Saturday, February 27, 2010

Friday Night Gaming 2/26/10 - The Savage World of Treehouse

Last night's gaming went pretty well. I finally got to scratch my Savage Worlds (SW) itch by playing the one-sheet adventure provided directly from Pinnacle's website. The one-sheet I used was "The Eternal Nazi," you see it from the link above as the fourth scenario listed. If for any reason you actually know you're going to be playing this specific scenario, you probably don't want to read on since I'm going to spoil it in my report below.

My strategy for Savage Worlds, since we've never played it before and I was the only one who had read the book was to run this session as an introduction to the rules and even to the world of Day After Ragnarok (DAR). Truth be told, there are so many SW settings, both official publications and fan creations, that it's hard to pick just one to play. Given that I have just the one group to play with and I don't want to monopolize our time, I decided to settle on DAR for our first SW campaign. The Eternal Nazi, set in 1940 and having a very pulp feel to it, seemed like a good precursor story to run for a DAR game. There's even a giant snake statue in the final boss fight, clearly this was going to go well!

The Story

We started the night by picking from the pre-generated characters I had also found on Pinnacle's website (this time here).  Pinnacle really is one of those great gaming companies that does all the work for the players so all you have to do is look for what you need - and it probably already exists either on Pinnacle's website or could be found on the Savagepedia. I picked the Pulp Character Pack because it was an easy match with the pulp scenario Eternal Nazi. I figured it would show off a good mix of the rules, especially the powers rules which I think can be the hardest to grasp at first.

I had each of the guys pick their character and look up their hindrances and edges in the Explorer's Edition of the rules. Luckily TheBro has actually had his own copy of the handy little handbook long before I got interested in SW, so we had two copies to pass around. Once they had that figured out (as much as they could without really knowing a lot about the rules system), I proceeded to pass out the combat survival guide (another crucial fan creation to make games quicker). I think at this point I was a little nervous that I was putting the guys on information overload, so I quickly said "don't worry, we'll pick up the rules as we go," and moved onto the scenario introduction.  Before long the group was tromping throught a South American rain forest in search for the lost fountain of youth, desperately trying to out run the evil SturmbannFuhrer Markus Ritter Van Teuffelsbetter  the big-bad for the night.

(Go ahead and skip down below for my impressions of the system and how the game actually went if you'd like to bypass the scenario recap.) They found a small group of four nazi stormtroopers first in the woods and did their best to dispatch of them. It wasn't difficult, and everyone got a shot at doing something cool in the fight. The highlight here was when Keegan, playing female adventurer Virginia Dare, attempted first to come out of the woods, unbuttoning his/her top button and trying to seduce the four Germans to leave them alone. The problem here was that she didn't speak German, and the Germans definitely didn't speak the French he was trying to seduce them with. The bonus here was that Virginia Dare was a nice distraction and the rest of them were able to get some good shots off, including a powerful neon orange zap for our group's mad scientist's lightning gun. 

They then used the bushwhacked-path the Germans used to get to them to trace back to the downed zeppelin of the Germans. They could hear war drums off in the distance and sporadic machine gun and semi-automatic gunfire. They knew they were getting close. As they approached the ancient temple that had sought all along they attempted to sneakily make their way up to the edge of the brush. All of them succeeded, all except the above-mentioned mad scientist who proceeded to fall on his face in the clearing. Check above here for just how many nazi's they were going to be facing. I allowed the mad scientist's player, Bryan, to use a benny to succeed on another attempt to stealth (not a real use for bennies, but I wanted to make it happen, and bennies are a good expense to pay to make something like this happen). As he spent his benny, he noticed that the ground was littered here an there with native tribesmen corpses. In his fall he tore his shirt off and prentended to be one of the fallen warriors. Nazi's are so gullible, they fell for it, and the doctor was stealthed right out in the open, practically surrounded by Germans.

The players could have, at several opportunities before now, picked up German uniforms to try to trick their way past the large contingent of Nazi's, but they hadn't, so instead Mike, the local photographer nerd decided to sneak his way around the temple to set off his camera's flash and distract the Germans so the rest of the group could get the drop on the Nazi's. It worked spectacularly, with the group decimating the Nazi's and the high light of Katar, the Ape Boy (played skillfully by TheBro) jumped out of the woods and skewered three nazi's in a sweep attack before any of the Germans knew they were even there.

The adventurers, having cleared the temple entrance, dared to go forth into the dark and traveled the catacomb-ic pathways of the ancient holy place to find the fountain itself. At this point all but Katar was in fact dressed like a nazi to try and make their way safer. They successfully found the hidden place where the fountain lived using Katar's excellent tracking abilities and soon discovered the dreaded Sturmbannfuhrer was already deep in ritual and his two hulking nazi sergeants close by, luckily for the group they didn't care when a random patrol of troopers (aka the disguised adventurers) came to report in. You can see the layout here, but a quick setup - the three red guys are the boss and his bodyguards, the green set of four near the top are three nazi stormtroopers and one nazi scientist coming out of a science tent, and the grey figures are our heroes, earnestly trying to only let those who actually speak German talk for the group when the scientist questions what their assignment is.

Negotiations failed when Buck Savage, played by Keith has his Tommy gun out instead of the standard German MP40. When asked where he found it, Keith immediately replied by opening fire on the paranoid Germans. The three poor stormtroopers were dispatched very quickly and in a very bloody manner with some huge success rolls for damage on the part of the adventurers. The scientist ran for his life back into the tent and the players had to deal with the Sturmbannfuhrer and his hulking sergeants. They proved to be the first real challenge and were able to survive for more than a round or two. The big bad was invulnerable until they disabled the special diamond in the eye of the snake statue at the fountain, but could still be shaken, and so was out of the fight most of the time. The real challenge was dealing with the two hulking sergeants who were shortly joined by the scientist, newly emerged from the tent and newly hulking out as well.

Thoughts on Savage Worlds

The combat, while strategic, worked very quickly. I felt like each player didn't have to wait long between turns, which can be quite a boon for a group used to playing D&D 4th Edition. It's not that they players don't have options to choose from but rather that the options don't have a million steps to follow through on. It's also nice because the target numbers are easy to figure out and rather intuitive for the players to pick up. They were able to dispatch of the sergeants and Buck got a great called shot off on the diamond in the statue. The diamond fell and the great nazi was weakened, ready to be taken out with a coup de grace. Mike, the photographer got greedy and went of the diamond in the waters of the fountain as the temple all around them fell. Since this was a one-shot and throw away characters, I couldn't help but insta-kill him for touching the diamond. Sometimes it's good to keep your players on their toes :D

For our first outing, I was realy pleased with how SW plays. Keegan got particularly into the setting and rules system and is likely going to be picking up a copy of both the Explorer's Edition and DAR, which is pretty awesome and exciting on my end. I think we all liked the initiative system where each player was dealt a card from a deck of playing cards and we went in order of Ace high down to 2 for order of acting. It felt quick and fun - adding an element of luck in a way that still seems fair.

I decided to try out a Flipmat for the first time, which you can see both sides of throughout the pictures. I picked up the Bandit Outpost as the green side was good for a neutral backdrop and the outpost side was something I could envison using quite a lot in a DAR game. I also bought the map pack Jungle. This was my first time buying both a Flipmat and Map Pack, and I came away quite impressed. I could easily see picking up a couple more of each of these for all my strategic mapping needs in the future. I'd love to see some sci-fi or more modern day materials produced by Paizo for this Game Mastery line, but I understand they're producing mainly for Pathfinder at this point, which is most decidedly a fantasy game.

You might notice that the mini's I used for the Germans were particularly... undeadish. We used the mini's from the expansions for the board game Last Night on Earth. My collection of miniatures for anything other than a fantasy setting is definitely lacking, so we used what was on-hand, and it worked out great. I am looking at paper miniatures available usually in a pdf format that you print and put together yourself. This is also a first-time for me, but when you're playing in a genre you don't have anything genre-appropriate for, you start to get inventive. I also don't want to invest in the space it would take to store another miniature collection, so printable mini's seem like the best alternative here.

Tree House

We moved on from Savage Worlds and Nat-zi killing to one of the most abstract litle games imaginable: Treehouse. We played several games, and it was a very nice release from the more-involved role-playing in SW. You can see some of the pictures of our game here. There's really not much to say about the game other than that I could play it a lot of times in a row (and did last night) without getting bored. Turns are quick, the rules are easy to understand, and the strategy with four players is deep enough to not get bored. It's very much a game that would work for all ages and all kinds of people. The goal of the game is to make your pyramid end up looking like the one in the middle. You do this by rolling a special d6 each turn and moving one or more of the little triangles that make up your pyramid to eventually make it look like the middle or, if you can't make a legal move with your pyramid, make the center pyramid look more like yours. It's a game with low component count and light play so it can melt into the background and allow your group to unwind and come down from aggressive nazi killing tactics.

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