and paper character sheets. Loses the benefits of computerising them, namely that the software checks my arithmetic errors and the sheets get a lot harder to lose.
I stewed on this for a while, and I eventually decided: I’m not ending world hunger here; I’m just having fun with my friends. If and when the tools get updated in line with the new rules, fine, I’ll switch over to the new versions; if not, honey badger don’t care.
I’m 30 years behind my friend Tony (still running OD&D) and 10 years behind the OSR movement (running OD&D clones), but I got there in the end.
I weakened, and got the full set of Beasts & Barbarians adventures. Then I printed off a copy of the Dread Sea Dominions map, marked each one on it, and used them as waypoints in the party’s route from the Independent Cities to Gis.
With these as the skeleton, I can repurpose a number of Pinnacle’s One-Shots to space out the B&B scenarios, or drop in tweaked sites generated from Sine Nomine’s Red Tide.
After some thought, I arrived at this sequence:
- The Carnival at Nal Sagath (1 session). Complete. Strictly speaking, this is east of Gis in the Borderlands, but I moved it into the Independent Cities.
- Death of a Tyrant (estimated 4 sessions). Next up; this will take the party from the Independent Cities into the Red Desert, and will take us through February.
- Citadel of the Winged Gods (estimated 4 sessions). The heroes move east into southeast Kyros.
- The Skinner of Syranthia (estimated 3 sessions). Moving on to Kenaton, the PCs take ship along the Sword River, and thence to Syranthia, where they board a ship which will take them past Ascaia and Felantium before reaching Gis.
- Arrive at Gis.
- Vengeance of the Branded Devils (estimated 1 session, introductory scenario in the setting book).
- The Cliffs Queen’s Court (estimated 1 session).
- Wolves in the Borderlands (estimated 1 session).
Two things stand out for me from skimming the B&B scenarios; first, that the PCs are assumed to be soldiers, mercenaries or caravan guards in most of them – that’s not a problem, but some tweaking is required for my current group, and if I’d known they’d wind up here when they were created I would have mentioned to the players that military characters would be a good fit. Second, that a number of the scenarios revolve around rescuing damsels in distress, which is true to the genre, but may become repetitive for the group.
Smoke from the burning caravan is clearly visible from the edge of the marsh, and the screams and war-cries are, alas, equally clear. Nessime, Gutz, Peter and The Warforged are crouching in the reeds, for what pitiful cover they provide.
“Any sign of the others?” Nessime asks, peering about anxiously; but there is none, and only shaken heads in response from her comrades.
“We need to keep moving,” Gutz says. “There’s too many of them to fight.”
“And they’re horse archers,” Peter agrees. “If they catch us in the open, we’re dead. We need to protect the Handkerchief, and pray Hulian protects our friends.”
“We need to go deeper into the marsh,” Gutz advises. “The Warforged leaves a trail a blind man could follow.” (The ground is soft, and The Warforged weighs over 400 lbs, before one factors in the enormous leather sack full of items looted from the fallen he drags behind him everywhere.)
“We could follow that trail up to the town on the hill,” Peter suggests.
“Oh look,” says Nessime. “That horse archer has a nice face if you ignore the scars, I’m sure if we just talk to him we can sort all this out.” She starts walking towards him, waving the Holy Handkerchief, but Peter drags her back into the marsh before any damage can be done.
Thus it is that the heroes enter Nal Sagath on the evening of the Carnival. Asking nicely gives them the town’s backstory, and their unusual garments are taken purely as Carnival costumes – although they are questioned many times on what The Warforged is dressed as. Gutz acquires a number of Carnival snacks and a small coin pouch while the townsfolk are distracted.
They clean up at the Inn of Toros and join the crowd in the town square, either unconcerned at the fate of their companions or confident in their abilities to survive unaided.
Dalla, the Carnival Queen, is kidnapped, and after completely missing all the clues, they manage to find the entrance to the tunnels below Nal Sagath. While The Warforged retrieves his sack, Gutz attempts to bargain with Dalla’s father, largely because he knows exactly how much a pretty girl will fetch in the Syranthian slave markets, and wants to know if her father can make him a better offer. (Wisely, he refrains from revealing Plan B.)
And in they go. None of them has Tracking, so there is a lot of beating around the bush – or in this case, tunnels – getting lost in mazes, being attacked by rats, discovering the inscriptions in the Hall of Columns, Gutz falling down the inhabitants’ latrine and being pulled out again, the obligatory rolling boulder crushing three of the party (thankfully not Peter, who uses his Healing power to snatch Nessime from the jaws of death). As in all our previous campaigns, Nessime’s player now holds the record for most amount of damaged survived.
The main diversion was discovering a crypt. Gutz managed to translate the carvings; admittedly he didn’t tell anyone what they said, but the fact that he ran off and cowered under his cloak in a corner should have been some sort of clue, I feel. The Warforged, partly because he is suspicious and partly because that’s just how he rolls, chopped off the mummy’s head and limbs before it woke up, which slowed it down quite a bit but made later attempts at diplomacy futile. After a scuffle, they manage to stuff all the bits into the sarcophagus, set fire to them, and slam the lid closed.
While all this is going on, a townsman attempts to sneak up on the party, and finds himself out-snuck by both Gutz and The Warforged. He manages to persuade them to let him join the party, and is outfitted with items from The Warforged’s capacious sack.
At length the band of heroes enters the Big Bad’s lair, and engages him and his minions in fierce combat. Missile fire exterminates the minions and incapacitates the Big Bad, the environmental hazard very nearly eats Peter, but our heroes triumph and recover the girl.
Once they realised that what they have taken for the trail of a giant slug is in fact the mark left by The Warforged’s sack, it is easy for them to retrace their steps.
Gutz, battered, bruised, and smelling strongly of latrine contents, finally manages to open his prize purse – to find two copper pieces. His cry of “Worst! Day! Evaaaaar!” echoes around the town square.
- The whole session took about 4 hours with a party of four. If I’d been using Beasts & Barbarians as written, at least one of them would have died, but then they would have started as Seasoned PCs not Novices.
- Normally, I don’t use the rules for chases, co-operative or dramatic tasks; I had to stop a couple of times and look them up, but I will definitely use them more in future – B&B has shown me a number of cool things you can do with them. Chases worked better than dramatic tasks, but maybe that’s my lack of familiarity.
- The mapless random dungeon generator was a hit, as everyone liked the speed and lack of record-keeping. However, as Peter’s player pointed out, you know you’re going to get through the maze eventually if you just keep at it, so adventures that rely on solving a maze won’t work well with this system.
- A couple of the players figured out that they had moved into another setting, but they didn’t mind.
A thoroughly good time was had by all. Next time, they will cross the border into Kyros. Time for a quick look at Citadel of the Winged God, I’ll either run that or a converted One-Sheet.
"We’ve got no place in this outfit for good losers. We want tough hombres who will go in there and win!" – Admiral Jonas H. Ingram.
Excitement reigns this morning, as my first face to face session in a while shortly begins, kicking off the new Beasts & Barbarians campaign, using the old Irongrave characters; there are 10 potential players, but I expect a typical session will have only 3-5 showing up. Here’s the briefing I sent out to the players beforehand.
It is early morning, and you have all been summoned to the Temple by the high priest. He has yet to arrive, so you size each other up, some more surreptitiously than others.
Nessime and Peter Perfect are both paladins of the Temple. Nessime is a woman radiating do-goodery, dressed in a chain hauberk and carrying a short sword. Peter is a brawny fellow in chain armour, with a large shield and a number of weapons festooned about his person.
“I say,” he says to one of the acolytes, “Is there any chance of a cup of tea? I usually take tea at this time. Tea?” But the acolyte ignores him.
Gutz is a wiry, quick-fingered human, dressed in tough leathers, with long and short swords, and a bow. Several acolytes have already repossessed small but valuable trinkets which have somehow unaccountably fallen into his pouch or backpack.
The Warforged is – well, some sort of animated statue. (“Keronian workmanship, of a certainty,” says Nessime.) Seven feet tall, with a long sword, a chain shirt, and an enormous shield. There is a hole in its chest, just visible through the shirt, which looks as if something is supposed to plug into it.
Alihulk Junior is a strapping fellow with a chain hauberk and two short swords. “Look, how long is this priest fellow going to keep us waiting?” he calls. “Do you know who I am?”
Borg is almost as big as The Warforged, but much, much uglier. (He holds the current record for the lowest Charisma in any of my games.) He is six feet six of chain-armoured, sword-bedecked attitude, and in your considered opinions not entirely human. Half-Nandal, perhaps?
Abishag is a waist-high, but perfectly formed, humanoid. Some sort of midget perhaps? Maybe one of the fabled Pygmies from the south? He spends a lot of time being shooed back from shady corners by patient acolytes, whom he insults with the most vile profanities imaginable. Even by Alihulk, who has an unusually broad understanding of those, thanks to his equally unusual childhood.
Garstrewt is no taller than Abishag, and makes no attempt to hide his fascination with one of Alihulk’s swords. “Is that steel?” he says. “It is! How do you make it? Tell me! Can I see it?” His backpack bulges with unseen items, but what can be seen strapped to the outside includes a ceramic flask, a waterskin, a grappling hook, a set of manacles, a coil of rope, a dagger which hasn’t seen much use, a crowbar that has, and a whistle on a string.
Alihulk is clearly wondering how best to end him, when Athienne puts aside a complex cat’s cradle she is weaving from twine long enough to reach out with a rare turn of speed, grab him and pull him back out of reach. Athienne has a bow, a short sword, and leather armour. Possibly one of the Ascaian Amazons?
Finally, an anaemic-looking black fellow lounges against a pillar at the back, clad in chain, with a sword at his waist. He is idly tossing a half-brick from hand to hand, studiously ignoring the rest of you. Surely one of the Ivory Savannah tribesmen.
At length, the High Priest emerges.
“Welcome,” he says, as Peter and Nessime make obeisance. “Time is pressing, so excuse my bluntness.” He gestures, and an acolyte steps forward holding a cushion, on which reclines a very sorry-looking relic indeed.
“This is the Holy Handkerchief of Veronica, peace be upon her,” he says.
“Nessime, Gutz, Warforged – we are indeed grateful that you returned this holy relic to us. It is, however, as you can see… Somewhat the worse for wear.”
“It’s not our fault!” Nessime blurts out. “The Nandals stole it. And, errm, used it as a handkerchief.”
“And then I slaughtered them to a man,” rumbles the Warforged, with evident satisfaction. Alihulk nods judiciously.
“And, well, while he was doing that,” Nessime continues, “He got blood on it. Quite a bit of blood.”
“It’s probably still worth a bit, though,” points out Gutz.
“Enough,” says the Master, quite gently, considering. “I have a new mission for you. Nessime, Peter – I charge you to take the Holy Handkerchief to the fabled City of Gis, and there deliver it into the care of the master alchemist known as the Ninth of Twelve. Give him also this letter, which explains the situation and asks him to purify it by his arts. You will then return it here, where we shall return it to the shrine in the hope that Veronica will once more favour us.”
“Superstititous claptrap,” mutters Garstrewt. Athienne slaps him on the back of the head, and he subsides briefly, before once more trying to ease Alihulk’s steel sword from its sheath.
“Nessime, Peter: Do you accept your task, and swear to carry it out, and fight any evil you encounter?”
“Until the last fire goes out,” both respond together.
“Good. And the rest of you: Tales are already told of you; how you stood firm when others turned and ran, how you survived wounds which would surely have killed a normal man – clearly, you are Chosen, and the largest group of Chosen gathered together in a millennium. Assist and support our paladins, and you will find the Temple grateful. Our reach is longer than you might suppose, and there is evidently some purpose behind your gathering. Go, and may Hulian smile upon you.”
He turns to leave, signalling that the audience is over.
Peter and Nessime go to Gis because the High Priest told them to, and they are sworn to obey him. The Warforged thinks Gis is as likely a place as any to find the piece missing from his chest. Gutz thinks that firstly, this will put many leagues between him and his erstwhile colleagues, and secondly, that a city full of alchemists and wizards can probably help him find the object of his quest. Alihulk and Borg reason that there will be skulls to split and loot to be seized along the way. Abishag decides that if there’s any loot or gratitude from the Temple going, he’s going to make sure he gets his fair share. And possibly someone else’s as well. Garstrewt has heard of Gis, and if the missing ingredients for his “recipe” are known to anyone, it will be the master alchemists. Athienne follows, as per her orders from her superiors. Who knows what the mysterious black figure thinks? But he turns and follows the rest of them to the Square of Merchants, where a caravan heading the right way is likely to be found.
Learning that the actress is still missing, and that a previous pair of adventurers and a townsman have disappeared trying to find her, the heroic Attor and the loyal Veon descend into the tunnels below Nal Sagath.
Well, I couldn’t let it beat me, now, could I?
Options in Play: Jokers Wild; No Power Points.
Turn 1: No Tracking tokens. This is what you get for not having the necessary skill. At least they can’t go negative. The event card leads them to the skeleton of an ancient warrior. Attor rummages through the bones and finding nothing of use save an old dagger.
Turn 2: No tokens. The card shows we have found a maze, and must succeed at a Dramatic Task on Smarts-2 to find our way through; Attor has the higher Smarts so will roll, but Veon may assist as it is a co-operative roll. Alas, we fail and lose 4 Tracking tokens. On the up side, we have no tokens to start with, so it can’t get any worse.
Turn 3: No tokens. The card duplicates an earlier draw and is red, so we get +2 to the next Tracking.
Turn 4: One token, hurrah! The event card takes us to a hall full of strange inscriptions. Attor is able to decipher these and realises they are a map in prose, giving us a permanent +1 to Tracking rolls.
Turn 5: One more token, now we have two. This turn’s event card leads us down a corridor full of strange fungi. Terrifying hallucinations send Veon fleeing, while Attor gains a Major Phobia – I decide this could be fear of whatever he thinks he saw, the dark, fungi, or confined spaces, and roll randomly; fungi. Attor now has an irrational fear of fungi, which will make eating out entertaining if the meal contains mushrooms.
Turn 6: One token, total 3. The card shows we find a crypt. Attor is Heroic, so stays on mission ("Save the cheerleader,") rather than looting it, and Veon is Loyal so stays with him.
Turn 7: No tokens. The card draw unleashes an Indiana Jones-style rolling ball of rock on us, which we manage to escape from unscathed.
Turn 8: One token, new total 4. A Tentacled Thing attacks Veon, and commences grappling him. Fortunately Veon wriggles free, and after a short melee Attor blasts it to pieces with bolts.
Turn 9: One token, new total 5. A rat leaps out of the darkness at Attor, scratching his armour. Attor again stays on mission.
Turn 10: No tokens. We find a treasure chest, but Veon notices the trap, and again our heroes move on, since neither has much hope of disarming it.
Turn 11: No tokens. The card is a duplicate, giving +2 to the next Tracking roll.
Turn 12: One token, new total 6. A secret passage; some successful Notice rolls give us another two tokens thanks to following it; now we have 8.
Turn 13: Two tokens, new total 10. Another duplicate card, this one giving us -2 Tracking.
Turn 14: One token even with the minuses, new total 11. Another duplicate card gives us -2 on the next Tracking roll too.
Turn 15: No tokens. The event card, and a failed Notice roll, result in a 15 yard fall down a pit, into a pile of rotting garbage. Once we’ve recovered from being Shaken, Attor has spent a benny soaking Wounds, and both heroes are down one Wound. Attor uses Heal to clear that from Veon, but since the minuses for being wounded are doubled when trying to Heal himself, he fails on his own Wound.
Turn 16: One token, new total 12, and after over 5 hours in the tunnels we’ve found the Big Bad’s lair. Now we shift into combat rounds.
Round 1: Attor has a new strategy – take the -2 to hit for range and stay away from the nasties as long as he can. Veon stands ready to repel boarders. Shooting the Big Bad first still seems sensible, though, and he finds himself Shaken with two Wounds even after soaking. The six minions charge to 7" from Attor and Veon, so it’s time to change targets.
Round 2: The minions go first, and close to 1" – if they run any more they will be at minuses to hit. Attor unloads three bolts into them, Shaking two and killing one. Veon steps forward to protect his friend, and kills two more in a frightful display of combat efficiency. The Big Bad spends the round recovering from Shaken. (It’s at this point I realise I was using the wrong stats for the minions last time, giving them a much higher Toughness than they deserved. That may explain why they were so hard to beat.)
Round 3: The minions pull a Joker, gaining an extra benny (now the bad guys have 4, having spent one). This also activates the room’s hazard, which grabs one of the minions, since they are closest to it. I dice for which one, and it yanks away the unscathed one – Lady Luck is smiling on us. Things are not going well for the home team, and after both Shaken minions fail to recover, I use two of the bad guys’ bennies to unshake them, leaving them with 2. Attor zaps them into oblivion with more bolts, and Veon charges across the room towards the Big Bad and his hostage. The Big Bad doesn’t like the way this is going; with a successful Smarts save he reasons that if he leaves the girl behind, the heroes will likely not pursue him, and he moves off down another passage.
Round 4: The hazard continues to beat the stuffing out of the surviving minion, while Attor and Veon move up cautiously to the girl, reassure her, and escort her from the premises.
Although the scenario doesn’t specifically say so, I reckon it’s over at this point and rule that the party can escape without further incident. I award them two experience each, following my usual rule: One for surviving, one for succeeding, and one for a performance which impresses or amuses me.
No Power Points seems to shift things in favour of spellcasters, but I’ll keep with it in solo for a while to try it out. I have enough things to track as it is. Had I been running on power points, Attor would have been much more cautious, and used lower powered bolts – the spells he did cast would have needed 27 power, against 15 he has. That is probably a fair trade-off for speeding up the game and encouraging more cinematic play, and of course evil spellcasters can do it too.
When I run this with my players, I must take care to use the right stats. Giving the minions the right Toughness rather than one 4 points higher than it should have been made a real difference.
Although the event deck works well as a dungeon generator, blog posts are better with the occasional photo. Maybe I should stage suitable scenes as eye candy!
The central element of The Carnival at Nal Sagath is a random dungeon crawl, and it occurred to me over the holidays that this meant it should work well solo; so I decided to try it out. If it worked well, I thought, I’d try it on my players, and if they liked it too, I could abandon dungeon maps altogether. I wish I’d thought of this idea in the 1970s.
Reading on may spoil your enjoyment of this scenario as a player, although it might help you as a GM.
Setting Rules: Jokers Wild; Multiple Languages; No Power Points.
Attor and Veon descend into the tunnels beneath Nal Sagath in search of a damsel in distress. Group Tracking rolls are needed to follow her kidnappers, and are made every 20 minutes. Neither of our heroes actually have Tracking, so this could take a while. I note that group rolls (SWDE p. 63) are one trait die and one wild die, which doesn’t seem to offer any advantage over what a PC does normally; I decide the author must have meant co-operative rolls, and use those. This post is about the dungeon generator, not the saga of Attor and Veon, and I don’t want to give away the nature of the opposition; so I shall be reticent about what they encounter.
Turn 1: Blundering around in the darkness, our heroes accumulate no tracking points. They need 12 of those to find the missing girl and the boss monster. I draw an event card and discover someone is following the pair; a contest of their Notice against the follower’s Stealth reveals they notice this, but a further contest of Stealth vs Stealth to catch him fails. So, Attor and Veon know they are being followed, but not by whom. Since this card was a Joker, the GM gets an extra benny to the common pool.
Turn 2: Attor succeeds with a raise on his Tracking roll, impressive considering it is 1d4-2, and gathers 2 points. The event card is a secret passage; alas, our heroes notice their torches are flickering, but fail to notice the passage, and press on as before.
Turn 3: No points this turn. The event card reveals that the group are pursued down a staircase by a large boulder, which is resolved using the Chase rules. Just before they reach a large room where they could escape it, it rolls over the pair of them. Attor suffers two Wounds, but soaks one; Veon suffers one, which he fails to soak. Both heroes are now down one benny.
Turn 4: One point, new total is 3. The heroes encounter a fungus-filled corridor, but easily save against the effects of the fungal spores. Just as well.
Turn 5: One point, new total is 4. The party comes upon an ancient bronze chest, and luckily Attor notices the trap before they try to pick the lock. They decide to leave well enough alone, since neither has a Hindrance that forces them to take the risk, and move on.
Turn 6: A roll of 20 on 1d4-2 is not to be sneezed at, and gathers the pair 5 points. New total 9. The card draw shows that their mysterious follower is again noticeable; Veon wins the contest of Stealth this time, and drags out into the light a townsman who has been following them. Attor gets a raise on his Persuasion roll and the townsman explains that he, too, wants to help rescue the girl; they decide to join forces.
Turn 7: No points, but the event card triggers an attack by a many-tentacled Thing Man Was Not Meant To Know, which lashes out and coils a tentacle around Veon. Veon’s enormous Fighting skill means that he wins the ensuing grapple with three raises, escaping its coils. He acts next and stabs it with both swords, doing no real damage though. Attor unloads the full might of his Bolt spell, frying it. "Calamari, anyone?" he asks. Veon cuts off a piece and chews thoughtfully. "Needs salt."
Turn 8: 3 points, thanks to a repeated card draw – new total 11.
Turn 9: One point. New total 8. According to the event card, Veon is again singled out for attack by a lone albino rat. It does no real damage, and a reaction test for Veon shows he doesn’t return the attack, so the trio moves on.
Turn 10: One point. New total 9, and another repeated card draw.
Turn 11: No points, but the card shows an ambush by a group of dungeon denizens. Displaying the finely-honed sense of danger typical of wizards, Attor spots them as they try to sneak up, and a stand-up fight ensues, which the party win handily.
Turn 12: One point, new total 12 and we find the boss monster and the missing girl, four hours into the quest. The boss has six lackeys, and there is a hazard too, equally dangerous to all present. Veon and the townsman charge the monster group, intent on fighting their way to the girl. Attor fires a maximum strength bolt cluster into the boss, which burns off most of his bennies if nothing else. The monsters countercharge and get into melee with the townsman, who made a better running roll. In the second round, the minions mob the townsman and make short work of him, while Veon shakes one in exchange, and the girl recovers from her Shaken state and decides to run for the exit, avoiding the melee. Attor closes range and blasts the boss again, killing him outright this time. In the third round, Veon stands alone against four minions, being Shaken and Wounded twice, while two peel off to deal with Attor; he fries one with an ungodly 44 damage, and the other with 16; meanwhile, showing a remarkable turn of speed, the girl scoots past Attor. In round four, Veon is incapacitated before he can strike back, and a vengeful Attor kills two of the minions and Shakes a third; the girl makes it to the door and disappears through it, running screaming into the tunnels. Round five; the Shaken minion staggers towards Attor, slowly, and the uninjured one charges him; he Shakes himself with a backlash and is out of bennies. Oh dear. Round six, and the shaken minion recovers before running up to Attor. The untouched minion misses Attor, who fails to recover from Shaken. Round seven; Attor again fails to recover, and is now up against two minions and is incapacitated for his pains.
Hmm, that looks a lot like a Total Party Kill. However, since this is a point-buy system and Our Heroes have no experience, I can recreate them exactly as they were and try again; in effect, they respawn at the dungeon entrance. Given that, I may as well recycle the names as well.
- The Bolt power is vicious under No Power Points; you can churn out three 3d6 bolts per turn until you fumble. However, it’s easier in play as there is no book-keeping of power points. Before I adopt it at large in the game, I will try it in a few more solo adventures; it feels like it unbalances play in favour of spellcasters, but that said, the whole party did get whacked, so it didn’t help them.
- The way the encounter deck is set up to handle duplicate cards is more useful than I expected, since the longer you have been going, the faster you want to get to the climactic battle. There are a number of encounters I didn’t draw, so this scenario would bear repeated play, or at least the deck could be reused.
- This approach would work as well in other RPGs, or other environments. One could easily run up a few encounter decks for a city, wilderness travel, different dungeon levels or areas, and so on.
Although I’m moving away from it, I will still indulge in some solo play. I picture a two-person adventuring party - a sorceror and his bodyguard. Meet Attor, wandering mage, and his companion Veon, warrior. Since the setting lends itself better to urban and wilderness adventures than to dungeons, I foresee using Two Hour Wargames’ Larger Than Life or Warrior Heroes to generate adventures for them, and perhaps Warhammer Quest. (Advanced Heroquest has a better feel, I think, but WHQ is much faster and easier to use, so in my present state of advanced idleness it wins.)
Experiments over the holidays have persuaded me that using the Beasts & Barbarians setting, including its new Edges and Hindrances, will be less of a problem than I expected; but I still want to minimise the information I and the players need, so I will restrict myself to the Rules As Written, specifically the Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition.
Attor is built on the Mage archetype. His 4 extra skill points go into Persuasion d6 (2) and Streetwise d6 (2). His powers are Bolt, Deflection, Detect/Conceal Arcana and Healing. He has a staff ($10), a dagger ($25), and leather armour ($50), as well as $415 in cash. Hindrances: Heroic, Enemy (as yet unspecified), Loyal: Friends. I fancy his trappings will have an ophidian cast to them.
Veon is based on the Fighter (Fencer) archetype, which has no spare skill points. Hindrances: Code of Honor, Loyal: Friends, Quirk: Party animal. He has leather armour ($50), two short swords (2 x $200), and $50 in cash.
I’ll apply the Multiple Languages option, so both speak Imperial, Veon speaks 3 other languages, and Attor, 5. I’ll assign most of these later, but decide Attor needs Valk to communicate with demons, and Ancient Keronian to read sorcerous scrolls. I’ll also add Jokers Wild (there being no GM to hand out bennies).
I want to try out No Power Points, so I’ll apply that to Attor, at least initially. That means I need some interpretation of Extra Power Points under that option, and I decide it should negate one point of casting penalties instead of providing an extra 5 power points.
I find the archetypes in SWDE an immense time-saver.
The product I’m looking at here is the setting primer by Palewolf Publishing. Currently free to download from RPGNow, but that shows it as discounted from $4.99, so that may not always be true. It’s an 8 page PDF.
So, what do we have here? Olympian Breed is a setting for Savage Worlds. It assumes you have the Deluxe Edition of the basic Savage Worlds rules, the Super Powers Companion, and the Fantasy Companion. I understand not wanting to repeat the core rules in each setting, but I would prefer not to have to buy the two Companions as well. Maybe that’s just me. Anyway…
This product is the initial offering in a series of scenarios – scenario 0, if you will – which can be played independently or linked together. The setting is Mycenaean Greece, but with the gods and monsters all real; Perseus recently offed Medusa, but the Minotaur is still alive and goring.
The PCs are demigods, offspring of one human and one divine parent – this is a neat way of explaining their Wild Card status.
There’s a short description of the world, a nice full page map (sepia overlaid with coloured borders for the city-states, if my history serves me).
Then we’re into character creation; this requires the Super Powers Companion, which I don’t have, but it looks like there is a new Edge and a new Hindrance.
- Blessing of the Gods replaces Arcane Background: Super Powers as an Edge; it’s basically the same, except that it has fewer power points, and gives enhanced senses (whenever the GM thinks it should) and the use of Spirit to perform one type of check – in my PDF viewer, which type of check is overtyped by something else to the point where I can’t read it, sadly.
- Destiny (Major) is presumably a Hindrance – I know AB is an Edge, so Blessing must be one too, but the document doesn’t specify which is the Edge and which the Hindrance. If you’re familiar with the rules that won’t hold you up more than a few seconds; there are no Major Edges, only Major Hindrances, so this must be a Hindrance. Anyway, Destiny means you are marked for the attention of the gods and for great deeds.
There’s a short armour and weapons table, with statistics and descriptions for a handful of common Greek weapons of the period.
Then comes a list of questions the players should answer in defining their hero’s background – the crucial ones to my mind are which divinity is your parent, and do you know that?
The document closes with a two-page character sheet.
This could be an outstanding setting if done properly; how much more heroic can you get than Greek myth? The setting primer doesn’t give me a lot of evidence either way about whether the authors can pull that off; I’ve no reason to suppose they can’t, but in my current lazy and parsimonious mood I need to be seriously impressed to add to my collection of “shelfware”, and I fear I’m not seriously impressed.
If I’d paid $5 for this, I’d feel cheated, but you can’t argue with “free”. I’d have to get one or two of the adventures to be sure – the first one is available now – but I have enough of those already to keep me going to the end of the year.
I’ll keep an eye on the series, but more for love of Greek myth than because the initial product hooked me. I have no idea how typical my tastes are, but if they are, that could be a problem for Palewolf; the purpose of the “test drive” is to induce me to buy more of the line, and in this case, it didn’t.
Setting chosen and matched up, I turn my attention to scenarios and adventures.
As an overall storyline, I think I’ll send the party on a quest from their current employer (the Minewatch paladins) to deliver the Holy Handkerchief to the fabled city of Gis, where they must deliver it to the master alchemist known only as the Ninth of Twelve. Experience teaches me that by the time they’ve got there, they will have forgotten about the city they set off from, and it can be quietly retired. The route will take them from the Independent Cities, through Kyros, Syranthia, Faberterra and the Borderlands, before arriving at Gis; based on the WHAA strategic move system, that’s about two years’ travel in game time.
The sort of episodic play we manage to fit in these days lends itself well to One-Sheets, the short tryout and convention scenarios Pinnacle makes freely available on its website. A quick snarf there yields me some 30 scenarios, plus I have four in the SWDE rulebook, one in the B&B book, and three free One-Sheets to go with the B&B setting. Scanning through those over the course of an evening, I think I can repurpose all the B&B, Solomon Kane, and Rippers One-Sheets, and most of the Deadlands or SWDE ones. The rest I set aside for future campaigns.
That gives me about 20 to run with before I need to start writing any; looking at my players’ commitments and my own over the coming year, we will have somewhere between 12 and 20 sessions depending on what crops up, so that will keep me going through the rest of this year, and probably into next year as well. I’ll start with The Carnival at Nal Sagath, I think, because I want to see how the dungeon generator works with players.
Or so my wife tells me, bless her, when I don’t deal with her requests quickly enough. I’m feeling really lazy this year, so I shall start using a published setting and adventures. Setting first.
I like Beasts & Barbarians so much I’m going to shift my SW fantasy PCs into the Dread Sea Dominions; so, a few equivalences will be needed. Based on existing PCs and backstory, I need a couple of races, some languages, a couple of religions, and a map scale.
For races, I have one warforged among the regular players, and one half-orc, one evil hobbit, one dark elf, one vanilla wood elf, and one gnome among the intermittents.
Reading through the B&B book, it looks like good matches for orcs and "boggies" are Nandals and Pygmies respectively. Gnomes can also be reskinned as pygmies. The lady elf ranger can become an Amazon. The dark elf can come from a lost underground city.
The warforged is most easily explained as a construct from the Keronian Empire, who wandered across the Keronian Range into the Independent Cities. ("The animated statue is clearly Keronian work. How much will you take for it?")
These are just backstory changes, I won’t mess with the characters as generated. Future characters will probably need to be human, though, or I need to retcon the B&B setting to include other races, which is a lot more work.
Languages. Between them, the PCs speak…
- Common, Noble, and Elven, which all collapse into Imperial Syranthian.
- Scholar’s Tongue and Draconic, which both become Ancient Keronian.
- Black Speech, which becomes Nandal. B&B Nandals are less intelligent than normal SW orcs, mind.
- Tidecult, which I will replace with Valk.
- The boggie and gnome PCs also get Pygmy.
Religions. B&B notes that there are many minor religions in the Dominions which it doesn’t name or describe, so it’s easy to drop the Norse Pantheon and the cult of Athena in as minor religions worshipped only in a couple of Independent Cities; but even less work to call them the worship of the Lord of Thunder and Hulian, respectively.
For map scale, I’ll take a leaf from WHAA‘s book and just ignore it. Each month the PCs can move between the heartland and the countryside, the countryside and the border, or from the border of one state to the border of another.
I can switch the PCs into one of the Independent Cities, and put the dungeon and more D&D style monsters (e.g. goblins) in the Fallen Reign of Keron, which would explain why NPC expeditions to that blighted land never return. Why don’t the monsters emerge from Keron and spread across the world? I don’t know, I’ll see what the players come up with. However, I think probably only those with human blood can leave the Fallen Realm, which would explain why orcs and elves acquire humans in various ways to help them produce half-orcs and half-elves when they can – the children of these unlikely couplings scout out the world for their non-human parents, seeking a means of escape.
See how easy this is? It’s not just characters who have archetypes; monsters and settings do, too.