Game Mastering Savage Worlds

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As a GM, deciding to use a new game system is not something that you undertake lightly.  Beyond taking the time to learn the new ruleset, you also only have one chance to make a good first impression on your players – you are also ‘selling’ the system to other gamers.  As a result, your first game needs to run smoothly while hopefully showing enough of the positives of the game’s core rules to win over at least a second look.

Converting an adventure to VTT is also a sure way to learn it forwards and backwards

So I prepared a one-shot Halloween game, converting a Savage Worlds adventure from an older 2003 title called ‘Last Rites of the Black Guard’ over to Fantasy Grounds.  Converting an adventure to VTT is also a sure way to learn it forwards and backwards – so my confidence in running the adventure was as high.  I also spent 14 hours as a player in games hosted by other GMs and a goodly amount of time reading and re-reading rules, again building more confidence through knowledge.

To top it all off, I put my own spin on the adventure.  I constructed a team of pre-built player characters with crisp, well-defined roles. They were all part of a video production crew trying to film enough of the occult and creepy settings to get a TV deal.  They had electronic devices and gadgets to help them investigate any hauntings or dark happenings.  So they had an over-arching goal of selling their show to the networks and then a host of immediate goals for the client whose children were in occult danger.  They would have contracts and release paper-work, lighting and power considerations, and gobs of smaller details to worry about that would hopefully help invest them in the story.

Defining team roles worked really, really well

Last night I GMed my first Savage Worlds game and because I was exceedingly well prepared, it went very smoothly.  Defining team roles worked really, really well and it gave everyone some of the limelight.  Everyone contributed to the collective story and the rules quickly faded into background noise once everyone got familiar with how to make skill checks.  I drove the adventure where it needed to go by making it increasingly spooky and by adding enough tension at certain points to steer the players where they needed to go.

For instance, they ‘knew’ early on that the source of their problems was coming from an adjacent house, but they had been paid to help their client and she really needed them and her distress got them back to helping her kids.  They rightly believed that they were treating the symptoms, and it weighed heavily on them for a while, but they were soon getting clues about the nature of the haunting and started to see value in helping their client.  A seance allowed them to learn a great deal about the haunting and was TV gold!  It was nice, from a GMs perspective, to have a plot device that actually provided a logical reason to dig deeper even when you had an intuitive reason to skip to the end.  They are filming the story and they wanted a good record for their viewers.

A one-shot one-kill affair really stunned them

As far as the game system goes, there were only 2 combat encounters.  The first one was a one-shot one-kill affair that really stunned them.  They’ve been use to D&D 5e combat were opponents generally tend to get worn down gradually.  But here – BANG – and they killed a zombie creature with single shot!

The next combat came on the heels of the first and it was a lot different from D&D.  All but two of the players were hiding and dreading combat because they saw that it could be deadly.  And it was deadly – they stabbed and shot a pair of murderous attackers and the combat was over after 2 rounds.  Combat isn’t really that deadly for wild cards – but there is no reason to tell them.  It role plays better this way – and it is going to lend a sense of danger to future combats.

Everyone seemed happy with the adventure and with the game system.  Combat was exactly what I wanted – impactful to the plot, but not the key element of play.  I already have a good mental picture of how to layout the next two or three episodes – and I will be channeling my inner Carl Kolchak if we decide to proceed.


Author: Kilgore

Long-time gamer, alpha techno-geek, and former infantryman

One thought on “Game Mastering Savage Worlds”

  1. the Lethality of combat can also be influenced by the Technology level of the setting, for example, when armor bonuses drastically outweigh armor penetration values. such as comparing assault rifles to power armor. it can drastically lower the lethality level for players who do wear the better armors. which is why varied weapon types are important.

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