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Convention gaming tips for the GM

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  • Convention gaming tips for the GM

    I'm looking to run a couple of savage fantasy games at a con next November. I'm fishing for advice on how other people run games at a con, specifically where you have a lot of players (this year we had a game with 14).
    ​​​​​
    Are there any rules that you alter / toss out / etc when running a convention game with a dozen players? Do you still use cards for initiative? Are there particular rules you find cumbersome in a game that large in a three-hour window? What about setting rules (more-so as they apply at conventions than particularly to fantasy gaming)?

    For a little background, I have not yet played Savage Worlds, but I am going to start a campaign with my home group as soon as our current one ends. I have been asked if I can GM a session or two of Savage Worlds at a CONjuration next November (11 months to learn). My home group is going to be rules as written, such that I can “crawl before I walk”.

    Any suggestions / tips / ideas would be greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Playtest a session with your home group, maybe even a few times with differing mixes of pre-gens. Even if you're dealing with more players at the Con proper, this will at least give you some idea of where the choke points are for this particular adventure, and help you get the pacing down.

    The biggest issue I see with a dozen people is that a lot of combats (and you'll only have time for 2 or 3 at most) will end before some of the players have a chance to act. Also, expect to have your Big Bad go down before he does anything, unless you're using the Fanatics setting rule--a group that size will draw a lot of cards, at least a few of which are likely to be Jokers/Face cards (especially if they have Quick and Level-Headed characters), meaning they'll probably concentrate fire on the biggest threat they see--and in Savage Worlds, concentrated fire means a fast death.

    My advice: 2 battles. The first will be a Quick Combat. Have a short table that lists results based on the number of successes/raises rolled by the group, collectively. This should be defined in terms of X, where X = number of players. So it might go 0 Successes/ X/2 Successes / X Successes / 1.5X Successes / 2X Successes / 3X Successes. This gives everyone an opportunity to participate and interact with their character sheet (and describe their moment of awesome or their epic pratfall (for a Crit-Fail), but keeps things moving quickly enough to not be a slog. Second fight should be a massive melee, possibly using the Fanatics rule and with multiple Wild Card threats (1 for every 2-3 PCs) as well as lots of disposable mooks (at least equal to the number of PCs). Have reinforcements in reserve, just in case the party plows through them too quickly, but don't bring those in if the PCs earn a hard-fought win.

    BTW, the official Quick Combat rules stress using Combat or Arcane Skills. I say, if it makes sense, let players open that up a bit. If you've got a Face built around Strong-Willed, let him roll Taunt or Intimidate to represent psychological warfare. If someone's playing a thief-y type, let them roll Stealth, explained as them sniping and then fading back into the brush to line up another shot. Hell, if the Scholar can describe how he sets up the baddies at just the right time to bring the ruin walls down on top of them, let him roll Knowledge: Engineering. Quick Combats are all about the narrative, so play to that.

    Every combat block you have should have notes written down that sum up rules likely to come into play. Edges & Hindrances, for instance, should be fully written out if they aren't just something folded into the stat-block. If you're arming your goblins with Greek Fire grenades, then make sure you note in the weapon block that characters who see it coming get an Agility roll to evade, and so on.

    Leave the rule-book closed. You're on a 3-hour clock, and a rules-check can take five minutes of that. Four rules checks will therefore cost you 10% of your game time. If you don't have a pertinent rule in front of you, make spot ruling and go on. FFF, remember.

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    • #3
      I wouldn't run SW for 14 players, 6 would be my limit and 4 is my preference. So, limit the group is my first and most important advice.

      Use pregens, although you can make characters very quickly there will undoubtedly be some people who cannot decide what Edges/Hindrances/Powers etc to take and slow things down.

      I always introduce the basic SW rules at the start and then go through them in more detail when people start using them. I often open the game in medias res and have them rolling straight away with a little training scene (sometimes literally) to get used to rolling the Wild Die with Trait tests, Acing, getting Raises etc and then a quick fight against some glass cannon extras to get used to attacking modifiers and damage rolls (no Wild Die!) and maybe Soak rolls! Depending how well they're picking that up I'll introduce some maneuvers then as well or save them for later.

      I generally find a 3 act arc works well in a 3hr game breaking each down into roughly hour segments. Be aware that using maps and minis might slow things down a bit, but keep severyone on the same page (map) and generally helps for more tactical players or games. I prefer theatre of the mind for more unusual or swashbuckling type games, ymmv.

      If you're following RAW then also be aware that the Shaken rules changed in 2015 (not sure how old your book is).

      Most important advice is to relax and have fun! The simplicity of SW should help with that.

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      • #4
        Doing a little more light reading, I think I found the answer I needed right in the text. In Chapter 3, under "Initiative", is a section on "Large Groups" that recommends using one card per side.

        I really need to read this whole book at least two more times! Lol

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