In the workshop, we play with game mechanics. Hacks, add-ons, modules, subsystems, and house rules.
So Savage Worlds has this funny little divide in the mechanics: There are two types of entities in the entire world. There are Wild Cards, and there are Extras. Extras go down in one wound, Wild Cards go down in three. Three or One. There’s nothing else. Adding wounds beyond three, or giving an Extra more wounds, is a cardinal sin of Savage Worlds hacking because it mucks with the mechanics so much. You’re going to significantly slow down the speed of play – which is one of Savage Worlds’ primary strengths.
So how, then, do you deal with a creature so vast, so immense, or so vicious that representing it as a Wild Card with a titanic size bonus just isn’t going to cut it? How do you even begin to challenge Legendary Characters? I’ve got what I think is the easiest solution for that.
Recently, while playing, I had the unfortunate feeling that the situation I’d dropped the PCs into was going to take a lot longer than I had suspected to resolve. I was right, what was originally supposed to be a single, four hour session of rollicking adventure quickly became a three session slugfest between the players and their adversaries.
It was terrible. Or, at least, it was from my side of the table. The adventure was taking too long! We were way off schedule! It had been three weeks and we were only supposed to take one! Disaster of disasters, I could only see that we were taking far too long with the whole thing, getting caught up on minutiae, and that the players were using an approach to the situation that was really time consuming. I spent the entirety of the second session improvising details, and the entirety of the third session trying to compute the world’s reaction to the PCs’ shenanigans, and the insanity it caused.
In retrospect, everybody but me was having fun through the second session, but by the third session it had become the slog I’d imagined it to be. So, what does one do when the adventure, story arc, or what have you runs overtime? I’m gonna talk about this, but first get a couple things out of your head:
Earlier this week, I posted on The 25 Player Responsibilities in Burning Wheel Gold, and now I want to do the same for GMs. Except, well, it has to be a little different for GMs. See, I did the same thing for GMs as for Players. I noted down mechanical responsibilities as I read the book, without trying to step on the territory of advice the system already gives about itself and how to play it. Naturally, there’s going to be some blurring – but the GM’s end of the table is where the majority of stark difference between Game Mechanics and Game Fiction exists. Indeed, it’s the GM’s explicit job in near every RPG system – and explicitly so in Burning Wheel – to make sure the mechanics mesh with the game fiction. So, if I pulled some of these patchwork from my head and from Burning Wheel Gold, forgive me. I’m doing this for newcomers to the system, and old timers with bad habits, to get their heads on straight.
As I’ve read through Burning Wheel Gold, I’ve been compiling a list of what different players are explicitly responsible for in the rules. That is, what the game itself tells players or GMs they should be doing in order to play the game right. That’s an idea I have no problem with – I think one should play a game on its own terms, and on its designers’ terms, before you play it any other way. Burning Wheel especially seems to beg that you play it on its own terms. So, to help my players and myself do so: the list.
I’ve focused in on the idea of responsibilities because I’m trying to help us understand. Great. I’ve tried to stick close to what the book says, provide a bit of commentary where appropriate. No, I didn’t think to cite pages well. The Index in Burning Wheel Gold is good enough that you won’t fret to find where the text supports me. Most of this stuff is from the Hub and Spokes of the book. The final few are ones I came up with myself, they’re thoughts that occurred to me in the course of reading.
The book already contains advice on how to play, and what the GM and Players should be doing differently from each other, but most of that is about the fiction of the game world – not about the mechanics and how to play them “Properly” for your first few times, and for learning the system. I’m only going to repeat one piece of advice from there, and I’ll tell you when I do it.