[Rippers] Need GMing suggestions

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sonofthunder
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[Rippers] Need GMing suggestions

#1 Postby sonofthunder » Sun Sep 23, 2012 5:24 pm

My group started playing Rippers this last summer, and we've been having a great time. However, I still think the game could run better (I am the GM). Here are some of the issues I am having:

1. For the most part, no one wants to use Rippertech. Either their character refuses to use it, or the player doesn't believe the benefits are worth the penalties. Should I make Rippertech better? Reduce penalties? Don't worry about it? It seems that "ripping" is the whole point of Rippers; it's like Star Wars without the Force.

2. The characters aren't scared. This one is on me. My players are good role-players, but their characters are all very brave, if a little cocky. How do I make their characters feel unsettled or disturbed without forcing a Fear roll every session? I also want to avoid gore simply for the sake of grossing out my players.

3. So far, the combat always seem to be one-sided. Either the characters steamroll the big beast, or they can't figure out the monsters' weakness. Even when things don't go their way, it seems very difficult for characters to die. I want my characters to fear death, but I want that to come naturally, not forced. Any suggestions?

4a. The characters are all good at shooting and stabbing, but not much else. We have a priest, but he doesn't have (or currently want) and offensive prayers. Is this the product of letting my players be whatever the want? Or are there ways I can still challenge them other than fighting?

4b. Similarly, it doesn't feel very Victorian, mostly because we only have one English character. What can I do to make it feel more Victorian? Or, again, is this the result of not limiting player choices?

Thank you for all your advice, suggestions and criticisms!

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Re: [Rippers] Need GMing suggestions

#2 Postby tigerguy786 » Sun Sep 23, 2012 5:30 pm

sonofthunder wrote:My group started playing Rippers this last summer, and we've been having a great time. However, I still think the game could run better (I am the GM). Here are some of the issues I am having:

1. For the most part, no one wants to use Rippertech. Either their character refuses to use it, or the player doesn't believe the benefits are worth the penalties. Should I make Rippertech better? Reduce penalties? Don't worry about it? It seems that "ripping" is the whole point of Rippers; it's like Star Wars without the Force.

2. The characters aren't scared. This one is on me. My players are good role-players, but their characters are all very brave, if a little cocky. How do I make their characters feel unsettled or disturbed without forcing a Fear roll every session? I also want to avoid gore simply for the sake of grossing out my players.

3. So far, the combat always seem to be one-sided. Either the characters steamroll the big beast, or they can't figure out the monsters' weakness. Even when things don't go their way, it seems very difficult for characters to die. I want my characters to fear death, but I want that to come naturally, not forced. Any suggestions?

4a. The characters are all good at shooting and stabbing, but not much else. We have a priest, but he doesn't have (or currently want) and offensive prayers. Is this the product of letting my players be whatever the want? Or are there ways I can still challenge them other than fighting?

4b. Similarly, it doesn't feel very Victorian, mostly because we only have one English character. What can I do to make it feel more Victorian? Or, again, is this the result of not limiting player choices?

Thank you for all your advice, suggestions and criticisms!


Alternate challenges include any kind of social based challenge. They need to convince someone to join the Rippers, but it's not as simple as just doing them a favor.

Put fear into them: give them a Monster that's well beyond their means. Horror doesn't have to be fair. If a single monster is never a problem, then send a group of Wild Card Monsters at them.

Then again, I'm still new to the whole GMing thing, so that's based on what I've read in The Horror Companion
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#3 Postby sonofthunder » Sun Sep 23, 2012 6:02 pm

Thank you for the response. I've just got back into GMing after a long absence, and I've never GMed horror before. I've thought about putting them in a fight they cannot win, but I suspect my players won't like that.

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#4 Postby tigerguy786 » Sun Sep 23, 2012 6:22 pm

sonofthunder wrote:Thank you for the response. I've just got back into GMing after a long absence, and I've never GMed horror before. I've thought about putting them in a fight they cannot win, but I suspect my players won't like that.


Yeah, like I said, take my suggestions with a bit of salt because I've never run a proper Horror game either. I'm running Rippers currently, but it's only as horror as Indiana Jones.
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"What?"

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Re: [Rippers] Need GMing suggestions

#5 Postby jpk » Sun Sep 23, 2012 6:34 pm

sonofthunder wrote:My group started playing Rippers this last summer, and we've been having a great time. However, I still think the game could run better (I am the GM). Here are some of the issues I am having:

1. For the most part, no one wants to use Rippertech. Either their character refuses to use it, or the player doesn't believe the benefits are worth the penalties. Should I make Rippertech better? Reduce penalties? Don't worry about it? It seems that "ripping" is the whole point of Rippers; it's like Star Wars without the Force.

Well, decide why you really want them to use it. If they're happy without it, you need to create a reason for them to change their minds.

If a neighboring lodge or Ripper group suddenly starts to get all the funding and support because their R'tech-happy crew is doing sooo much better, that's a compelling reason. Also, when that lodge finally goes around the bend, you have a whole group of pretty tough opponents willing to do nearly anything to stay alive for your group to start fighting!

Need to get the magic doo-dad, but it's very delicate and has been encased in concrete? A little wraith-style Rippertech sounds like it might do the trick.

Who does their healing? If they're in for a simple procedure and their doctor is starting to go 'round the bend, he might just harvest their eyes in an attempt to double-check a Ripper-to-Ripper transplant theory he has. Once you're missing your eyes, a new set from something else may sound a lot better than blindness.

In a similar vein, if one of their enemies is a particularly arrogant bloodthirsty jerk, maybe he starts making called shots for the hands or arms in an effort to permanently cripple the characters as an on-going reminder of just how foolish it is to cross the villain's path. Again, replacements can be pretty compelling.

Somebody can start dosing their food or drink with Rippertech extracts for purely scientific purposes. Not everyone on their side is known to be phenomenally stable, after all.


sonofthunder wrote:2. The characters aren't scared. This one is on me. My players are good role-players, but their characters are all very brave, if a little cocky. How do I make their characters feel unsettled or disturbed without forcing a Fear roll every session? I also want to avoid gore simply for the sake of grossing out my players.

Start doing things that will scare 'em. One of their favorite street urchins starts looking sick, then he's gone for a few days, now he's undead. How many of the street children are being similarly affected? Is it a general plot, or was he chosen to make a point? Are the Rippers the root cause of the boy's plight?

Have a cruel enemy start messing with their heads. If they start getting "intercepted" intelligence about plots and plans that'll make their head spin, like, oh, say a member of the royal family is secretly under the control of something dark and sinister (and pick whichever royal family you need), that may shake 'em up. Since it's planted false intel, they should have a great time trying to explain why they broke into the royal palace to kill the Queen's favorite great-nephew for the safety of the country. And it'll also keep them busy while the enemy in question secretly goes after his main goal. Let the enemy obliterate an innocent small village for the characters to come across later, while you're at it.

If you're cocky, a threat to you isn't scary. A threat you never knew about to someone else, living proof that you're not as good as you think and that the evil is better than you...that's scary.

sonofthunder wrote:3. So far, the combat always seem to be one-sided. Either the characters steamroll the big beast, or they can't figure out the monsters' weakness. Even when things don't go their way, it seems very difficult for characters to die. I want my characters to fear death, but I want that to come naturally, not forced. Any suggestions?

We'd really need a better feel for your characters and your encounters before we get into that too much.

sonofthunder wrote:4a. The characters are all good at shooting and stabbing, but not much else. We have a priest, but he doesn't have (or currently want) and offensive prayers. Is this the product of letting my players be whatever the want? Or are there ways I can still challenge them other than fighting?

Do they ever need to be good at anything else? I don't care how shooty and stabby they are if they need to cross a river with no Boating to get to the enemy. Likewise, all the combat skills in the world won't help them get out of jail if the constabulary finds them with bloody weapons in a building full of corpses that they swear "were werewolves a few minutes ago."

sonofthunder wrote:4b. Similarly, it doesn't feel very Victorian, mostly because we only have one English character. What can I do to make it feel more Victorian? Or, again, is this the result of not limiting player choices?

How Victorian are the NPCs? Even if your non-British characters haven't taken Outsider, that doesn't mean people will never have a Distrustful of Foreigners Quirk. Use the expectations of their social ranks to cause them trouble. Make sure the rigidity of society is omnipresent. The "Victorianness" of the era isn't isolated to the UK by any means.

sonofthunder wrote:Thank you for all your advice, suggestions and criticisms!

I just hope some of it was helpful.

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#6 Postby sonofthunder » Sun Sep 23, 2012 7:32 pm

tigerguy786 wrote:Yeah, like I said, take my suggestions with a bit of salt because I've never run a proper Horror game either. I'm running Rippers currently, but it's only as horror as Indiana Jones.


No, your suggestions were very helpful. I think our campaign is also about as horror as Indy, or LXG.

jpk wrote:I just hope some of it was helpful.


All of it was helpful, thank you! A few follow-up comments:

jpk wrote:We'd really need a better feel for your characters and your encounters before we get into that too much.


Our group consists of a Native American knife-fighter with Fiend's Blood, an American Cowboy with a shotgun, an Irish priest (healing), an English werewolf-hunter and a jingoistic American masked crusader. They've encountered a couple of Hydes, a warlock who raised a dinosaur skeleton (from Unnatural History), wolfmen, a wereshark and a couple of vampires.

With the exception of the dinosaur and vampires, they've manhandled everything. The other two would have been a TPK. However, we are new to the Savage Worlds rules, and both incidents involved some game mechanics that I didn't use correctly, and gave the players the benefit of the doubt. However, even when the players were Incapacitated, they seemed to easily make their Vigor rolls, and came through unscathed.

jpk wrote:How Victorian are the NPCs? Even if your non-British characters haven't taken Outsider, that doesn't mean people will never have a Distrustful of Foreigners Quirk. Use the expectations of their social ranks to cause them trouble. Make sure the rigidity of society is omnipresent. The "Victorianness" of the era isn't isolated to the UK by any means.


Yeah, their interactions with the British have not gone well. At all. Like a bull in a china shop. It seemed like the exercise of the adventure was to argue with the British how horrible their society was as opposed to hunting monsters, so I've downplayed that. But I don't think I should give up on it just yet, especially if the players are handling the monsters too easily.

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#7 Postby Dracones » Sun Sep 23, 2012 8:42 pm

On the horror side, watch a lot of horror films. One thing you'll notice is that it's all about pacing and it's all about letting the person scare themselves, rather than you trying to scare them.

Throw in a lot of mundane and then introduce unusual behavior. After that you can bring in the horrors and the suspense will help steamroll things.

Some examples. My players boarded a deserted ship and found 2 children and a dog aboard but no one else. The party split up with 1 player working on building a bomb and the dog stayed with him.

GM: You feel like something is watching you.
PC: I turn around and look.
GM: You just see the small dog sitting quietly with his head cocked looking at you.
PC: Okay, I go back to work.
GM: You get that feeling again.
PC: Okay, I turn around again.
GM: You just see the dog sitting quietly with his head cocked looking at you same as before, only he's a few feet closer.

It wigged the player out.

Or the PCs were on an island with mad doctor and his ape servants. The apes were acting a little odd for several game hours but nothing really major. While the PCs were eating dinner:

PC: I ask the old man about what his son is working on in the lab.
GM as old man: Oh, he's doing experiments involving-
GM: One of the apes puts down desert in front of you all going around the table. As he gets to the old man he puts down the tray, reaches up, grabs the man's head and twists it sharply. You hear a loud cracking noise and the old man falls face first on the table. The ape picks up the desert tray and takes it to the kitchen.
PCs: WHAT THE F!

Horror isn't about a big bad it's about your ordinary world slowly twisting into a nightmare situation. And there's certain things that just scare the crap out of people. Watch Doctor Who's "The Empty Child" sometime. A little boy walking around in a gas mask going "Are you my mommy?" It's outright horrifying without any sort of real violence involved.

There's a lot of things that just freak people out and are perfectly ordinary but can be twisted just so. Clowns, birds, insects, old manuscripts, noises, smells, children, people wearing gas masks, pets/machines acting oddly, murky water, etc.

Think about the movie The Birds. The birds don't just attack. They act oddly and things build up. It's the suspense and letting people imagine the worst that creates horror.

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#8 Postby sonofthunder » Sun Sep 23, 2012 9:36 pm

Thank you, Dracones. I will use some of your suggestions. I wonder if the players would just shoot the dog out of paranoia. However, I could use that to my advantage, especially if the dog (or child) was innocent!

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#9 Postby ValhallaGH » Sun Sep 23, 2012 9:39 pm

sonofthunder wrote:Thank you, Dracones. I will use some of your suggestions. I wonder if the players would just shoot the dog out of paranoia. However, I could use that to my advantage, especially if the dog (or child) was innocent!

Or a shapeshifter.
Player: BLAM!
GM: "It lies dead."
Later:
GM: "You walk into the empty room. The bomb casing is sitting like you left it."
Player: "Cool. ... Wait, isn't this were I shot that dog?"
GM: Smile Evilly. :twisted:

Good luck!
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#10 Postby Sitting Duck » Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:56 am

sonofthunder wrote:I've thought about putting them in a fight they cannot win, but I suspect my players won't like that.


Just remember that, unlike some other game systems, killing monsters in Savage Worlds isn't directly tied to gaining XP. So unless the PCs have something to prove, running away like little girls is a valid option.
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#11 Postby Locke » Mon Sep 24, 2012 10:02 am

You can also take a few hints from a presentation Dan Wells gave at the Life, The Universe, and Everything symposium a few years ago. I can't find a video or good synopsis of what he said, though, so you'll have to go with my incomplete notes. :)

1) Break normal. Establish normal for your players, and then twist it. Put something off-kilter about their day. Talk about how the sky is oddly clouded when they wake up, or how the wind smells of sulfur and ash as they walk the bustling streets of Fulham. It's always good to have a reason behind it (in case your players go investigating the cause), but you can throw them off their game by introducing seemingly insignificant details that are at odds with what they're used to.

2) Make the familiar unfamiliar. Take things that behave a certain way and change their behavior. The normally docile house dog at the lodge starts barking at shadows and growling at the base of the door, but there's nothing that the players can see. The fine china that their patron set out for dinner starts oozing blood and sliding around the table. All of the doors and windows of a room suddenly blow open in a ferocious wind and the candles flare into pillars of green fire. Make the objects, animals, and people around them behave in a way contrary to their normal functions, and your players will be simultaneously intrigued and worried by these abnormal occurrences.

3) Make them wait for the other shoe to drop. Delay the inevitable. Show the players a terrible situation that they have no hope of resolving, and then don't resolve it for a while. "Two people are sitting in a cafe with a bomb under the table. If the bomb goes off, it's action. If the bomb doesn't go off, it's suspense." This can be difficult to pull off, but you always have the option of going into combat rounds and using a Dramatic Task to keep your players on the clock. Every second they spend waiting for Bad Things to happen is another second that their dread of that Bad Thing increases, especially if they don't know the nature of that Bad Thing.

4) Tap into common fears. Everyone is scared of something, and even if the characters in your game are the most fearless people on the planet, your players aren't. You know what your players are scared of, and you can drop them into the game to ratchet up the fear and tension. Is one of your players claustrophobic? Go into detail about the tight sewer tunnel the characters have to squeeze through, how the air is stagnant and they can feel the weight of the city above them pressing down on what little space they have. If you don't want to pick on one person's phobias, use fears that people in general have: fear of being helpless, fear of the unknown and the dark, fear drowning or dying slowly and inevitably, fear of having your privacy invaded. The list goes on and on.

5) Show the monster in the right way and at the right time. Don't always drop your Monster on your players in the same way. If they're used to running into werewolves in darkened London alleys, show them a man they know is a werewolf walking slowly through Hyde Park toward Rotten Row, where hundreds of people are congregating. Show them the vampire slowly sinking her fangs into the doorman of the hotel they just entered. Make sure that your Monster's entrance is memorable, not just another jump scene.

Anyway, there's my two cents. Might not be worth anything to you, but it helped me think of ways to mess with my Rippers players when I start the campaign next month. :)
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#12 Postby Dracones » Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:33 am

sonofthunder wrote:Thank you, Dracones. I will use some of your suggestions. I wonder if the players would just shoot the dog out of paranoia. However, I could use that to my advantage, especially if the dog (or child) was innocent!


I tend to throw a lot of innocent encounters into my games. Like if the PC's car breaks down I might have a random stranger stop to see if the party needs help. They're free to murder that person, but running around murdering people has its downsides.

I'd use the action deck to sort of create encounters for me. A club was a foe or danger, but obviously it didn't have a "I'm a bad guy" tag around it. Hearts was a friendly, diamond was the chance at gaining fortune while spade was a chance at loosing it.

I'd often just draw cards when things were slowing down and on a 10+ something of the above would happen or if I wanted something to happen something would based on the suit drawn. On a 2 it'd first really appear to be 1 thing, but end up being the opposite. On a joker I'd drawn again but the next result would be a lot larger.

It really helped keep things diverse and in some ways kept me from creating my own predictable patterns. For some situations I'd mod it and sort of create my own "random encounter table" based on card draws.

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#13 Postby Noshrok Grimskull » Mon Sep 24, 2012 12:12 pm

It can also be fun to screw with player expectations.

Imagine an angry mob chasing a single man. Most likely, the PCs will help the lone man.
Later on it turns out the man was a vampire!

Or a little something I pulled on my Deadlands group a while ago:
The group come across a small settlement, maybe 20-25 people strong.
Then have some bandits / Indians / whatever attack "off-screen", lightly injuring one of the folks and kidnapping a teenage girl.
The settlers don't want any trouble, but are really concerned about the girl.
Most likely, the PCs will help and track the bandits.
After nightfall, the PCs stumble across the bandits... or rather what remains of them. All very recently dead, torn to pieces by a large and terrible strong creature with claws and fangs. Oh, and it's a full moon...
And amid the carnage sits the girl, barely clothed, covered in gore and apparently in a state of shock, but otherwise alive and well.

Yes, the entire settlement was a pack of werewolves and the girl just went through her very first change.
The dilemma was that the settlers really only wanted to be left alone...
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#14 Postby sonofthunder » Mon Sep 24, 2012 3:56 pm

Excellent advice from everyone. It's already shaping how I will do things differently for the next adventure.

Concerning combat in Savage Worlds, it seem difficult for player characters to die. Has anyone else experienced that? One player has the healing power, another has the healing skill, and no one has failed a Vigor check to avoid death or permanent injury. Could I limit their bennies? Should I?

I'm not looking to kill them off, but I want combat to be dangerous. Even when I am trying to maim them (to further tempt them with Rippertech), they make their rolls too easily.

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#15 Postby tigerguy786 » Mon Sep 24, 2012 4:05 pm

sonofthunder wrote:Concerning combat in Savage Worlds, it seem difficult for player characters to die. Has anyone else experienced that? One player has the healing power, another has the healing skill, and no one has failed a Vigor check to avoid death or permanent injury. Could I limit their bennies? Should I?


Are you factoring in wound penalties to the vigor rolls?

Could you limit the Bennies? Sure.

Should you? It depends a lot on the group.

How many do you give out? I personally try to make sure every player gets 2-3 extra bennies each session
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#16 Postby Wibbs » Mon Sep 24, 2012 4:41 pm

Well, benny economy is one of the main ways of tweaking the lethality of your setting, so if you find your players have any unused at the end of the session, that's certainly something you could change.

I tend to vary it depending on the setting - with my War of the Dead game I rarely give out bennies, and when I do it is usually for roleplaying a character hindrance really really well. For my Deadlands game things are a little more free and easy, and I tend to give out 1-2 per player through a session.

The other way of increasing lethality is to make the monsters/things that go bump in the night tougher. With a setting like Rippers, I really don't think the occasional PC death does any harm, and it would certainly rachet up the sense of fear in the group.

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#17 Postby sonofthunder » Mon Sep 24, 2012 4:46 pm

tigerguy786 wrote:Are you factoring in wound penalties to the vigor rolls?

Could you limit the Bennies? Sure.

Should you? It depends a lot on the group.

How many do you give out? I personally try to make sure every player gets 2-3 extra bennies each session


Yes, we are (or should be). I will have to remind the group to do so. I have been giving out 3 each session, but we have 5 players, and 15 bennies seems excessive.

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#18 Postby Locke » Mon Sep 24, 2012 7:53 pm

You could also try playing with the Gritty Damage setting rule. I'm going to be trying it with my group to see how it works out. I'm hoping that it will keep the combat encounters a little less stabby-shooty and make my players fear getting injured.
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Re: [Rippers] Need GMing suggestions

#19 Postby NOESKANE » Wed Sep 26, 2012 3:05 am

sonofthunder wrote:2. The characters aren't scared. This one is on me. My players are good role-players, but their characters are all very brave, if a little cocky. How do I make their characters feel unsettled or disturbed without forcing a Fear roll every session? I also want to avoid gore simply for the sake of grossing out my players.


Hiyas!

I've found that introducing the Horror as an innocent/innocuous thing & then springing it to PCs mostly does the trick...

For example:
Their new maid is a secret agent for the Cabal, a doppleganger/vampire/witch/demon/unique creature in disguise; now that they're know as enemies of Evil the Cabal strikes back! Right then & there you have something right at the heart of at least one of the PCs HQs... Near their loved ones or, at least, their possessions/assets. Then, when they finally wise up & kill it, introduce a new maid with much of the other's mannerisms or references... Something to tie 'em loosely - the PCs will be so paranoid!

Or, have them help the wrong party... Then slowly but surely realise the horror of it.
I had my PCs once unknowingly help a charismatic psycho hunt down his sister beacuse he wanted her blood for a ritual to summon a demon. The party encountered the guy all wounded & beaten by the sister's protectors, which had escaped plowing thru the evil brother's henchmen. It looked like the evil bro' was the victim when he showed up barely alive, covered in blood from head to toe pleading for help (all true)!

You can also hook 'em into nastiness by rewarding bennies for certain Hindrances, like Heroic... also, do some of the PCs have phobias :1scared: ?

My 2 pence,
NEK
Last edited by NOESKANE on Wed Sep 26, 2012 10:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: [Rippers] Need GMing suggestions

#20 Postby Noshrok Grimskull » Wed Sep 26, 2012 3:53 am

NOESKANE wrote:Or, have them help the wrong party... Then slowly but surely realise the horror of it.

Arm-wrestling them into such a position might work, too. :twisted:
My Rippers group once took out a small lair of demon-spawned abominations that - once released from their tormented existence - reverted back to their regular human bodies.
When the fight was over, the group, weapons in hand, was thus standing above a handful of human corpses...

Later in the campaign, I had a vampire show up who forced the Rippers into co-operation by showing them a photography of that exact moment! :twisted:
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