Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Savage Created

I've just completed a two-session Savage Worlds conversion of the classic Ravenloft adventure The Created with three of my regular players.  This was my first attempt to convert D&D to Savage Worlds that involved a complete adventure.  I'm using this write-up both to give details and to help draw my own conclusions on the experiment.

I deviated from the original adventure (which I didn't find very well-written) significantly.  I set up my players with pre-gen characters, all members of a traveling band of thieves in the town of Odiare for some quick and easy robberies during the Festival of Bambeen.  A cousin, their principal contact, informed them that the Sertino household was the easiest target in town with the most to gain (Franco Sertino is the town's principal Silversmith).  The robbery went, more or less, as I planned.  The thieves entered by climbing the roof of a nearby building and dropping down onto the back patio/garden.  The only hiccup was when a character put a flash pellet (yes, I equipped them with some smoke and flash pellets) at the front door.  I wrote off the blinding explosion that resulted by saying the Sertinos thought a kid had tossed a firecracker into the doorway.  The thieves heard Maria Sertino's cries of "Murderer!" as they were dropping off the roof following the heist.    They moved on, intending to hide out and count their loot.

I had the constable's men pay them a call at their boarding house.  In my version of pre-Ravenloft Odiare, Constable Aldo Brazzi is a crooked man who has a hand in every racket in town.  The arrival of the strangers was monitored closely by Brazzi's men, and the Constable intended to take an extra thick cut of their loot to teach them some respect and then get their assistance in solving the murder.  The thieves intended to fight their way out of the inn.  It got ugly.  Before I knew it, the players had shot two of Aldo's men and wounded the Constable.  Oh, and they started a fire in the boarding house as well (common tactic for them, I should've expected it).  I had to fudge the rules to "knock-out" two of the PCs, but their wizard got away and went to ground.  I then had to make it seem realistic that, in spite of the fact they'd wounded the Constable, killed a deputy, and injured another, Aldo was still willing to deal with them.  I put it down to the charismatic "Face" character, saving the captured PCs skins by making friends with Aldo.  The PCs were released with the understanding they would investigate the Sertino murder before receiving any of their gear back and whatever Aldo decided to let them keep of their ill-gotten gains.

The player with the Wizard took up a new character: one of the Constable's deputies.  He played the character as a "born-again" thug, seeking redemption after being jailed for robbery.  This lent a little morality to the PCs as they went back to interview the Widow Sertino, her daughter, and their housekeeper/nanny.  Immediately, the group suspected something wasn't right with the girl Giselle and the way she clung to her doll "Knuckles".  They then followed a red herring I set for them: the suggestion that the Widow's dislike for Aldo's sister might have something to do with his death.  Once they interviewed Aldo's sister, her husband, and managed to sneak into Aldo's workshop and acquire a copy of his will, the Widow was cleared (she wouldn't have profited from her husband's death).  Ironically, in two walkthroughs of the house they missed the bloody knife under Giselle's bed due to bad Notice rolls.

They decided to follow Giselle.  The nine-year-old girl was their only suspect.  She, of course, dragged her nurse-maid to the puppet show at the Secolo Theatre.  Mid-way through the show the PCs were called out by Aldo to interrogate a suspect.  "Mad Enzo" was yet another red herring; a demented wizard's apprentice who confessed to the crime only to seek refuge from the voices in his head.  After the interview, the PCs found the deputy who caught Enzo dead in an alleyway, choked to death by puppet strings.  A man came running from the Secolo Theatre, falling paralyzed before the statue in the centre of town before he could tell the PCs what was the matter.

In the Secolo Theatre, the PCs fought a dozen Carrionettes while Maligno escorted Guiseppe to safety.  The Carrionettes managed to paralyze them and take their bodies after close to ten rounds of combat.  The PCs woke up in the toy store, in the marionette bodies, lost a few points of Reason (my equivalent of a Horror Check) and then set about escaping.  While seeking weapons, they found Guiseppe's journal (the entries for which I redid to make the language less...childish).  The two remaining thieves managed to pull a lamp off the wall and set fire to the lower floor (and the pack of animated toys trying to keep them in the store) and escape through the front window.  The guardsman PC went upstairs and, after hitting Guiseppe's cat in the face with a hammer, escaped out the upper floor's window.

I should mention:  we get together as a group once a week and play for five hours.  Between the red herrings and the combats (which take a while in Savage Worlds because of chips and such) we were down to the last hour-plus of the second session.  I altered the story for time's sake, saying that instead of being spread out, the Carrionettes occupying the PCs bodies came with a group of other possessed townsfolk to see the fire at Guiseppe's toy shop.  As the store went up in flames I let the PCs get their bodies back and flee the crowd more easily than I should've according to the adventure as-written.  This pushed toward the final confrontation with Maligno.

The final battle with Maligno was where I thought the Savage Worlds system showed its charms.  The player portraying the Guardsman had drawn the "Folk Hero" card from the Adventure Deck.  The description kind of fit the situation as they rushed the theatre full of Odiare's children and I ruled that its use allowed the PCs to break Maligno's hold on them, thus the kids recognized the PCs as people trying to help them and the Carrionettes as evil creatures that took their parents away.  So the PCs and children fought Maligno's little army of evil puppets together as the theatre burned down around them (my PCs didn't need any prompting from ghostly victims...they love burning stuff).  Because of timing: Maligno wasn't "killed", I ruled that the theatre's ceiling began to give way and it *might* have destroyed him.

I ended the adventure with a Vistani woman wandering into town in her vardo and offering the PCs a lift in exchange for the few stolen goods they had left.  The thieves took off while the guardsman stayed behind to look after his homeland, hunt for any sign of Maligno, and protect the children.  

Other Considerations:
*I had a bucket of unused chips at the end of this adventure.  Part of this is because I'm using the Deadlands Blue/Red/Black chip rules.  My PCs spent Red chips on a number of occasions.  In retrospect, I could've ended the first fight at the Secolo theatre much faster, but I didn't want to do that at the time.
*I feel that, with my group's 5-hour game sessions, I was smashing three weekends of gaming into two weekends.  The gave myself a deadline of two sessions in order to give someone else an opportunity to GM before he had to disappear for a while.
*Despite how critical I am of myself, I should note my players said they loved the game.  They said my use of music and lighting to establish mood made it feel like a horror story and that the ending was dramatic, but left room for a any good monster/slasher movie.      

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