Tuesday, November 17, 2009

19th Century Monster Killin', Canned Campaigns, and the True Meaning of Christmas

I recently picked up Deadlands Reloaded and Rippers, both settings for Savage Worlds. (Well, Deadlands originally wasn't, and Savage Worlds was actually derived, mechanically, from Deadlands, but I digress...) I always did enjoy Deadlands, and Rippers is Victorian monster hunting...how could I pass that up?

Now, I have to say I love Savage Worlds because it's a clean, simple, fast moving system. There's crunch but not a lot of it. You can make a character in maybe fifteen minutes if you know what you're doing. You can use minis, though the game works just fine without them. Yes, it is inherently cinematic, so I wouldn't use it to run anything, but it remains one of my favorite systems regardless. Oh, another bonus point: it has vehicle combat rules that don't make me want to gouge my own eyes out; I can say this about relatively few rpgs I've read that contain such rules.

...where I diverge from Savage Worlds, however, is in the presentation of their game worlds. Savage Worlds is big on pre-packaged stories (Plot Points, they are called) with a definite beginning, middle, and end. They advertise them as stories "starring your posse." (that one is Deadlands specific but you get the idea)

How boring. How did I ever enjoy this sort of thing?

My tastes have rocketed away from story based gaming, where I come up with the story ahead of time and essentially just let the players navigate it. Gaming, to me, has become the exploration of a fictional world. The players should be free to pursue what they like. I don't want to come up with complex plot lines that they "have" to participate in.

Now, should I start up one of these two games some day (the wife is really keen to play Rippers), I think I'm going to run it my way. I don't anticipate there being much of a problem. I will, however, have to un-Mary Sue the important bad guys in Deadlands, as most of them are specifically mentioned as being immune to all physical and magical attacks, and many of them have a come-back-to-life clause should the characters find some way to thwart them. That's pretty lame. The "story" bad guys are so ridiculously powerful to begin with (most of them ignore rules regarding power points and one of them straight up has every power in the book); it would be a slap in the face to a group that could actually put one down to see him just come back, sometimes stronger than before. I understand that they have a continuity to "protect" (because gods forbid the players have any capacity to change their world), but one of the old Deadlands books did say "if you stat it, they will kill it." It seems odd that they have reversed their old position.

Though I have these misgivings, I must reiterate that I do love Deadlands. I bet both of these fine games will work just fine for an exploration type game. Plus, you could theroetically cross them over, since they take place more or less around the same time.


  1. What system would you use for completely sandbox RPG? It couldn't be anything heavier than savage worlds (or ORE or something like that).

  2. It would depend entirely on what kind of sandbox I wanted to do. For fantasy, I'd do Cyclopedic D&D or AD&D1 (AD&D1 is what I'm using now, with some Mutant Future and GW2nd edition thrown in.) For science-fiction I'd do either Star Frontiers or Traveller. For anything else, I'd probably do Savage Worlds or perhaps Fudge.