Savage Worlds: 1st Game Session Report

Our first full-blown session of Savage Worlds took place last night as our Weird Pulp campaign got underway. The game began with the characters gathering at the Gotham Museum of Art and Antiquity as part of the National Exploration Society to learn of a planned expedition to British Honduras. As we were being briefed, German operatives burst into the museum wielding submachine guns, smashed a display case, and stole a South American dagger that had been recovered, in of all places, Egypt.

The Germans then fled the scene, and once our characters were no longer held helpless by enemy guns, we followed them. A car chase — using the Savage Worlds “Chase” rules followed. This was our first car chase in perhaps a dozen years of gaming together as a group, and that should tell you something about the nature of the Savage Worlds rules right there — vehicle rules in d20 games tend to be crazily complicated, but the “Chase” rules in SW are simple enough that you can have a chase without it bogging down the game.

I think the game got off to a great start — my co-GM, Erilar, did a great job with the setup. I do think though, that it’s going to take a session or two to figure out how to tweak our characters, and to master the rules. Coming from d20 games, we’re used to Difficulty Classes and a whole host of target numbers for accomplishing given tasks. In Savage Worlds though, almost all Attribute and Skill checks are going against a simple target number of 4. There are a few exceptions, like opposed checks, but by and large, you’re trying to hit that one number. That simplicity tripped us up a few times last night as we hunted through the text for explicit declarations of what the target number was for a given task, only to realize that it really was just a 4.

In this, I think the rules (at least in the Savage Worlds Explorers Edition, read the review or buy it from Amazon) could have been more helpful. Yes, I realize we should know that the target number for Trait/Skill checks is 4, but it doesn’t hurt to remind us that periodically throughout the text.

About half the game session was given over to character building, and I expect we’ll see some tweaking of those characters over the next two weeks as a result of Friday’s game. We’re all fumbling through the right approach to skills, edges and hindrances — do you take a lot of skills at low ranks (e.g. a d4 die) in order to have a chance at everything? Or is it better to focus on a few skills, and be very good at them (e.g. a d8 die). This certainly isn’t a conundrum unique to Savage Worlds but I think it’ll take folks a game or two to get a good feel for the probabilities of success with a given skill rank.

As with almost every game I’ve played that has hindrances/drawbacks, our players loaded up on them in order to buy Edges (special advantages or abilities). The more I think about it though, the more I think that it’s better to take the one Edge you get for being human, and then use any points you get from hindrances to bump up skills or traits. While an Edge may be cool and flashy, skills and traits are ultimately used a lot more frequently.

The chase worked out well, but we’re going to need to bulk up everyone’s equipment — I see the National Exploration Society as being made up of adventurous gentleman and scoundrels, all of whom should know how to use a gun. During last night’s car chase, only about half the characters were armed, and half of those were driving the cars! That took some of the excitement out of the scene as at least two players each round had nothing to do.

The chase itself was a lot of fun (at least for me, since I was one of the drivers). I like how closing the gap between cars was basically a series of driving checks, and how you could perform special maneuvers — like ramming an enemy — once you got close enough. We didn’t finish the chase, but I expect we’ll be able to conclude it pretty quickly during our next session.

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