Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Savage Speculations

Chaosium's Basic Role-Playing system is my great love, and while Savage Worlds comes a distant second, it still dominates the pursuing pack. I've had great fun running an Eberron campaign under the rules, and I expect it to continue for a while yet, but even so I'm feeling a little stifled by all the fantasy gaming my group seems to be doing.

We've got a regular Pathfinder game on the go, there's Savage Eberron now and then, and Ben's got this big plan for a collaborative sandbox campaign again set in a fantasy realm. These are all good fun games, and I like fantasy as much as the next bespectacled geek, but sometimes I want my character to be able to lay down a burst of suppressive fire or jump off a building on a motorbike. We did have Rogue Trader for that kind of stuff, but I'm not sure that campaign's going to make a return, and anything cyberpunk is a no-go alas. So I've been thinking about more modern or scifi games I could run, using Savage Worlds as the engine.

Savage Star Wars was my first thought, a scifi-fantasy hybrid to be sure, but with enough droids and spaceships and blaster guns to provide a contrast to all the normal sword-swinging of our weekly games. The problem I always had with Star Wars as a gaming setting was that the plot had already been written and cast a long shadow across attempts to run a game; I know others have succeeded, but it was too much of a strait jacket for me.

This was long before Bioware came out with Knights of the Old Republic and in doing so introduced a proof-of-concept setting which had all the right Star Wars bits but was not as beholden to existing canon. Seeing potential here, I went online to see if I could get a second-hand copy of the Old Republic Campaign Guide, saw the price tag of £200, and then gave up on the idea.

Savage Sabre Team/Savage Counter-Strike/Tom Clancy's Savage Six
Savage Dozen/Kelly's Savages/Inglourious Saveges/Where Savages Dare
Years a go I played in a BRP-based game in which we played the parts of SAS operatives dealing with a hostage situation. It didn't last long, as the GM didn't think BRP was deadly enough as it was and doubled all weapon damage, so our team was all turned into red mist within minutes. Even so, it has always stuck with me as a viable game concept, and it's something which would work with Savage Worlds, although any such game would be more on the pulpy side, so it would perhaps be better off used to emulate those brilliant 60's and 70's WWII adventure movies.

This one could be a winner, but it does have some potential problems. There is a definite danger of it falling into a formulaic mission-based structure, which may not be a problem but might chafe for some players. There's also the possibility that it might be a bit mundane for some tastes, as I'd be keen to avoid the supernatural, although pulling in some Bond-type silliness or piles of Nazi gold might well alleviate that.

It's not something I've explored, but there's perhaps some potential in throwing this idea into the future, and running some sort of Space Marines or Starship Troopers type game.

Savage Feng Shui
I love Feng Shui as a setting, but the rules seemed to me to get in the way of the fast-and-loose feel they were trying to create. Savage Worlds has the right feel and the pace is just right, so this is one idea with which I've been toying for a while. It's another hybrid setting, but with plenty of guns and car chases to scratch that modern gaming itch, and it's broad enough for anyone to find something they like within. The only potential problem I foresee with this is that while Savage Worlds covers almost everything Feng Shui did, there's one curious omission in that it has no martial arts rules to speak of -- beyond the wonky ones from Deadlands -- so there would be some work needed to include this rather essential element.

Savage Cthulhu
As a BRP-diehard, it would feel like a betrayal on a cosmic level to run a Mythos game in anything other than Call of Cthulhu -- I had to shower for three hours after playing Trail of Cthulhu -- but I could see Masks of Nyarlathotep working quite well in a more Savage style. I'm just not sure I could live with myself afterwards.

Savage Final Fantasy
Bringing in some more technological elements into the bog-standard fantasy setting might make all the difference, but I'm not sure it's getting far enough away, so this is the least developed of my ideas. I'm also not sure it's worth emulating a video game when one can just play the video game, but that's a longer subject for a later post. This one is probably a non-starter.

So there you have it. I'd like to get away from fantasy, not out of any dislike for the genre, but just because we're already doing so much of it and I'd like some variation in my gaming. Feel free to chime in with any suggestions and while I've focussed on Savage Worlds here, I would be more than happy to have a look at any BRP-related recommendations.


  1. Post-apocalyptic with or without zombies?

  2. It's funny, my tastes are almost identical: BRP primarily, a healthy secondary interest in Savage Worlds. To that end, I'd like to run more SW this year myself.

    I'm actually just about to start running a Savage Worlds adaptation of Tales of the Solar Patrol as a sort of side, pick-up game type thing. Slipstream is an awesome resource for running high pulp sci-fi/sci-fantasy. I've also had a similar thought about doing a Dirty Dozen/Kelly's Heroes-type campaign framework, although in my case I'd set it in the Day After Ragnarok setting as a cross-country rescue mission ("President Earl Warren's daughter has been kidnapped by the Ku Klux Konfederacy!").

    And I'll do you one better on Cthulhu apostasy: I have this idea to run Masks using not just Savage Worlds, but the Thrilling Tales pulp supplement. I'll have to turn in my Keeper card afterwards, I suppose.

  3. Ah, if only we had enough time to play all of the games/genres/themes we wanted! You've got a great list started here.

    I just played my very first game of Savage Worlds last Tuesday night. It's a solo game - I'm the only player and it's set in sort of a mythical ancient China. My character is, of course, from a martial arts school and I have an attendant "staff chick" (NPC chick who is completely trustworthy, wields a staff, and can do some minor healing and stuff) to back me up while adventuring.

    So far, I'm digging the system. We are playing a wuxia type game and as you point out, the lack of martial arts rules is very interesting, but my GM (referee? Savage Sage? I dunno what you call 'em in SW) has done a bit of work on creating new edges that replicate some martial arts type attacks. It's been a blast.

    Personally, I'd love to play in a Savage Worlds "science fantasy" type campaign - like Space: 1889 or even Weird Wars, but my GM isn't into that kind of thing.

  4. For Feng Shui and Cthulhu, I'll suggest Realms of Cthulhu and Iron Dynasty, both from Reality Blurs. Realms of Cthulhu has several dials for turning it from gritty to pulpy with variants in between.

  5. Gavin, I hadn't even considered post-apocalyptic, but that's a definite contender. I'll have to have a think about that one.

    sirlarkins, I'll be your sponsor at Mythos Rehab.

    Martin, all of the above are dependent on my group also wanting a change from fantasy settings; if I can't sell them on a change, then that's that.

    Kristian, thanks for the tip. I have Realms of Cthulhu on pdf, but I'd not heard of Iron Dynasty; I might give the latter a look, particularly as it's on discount at DriveThru right now.

    Thanks all!

  6. Iron Dynasty is $15 as a PDF both on DTRPG.com and the Reality Blurs Shop. That's a set price. :)

  7. It's showing as £9.15, reduced from £15.24 when I look at it. I wonder what that's about.

  8. That's just how it's set up. The "normal" price is the price of the print version.


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