This week we ran a one shot on Roll20 using the Savage World's Adventure Edition (SWADE) ruleset in a homebrew Dresden Files setting. What follows is a summary of our game and impressions of the new edition of Savage Worlds.
For setting information we used the free preview of the The Dresden Files RPG by Evil Hat Games set in Baltimore (aka Nevermore). The adventure was based on the free case file entitled Neutral Grounds from the same publisher.
To capture the feel of the novels, we made use of some new settings rules found in SWADE: Dynamic Backlash, More Skill Points, Hard Choices, and Unarmored Hero (which we renamed “Hardboiled”).
Additionally, each character started out with a GM-assigned hindrance. These were largely done to link the characters to the story in one way or another.
We had four characters who began play at Seasoned rank:
- Gary with a G, a slovenly wizard/detective with a passionate dislike of all things Fae.
- Gregory, an amatuer monster hunter who became infected by a Red Court Vampire but hasn’t yet fully turned.
- Nyx, an old Winter Court Sidhe who deals in favours and subterfuge.
- Sammy, a half-fae and thief for hire who can transform into small animals.
The game opens in Neutral Grounds, a coffee shop and bookstore that caters to the supernatural crowd. It is also “accorded neutral territory”, much like McAnally's Pub in Chicago. As the players enter the shop they find the place riddled with bullet holes and two dead baristas behind the counter. The owner, Dianne, is nowhere to be found.
After a few minutes of investigating, Nyx heads to the back room, where a thug with an uzi is waiting for the group. He opens fire at point blank range, Shaking Nyx. A comedy of errors ensues as the group tries to take the thug alive for questioning. Gregory closes and attacks with his sword, shaking the bad guy. Nyx recovers and uses the new test rules, causing the target to be Distracted. Meanwhile, Sammy turns into a raven and claws at the target's eyes leaving the thug Vulnerable as blood runs down his, face obscuring his vision.
With their target on the ropes, Gregory tries a non-lethal attack, but hits more of the door frame than the thug. After taking cover behind a flipped table, Gary with a G goes for a headshot using a smoke grenade (with the pin still in) like a baseball to try and knock out the target. Gary crit fails! The grenade hits Gregory in the back and it goes off filling the cafe with smoke! The thug can't take advantage, though, and remains Shaken. No one wants to go into the smoke blind and instead Nyx and Gary block the exits so the thug can't flee and Gregory uses his addictive saliva (puppet) to enthrall the thug.
An awkward interrogation ensues as the thug is conflicted between being enthralled by his master and Gregory's mental control. As a result, the thug does what he is told but is not very forthcoming with information. When asked to write down his master's name, for example, the guy uses blood from his bleeding eyes and writes on the wall “M-A-S-T-E-R”. Somewhat frustrated, the group orders the thug to go back to his master and then follows him.
The Apartment BlockSWADE reflections wrote:The new states were handy and gave a lot more combat options, especially as the group was trying to apprehend and not kill. My original intention was for the thug to burst out of the back and spray the group with bullets before taking off and, hopefully, initiating a chase, but the players blocked his exit really well.
The thug leads the group back to an apartment building and into a unit with a kicked in front door. One of the character's recognizes the building as the home of Frank - Dianne's boyfriend. The group sends Gary in first “since he's the fattest”. A man is tied to a chair in the middle of the living room surrounded by a series of magical wards and symbols. Meanwhile, the thug takes off out of the window. Sammy shapeshifts into a bloodhound and follows the thug, leaving the others to deal with the ward trap.
Gary takes the lead on a Dramatic Task using Spellcasting, supported by Nyx and Gregory using Occult. Success is set at 3 tokens for Gary plus one for each supporter, so 5 total over three rounds. Difficulty is -2. In the first round they manage one success! However, on round two Gary critical fails - again! This takes away their one success token and leaves them needing 5 in round 3. They only get 1.
Nyx uses his Fae strength (a really great roll with a few Aces) to just grab the victim, chair and all, and dive out the window. Everyone manages to get out just as the apartment blows to kingdom come. Escaping with some Bumps and Bruises, they stand in the street for a minute with Frank - who is still tied to a chair. Frank is out of it and only mutters one word: “Eric” .
Fire truck sirens can be heard in the distance and the group books it, taking Frank with them, to lay low at someone's apartment. Meanwhile, Sammy follows the thug to Fort McHenry - a historical site in Baltimore that has a tunnel system which runs along the city's ley line. The fort is closed for construction but the thug gets past the park Ranger at the gate and goes inside. Sammy meets up with the group so they can compare notes.
Pounding the PavementSWADE Reflections wrote: We forgot to deal cards for the dramatic task, which meant a Club draw could have made things even worse. Given how bad the results were it didn't matter much. The dramatic task system feels better. Assigning tokens, with guidelines for how many you should have per leader and helper, is very helpful. It also seems harder to blow through the task in one round like it did before. To make this even less likely you can mix up the skills needed for each round. For Sammy, we used a quick encounter roll, opposed Athletics, for him to successfully follow the thug. It got the job done.
After comparing notes, the group determines Frank is speaking about “Eric McCollough,” a creepy stalker/wizard who is obsessed with Dianne. Gary, Nyx, and Sammy use their connections to learn more about Eric while Gregory stakes out the Fort to see what's up.
Gary and Nyx use the “Busting Heads” approach. Gary hits up the local Wizarding community and finds out that Eric is into dark magic and love potions. Nyx screws up calling in a favour among the Winter Fae and ends up getting punched in the face by a troll for another level of Bumps and Bruises. He calls in another favour to find someone to cast relief (I just charged him a benny for that; remember, in this setting player bennies go into the GM’s pile).
Sammy goes the Persuasion route and is able to find out where Eric lives and other personal details.
At the Fort, Gregory realizes it's a real happening place for the supernatural community. The tunnels seems to be a superhighway to the NeverNever. He tries getting in, but Park Ranger Smith sends him packing. After some searching, Gregory finds some other entrances (all alarmed) and waits for the team.
Before meeting up with Gregory, the rest of the group stops by Eric's apartment. It is protected by wards, but to avoid another fiasco we handle it as a quick encounter opposed by Eric's Spellcasting. Gary, supported by the others, succeeds - barely. Inside, the apartment smells like death and the walls are covered with pictures of Dianne and maps of the tunnels under Fort McHenry. There's also a dead guy lying on the couch!
Nyx tries to search the dead guy, who pops awake. He's a zombie! A quick encounter ensues with Gary and Nyx distracting the Zombie while Sammy beats its head in with a staff he found in the apartment. Turns out, Eric is planning on using a ritual on the ley line at Fort McHenry to make Dianne his love slave. After grabbing a map of Eric's location in the tunnels, the group gets into a “heated” debate about setting the apartment on fire - really it's just the other two trying to convince Gary that's a dumb idea. Cooler heads prevail, and everyone rendezvous at the Fort.
Dungeon CrawlSWADE Impressions wrote: The new networking rules are really great. They created an entire scene built around investigation and role play. In fact, so far there has only been one real fight scene (in the opening) yet there's still been a lot of adventure. Quick encounters are very handy for resolving conflicts and moving the story forward. They also are flexible enough to handle a variety of situations.
At the fort, the team debates bypassing the alarm on a locked door or getting past the park ranger. They ultimately use a very clever solution: Nyx uses the disguise power on Gary to make him look like a park ranger. Gary then uses Persuasion to convince the guard her boss needs to see her. After she takes off, the group heads into the fort and down into the tunnels.
Gregory's player had to bail at this point, so he stays outside. The rest of the group eventually comes to a long, narrow tunnel full of zombies waiting in the dark. Sammy shape changes into a cat and sneaks past them to get a head count and see what lies ahead. The only way in is through the zombies.
Gary uses the wizard edge to put smite with a lingering damage fire trapping on everyone's weapons (we called it magic napalm). I gave a synergy of +2 damage to zombies from fire to help account for a missing player. We had an awesome quick combat heading down the hallway where everyone succeeded and had great narration of the scene. This lead us to the antechamber and the final showdown with Eric the Evil Guy.
Big Bad Evil GuySWADE Impressions wrote: Again, Quick Encounters shined here. Also, the Wizard edge is very handy, and allowing Gary to choose the trappings for his smite power meant he could tailor the damage type to the opposition. Power Modifiers also added a neat touch, as the lingering damage was not only beneficial, but a fantastic visual for fighting zombies in a dark narrow tunnel.
In classic fashion Eric, has Dianne tied down on a platform while his mooks engage the players. The group gets pinned down in the entryway by zombies and thugs with uzis. Unfortunately, the zombies prove unable to hurt anybody (GMs, give them weapons or at least claws) and the smited weapons are deadly. Sammy makes some amazing Double Tap headshots on zombies while Nyx uses the arcane protection power on everyone before Eric can join the fight. Eventually, Eric fires a massive blast into the entryway, catching Sammy and Gary for a wound. Both heroes soak (with the unarmored Gary getting a boost from our Hard Boiled setting rule) The arcane protection power is massively helpful here, otherwise the blast would have been very deadly. Gary gets up close with Eric, who shrugs off a blow from a bangstick, then puppets Gary. Meanwhile Sammy shape shifts into a bird and flies toward Dianne (and behind Eric and the remaining uzi-toting thug).
Enthralled Gary is commanded to go after Nyx - not requiring another roll since Gary hates Fae anyway. He doesn't manage to use his cold iron smite power to hit Nyx, but does use the new grappling rules to entangle him. With Gary enthralled and Nyx entangled, Eric turns his attention to Sammy, attempting to puppet him as well. Again, the arcane protection power plays a huge role in saving Sammy from enslavement (and the group from a TPK). Sammy steps out from a pillar and double taps Eric for a massive hit. While Eric is wounded Sammy, holds the gun on him and forces surrender.
Beaten, Eric backs down. Dianne is freed and Gary takes her back to Frank (much to Sammy's disappointment; his GM-assigned Hindrance is Jealousy of Frank over Dianne’s affections). Nyx volunteers to take Eric to the Winter Court to face trial for breaking the Accords (although the old dealmaker does so with a twinkle in his eye). But Dianne is free and Eric contained, for now at least. So the day is saved.
ConclusionSWADE Impressions wrote: The new powers played a big roll, particularly arcane protection. As the GM playing the big bad, being able to put a lot of “oomph” behind the blast power was great. Also, with no option to evade the group was stuck once they were lined up. The Hard Choices setting rule made this fight hard as the GM was sitting on a stack of bennies and each time the players used one during the scene I got it to use against them. Nasty stuff. It was great to see options for non-combat characters to contribute. Nyx only killed one zombie but his magic and support rolls contributed to a number of successes. Double Tap was a great edge for our pistol packing thief and Gary's magic also upped the damage done by everyone.
One thing I found kind of cheeky was switching weapons as a free action. Generally I think drawing guns or readying a weapon is fine as a free action. However, in melee a player was able to switch between a gun and a melee weapon without any penalty. Good for the player but kind of takes away some impact from the unarmed defender rules.
Overall, the new rules played fast and gave this investigative/procedural game a lot more texture beyond fighting. I like how it felt and the number of options in the GM and player toolboxes made for multiple ways to approach a scenario. First impression was a good impression.