Wednesday, September 10, 2014

GM Wednesday - Savage Big-Bads



When I played Savage Worlds, I often made the mistake of thinking of the Big Bad in D&D terms, i.e. there is one monster or villain and he is tough enough to take on the whole party.

Then one of my players gets a lucky roll and aces the damage and down goes my Big Bad before he's had a chance to do anything. Sooooo anti-climactic. This is a complaint I have heard from others around the net.

We don't need a rules change or increasing the Toughness of the creatures to the point where there is little to no chance of hurting the creature without Acing every die. What's needed is rethinking the entire Boss Challenge.

Extras As Hit Points

Your Big Bad is the evil Dr. Infamous, super-scientist and twisted madman but basically a squishy human. One good shot could drop him. Sure you could throw him into power armor but again, one lucky shot... and the players have him outnumbered with a lot of attacks versus Dr. Infamous's one or two attacks.

But Dr. Infamous would certainly have lab assistants, guards, robot prototypes, and/or pets that are "abominations of science!" You can guarantee a longer battle if the heroes must wade through Dr. Infamous's minions before they can get to him.

Also remember, he's a doctor. Doctors aren't usually on the front lines of combat (unless they are in a super-hero universe). No, that's why they make or hire minions. Dr.Infamous is more likely to throw his guards, pets, and mechanical behemoths at the heroes while the he makes his escape. Now it's not just a combat, it's a race to get past the Extras and catch Dr. infamous before he can slip away!

"Was That a Bullet of Dragon Slaying?"

"Why no, it was just a .22"

One of Savage Worlds strengths is that a good shot can drop a thug in one round as opposed to taking 4 rounds to whittle away at his Hit Points. It also means that a huge monster can be dropped with a lucky shot, or has its Toughness set so high that the heroes will just keep whiffing their damage rolls. After the first few whiffs, my players got tired of hitting but dealing no damage. In the meantime, the dragon is in perpetual Shaken status. It's frustrating and many times the players will keep attacking head on because that was how they did it in D&D. 

I have a different concept for dealing with Huge monsters. Let's mock up a new Dragon for example.

First I give it Heavy Armor. Your sword has no hope of penetrating that hide and neither does your .45 Colt service revolver. You don't expect to kill a person by flicking grains of sand at them, don't expect to bring down a dragon with a bullet. Go get yourself a Bazooka.

So how is a hero supposed to bring down a dragon without Heavy Weapons? First, its head has some weak spots that can lead to its brain, such as the eyes or the roof of its mouth. Those will both require Called Shots (which will bypass the dragon's armor) and you will still have to overcome its high Toughness. 

Sound unfair? Not really. It's what you would need to do with the Dragon "as-written" anyways. The difference is that I'm letting the players now that just shooting at its hide isn't going to help and they are going to have to focus their attacks on a vulnerable area as opposed to just hoping for a lucky shot. That way we bypass the elation of "I hit!" followed by the constant crash of "but I deal no damage..."

Second method, find some way to use the environment to deal Heavy damage to it, like dropping a castle tower on it, or leading it into the giant dwarven forges where you can dump molten gold on it.

The basic idea here is that the heroes should not even consider going toe-to-toe with this dragon. They should be running, hiding, and thinking about how to use teamwork and surprise to bring this thing down. Unless of course they have a magical blade of Titan Slaying (blade ignores all armor, including Heavy)... Ahhhhhhhhh? See what I did there?

A Beast of Many Parts

I like to use this concept for Giant Octopi, Kraken, even Star Cruisers. 

Example: The heroes have entered the temple of an elder god, too late to stop the summoning ritual. Now they have a mass of tentacles to contend with.

Well this is an elder god so I may not want my PCs to be able to actually slay it (that kind of knowledge will just make them cocky). But if I treat its tentacles as individual Wild Cards or Extras then not only do I get at least one attack on each hero, but I can have the heroes drive out the elder god once all of the tentacles are defeated/ severed.

"Wait, your Star Cruisers have Tentacles?" No, but I do subscribe to the idea that Star Cruisers are fortresses to be avoided (as described in Daring Tales of the Space Lanes by Triple Ace Games, check out the DTotSL Free PDF of the setting rules). If the heroes must engaged a Star Cruiser, then they can hardly expect to destroy it with their weak little weapons. It's just too massive. But what they can do is target specific systems, like the Star Cruisers port-forward laser batteries or the ships aft maneuvering thrusters. By taking out these systems, they whittle away at the cruisers effectiveness and maybe give themselves an opening to escape. So to me, a Star Cruiser is a conglomeration of Wild Cards or Extras and as each system is lost, the Star Cruiser becomes more crippled.

Look at the Battle of Endor from Return of the Jedi. The Executor (Super Star Destroyer) wasn't taken out by one hit. It lost its forward Deflector Shields first when pilots took out one of the power plant towers. Then it lost control after an a-wing pilot kamikazed into the bridge. Then it crashed into the Death Star II which ultimately destroyed it.








1 comment:

  1. Some really nice ideas in there, especially the Heavy Armor for the Dragon.

    I focus on making that key scene "Interesting" vs. "Hard". Yes, it will be hard, but hard is not always interesting. I like to incorporate Chases, Mass Combat, Social Conflict, etc.

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