Oct. 24th, 2009

issaferret: (Default)

The following shall be considered More RPG Geekery.

With Eloria – Erich’s long-running world – ramping up, I’ve been getting familiar with the system he chose for this era – a lightweight pulp-oriented game by the name of Savage Worlds. Obviously, until I either run it significantly (I’m ramping up a small game in the Slipstream setting for this purpose) or get knee deep in Elorian play, I’m not going to know it fully. However, it’s got a striking appeal on the face of it.

Any idiot system can pull off skill challenges without causing brain hemorrhages. Some do it with panache, some make you faintly ill. In Savage Worlds, the question is: Can you roll a 4 on a single die? Oh, you’re a PC? You get a d6 to bolster whatever other die you’re using. There’s some color mechanics, but if your players can’t count to 4? time to go play Candyland.

Combat’s always complicated. Savage Worlds incorporates a critical concept: everyone must be important in combat scenes! If you’re not a gunbunny, then you’re sticking a leg out to trip the NPC, or conning the mooks into giving you the MacGuffin. Using your Agility or Smarts to trick the bad guys is a core mechanic and has a heavy impact on the flow of the fight.

So yeah, I’m enjoying the system for its simplicity, style, and flexibility.

I’ve ranted on and off about how awesome Trail of Cthulhu is. I’ve also commented that I’m not sure it’s playable. Fundamentally, to me, that means ‘Not fun to play’, or ‘gets in the way of story’. The presentation Ken Hite and Robin Laws make of investigative RP and of the Mythos is flawless. My problem is that the system is a little too nonintuitive for me. It’s lightweight, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want the PCs thinking quite so much about whether they need to spend their screen time now, or later, and niggling over probabilities. They need to be encouraged to throw themselves foolishly into the maw of madness.

So, I wondered: Can you run Call of Cthulhu in Savage Worlds? The key, hallmark element of games based on Lovecraft’s existential horror is that the Truth is not something human minds can deal with. The world _does_ hate you, because its most powerful beings are uncaring, horrible monsters. So when the pseudopods of their plots and schemes and heartless accidents intrude on your world… you’re pretty much guaranteed to go partly or completely mad.

The basic mechanic of wounds in Savage Worlds seems perfectly extensible to this concept, which is why, of course, noone went there. The Sanity system in Weird War II was just tacked on, and Deadlands, bizzarrely, is too pulpy for it to make sense there.

Reality Blurs decided they were going to get it right, and right they got it. Realms of Cthulhu presents us with a world where Fate is Unkind (rolled snake eyes? you may not spend a benny there), and Mental Anguish is the measure of a failed Guts check. Sanity is limited by your Corruption, whether you gained said Corruption by vile acts or by reading books to gain Knowledge (Mythos). It hangs together prettily on paper.

The next thing I want to do is iron out, for my own sanity, guidelines for handling investigations in Realms. I want to use the core Trail concept of never making players roll to get important clues. I think the system in Savage Worlds might be tight enough to allow investigative skills to be important even at a d4 – narrow, but usually rolled at an effective +4 – you will get the clue, and raises will get you more color. Still thinking. Just enjoying the prettiness of the system, still.

Yeah, I know I’ve not posted anything significant since July. I’ll see if I can’t get better at that.

(crossposted from The Dream Library)

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