Tuesday, April 13, 2010


My AD&D game, previously canceled only once in a Blue Moon, has not run this week or last, and because both weeks I've had half the group cancel the day of. I understand people have stuff going on, but it is still unfortunate. Tonight, refusing to be thwarted, I ran a quick one shot of Savage Worlds using one of the handy mini-adventures they publish on their website.

I do like SaWo quite a bit, though I have one gripe with it: probability and the damage system can make for some damnably long fights.

For those of you unfamiliar with the system, here's the short of it: When you hit a target, you roll damage. You compare this to the target's Toughness + Armor. If it meets the target's score, they are stunned. If they were already stunned, they take a wound. If you beat the score by 4 points or more, every full 4 points is an instant wound. (So he has Toughness 6, I wound him on a 10, wound him twice on 14, etc.) If a guy is stunned, he probably wastes his next action getting un-stunned, which may or may not work out for him. (He has to make a stat check)

For most of the enemies and monsters in the game, a single wound is enough to take them down. However, PCs, important NPCs, and "big deal" monsters (dragons, elder vampires, etc) can take up to three wounds, being incapacitated on the fourth. Both PCs and NPCs of such import also receive "save your ass" tokens (called "bennies" in game) that give them the potential to ignore or negate wounds.

Let me also inform the reader that, in SaWo, dice "explode," that is, if you roll the maximum value on a die, you reroll and add... infinitely.

The result is that these rules work well most of the time, but sometimes they create some very unlikely "feast or famine" results. Case in point: during last Sunday's Deadlands session, we killed the "main fight" of the night with a single shot.... he was a kung fu master badass with supernatural armor, but one of our crew rolled 6 after 6 after 6 on the damage roll and ended up doing 30 points of damage. I think his toughness was like 10, meaning we gave him 5 wounds at once... and you can only take 3. We high-fived.

When we got outside, we got into a fight with a pack of extras and one Wild Card (that being the in-game term for important NPCs or tough monsters) That fight took something like forty-five minutes of real-time, because we could not do enough damage to get the big guy past stunned, and because when we hit the little guy, we always rolled such pitiful damage that our bullets literally had no effect on him. If there was an opposite of high-fiving, we'd have done that. We were finally victorious when the laws of probability realized that they had been notably absent from our game and decided to come back and restore sanity to an insane gaming table.

As an aside, the SaWo one shot I ran tonight did not have any combat. (Well, we didn't get to the combat, anyway...) However, this particular adventure is a gritty crime story, and came with a slight rules modification to achieve the kind of story they were looking for. In the gritty damage rules, Wild Cards have the potential to be taken out every time they are wounded... so even though they can take up to three wounds, they could be taken down on the first one like a lowly extra. I can't wait to see how this works out in play; it is a definite departure from the fairly cinematic structure of SaWo. (This abbreviation, "SaWo," is stating to irritate me, and I shall discontinue it presently.) 

Now, it seems I must get my online B/X volunteers in order. I feel an unfortunate drought coming on and I need to prepare for eventualities.

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