Low Life: Floom


Previously I gave a brief overview of the Savage Worlds ruleset and I stated that I was going to try running a session in Low Life, a game setting by Andy Hopp.  I was slightly worried about doing two things in one night:  introducing a completely new ruleset to my players and throwing them in an extremely wacky world.  Like I said before, Low Life is what would happen if Jim Henson and Ralph Bakshi collaborated on a Mad Max movie.  As it turns out, my group slipped right into their roles, joining in on the toilet humour and loving the creativity of the setting.

One player created a Wurm who had no arms and used his body to yield weapons.  He was a hoarder who spent all his starting clams on useless junk to fill the pockets of his bitchin jacket, all used as improvised weapons to be thrown at baddies.  There were two tizn’ts.   One was a gator/dog/rabbit with a mean chommp who ate unconscious baddies if you weren’t watching carefully.  Another was a rhino/monkey/eagle with a Smellcasting attitude and an over-active butt-hole.

Armless Werm

Before the end of the night they shat on a preacher, stole junk from garbage bins, and bottled animated fart clouds for later Smellcasting.  And this was all of their own accord!  The Savage Worlds rules are light weight which let them concentrate their efforts on being imaginative and exploring the game world.  It was easy for everybody to join in on the toilet humour and loosen a button or two on their dirty shirts and enjoy the ride.  Or fart.

The players thoroughly relished the initiative system.  It was quick to determine who goes in what order and switching it up every round kept players on their toes and avoided off-topic table-talk.  They were engaged and engrossed throughout the entire session.  The creature names were delightful, too.  I think it felt good for them to say “I’m going to take a big chomp out of this Wanker over here!”  And unlike Pathfinder, which can be a Game-Of-No, it was a welcome change to be able to attempt crazy things.  In Pathfinder, questions such as “Can I do [such and such]?” are answered with “No that’s a special ability of [insert class] and they get that at [some high level].”  My players’ frequent disappointment would often become my own disappointment.  The rule system makes the GM out as a bad guy.  In this game world, they just roll an untrained skill roll and hope they ace it to beat a 4!

If I were to discuss any complaints about the Savage Worlds system thus far it would be that raises are a pain in the ass to calculate.  In order to succeed a player rolls their die and has to beat a number, usually 4, unless it’s melee combat where it’s the target’s Parry number.  Every 4 points the player scores above that number is a “raise”.  If you get 1 or more raises on an attack you get an extra d6 when rolling the subsequent damage.  Different characters have different parry scores meaning the math for raises changes from character to character and numbers aren’t easily memorized.  We have smart people sitting around the table and despite that I became the “raise” calculator and players would always look to me to tell them whether they get the extra d6.

All my players were left with a good taste in their mouths, despite all the poo that landed between their teeth, and most are itching to play Low Life again, probably because they now have crabs.  It’s going to be difficult to find a regular time to host game sessions because I can’t end our current Pathfinder campaign, Rise of the Runelords.  But I’m definitely going to be running this on nights that some players can’t show up.  It’s an awesome alternative to cancelling a game night!  And besides.  Who’s going to find out where all the poo is going?

Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer's Edition

Recently I picked up the Savage Worlds ruleset, mostly out of a desire for something rules-light to run on the occasional night when not all the players can make it.  Savage Worlds is a “generic” role playing system, meaning it can be used for everything from fantasy role playing to contemporary military scenarios, to futuristic sci-fi.  The game’s slogan is “Fast, Furious, Fun” and the game mechanics promote this approach to gaming.  Not only is it simple, it’s cheap.  The explorer’s edition is a softcover version that’s only ten bucks!

Originally based off of a table-top wargame system, savage rules does away with “hit points” and classes.  Experience points are also abstracted, with the GM handing out either 1, 2, or 3 points per PC at the end of a session.  Characters have 5 basic attributes:  Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength and Vigor.  Instead of the canonical 3-18 numeric values many systems use characters instead use a die to represent each stat, from d4 to d12.  The reason for this is checks are simplified:  to success you must roll 4 or better.  Skills follow the same system, with skills being represented by die from d4 to d12 as the player progresses.

Wounds replace hit points with all characters having none, one, two or three wounds.  Taking a wound beyond 4th means the character’s incapacitated.  Incapacitated characters might have permanent damage to a limb and are “off the table” for the rest of the encounter.  A player that takes damage starts as “shaken” meaning they have to succeed at a vigor check to take any actions beyond simple ones like moving.  If they take damage while shaken, they take wounds.  The quantity of wounds depends on how high the opponent rolled above the character’s Toughness rating.  Every 4 points rolled above toughness is a wound.  It’s a simple system that means player’s statuses can be represented by tokens, keeping the play fast and avoiding scribbling on character sheets during play.

Another mechanic of Savage Worlds are exploding “Ace” dice.  When any character rolls the maximum value of a die they get to roll another one and add the values together and this mechanic is limitless.  Theoretically there’s a 1 in infinity chance a player rolls infinity.  This makes the game much more dangerous, contributing to the “furious” part of their slogan.  There is a very small chance a weak minion could smoke an advanced player in a single round.  It’s meant to keep people on their toes and the action fast.

Two more mechanics are “bennies” and “wild die”.  Players start each session with 3 “bennies” which they can spend throughout the session to either “soak” some damage, re-roll a check, or discard a “shaken” condition.  Players also get to use a “wild die” for all checks except damage.  This is a d6 die that’s roll along with whatever their attribute/skill die and they get to take the higher of the two.  If both roll ones it’s a “critical failure” meaning something crazy happens (as decided by the GM).  This “wild die” explodes two on an “ace.”  Only “Wild Cards” get bennies and wild die.  PCs are Wild Cards, as well as important NPC bosses.

One thing I’ve noticed about Savage Worlds is there are many positive reviews of it on the net and 90% of those reviews include the words: “I haven’t played a session of it yet” (or something similar).  Tonight I’m GM’ing my first session of Savage Worlds in the Low Life setting.

Low Life

The elevator pitch of Low Life is “What if Jim Henson and Ralph Bakshi were to collaboratively produce and direct Mad Max?” It’s a crazy world where “hoomanity” was obliterated by every catastrophe in existance and after “The Big Wipe” what was left evolved into the filth that exists in Low Life.  Playable races include walking talking cockroaches, short elves with inflatable noses, and angry twinkie bars.  Yes, you can play a pastry, alive and kicking and ready to meet vengeance for all the years “Hoomanity” produced their kind for consumption from sterile, plastic wrapped boxes!

It’s an incredibly creative setting and tonight I’m throwing my players in a scary pit, getting them to learn a new system and play in a completely outrageous world.  Due to the frequent poo jokes that are thrown around at our table I think they’ll get along just fine.  And I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on the system and the setting when we’re done!

Foxglove Manor Preview

Like all the maps I create you can download them for free under a Creative Commons license.  Download the full printable 18×51 inch map here.

Wednesday my group entered Foxglove Manor.  Everybody’s level 5 (because we went through The Midnight Mirror) and the party consists of a Catfolk Sorcerer, a Halfling Cleric, a Tegu Rogue, an Elven Ranger and a Human Monk.  I was a little mixed up at first and didn’t assign the haunts to specific characters like I should have.  Instead I was having whoever entered haunted rooms to roll the saves and it turned out quite dangerous.  After a few rooms I realized my mistake but it was a little too late because 2 characters had already been knocked unconcious & bleeding and the party started freaking out, worrying about me killing their characters.

When the players reached the revenant she was entranced by the mirror and they were trying to solve how to snap her aware.  As they were covering the mirror with bed sheets found covering an old couch the rogue thought it would be a good idea to stick her one at the same time.  She let out a shriek, sent everybody cowering except the rogue, then proceeded to crush him to death.  When he hit negative hitpoints she let him go then went searching for Aldern.  The rest of the party awoke from their cowering to discover the rogue bleeding on the ground, near death.


Tonight I finished Habe’s Sanatorium from the Pathfinder adventure path module The Skinsaw Murders.  It’s 24 x 17 inches and 200 dpi.  My gaming group is now on the second module from the Rise of the Runelords adventure path after completing The Midnight Mirror.  It’s great to be back after a 1 month hiatus.  Everybody’s schedules were busy but we’re back to our regular Wednesday nights so the battle map creation will continue.

You can download the full-res jpeg image for free from here.


House of Night - Preview


Before the end of the evening I managed to finish The House of Night from the Pathfinder adventure module The Midnight Mirror.  It’s a module designed for a party of four 4th level PCs.  The Heart of the Mirror controls this shadow prison plane and it’s up to the PCs to destroy the Heart and escape the prison.  They encounter various shadow denizens while exploring and also meet people from the Material plane who’ve been imprisoned in the House of Night.

Download the 23×39 inch 150 dpi map in jpeg format here.

The Chandlery - Preview
This is a 19×15 inch, 150 dpi battle map for the Chandlery from the Pathfinder adventure module, The Midnight Mirror.  Like always I use an x-acto knife to cut the individual rooms out and then tape them on the table as the players explore.  It builds suspense when they don’t know what is ahead of them.

The Chandlery begins with a modest, packed shop on the main level which leads into an unkempt, makeshift bedroom.  The bedroom contains a trap door leading to the basement where the players will discover exactly where the missing towns people have been going and who is responsible for the disappearances.

Download the full 19×15 inch 150 dpi battle map here

Boroi Manor: Preview
For the Pathfinder adventure module, The Midnight Mirror,  I created a 3 level, 29×22 inch battle map for the players to explore Boroi Manor.  I began the adventure without a map, only drawing out the rooms on the whiteboard and unfortunately this caused them to not have much interest in their surroundings.  Note that this map is missing the top level of the manor, the baby’s nursery, because I was too lazy to do a spiral stair case.

Download the full 29×22 inch 150dpi jpeg here.

Read on »

midnight mirror

The first portion of Rise of the Runelords, Burnt Offering, finished off with the players at level 4 but The Skinsaw Murders recommends the players be at or near level 5.  This means I need some in-between content for a party of level 4 players.  I hadn’t planned for this, thinking I could jump straight into The Skinsaw Murders.  The general consensus on the Paizo forums is that the players should be level 5 when starting the Skinsaw Murders because the big boss battle is pretty tough.  I decided to run a short level 4 module, The Midnight Mirror, to get the players up to speed.

The midnight mirror is a module set in shadow-haunted Nidal, where the denizens of the Plane of Shadow mingle with the common man.  People are disappearing and a plague is infesting the village and it’s up to the adventurers to discover the cause of the disappearances and stop the plague.

I won’t have maps for the candle shop nor the lord’s manor in time for tonight’s play session, due to the switch being very last minute, but I suspect I could possibly have the dark realm manor mapped & ready to go.  My players really like having the maps so unfortunately they’ll be a little disappointed tonight when they learn I don’t have any prepared.  That’s ok, because a lot of the session will be spent wrapping up Burnt Offerings, selling all the sweet loot from Thistletop, and chatting future strategy now that the adventure is post-mortem.

For those curious the module is pretty short, doling out just enough experience to get the players at or near level 5.  It’s also the only official pathfinder module available specifically for players at level 4.  The sorcerer and her diplomacy will be useful, magic weapons are a boon, and the disease that’s spreading is pretty nasty.  The town’s local religious people worship Zon-Kuthon, the diety of envy, pain, darkness and loss, and introduces some interesting story line developments based around their worship  It should be a short, fun module that gives a good rising action, climax, and resolution in only a few play sessions.

Thistletop Dungeon Level 2 Preview

Today I had just enough time to squeeze out the 2nd dungeon level for Thistle Top from the Rise of the Runelords campaign setting for the Pathfinder RPG.  It’s 24×22 inches, 150 dpi.  Again, secret doors aren’t marked.

Download the 24×22 inch, 150 dpi jpeg here

Thistletop Dungeon Level 1 Preview
This is the first dungeon level for Thistle Top from the Rise of the Runelords campaign settings for the Pathfinder tabletop RPG.  It’s a printable battle map that’s free for with a Creative Commons license.  Tomorrow night the players will be entering Thistletop Keep and I wanted to have the next dungeon level ready ahead of time.  I’m kind of strapped for time so this time around I just created the entire battle map and didn’t do the cut-able rooms like I did last time.

Note:  I don’t like to include hidden doors on my maps and instead reveal them when a perception check is successfully made.

It can be downloaded printable as a 24×23 inch 150dpi jpeg here.