On Saturday, my son and I went to the wonderful Labyrinth Games to participate in their "Taste of Savage Worlds" event. Labyrinth Games is a terrific game store on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The owner, Kathleen, has let the store host a series of "Taste of" events that showcase different games with a free session of play. So, several weeks ago I signed Ian and I up to go and play Savage Worlds.
Savage Worlds is a table top role playing game (RPG) published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group and the basic rulebook costs about $10, which is hard to beat. I had never played Savage Worlds before, though I had heard of the game. I did no research before we went to play. My son, on the other hand, found a lot of information online and created one or more characters ahead of time.
We had a really good time (which I will go into in detail below), but first, one gripe. Transit on a nice day in May in Washington, DC SUCKS. We got to park for free at the end of the Red Metro Line, which was all well and good, and we gave ourselves an hour and a half to arrive from our end of the Red Line to Eastern Market on the Orange/Blue line, and we arrived in good time (we had maybe 15 minutes to look around the shop, talk to people and then get down to play). Getting home was pretty much a royal pain. We did dinner in town, and then had to wait a long time for a ludicrously full train to stop and not have room to pick us up, and then wait a longer time to get a train to go to transfer at Metro Center. There, we waited about half an hour with a LOT of people for a train to finally come. On a Saturday night. And then, when we finally got to get on a train and stand for most of the trip, they were doing track work, which meant we had another 15 minute stop in limbo while we waited our turn to pass through the single track area. Now, I am a big supporter of public transit, and I think, in general, Metro does all right. However, when going to a four hour event takes almost four hours of transit, that makes deciding to take transit over driving or some other alternative (like not going and spending money in DC) more attractive.
Still, even with transit woes, we had a good time. I do wish that the market made sense to have a branch of Labyrinth Games in the little mall across the street from my neighborhood, but that's never going to happen, so I just have to be very happy that such a great store is reasonably close to me at all.
So, as far as playing Savage Worlds, there are two things that will make or break the event. First, of course, is whether or not the game and its rules, in and of themselves make sense and are fun. I can report that Savage Worlds appears to be a very solid and fun game. It is advertised as "multi genre" (rather than generic), which means that it is flexible enough to be used in lots of different settings with an emphasis on fast and action packed play (so it could handle anything, to use some cinematic References, from the Silverado, to Raiders of the Lost Ark, to Lord of the Rings, to Terminator, or Mad Max). The second ingredient is the people. We did well in this regard too. At our table, besides Ian and I, were Paul, our Game Master, Bob (who apparently helped organize the event, and he did a great job (and brought cookies)), and Chris. Everyone was very nice, very relaxed, and there to have fun.
There were two other tables with different games. If I have a regret, it is that we were not able to play all the games being run, because they all sounded and looked pretty fun. Of the games we did not play, I don't know which one was better, because both looked pretty awesome. One was apparently something like Sam Spade meets Inception meets Call of Cthulhu. The other was something like the Wild West with Witchcraft (maybe Cowboys and Wizards instead of the forthcoming "Cowboys and Aliens" [which is something else Savage Worlds could probably handle)). Both those talbes were packed and people had lots of loud fun dealing with the stories told.
Ours was great as well, and thus I save the best (because we were playing it) for last. Our setting was "Darwin's World" a post apocalyptic survival game with mutants and radiation. Our GM Paul had pre-made characters ready, and we got to customize them with our mutations, as we were all mutants. Ian ended up with a vigilant guard who had toxic skin and a lethal sting. Bob was the other warrior and was some kind of huge, winged reptilian. Chris was, I think, slightly glowing and immune to radiation. I had the healer of the group, and I was both mute and I stank and I had underdeveloped lung capacity so I was not good at certain survival things, like running. Not all mutations exactly gave you superpowers. Anyway, I named my mutant Red Cross (which Paul wrote down as Redd Xross) and indicated that he had a big red cross painted on his shirt so he could point to it to indicate his name (being mute and all).
It was a fun mix.
We were told to report for a little job. The feel was like a frontier town, so a bit of a Western, with mutants and radiation thrown in. Of course, just getting the job was hard as some kind of "bad guy" group was already trying to steal the packaged we were supposed to deliver. We had a big fight and got to learn how combat works in Savage Worlds (pretty well). It turned out that Chris and Ian's fortes were marksmanship with rifles. Bob was one terrifying killer with a katana. I got lucky with my pistol once and thought I was a gunfighter (turned out later, I was wrong and just got lucky once). We rescued our erstwhile boss and he gave us the package to deliver.
We did have a vehicle, so it started to turn a bit more like Mad Max, but we did not actually have any vehicle combat.
Instead, we found the village we were going to almost empty, except for a few kids left on guard. They volunteered to go with us to look for their families, as some big bad group (again, think the marauders from Mad Max) was out after everyone trying to get some prize piece of technology. Turned out there was an old weapons lab nearby. We went and checked it out. We were not finding the adults from the village, though we spotted the bad guys flying mutants chasing something far away on the ground.
Our next big fight was in the parking lot of the lab. It was a long complicated fight. The best result was that we managed to keep the over enthusiastic kids from getting hurt. However, we had to fight a huge flying poisonous snake/worm thing that could turn invisible. In the end, it wrapped around Ian's character and tried to fly off with him. Chris shot it out of the air and Bob caught Ian (remember, Bob could fly) and managed to make sure they both did not die in the fall. I was mostly useless, and in the middle of the fight, a bunch of radioactive zombies showed up and had me surrounded. We were running out of time for the game, so after managing to kill the big flying creature, Paul narrated the ending.
The villagers showed up and polished off the zombies. They were gratified that the kids were still alive and explained that the big marauder guys had killed the original recipient of our package (she sacrificed herself by drawing them off, riding a motorcycle). So, we presented the package to her sister who said it was a key to get an atomic bomb.
We broke into the research lab, got into the vault and repaired the equipment to load the bomb onto a flat bed truck. Of course then the marauder guys showed up, and they seemed to think the bomb belonged to them.
A narrated running fire fight ensued, but with our brave mutant characters' help, the villages would get the bomb back to the frontier outpost where they traded it for protection and incorporation and we got made special citizens.
All in all, it was quite fun. I though Paul did especially well in taking us through how the game worked without belaboring anything. The game was all in all, fast paced and fun.
If I had any disappointment, it was that the second combat got bogged down, and that we had to have a narrated rather than played through ending. However, Paul drove a very long way to come run the game, and on the whole, he did a great job, so I can't fault the pacing too much, as he was dealing with three out of four players that had never done the game before.
It was really a good fun for an afternoon. It also made a long day because of the transit issues, so we can't do too many of these. Still, we will watch to see what more Labyrinth has to offer because the store runs a great event.
Now I have to think about what in future I might run with Savage Worlds.