Geek life and custom content for Savage Worlds
Went to KantCon this Saturday with my girlfriend and a gamer friend of ours, and thought I’d mention how it went.
I made the mistake of not preregistering for anything, since I didn’t think we’d be able to make it. My mistake – I didn’t realize Vernie would have time to go, so I hadn’t really made much in the way of plans for it. I hopped on ConPlanner and signed up for some events the night before. I thought the site was just a pain in the rear to use, but it turns out it was supposed to be down, and I had accidentally figured out a back door into the beta software (oops). So the events that we had signed up for online (a pair of Savage Worlds games – one a pulp Africa game set in the 1920s, and the other a Scooby Doo Cthulhu game set on a ghost ship) were both full when we got there.
The staff at KantCon was very helpful about finding us another game, and the three of us signed up for two games on Saturday – a zombie horror game set during the Civil War using the AEther system, and a fantasy dungeon crawl using the Ingenium system.
I was not impressed with the AEther system (I disliked it enough that I’m not going to look for the ae symbol) or that game of it. For one thing, there were no pregenerated characters for a con game in which we played a unit of Union soldiers. We had to make characters for a game that only one of the other players had ever played, and even that was just once earlier in the day. Pregens for such a group would be EASY – the different roles are right there, just slap together a half-dozen or so pregens and you’re good to go. The game started with each of us rolling percentiles to see if our characters were ambidextrous or had an eidetic memory – that should have been a sign right there.
The system itself didn’t impress me that much – it’s a percentile-based, roll-high system, where you add effectively your stat modifier and skill for everything you do. Percentile math is unnecessary, in my opinion. The detail of random numbers ranging from 1 to 100 just doesn’t add anything, and the way the game worked the actual skill didn’t mean much – you got a much higher modifier from the basic stat used.
Additionally, it was frustratingly lethal for a convention game. The first enemy contact we had incapacitated one of our squadmates, and she was effectively useless for the rest of game – she could just limp along for the rest of the session, rolling everything at a huge penalty. I can see the appeal of lethality for a con game, but it should be FUN about it, not just “there was a trap in what you were obviously supposed to investigate, now you’re out of the session”. The system uses d10s for all damage, and the average character has 3-5 hit points. I wasn’t told that negative hit points wasn’t unconscious, so I said I was out at one point when apparently I was just at -10% to everything and wounded – apparently the system doesn’t have a “knocked out but alive” rule unless you spend a luck point to survive something that should have killed you.
The other players in the game were okay. We had a young girl who had fun playing a soldier and laughed at my bad Kentucky accent and profanity, a guy who did a good job but wasn’t super memorable, and a guy who whispered a lot and wanted to be off by himself doing the sneaky thing. We decided early on that Stealthy Guy was going to be the lieutenant (since had had actually played the system before) and it was kind of funny to realize that our lieutenant abandoned us almost immediately to sneak off and investigate this creepy house by himself. He was either eaten by zombies or burned down when I made a moonshine Molotov cocktail and burned the place to the ground, but either way he didn’t make it.
After that game, we went off to get ice cream at a place Jarrod knew about in Overland Park (Glace Artisan Ice Cream, it was tasty). We had a nice cathartic bitch session about the previous game, and then headed back to try our luck again.
Ingenium was, on the whole, a much better experience. The system was dead simple – roll a d10, add your stat modifier plus maybe a +1 from a talent, and that’s your roll. Exploding die on the d10, so you could get pretty high totals. We had a good selection of pregens (though oddly no spellcaster, and the GM said that somebody had taken the rogue-type pregen home, so we just had warrior-types and social-types). I played an agility-focused catfolk warrior, Vernie played a gargoyle warrior who was more toughness-based, and Jarrod played a human merchant with social skills. We had two other players who were new to gaming, and they did a good job (another catfolk warrior and a human bard, as I recall). The table was a 50-50 split on gender, too, which was unusual for a con game. I actually noticed that there were more women than I expected to see at the gaming convention; it was rare for a table to not have at least two women.
The plot was pretty simple – there’s a new cult in town and people are disappearing. We went off into the woods toward their lair, ambushed some cultists, and stole their gear. The first combat was amazingly quick – the game gives you multiple actions each turn, so we dropped three people in just a moment.
The rest of the dungeon crawly portion was pretty slow. That encounter with the cultists was the only thing that happened for a while – we walked through an abandoned dungeon for most of the session. There was a puzzle that would have been vastly improved by a handout. If there’s a riddle that hinges on a visual cue, LET US SEE IT. At least DRAW the darned thing so we know what’s going on, and give us a copy of the little poem so we can figure it out without you having to read it over and over. We actually just went around it because none of us could figure out what was supposed to be going on, but as soon as we got a visual, it was obvious. (The puzzle lowered a bridge to cross a chasm, we eventually just called for cultists from the next room and the social guy got them to lower it, since he was disguised as a cultist).
In the end, we got to the cult’s central chamber where they were trying to summon DemonBadGod. There were apparently over a hundred cultists, along with a pair of priests and some monster-thing tied to an altar. We didn’t see any indication of what to do at this point, which was kind of frustrating. I didn’t know the system well enough to know if were were supposed to just slaughter the cultists or if that would be suicide. Turns out that’s what we were supposed to do, essentially, so we spent some time figuring that out that was mostly just wasted. When we eventually just said “Screw it!” and attacked the cult leaders with ranged weapons, the cultists… didn’t do anything. I found that odd – the fight was just with the two cult leaders, the high priest and the guy with the sacrificial knife. Both were pretty much pushovers – none of our PCs even got hurt appreciably the entire game except me, and that was because I was screwing around with a trapped pedestal to figure out the puzzle earlier.
Still, the game was much more fun than the Civil War zombie game. Vernie liked the system for fantasy games much better than Pathfinder. I thought it was okay, but nothing special – all our characters seemed a little too similar for my tastes, but that might have been a lack of variety in the pregens. I picked up the core Ingenium PDF yesterday, since it was cheap. I’ll look it over sometime.