Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Savage Worlds Killer

This morning on my drive into work I was listening to Finding the Narrative, a Genesys podcast hosted by Tony Fanning and Chris Holmes. They started talking about combat and it made me realize that I like Savage Worlds more than any other system on the market to date. I do like Fantasy Flight Games' game and it does some stuff really well but Savage Worlds does it better.

Then I thought, what is it about Genesys that I like? Well for starters, its magic system is top notch. I think it performs better than most other systems. The magic user can adjust how powerful her spell is on a case by case basis. It allows free form sculpting of the spells on the fly and is only limited by the spellcasters imagination. Savage Worlds can't quite do this but it does come closer than anyone else with trappings.

Genesys' use of talents makes more sense to me than just increasing your skills. The use of talents allows players to have a bit more narrative structure to their character while also including boons to skill rolls, strain, or soak value. The tree by which talents are selected is designed to force the players to make difficult choices and also makes sure the character is balanced (i.e. not overpowered). Savage Worlds is very similar to this in the fact that some Edges have prerequisites. Players cannot simply take Improved Counterattack without first taking Counterattack. Then Counterattack in itself has requirements of its own. 

One last thing that I really like about Genesys is its use of Motivation. Motivation is a tool for both the player and the GM. It helps the player to better define the character by describing when and how they learned the skills that they have. It also provides the GM with ideas to incorporate the character's background into the story. I don't know how many times I've asked players to write a short background on their character and only get a few people to actually do it. Savage Worlds sort of accomplishes the same thing through the use of Hindrances but too many players only see these as a way to generate bennies. It is meant to help mold the character to your concept. Flawed characters are always more fun than perfect ones.

Now onto some of the things I dislike about Genesys. Combat actions, this irks the hell out of me and the deciding factor of why Savage Worlds is better. Much like D&D, in Genesys you only get one combat action. I remember the first time I saw Savage Worlds played by others. I saw someone perform multiple attack actions and move around. This was an epiphany to me. This is what I was missing from D&D. I was growing tired of the no you can't do that because you only have one action mentality. I wanted to be able to jump onto a table, kick an Orc in the face, swing from the chandelier, and tackle another Orc. Not gonna happen in Genesys or D&D. 

Let's talk about Cool and Vigilance used for initiative. This is stupid. Why are there two different skills for performing the same task? I understand they're trying to differentiate between someone being surprised and someone who is ready to engage in combat. It does speed up the surprise check process but it doesn’t make sense. Why do I need to invest points into two different skills that only has one purpose, combat initiative? Just have the players roll Perception for surprise, if they fail they act the next round. Then have all successful players roll initiative. The players who are surprised take the last available initiative slots. 

Abstract initiative turn order is not something I enjoy all that much either. I don't see a whole lot wrong with it but I see it as encouraging meta gaming. I'm not saying meta gaming is bad. I'd just like to see a little less of it during combat. Savage Worlds and Castles & Crusades gets this part right. Initiative is determined every round simulating the fact that combat is more fluid and you don't act at the same time every turn.

Before I forget, I really don't like how characteristics in Genesys are pretty much stuck after character creation. Or at least they should allow for a more accessible way to increase them after creation. Currently the only way to increase them is after picking up a tier 5 talent and that is pretty dang tough to accomplish. A tier 5 talent will cost 175 experience points minimum. In game terms that means you could increase one characteristic by 1 every 9 sessions assuming you don't spend it on skills.

Savage World is not perfect by any means either but it handles everything I've wanted in a game fairly well. Just to name a few things I'm not keen on are the different uses of Investigation and Streetwise to accomplish the same thing. They both perform the same function but are narratively defined differently. I've also heard that the new version will breakout Performance from Persuasion which again are serving the same function with different narrative descriptions. They will also combine Climbing, Swimming, and Throwing into a new Athletics skill. They really need to keep Throwing separate from Athletics. Throwing is a combat skill that needs to be on its own.

Basically what I'm getting at is that no game system is perfect and Genesys is not, nor will ever be a Savage Worlds Killer. I'm looking at you Jamie. Anybody who's familiar with the Nerds-International Google Plus community will know that SWK is just a term we use to joke around with about one system being better than the other but we all know that Savage Worlds just does some things better than others. It should go without saying that we put ICRPG into the same category of ribbing each other.

Even though I'm not a huge fan of ICRPG, I cannot deny the fact that it has changed how lots of people play table top RPG's in general. It has made a huge impact on the game industry as we know it. At least once a week I'll see someone on social media talk about how they don't play it but it has opened their eyes or showed them a new way to look at something. For that, I say thank you Hankerin Ferinale.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Players Derailing Your Game?

Almost a week ago during my Tuesday night game at the FLGS, I randomly decided my character was afraid of heights. Of course, this was decided just as we entered a room with a giant gaping hole in the floor. There was a rickety board spanning across this void and along the walls were enough of a ledge to try to traverse around the hole. One side looked as if it was damaged and had black soot staining it so one of our party attempted to go along the side that appeared relatively undamaged.

As luck would have it, the section he was crossing gave way whilst near the middle of the pitfall. While the entire wall started to collapse inward, he successfully managed to leap off the debris and miraculously land on the single board in the middle of the room. While all of this was happening, my mage continued to bite his nails as he observed the rest of the party cross the void. When it came to me to cross the board, I gained enough courage to step out onto the board and suddenly froze up. Terrified with fear Zoltar wouldn't budge one step further. His friend came back to carry him across but was immediately stricken by a scrawny mage who was freaking out.

The party had to regroup and come up with a new plan. Our party is blessed with two individuals capable of illusory magic and they came up with the idea of projecting an image of a 5 foot wide platform for which Zoltar could cross without fear. They would leap frog so to speak. One would project a 5 by 5 image then the other would follow up in the same manner. All the while, there is a black line on the floor for the mage to follow.

I justified Zoltar crossing the expanse because he believed the magic to be real and a 5 foot wide path would have been wide enough so that if he fell, he wouldn't have any fear of falling in to the pit. This scenario took about 15 to 20 minutes to play out but this morning on my drive into work I couldn't help but wonder what the DM was thinking at that moment and I started to wonder if I would have handled it any differently. The DM was my friend Stuart Helm and I think he handled it the same way I would have.

I knew he was antsy to get the game moving along when the players initially entered the room because we were taking too long by talking about how to get to the other side or if we even needed to, or wanted to for that matter. We had the option of going back outside the building and coming back in through another entrance. During this conversation is when I noticed Stuart trying to hurry us along and I came up with the fear of heights. I'm sure some of you would say that's just a dick move but I was curious how everyone at the table would handle this situation. 

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised because the other players went right along with entertaining my characters flaws and Stuart took a step back to let this play out. I think some less experienced DM's would have tried to say some BS like its DM fiat and we're moving on. I think I would have done the same thing as Stuart and I probably would have forced the other players to figure it out if they didn't want to go along with the fear of heights dilemma.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this as well. What would you have done in this situation? At the time I almost felt as if I was derailing Stuart's game progression but now I feel more like it was an interesting and fun problem that you don't see come up in games very often, especially D&D. Usually we're focused on the heroic and extraordinary acts we can accomplish in a game of fantasy. Why don't we see more irrational human fears in our games?

Stuart, if you're reading this, what do you think or what were you thinking when this happened?