March 13, 2012

Necessary Evil - Part One

So we finally had the first night of adventure in the new Necessary Evil (Savage Worlds) campaign my group just started. After having my players jump through hoops with character generation (see my previous post) I threw a couple of last minute changes which took about an hour to iron out (I changed my mind and decided to allow them to buy heavy armor, I introduced the Super Karma rule and I updated the cost of the armor power to the Super Powers Companion book). Also, I am using the pre-explorers rulebook and some weapon damages changed from that, so I updated gear stats to the Super Powers Companion book; using multiple books and edition/edited printings can get confusing.

Once we got going things went well (warning-spoilers from the Necessary Evil campaign will follow). I started with the opening scene (Plot Point 1) wherein the characters find themselves captured, in nullifiers, and on their way to be shipped off planet. After setting that scene, I had them describe what their characters had been doing for the past two years since the aliens took Earth over and then how they were captured within the previous week. I allowed some role-playing as they all introduced themselves to each other.

Powerdrive: Martial Artist who can fly. Petty villain. 
Death Knight: Undead with armor and a big sword (not as device so he summon either at will). Was in storage in his sarcophagus until the destruction of New York broke it open and woke him. Evil and hunted by the Catholic Church. 
Princess: Ageless (child), noble of the country from which Death Knight is from. Healer, Face, Intangible for defense. Also hunted by the Catholic Church. 
Greenlight: Green Lantern knock-off. 
Salamandra: Super Sorcery. Collects and studies (steals) arcane objects. 
DM5: Construct. Did not start off as a prisoner with the other characters. He is Decoy Model no. 5 for the uber super-villain of the world, Dr. Destruction.

I also had another villain in custody with the player characters; Slice, a serial killer of children who can move through shadows. I included him for a few reasons; one was to make the captured group less "meta-gamey". I always find it odd when the only people in these sorts of circumstances are all player characters, so I try to include an NPC along with them.

After the introductions, I moved right into the action and this first Plot Point starts strong and fast. Dr. Destruction attacks the vehicle and releases the PCs, taking them into his anti-grav vehicle. From there he puts small explosive devices on their nullifiers and then, after gaining some altitude, opens the back of the vehicle (similar to how para-troopers leave a plane).

Here he kicks Slice out the back to his doom with his nullifiers still intact.. This is the second and third reason I included Slice. Second was to serve as an object lesson that if the players do not listen to Dr D they will meet with almost certain death (this helps to set up the next part of the adventure). Third is actually to point out the Dr D does not like sick twisted villains (this helps to set up the reveal of who Dr D really is much later in the campaign.

[One thing I really like about the Plot Point system is that you know what will likely come up in the campaign later and can thus prepare for it. You can start laying hints for later reveals (like I did with Slice) early. You can foreshadow upcoming events.]

From there Dr D hits another button which opens up the rest of the back of the vehicle and the player characters now go falling out the back. Dr D now offers the PCs a chance to live if they will work for him and the resistance by breaking into a prison and releasing a specific super-villain. The PCs have 7 seconds of in-game time and the players have the same 7 seconds to respond. Before I even start the countdown the majority of the players have stated they will accept the deal. A couple of the others play it tough and wait until the last second.

I was a little surprised that no one resisted until death to the forced deal. I've had players lose characters in similar situations. Once I had a tribe of dervishes surrounding the PCs, outnumbering them 10 to 1 with bows drawn, but the dwarf cleric refused to give up his weapons and was promptly shot to death. Another time the party was surrounded by people with wands that could kill in one hit and yet one of the players decided to fight anyway and promptly died as well. I now expect players to fight in these sort of impossible situations so was surprised that none of the players had their characters do this.

From here it was a night of using the combat system full bore for the first time. The only people who have played Savage Worlds before was myself and my wife, so it took some getting used to. However, Savage Worlds is designed to be fairly easy to use so it didn't take long, though there were some subtle things the players and I didn't know or anticipate.
Things like, how much armor-piercing is the "norm" for NPCs to have (this was from the sorceress who can cast on the fly but didn't know know how much AP to throw into the spell)? That hitting a target number of 6 (parry) is really hard to do with only a d8 in Fighting; though you would assume a d8 in a skill is a good number to have. That a PC that can hit 3 NPCs at once (extra action and a power-up that allows him to attack two critters with one attack) with the only goal of being to keep them shaken.

Overall, I think the combat went well. The enemy didn't drop like flies and the characters actually took some damage, but not enough to start the campaign with a TPK. The players mentioned that the combat flowed faster as they all got used to it. It still took about 90 minutes, about the same amount of time we used to run a 4E D&D combat.

After that the players were faced with a moral dilemma as they quickly realized that they would not be able to bring all the prisoners with them. So they decided to leave the rest of the prisoners except those with super-powers. It was an interesting choice on their part. I like it when players have to make these sorts of moral decisions.

After making their choices they were picked up again by Dr D, who then dropped them off at an abandoned warehouse. As they parted he said he'd be in touch and that they were now a new Omega Cell, part of his organization of resistance fighters. Again I was surprised by how easily the players acquiesced to the situation. I didn't hear any grumbling about a railroad, but rather they were talking about what name they should call their particular cell. Maybe I had done a good job of presenting the campaign and setting as one where they are here to save the world from the aliens that had taken over. Maybe the players trust me enough to go along with the story as presented to them. Hopefully the campaign and I don't let them down.

One thing I've been trying to do is not be so stringent with numbers and abilities. With most RPGs, especially superhero ones, players want to feel larger than life. In the past, I've tried to keep things "grounded in reality" and thus end up keeping things balanced as much as possible. For now, I'm trying real hard to "say yes" in more circumstances than I would have in the past. Maybe its the superhero setting that makes it easier for me to do so, but I'll be giving it my best.

[Side Note: My trick for remembering how to spell Necessary...I think of cesspool and thus cess- one c and two s.]

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