I’ve been daydreaming about running a space opera campaign and finally started looking around for resources. One of the most basic would be a star field map that I could use as a background for ship tactical battles, discovery missions to build some tension, or to just show the relative positions of potential combatants.
A couple hours of looking for “VTT space battle maps” and various other key word searches resulted in… not much. Anything that I ran across was extremely distracting at best, or just plain hideous to view. I finally gave up in disgust, having searched several sites that sell such things as well as using my Google-fu with no luck.
This should be a basic commodity and it not being readily available from a variety of sources is a bit disconcerting. So I spent a part of my morning working in Photoshop and made 10 different battle maps for space combat. He is one of the low-res maps that I created:
Clicking the map links off to the full-scale image, so if you are here looking for a map like this, feel free to use it.
Why stuff like this isn’t more widely available is a mystery. My guess would be that most settle from some imagery from Hubble or something similar – I was something less distracting but that still gets the ‘you are in space’ point across.
I will probably get around to selling stuff like this early next January. There is no point in complicating my tax return at this point in the year and places like DriveThruRPG will send tax statements at the end of the year.
Way, way back in the 70’s when I was a youth, I was introduced to Solomon Kane via comic books. Eventually I found my way to the Robert E. Howard pulp classics and read them – and Solomon Kane took me to Conan. So when I signed up for the Solomon Kane event at FG Con 9, I was more than curious to see how a puritanical adventure against evil and deviltry would play out inside the Savage Worlds RPG.
Jingo, one of the founders of the Society of Extraordinary Gamers, hosted a gaming session for myself and two other lucky gamers. Everyone was fairly new to Savage Worlds and one hadn’t used Fantasy Grounds before, so we were a bit slow to get started but Jingo kept things smooth and orderly without getting frustrated.
Everyone was fairly new to Savage Worlds
My fellow gamers were also a bit less gamed jaded than myself, with one of the two being very new to RPG gaming, so I merely suggested solutions or actions and otherwise followed their leads. I tried to push a little here and there, but generally wanted to just do my job.
After playing a supporting character the night before, I wanted more of a main-line role, and took a Swordsman/Duelist that I named Theo (Tay-o) who was an arrogant, jingoistic Frenchman that had a skill set that did indeed make him rather dangerous. The other players took an English Captain with a range of leadership skills and an Italian Courtesan that carried a brace of daggers that she could toss with respectable accuracy. We made for a rather odd group, with little to no investigative or arcane knowledge but we could do pretty well in straight-up fight.
We didn’t really get a straight-up fight!
I don’t want to ruin Jingo’s tournament module by saying much about the adventure specifically. I will say that we didn’t really get a straight-up fight! Almost immediately it looked like we were going to go down under a wave of axe-wielding foes! The good Captain had a knack for dramatic last-minute timing and played an adventure card that saved us from the immediate peril and we quickly retreated to a safe location.
The numerous raiders – whom were only visible in moonlight – and naturally they didn’t tend to stay in pools of soft moonlight, instead preferring to go indoors and attack the villagers.
The Captain’s moral compass wouldn’t let him ignore the cries of the villagers
We responded to the attack on the villagers even though my inner voice told me to do something else. The Captain’s moral compass wouldn’t let him ignore the cries of the villagers and splitting a party of 3 is rarely going to have a good outcome. So we rescued the threatened villagers and then followed the other route – which did indeed prove to be the solution.
What did I learn here about Savage Worlds? Well, I sort of thought that ranged attackers have it fairly easy in terms of getting hits. I was having a fairly rough time of it at first with melee with just a 6 parry – which negated me done to around a 40% hit rate and was watching ranged attacks hit on 4’s which is closer to a 60% hit rate.
I also learned that doing enough damage to punch through armor and the like can also complicate things. My fighting combo – a rapier and a main guache – are fine for lightly armored opponents, but these guys were right on the edge between medium and hard difficulty and I stayed a bit on edge through out the session.
The session itself was very well managed by Jingo who was clearly an experienced and patient GM with many years of experience. When something happened that wasn’t clear, he would take the time to explain it, and this happened with some frequency given our newness to Savage Worlds. Since we had some fairly green players, he also made some more overt hints or suggestions and pulled at least one punch. When he made a mistake (like once – when he moved 20 villagers individually instead of enmasse), he’d point it out which, for me, is a learning moment.
Savage Worlds can deliver combat that doesn’t bog down an entire evening
All in all, I came away having gained some more valuable Savage Worlds experience and I am still liking what I am seeing in the game system. The upbeat tempo of the game is as good as I was hoping to see – only taking 15 minutes to resolve combat vs 90+ minutes in other systems is really, really appealing to me. My games currently tend to be a battle night or an role playing night and I’d rather have a better balance and more regular rhythm between action and role play. It looks like Savage Worlds can deliver combat that doesn’t bog down an entire evening which in turn is going really help in the pacing of gaming sessions. I will be able to do things like start a combat 30 minutes before the the session should end – and be reasonably certain that the combat will conclude and not need to end the session with combat in progress (or stop early in order to avoid doing that).
Last night I was able to game well past my bed time in a Savage World’s Shaintar adventure hosted by Stephen Dragonspawn called “Fire in the Darkness.” It was my first experience with a live Savage Worlds game and, while the gods of RNGiness did make it a little weird, it was a long enough session for me to get a really good first look – along with very good GM explanations – at the core ruleset. Beyond these goals, I also had a good time and enjoyed Stephen’s adventure a great deal.
I know that Stephen is running this again, so I will not post any spoilers. Please don’t misinterpret this as a casual disregard for the nuances of the adventure – it was nicely done and plenty of fun – and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else.
I mentioned the gods of RNG and they reared their multiplicative heads early and often. On the second round of combat – what was perhaps 10 minutes into the game – a gargoyle hit the party’s Orc Druid with an outrageously lethal amount of damage. The druid played an adventure card which negated all combat damage thus far and walked away without a scratch, and dryly commented that he had never had to play an adventure card so early. I looked at my adventure cards and nary a one would have saved me, so RNG cut both directions here – which as pretty cool.
As the night went on, we had the good fortune of drawing a lot of Jokers during combat, so we had a fairly strong (a bit short of outrageous) influx of bennys. Because we knew the timeline (4 hour game session), we were able to be fairly free with how and when we spent them, so we moved along fairly quickly.
By the end of the evening, I certainly had noticed how quick and deadly combat encounters were compared to D&D 5e. Ganging up bonuses combined with well-timed uses of bennys illustrated the effectiveness of team-play. The Wild Die helps give combat the proper sense of the chaotic unpredictability of battle – and maybe happy rush of adrenaline or happiness or fear that one should have when something unexpectedly good or bad happens.
When the Wild Die went off and a combatant was cut down with a mighty blow, Stephen urged the players to describe the blow. I thought this a little strange at first, but came to recognize that he was prompted for some role playing and doing it at a good time, when the player was flush with a bit of excitement or elation. There is often a discussion about what happened after a crit in D&D with the players expanding the narrative details, so asking for an explanation from the player is rather clever. I may have to steal that :).
All in all, my first impressions of Savage Worlds are very good indeed and I am starting to get excited about the prospect of running a campaign with the ruleset. Thank you, Stephen, for an excellent introduction to Savage Worlds!
I have another adventure, this time in the puritan’s world of Solomon Kane, in a few minutes. So anticipate another FG Con 9 session report…
I am soon to participate in my first Fantasy Grounds game as a player and I am doing it with Savage Worlds since I want to gain some experience with that gaming system. My first event “Fire in the Darkness” is tonight and it is graciously hosted by Stephen Dragonspawn.
I’ve been pressing on with my conversion of “Last Rites of the Black Guard.” I am actually to the point where I am goofing around with art assets – I don’t have much in the lines of modern tokens and I find myself hand making at least a couple of them. I’m about 85% done and should be in good shape for Halloween fun.