Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Deal 'Em Out: Putting a spin on cards in Savage Worlds

For those that might not be familiar with the ins and outs of Savage Worlds, the system uses a standard deck of playing cards like you would use for poker (or solitary of you suffer from lonely nights or owned a pc in the 90s).
When I first discovered Savage Worlds one aspect of the game stuck out more than anything else to me.  "Why the heck would I need a deck of playing cards?" It just seemed so alien to me. Little did I know those cards would possibly be my favorite part of the game.  Once I got the flow of using them in game what at first seemed alien became a "peanut butter in my chocolate" level revelation.  I could mess and toy with the mechanics behind a deck of cards way more than I ever could with dice.
The most common two uses of it is for initiative and chases where rather than everyone rolling dice they are instead dealt a card. Personally I prefer dealing out a whole hand of cards to everyone then letting my players choose what card to use each round. It adds a nice level of tactics for some of my "crunchier"players as they can choose to use their high cards right away or hold on to them for a round or two when going first might really matter between life and death.

Initiative and Chases isn't where the cards end though. One of my personal favorite uses of cards is what Savage Worlds calls"dramatic tasks".  The standard use of these is for those moments when the tension is high and a bomb is ticking one second at a time. While this is fun and great for those high stakes moments I prefer to take the exact same rules and turn them on their head and make an even more cinematic cliche than the ticking clock, the montage. A few flips of cards and what could have been a long shot at the table for anyone not involved turns into 5 minutes where we know if the player (or players) succeed our feel and if any interesting complications cropped up while they were busy at their task at hand.

Speaking of turning it on its head. A much less used (and in my opinion under appreciated) mechanic that also uses the deck of cards is the "interlude". The standard use of this is a great role-playing exercise for players. The basics of it is whole your heroes are camping up for the night our traveling in along trip they sit together and share stories from their past. Players flip a card and based on the suite they then tell a story about a past love, tragedy, victory, our desire. By itself this is already great and honestly can be plugged into any game system you prefer to play. How I ended up flipping it on its head is rather than outlining the past I started using it to tell the players future. 
When I was running ETU (East Texas University) the setting uses character experience slightly different than what I think many of us are used to. Rather than co being gathered by completing specific adventures or killing monsters characters gained advancements to their characters during finals and midterms which means co is tied to a clock. This left me with weeks between adventures that my player's characters where doing this or that with their lives but might not actually having adventures. To fill the time I just took the interlude rules and had them apply to those missing weeks. My players for to tell tasks of their college adventures between monster hunting. We had relationships, break ups, and even the baseball team's star pitcher running a neck of a winning streak. It let or adventures have lulls, but the characters lives never stopped. More importantly no one knew what might happen next. By Senior year we were all just as invested in the characters' down time as we were in their heroic exploits.

I will admit in a long for campaign (only 1 XP per session and thus 80 sessions in total) having only fours outcomes to fill the character's time started to get stale.  In response to that I created a much more in depth Interlude Chart.  For those interested I'll leave it below to try out in any of your games.

Hearts 1-10: Misc love life and dating.
Hearts Jack: (If Single)Has begin to steadily date someone new.(add a romantic connection to your character) / (If in a relationship) Your relation ship becomes more serious, possibly going away on a trip or meeting their parents.

Hearts Queen: (If Single) You end up having a drunken one night stand with someone you know. (If in  a relationship) You've reached the point of spending most if not all of your free time with you significant other.

Hearts King: (If Single) You either begin a relationship with someone you already know or seduce your way into an advantageous situation. (If in a relationship) You take on of this biggest leaps in your relationship, you significant other finds out about your adventuring ways.

Hearts Ace: (If Single) You have caught the attention of someone and don't even know it (You now have a stalker.) (If in a relationship) Your adventuring or other personal problems have become too much of a strain on your relationship and break up.

Diamonds 1-10: Something new an shiny catches your eye.

Diamonds Jack: You have a new goal to strive for whether that's a new items, award, or title of some sort.

Diamonds Queen: You encounter another character that is also after your goal.   This can be a possible ally or rival depending on how everything plays out.

Diamonds King: You have gained your goal. Be prepared for jealous rivals to come out of the wood work.

Diamond Ace: You get everything your character's been wanting, but at a horrible and twisted cost.

Clubs 1-10: You have a string of bad luck.

Clubs Jack: You end up losing or misplacing an item that you cherish or need such as a text book or family photo.

Clubs Queen: If you have a loved one something in your life sparks a fight with them, if not your bad luck has you run into either a friend or stranger in a truly bad mood and now all that aggression is pointed at you.

Clubs King: You bad luck knows no bounds as nothing seems to be going your way. (The GM can use this to have any minor problems to pop up for your character.)

Clubs Ace: You bad luck spread to those around you causing someone involved in your life (friend or rival) to have some unfortunate mishaps.

Spades 1-10: Your character has a string of good luck.

Spades Jack: You have a minor personal victory such as finding $20 on the street or getting an A on a paper you thought you flunked.

Spades Queen: You have a more significant personal victory such as making a well connected friend or winning a small competition.

Spades King: You have a public victory such as winning a big game or a sudden flood of popularity.

Spades Ace: You are so close to a public victory you can taste it when a rival snatches it from you.

With a Joker the player gets to call the shots on how great of a time their character has had (with in reason).  This can lead to being rewarded a much needed item, making friends in all the right places or even a bit of public fame for a grand victory.

Now I do know this table was built for character living on a college campus, but with some very small re-skinning this can play out from just about any setting your character might be in.

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