I didn't get around to posting session summaries through January of our Ladies' Night table as they experimented with Savage Worlds. Therefore, these will be a little patchy. If you were a player at that table, feel free to write in corrections! After the summary you can check out my rundown of some core mechanics of the game including rolling and level advancement. For more, check out the linked "Test Drive" document here:
Cast of Characters (Apologies! I've forgotten some last names)
Francine Tumblety, the Noble Hunter in the Night played by Heather
Bonnie Westerfield, the Rugged Western Tracker played by Jenna*
Madame Moreau, the Scientist of the Strange played by Candace
Adelaide, the Keen Eyed McGyver and Engineer played by Cindy
And Morela von Strump, the Psychic Fencer played by Amanda
The wagon trounced up the sodden hill toward a sloping, decrepit manor house in the English midlands. The land was lined with damp fields and clay mines and this house had once overlooked it all. But the gentry had fallen on hard times and the land was now loosely overseen by a neighboring family who saw little value in maintaining the estate.
The wagon was packed with six riders. The lithe pale figure of Francine Tumblety made little sound while her claws glimmered in the dim lantern light. Bonnie Westerfield's colts were more prominent while her wide hat hid her features and cast her sun-touched features in shadow. Madame Moreau, the wayward daughter of the fell Doctor of monsters, spoke little while her peculiar weaponry and bag of surgical tools, rattled together creating an discordant rhythm to their travels. Adelaide, though preferred her stooped basement workshop to the rolling roads of carriage travel, her own set of tools lined her belt and jutted from her vest pockets. And Morela von Strump's rapier hilt shimmered in silver and finery, though her skill with the blade was more than show.
Tumblety shared her tale with the others en route. Her family, well-to-do and known in the London social circles, had hosted a fete. A pair of guests had stayed late, distant cousins she had thought, but perhaps that was what they had said at the time. The family was fatigued, but these cousins would not leave. They pressed for more drink and the night grew late. The lady had stepped out, the help gave space, and when she returned she nodded slyly. Blood dripped from her lip, and they pounced. Her parents fell, her sister and brother grabbed the irons from the fire and fought as best they could. They were fast and bloodthirsty, but together they forced the man into the fireplace where he screamed and fled straight up, his body smoking and scalding. Her siblings fell, but just as the lady bit into Francine's neck, her sister fell with all her force and a table leg, broken in the scuffle, plunged into the woman's back. Francine's sister fell just as the form went limp and began to quickly age to ash. Francine held her sister, deeply wounded, holding her dress against the wounds on her arms and neck before falling, exhausted, herself.
In the grim drear, Tumblety stepped from the carriage, rain sluicing along her cloak. Two massive doors leaned against one another, swollen and in disrepair but closed. From the steps, she peered a dim orange glow in a room along the west wing to her left; gaining purchase on the washed out steps, she moved toward the light being tightly observed by her companions.
Within a frail hand turned a page by candelight, but the form was obscured by the wings of a worn leather chair. After a moment, Tumbelty spoke, "Father?" just loud enough through the pattering drizzle to be heard opposite the glass. A whisper of air and the candle was out, the book closed quietly, and the room was darkened.
The others approached, Adelaide shattered the glass, and they climbed in.
The lantern revealed a library, chairs cracked and worn, tables with mounds of melted wax. Moreau took to the shelves: Ancient medical tombs, collections on the occult, histories, fables, genealogies. A double door was closed to their left to some adjoining room, while a single door led inward, deeper into the house. Moreau flipped furiously through the books, trying to make something of it all. A set of letters hidden between pages... Strange surgeries on the dead? The dying? Vital injections? And the initials H.W.
Tumblety's senses perked and she could hear? Smell? Whatever had been here had moved to the hallway. She followed. And there was something moving in the darkness toward her. Her claws went out and plunged into the monstrosity of stitches and overgrown musculature before she could think. Her claws jutted through it (his?) head, the rest of the body moving on impulse for a moment before going limp.
Von Strump moved into the hallway as an echo issued from further down the hallway to the west. She moved to it, Adelaide's lantern light issuing from behind. The floorboards strained from years of damp, mildew and ancient glue radiated from the walls.
And there, a tall lean form of pallid skin and bones in a suit that was too short. He was easily six and a half feet tall and dark vapors radiated from his hands as he laughed. Von Strump reached out her mind, green flame lighting from her hands and toward the figure, who inhaled the arcane smoke. She was shunted backward in time, the building being constructed, a tall noble man instructing as materials in large crates were brought in. Laborers assembled wood beams, installed glass in the windows, hammered shudders. And the rain came, a sick woman, and the mad attempts to sustain her. Then to raise her. The letters to distant scholars, the workers from the town, the men who died from falls as the building grew. And the drear remained, year after year, decade after decade.
And a name, "Alistaire Caul."
From behind Moreau fired from her strange device, a finger launched and struck Caul in the face, alarming him with the force of it! Tumblety moved in his direction. Westerfield couldn't get a clear shot. Adelaide readied herself, but knew this was not a fight for her.
Caul's dark vapors reached out to them, filling them with sickening malaise, but they were fierce and willed themselves on.
Tumblety struck at him, slashing through his weary flesh which bled... slowly, almost leisurely. Moreau fired again, the finger twitching as it arched through the air and into Caul's eye! Von Strump took the opportunity and stabbed into his other eye! Pulling her blade from him, his eyes followed grotesquely on her blade to the end of the tenuous nerve.
Caul fell, but there were answers to be had! Moreau and von Strump rushed to the form, bound him, and attempted to treat his wounds though strange and grievous they were.
The house around them groaned. The drizzle outside pattered. And forms within shifted in the dark.
Savage Worlds uses some interesting mechanics, but ultimately it wasn't a system that suited this group. Like many games, you have skills, attributes, and special abilities (edges). You can also handicap your character with hindrances which earn you points for more edges or early character advancement. Hindrances and edges really develop the feel of your character and all players get one free edge during character creation. If you've played Cypher System or Powered by the Apocalypse, the piecemeal character advancement at the end of the session will feel pretty familiar (do a, b, c, d, or e; once you've done enough your rank increases).
Attribute increases help with some damage and provide limits on their associated skills. Increases for skills or attributes are denoted by the die type: d4 is beginner, d6 is trained, d8 is intermediate, d10 is experienced, and d12 is master. It is easier to upgrade skills if you have a higher tier for the associated attribute. For example, Notice and Healing are both Smarts skills. With the same cost of experience I could upgrade Notice and Healing from d6s to d8s if Smarts is a d8 or higher; however if Smarts is also a d6, I could only upgrade one to a rank above the associated attribute skill. Alternatively, I could increase Smarts, but that doesn't have a lot of immediate impact on gameplay for most characters.
As GM Charlie noticed, the game also has lots of trappings of poker. Poker chips are easy counters for "bennies." Each player gets three per session and more for roleplay or awesomeness. Bennies allow for dice rerolls or to recover from being shaken after being hit. Dice also can "ace" (roll their maximum value), and are rolled again to be added to the ace value (a d6 aces on 6, rolls again and gets a 5 for a total of 11). The base difficulty for a roll is 4, during combat it is the parry score, and successes increases when you beat a target number by units of 4. Damage either incurs "shaken" if it doesn't beat toughness or incurs shaken and wounds if damage is toughness and a raise. Extras only have one wound so go down easy while big bads have three wounds just like players. Oh, the GM also gets bennies, 1/player at the table, to use throughout the session.
Oh, and players characters or powerful NPCs are "Wild Cards." All wild cards roll a d6 when they roll for skills or some other abilities. These are clever ways to root for the players and work just as the other dice does. Wild dice do not add to the result, but instead provide an alternative route to success (like advantage dice in D&D).
Of course there are other elements, but those are the basics of play. You have to know your dice. Players will use, lose, and regain their bennies. And extras will get incapacitated, often violently. I'll talk a little more about the feel, successes, and shortcomings of the game in my Part II, but let's get to the session summary.