Archive for October 2013

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!