Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A taste of old-school

Late last year, while everyone was in town for the holidays, I got together my old role playing group and did a bit of a "reunion game." This was a group in which we'd primarily played D&D 3.5 and 4th Edition D&D (that was the game I had GM'd). Our 4e game had ended when two of the members of the group moved away, but I wanted to revisit that world a little bit and everyone else seemed game.

This time we decided to switch things up and continue with the same characters and world, but we wanted to switch systems. I like a lot of things about 4th Edition both it can be very very slow, and I just wanted to try something different. We settled on Savage Worlds because several of us were pretty familiar with it and many of the other members of the group were at least passingly familiar.

We spent an hour or so making characters. It normally probably wouldn't have taken so long except that we had a couple people who were only passingly familiar with the system, and it just took a little while for folks to really think about what was essential about their characters and how to translate that into the new system. We also spent a lot of time on side conversations and just generally catching up. This was the first time we'd all been together  at the same time in a long time after all.

I had decided early on that I wanted to run things a little more old school (regardless of the system I wanted to approach things a bit differently) and do something less "plot" driven than what I'd done in the past. I wanted to move more in the direction of just setting up a location and letting the story be created from what the characters did.

I had originally started to plan out a rather complicated urban sandbox adventure with a number of different factions and such, but quickly realized in the days before we played that there was just no way we'd get through all that much of it in the short time we had to play. So I searched around a bit and found a one-page dungeon (The Ancient Academy, if any of the players are reading this... don't download that just yet!) that looked cool (and that I'd already downloaded before) modified it a bit to change it's history, put some things in there that would interest the characters, and just generally fit it into the world I had set up. We were off!

I also decided it might be interesting to have the players do some mapping and one of them volunteered to do so. I gave him some graph paper and started describing things. It was a bit tedious at first, but I think we fell into a rhythm reasonably quickly. We were all happy when a set of corridors that looped back to where they started lined up correctly. So obviously we were doing something right. I'd still like to watch some actual play videos of folks playing this way to see how others do it though.

The game went pretty smoothly. I probably need to up the difficulty of the creatures a bit and maybe add in some more traps, maybe even add in some wandering monsters, but even if the monsters they encountered were dispatched fairly easily it was still fun. This was my first time GMing Savage Worlds and it was just as easy to GM as it is to play. I continue to be super-impressed with the system.

The players moved around the dungeon a bit, explored a few things, and found some clues here and there to where the thing they were looking for might be and some hints as to how it might work. We had to stop with the dungeon only partially explored, but it was fun and I hope to get together with everyone some time soon over a Google+ hangout and finish things up!

I'm sure plenty of things we were doing were "wrong" in terms of how "old-school" they were, but we had a good time and I'm sure most would agree that's what matters. It was neat to run a game differently than the way I'd previously done it. I think I'd like to do some more of that.

One of these days I'll run an Adventurer Conquerer King game, and hopefully those of us who have been wanting to play more Dungeon Crawl Classics will be able to do so some time soon. I want to see how the systems themselves might facilitate (or not) a more old school style of play. Either way though, Savage Worlds will continue to be an option I'll consider very seriously for fantasy games in the future, regardless of what "school" I'm looking to play in, and I had a good time running a slightly different kind of game than I had previously.

Good gaming!

-The Duke of Brandonshire