The third act of Andy Slack's gaming blog

The story goes that Warren Buffet, billionaire investor, gave his personal pilot some advice: Make a list of your top 25 goals, and circle the top five. Where this story diverges from what you might expect is the followup statement that “everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Costs List”; whatever happens, those 20 items get no attention until the top five are finished. They are distractions; tempting distractions, but distractions nonetheless.

When I tried this at home, it quickly became apparent that although most of my free time and effort goes into gaming, that is not where most of my priority goals are. (There’s also the undeniable fact that I’m not 25 any more, and it’s getting harder to run or even play multiple games in parallel.)

So, I’ve decided to limit myself to one set of rules, running no more than two campaigns at a time (reducing to one within the next two years), and running at most one session per week. Henceforth, all gaming activity and purchases must serve those decisions. (As you’ll see, those campaigns are the Dracula Dossier and the Trojan Reach – I hesitate to call it the Pirates of Drinax now since the PCs have gone off-piste.)

This means one of the regular groups needs to go, and for various reasons I reluctantly decided to drop Team Harrier; but they have started their own Mongoose Traveller campaign on the side now, so they will still get their Traveller fix, thus assuaging my guilt.

Traveller Retrospective

Is Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition a good game? Yes, absolutely; in my opinion, the best version of Traveller since the original classic edition of 1977, and I like that A LOT. Is it good enough for me to discard Savage Worlds? Not for the kind of games I want to run these days, no.

Firstly, there’s a thematic difference. Traveller is space noir; characters are ordinary people who get caught up in adventures and intrigues almost by accident, and have no mechanical advantage over NPC mooks. Savage Worlds characters are pulp heroes who get drawn into action-adventure movies and gun down mooks by the dozen. At my table, we prefer the latter.

Secondly, we’ve spent years learning Savage Worlds, and there’s no real advantage in switching to another system, so no real reason to change. I can’t see anything in Traveller that I couldn’t do in Savage Worlds faster and with less record-keeping; YMMV of course.

I will continue to use the starships and worlds from Traveller, as I like them better than the Savage Worlds equivalents – this is probably just because I’ve been using them all my adult life and I’m more comfortable with them. If you remember the Little Black Books, essentially I have replaced Book 1 with the Savage Worlds core rulebook.

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Comments on: "A Night at the (Space) Opera" (9)

  1. Have you backed the new Savage Worlds Kickstarter? Interested in your thoughts on the previews being posted. I’ve always played Traveller, but I’m interested in trying Savage Worlds. These days, fewer rules and a fast-moving game mean more to me than gear-heading (never thought I’d say that).

    • andyslack said:

      Yes, I have backed the new SW Kickstarter. At the time of writing we’ve seen previews for Quick Encounters (an expansion of the earlier free download for Quick Combat) and Chases, and based on chatter on the internet I’m expecting reworked skills and some additional damage conditions – the latter sound more like consolidation than new rules; there are pseudo-conditions scattered and buried in the rules currently, it looks like those are being pulled together into one place and invoked by reference rather than repeated each time they apply.

      My perception to date is that the new edition is that there are three main philosophical shifts in play. First, a shift from the specific to the general, see above comments on conditions. Second, more story-driven play, as shown in the previews; if Savage Worlds were a movie, Quick Encounters would be the montages – I expect this will be an option rather than the default rule, though, suggesting that as well as a range of genres SW intends to cover a range of play styles. Third, the previews for Support and Tests (part of the Sleepy Hollow download) suggest greater scope for player creativity, again broadening the range of supporting play styles. So maybe they are adopting some innovations from the indie gaming community.

      However, I haven’t seen anything yet that looks like a dramatic change to the rules, more relatively minor improvements. Pinnacle doesn’t change rules often, and when they do, they are wont to provide free downloads explaining the key changes so you can keep using your old edition if you want. There is a change to the format though; no more A5 softbacks, rules will now be hardcover graphic novel format or PDF only – I understand the softbacks are no longer commercially viable.

    • andyslack said:

      My current Traveller to Savage Worlds conversion guidelines, if you’re interested; but you’d be surprised how infrequently I use them – one of the beauties of Savage Worlds is how easy it is to stat up NPCs on the fly. The average NPC has skill d6 in everything appropriate to his role, roughly equivalent to UPP 777777 and expertise level 1.

      Characteristics: SW die type is Traveller characteristic minus one, round down. So Strength 9 in Traveller becomes Strength d8.

      Skills: Expertise level 0 is skill d4, level 1 is skill d6, and so on.

      Those are close enough statistically, and easy to remember. The rest of it I convert to maintain the Traveller feel; nobles get the Noble Edge, scouts typically have the Outsider Hindrance, psions have Arcane Background (Psionic) and are Wanted, that sort of thing. I used to make having a ship an Edge, but these days if I want the party to have a ship, they get a ship, and otherwise they’re not allowed.

  2. Thanks Andy, very useful. I’ve backed the SW Kickstarter myself and like you, I would really love to have a single set of rules that covered multiple bases. Back in the day I used GURPS for this, but that’s much too crunchy for me these days. I had a look at FATE, but it’s a bit too narrativist for my taste and that of my players. So maybe SW will be the goldilocks ruleset for me. Cheers for the conversion notes.

    • andyslack said:

      You’re welcome! Of the generic systems, I’ve tried GURPS, True20, and Savage Worlds in actual play; I read Simply Roleplaying, Basic Role Playing, EABA, FATE, FUDGE, Fuzion, D6 and Genesys, and none of them inspired me enough to run, although Genesys came close and I enjoy it as a player.

      I settled on Savage Worlds because of how easy it is to use as a GM; I’ve created a campaign with it in 20 minutes (while the players were creating characters based on the elevator pitch), and I’ve run combats with 20-30 characters and several vehicles on each side in under an hour. I don’t know any other game I could do that with.

  3. I’m with you on this Andy. I’m currently running Numenera PBF, Savage Worlds Thrilling Tales FtF, when that finishes I should be playing in a Starfinder Game, then I’m planning to run 13th Age before Ben starts up his Numenera Game. In between, I’m playing A Star For Queen Zoe solo, using a mix of Solo, SWN and Stellar Adventures.
    I take partial retiremant next year; you would think this would give me more time but the way things are shaping up is actually going to give me less!

  4. […] A Night at the (Space) Opera covered the restructuring and reduction of my campaigns. […]

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