Thursday, 19 May 2016

Savaging Settings: Savage Fallout

While there are publications out there with specific rules to handle the theme and tropes of gaming in post-apocalyptic wastelands, personally I always ask myself "Do I really need new rules to do this? What's in the Core Rulebook and maybe the Companions that will solve what I intend to do for this specific setting?".

(Industrial Wasteland, by Coulter Sunderman)
Fallout, as per the video games, is a combat-heavy setting - at least that is how it's designed to and usually played. The core rules include everything needed for this, from combat rules to the sticks and stones and plasma guns and powered armour. It also includes a bestiary, which allows for easy creation of your own monsters. Take an Ogre or a Troll, modify accordingly and name it Super Mutant. The Giant Spider makes for a great Radscorpion. Zombies are a great template to create Feral Ghouls.

Fallout is about collecting stuff and bartering off what you don't need to get the items you want. Collecting items is easy, either take their possessions from your slain enemies, steal what isn't bolted down, or scavenge the ruins of a past long gone. Scavenging can easily be done as a trapping of the Survival skill. If you want to add a little more spice to it, handle a Scavenge Run as a Dramatic Task. A success rewards the character with loot appropriate to the ruins, a failure means they stumbled upon something nasty (a nest of Radscorpions, some Super Mutants, a Raider group, a dangerous sink of radiation, to give just a few examples). This also illustrates the point of safety in numbers, as a group is more likely to succeed in a dramatic task. Of course, there is the negotiation about shares of the loot.

While Barter isn't included in the core rules as written, use it as a trapping of Streetwise. Knowing how to even find somebody in the wastelands who will buy what you dug out of that mouldy old ruin is half the challenge, after all. A failure doesn't necessarily mean you are stuck with your loot, but selling it may get you fewer bottle caps than you hoped for, or the trader buys only a small amount of what you have to offer, or he only trades in other items you don't need at the moment - there are so many possibilities.

Crafting is a Repair roll, as soon as the character bartered/stole/looted/scavenged all the parts they needed. Of course they also need a shop where they can work in peace and tools don't come cheap in the dusty future.

If you want to include some of the more exotic items from the series, have a look at Weird Science. Stimpack? That's the Healing Power right there. Rad Away? Use the Healing Power, but with the trapping of removing levels of fatigue from Radiation. EMP grenades? The Blast Power with the trapping of only affecting those darn robots. Simply by using this approach it balances out the problem of the video game, where the player has an abundance of everything after 10 hours of gaming.

And that's really all you need to run Savage Fallout with the $9.99 Core Rulebook. Obviously this leaves a lot to do for the GM. It doesn't provide long lists of lootable resources, recipes for items and weapons, equipment, and such. I do not consider this a hindrance to a game. Instead, I see this as a creative exercise. Of course the GM needs to know about the fluff of the setting, but creating stats for creatures on the fly in my mind even adds to the setting. It illustrates the unpredictability of radiation effects.
Also, don't prepare lists of what is found where. Have the players tell you what they are looking for. If they know where to go, then that's where the session will take them. If not, then they better find somebody who knows. Simply wandering into the blue is incredibly dangerous in the wastelands, and while the rewards may be worth it, death (claws) may always be just around the next irradiated corner.

Friday, 6 May 2016

In Vino Veritas - Session 1

[This article contains heavy spoilers regarding the Weird War I PPC 'In Vino Veritas'. You have been warned.]

A short while ago I ran the first scenario of Weird War I's PPC In Vino Veritas. Although we lost a player before the game even started (conflict of schedule, the Heeresleitung, German Army High Command, really screwed that one up) the remaining two guys had a blast (quite literally). I will give a rundown of the session, my decisions for events within the session, how it affected the players/characters, and what I learned from that.

Because this would be my first time running Weird War I, and because I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to familiarize myself with the background given in the War Master's Handbook, I restricted characters to mundane people: no Magic, Psionics, Weird Science, and/or Miracles. This was done mostly because I didn't want to screw up anything about the Weird background of Weird War I when it came to character knowledge. I may have been overly paranoid in that. After the session I offered the players the option to modify their characters, or create a new character, with an Arcane Background, if they so wished. Luckily, they were happy with what they had. But I get ahead of myself.

One of the players owned a copy of Weird War I, the other had only heard about the setting, and both had never played it before. So to start things of and ease them into the fray, I began by trying out the Narrative Missions. The more creative you can be spontaneously, the better these will work. For me, they worked really great - I saw the cards, thought about it for a few seconds, and constructed an event around the cards drawn and the rolls the players were required to make:
  • -King of Diamonds (Phyiscal) for the NCO (failed his Strength roll)
  • -5 of Clubs (Combat) for the Squaddie (failed his Shooting roll)
  • -Joker for the extras (lucky bastards)
I narrated the squad to be out on patrol in a lorry near the Belgian-German border during the start of the war, and them getting caught in an ambush (to set the tone of the Belgian resistance being fierce and not all that rational at times): a tree felled across the road. The NCO shouted orders and joined his driver to push the log off of the road, while the Squaddie and the other troops laid down covering fire to repel the attackers. Since both failed their rolls, this meant in this case they managed to get their respective tasks done, but got wounded in the process by the attackers - slightly crazed seeming partisans. The extras (their squad mates) of course got out of the ambush without even a single wounded, only a few bumps and bruises.
Overall, I really like the Narrative Missions. They provided a short scenario with opportunities for short snippets of roleplay, while giving me as the GM a platform to set the tone for the game, the mood of the setting, and even introduce plot-relevant hooks and information. If overused I could see the Narrative Missions getting repetitive, but if used in moderation, and paired with the Mission Generator, this is a great tool and adds a lot of value to the game.

Next I started the actual scenario. Because of there being only two players I modified the numbers a little bit, and made the choice of using this session to focus on getting the PPC's pot rolling without that much danger to the PC's (but, of course, dice can always ace, so in theory nobody was ever truly save).

Having had some r&r in a conquered Belgian village after their patrol, the PC's where in the right mood I was going for. They where still looking forward to joining the actual front, but it was dawning to them that war may not be all that glorious. After finally receiving their marching orders and the long march to Liege they encountered the leaving German wounded soldiers, as per the PPC scenario description. The mood turned gloomy really fast. Of course it didn't help that I assigned them (with a few extras) to a night patrol of the streets around the command post, where only the Sqaddie's danger sense saved them from walking into an ambush by a left-over Belgian machine-gun unit.
Due to an enemy of the NCO (another NCO, who for the time was in charge of distributing ammo) they didn't have grenades. Trying to flank the machine-gun they discovered the two Belgian soldiers mutilating the German soldier's corpse, fear checks were made (and some failed), and all Belgians and one German extra subsequently died in a close-quarter melee and firefight (you will be missed, Soldat Schultz).
There were 5 Belgian soldiers (the 2 crazies and 3 soldiers still manning a machine-gun after getting cut off from their main force), 2 PCs and 8 friendly extras. I tried to even the odds with Belgian grenades, but the dice where really in favour of the Germans in this fight. Soldat Schultz died in a Wild Attack in Round 1 of the encounter, and that was the first and last time the Belgian soldiers hit anything! Not even with grenades.
The NCO sent some men back with the captured Belgian machine-gun and Soldat Schultz's corpse, and finished the patrol without further incidents. Returning to the command post the Squaddie checked the rumour mill and confirmed that something was off. Nobody could lay a finger on the cause, but the fighting in Belgium wasn't what anybody had expected. Crazy Belgians, right?

The next day started with a one hour bombardment of the Liege forts, which I narrated quite extensively to give an impression of the massive industrialized firepower to the players. When they stormed their assigned fort and the Belgian soldiers opened fire with everything they had left, I had the players make straight Agility checks to dodge the flying debris and ricochets, a failed role resulting in one level of Fatigue from bumps and bruises. This I did because I didn't want to play through a lengthy part of "cover-hopping", but still communicate the dangers of storming at an armed fort to the players. The NCO failed his roll and, leading his men from the front, took one level of bumps and bruises Fatigue.
The clearing of the lower fort went exactly to PPC plan, with the Squaddie throwing a grenade into the occupied room and the Belgian soldiers all failing their "throw back" roles. A big blast later, the Squaddie scouted the remains of the room and its now dead occupants. He found the uncovered room and the cross (and decided to hide and keep it! Sweet!), and now we are well on the way in the story.

We all very much enjoyed this session (about 4 hours) and I really hope I can find the time to run the rest of the PPC. Coupled with the mission generator (which I have yet to try out) and the Narrative Missions, I can see it being a very enjoyable trip for all involved.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Savage Shadowrun, by ManuFS (Shadowrun Second Edition in Savage Worlds)

I proudly present to you, my very own take at converting the acclaimed Shadowrun setting to Savage Worlds. Specifically, the world of Shadowrun as it was in version 2 of the game back in 1992. The Matrix is still wired, the Streetsam doesn't have to worry about a Hacker bricking his Boosted Reflexes (mainly because there are no Hackers here, this is Decker country!), Shaman still commune with Spirits of Nature... but don't worry, everybody is still out to get you.

This is still a work in progress. I have been running sessions for more than a year now, so I know it holds up very well at the table (yes, even Deckers!), but there is still a lot of room for improvement. As with any conversion, feedback is most welcome.

You can find a download link in the pages section in the sidebar, or click here.

One Sheet: Complex 41

Complex 41 is a One Sheet I created for a German RPG collaboration project and want to share with the English speaking Savages also. This adventure sends the characters through an electronic nightmare. Conceived as an entertainment device, this Virtual Reality will spin completely out of control and have the characters run for their very lives. Not only do they have to survive, but also find an exit amidst the madness.

It's designed for a group of everyday people, but it could also be used as a filler mission for an Interface Zero game, or as an idea for something that happened somewhere else and now the players have to figure out what went down.

Download: Complex 41 One Sheet on Google Drive