Shadows of Keron–Intermission the First

The last session of Citadel of the Winged Gods started late, which meant we finished in mid-combat. A lot of players can’t make this weekend, and since some of their PCs may die in this fight, I’m waiting for them to be available again before we move on.

Meanwhile, here is some dance music and some tips and tricks I’ve developed or stolen over the last couple of months.

Poker Chips

These are widely used for bennies. I bought a cheap pack of 100 chips in four colours, and we now use blue for bennies, red for wounds, and yellow for fatigue levels. Until we switched to the No Power Points optional rule, we also used white for power points. Red and yellow chips are stacked under the character’s figure, blue and white near the character sheet. Blue ones in particular are thrown around the table as bennies are spent and awarded.

Generally, this speeds up play considerably and eliminates record keeping, except for experience points (and we only bother about those at session end). There’s one exception though: A couple of the players are compelled to fidget with their bennies, and every ten minutes or so somebody drops one, and has to dive under the table to get it back. They do this with their dice, too, but the benny chips give them more things to drop.

In a typical session I have five players, so there are 15 bennies with them, and 7 with me; so 25 blue ones isn’t really enough. Likewise when power points were in play, two spellcasters, one of whom had taken extra power points, meant I’d already run out. So I’d recommend at least 50 of each, and plan to get more.

Crib Sheets

One thing which slowed me down enormously for the first few sessions was the need to look up monster stats, which means flipping through the rulebook and setting book. I dealt with this firstly by printing out the bestiary section, and secondly by copying and pasting monster statblocks out of the PDFs of scenarios I’m using – I have a good feel now for how far the PCs will progress in their next session, so I can keep the list down to a couple of pages.

I also found that I had to ask players for stats about their characters frequently, which again broke the flow of play. So the key factors for each one, which turned out to be Charisma, Parry, Toughness, and Combat Rating, go in a table at the front of the monster cheat sheet.

I started with a full copy of the PC statblock, but this isn’t really necessary. In SW, because your skills and attributes are dice, there is very little to look up during play. It is useful to know the PCs’ Hindrances, as they determine who will react in what way, but for the most part players can be trusted to act in character during a session, and between sessions, Hindrances mostly come into play in exposition – see below – when I have plenty of time to look them up.

All of this gets stuffed in the display book I use for quick reference.

Exposition

Generally, sessions start and end with a piece of exposition explaining what happened between scenes of combat and PC decisions. Since I co-ordinate the group by email, after each session I send out a short update which summarises what they did, and sketches out what they do between sessions. That means the parts of an adventure where the PCs have no chance to influence events can be handled outside the session.

I need to keep an eye on this, though, as there is a danger it will gloss over the use of non-combat skills, and focus PCs in on a narrow skill set (probably arcane skills, Fighting, Healing, Notice, and Shooting). That would be undesirable.

Meanwhile, the only PC whose player doesn’t read the emails is The Warforged, and since we established early on that he is an amnesiac construct with a defective memory core, his being confused is entirely in character.

Character Sheets

For the time being at least, I’ve abandoned character generation software in favour of very simple character sheets maintained as word processor files. This makes it easy to print out a new sheet when the old one is lost, mutilated, etc. while making it easy to transfer sheets between computers. It loses the advantage of checking my arithmetic, but Savage Worlds is simple enough that I shouldn’t need that.

There are a couple of advantages I hadn’t considered, though.

I added an Advances table to the sheets, mainly so that I could track advances like attribute improvements, which can only be taken once per rank. The players quickly started filling in advances they hadn’t taken yet, to remind themselves how they want their characters to develop; some of them are clearly thinking 4-5 advances ahead. I’ve incorporated this into the sheets by adding planned advances in grey text.

I can also add in favourite rules to specific character sheets. For example, only Nessime is a Holy Warrior, so only she needs to know about repulsing supernatural evil; only The Warforged regularly uses a shield bash, so only he needs to know how that works. This saves me cluttering up my GM cheat sheets with stuff I don’t need myself.

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