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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Savage Worlds: Low Life

Low Life - "A Hello to Arms"

My game takes place once a month on the last Thursday.  I've been running this monthly session for about a year now, introducing new players to Savage Worlds and experienced gamers to new and different settings.  This month we take a look at the setting Low Life from Andy Hopp at Mutha Oith Creations.  I ran the freely available "A Hello to Arms" one-sheet.

Warning: There be spoilers ahead.

Thoughts, opinions and squall (could be seen as a review of the setting):

Handy Tip: Low Life has its own language; Oith is Earth, hoomanrace is human race, etc.  Open your mind when reading this or anything else about Low Life

Low Life is a post-post-post-apocalyptic setting that takes place in the far away future, like one or two million years from now.  There were several happenings that cleared the Oith of the hoomanrace.

This game is funny.  To some people.  I originally thought it was over the top and I wasn't too sure I was ready to play a game highly influenced on bathroom humor.  The group I played with this session embraced the setting and really took it to the comedic level it needed to be.  After the game, my opinion is that this setting is very playable, but you have to have the right group.  I personally know of two gamers who won't touch this setting with a 10-yort pole. (Yort is the unit of measurement in Oith.)

You might typically call the group of PCs, the party, the group, or the adventurers.  In Low Life, they are known as the Heap. Characters are generally not "nice" folks.  Savage Worlds in general doesn't have an alignment structure, but Low Life tends to push the characters to the miscreant side of the spectrum.  Everyone is out for themselves.  Not necessarily evil, but definitely not Nice or Good. Near the end of the game, there was definitely a heavy smell of "everyone out for themselves", all running to escape while leaving one of their number alone with two big ass baddies.


Hoomans have long been dead. Other lifeforms have evolved over millions of years: Werms (descended from Worms), Croaches (Cockroaches), Cremefillions (Snack cakes i.e. Twinkies or Ding Dongs), Bodul (very, very, very loosely hooman based), Tizin't (odd mixtures, tisn't anything), and Piles (sentient waste product).  At some point there was the ripping open of the planet which opened up Middle Oith which caused the Horcs and Smelves to appear.  Also, through the years, aliens had landed on Oith and these evolved into Oofos.


Magic is tweaked to fit the setting.  Typical magic is Hokus-Poking. Mental Magic or Psionics is Dementalism. Miracles is Holy Rolling. Weird Science is simply Weirdness. Conjuration magic is called Contamination. Potion magic is Smellcasting and the "potions" are called reeks.

Stuff (Gear)

Gear is appropriate to the setting with the expected humorous twists.  What makes this setting unique (and I've seen a lot of Savage Worlds settings!) is the weapon creation system.  You can customize weapons to absurd proportions and make some pretty fun stuff. Some of the stock custom weapons in the book are Ginormous Scissors, Battle Tongs and a Big Ass Cleaver.  When I made a character, I took advantage of the Cremefillian racial ability which is that they can ignore strength requirements for weapons.  I created a sling that did d12+d12 damage.  Yeah, I regretted it a little when a player decided to play that character I created.  But, with a shooting of d4, it wasn't too bad.

One question I had surfaced when I started reading information on the weapons.  All of them seem to be based on the original Savage Worlds rules.  In the first version of Savage Worlds, all weapons were Strength+X where X was the size of the weapon.  A Longsword, for example, would be a +2 weapon.  The current (Deluxe) rules size the weapon with a die type - which also is the minimum strength required to use the weapon.  Now the Longsword is a d6 weapon.  For this longsword, the old system would be strength +2, and the new version would be strength +d6.  The major difference is that two dice are rolled the new way.  The Low Life based weapons look like the older system.  I am not sure if this is an oversight (as Andy may have the original rules and used that as a base...) or if it was a designer decision.  Either way, it doesn't matter too much; the weapon creation is pretty fun.

Everything is priced in clams, the Low Life currency.

The Game

The one-sheet came with four characters. I decided to have a character creation session where four more characters were created. I had 6 players and 8 pre-gens.  This was the Heap that was used.

Player name: Character name - Race - Description.
In order around the table starting on my left:

Kevin: Googene Umberford XII - Croach - Googene is secretly not a criminal, but an actor (a ham in Low Life terms) researching a criminal role.
Ben: Smellvyn - Pile - Wields a mighty self-returning cleaver.
Abby: Captain Cupquake - Cremefillian - Prostitute with a french accent. Part of a Stanist cult that reveres clams above all else.
Sarah: Dayvid - Croach - A Macgyver / repair guy with some fighting skillz.
Brian: Chunky - Tizn't - 1/3rd Chicken, 1/3rd Monkey, 1/3rd Marshmallow - all bluster!  Two headed Hocus Poker.
John: Swovvy  Zinkleman - Oofo - Dementalist, and the coooooolest guy on Oith.


I printed out a page of paper minis that I had gotten from Andy for the game and offered them up to the group - Only two characters used paper minis - the Cremefillion and the Pile.  I also went through all my plastic and metal miniatures and picked some odd ones out; here are my choices.

All the main baddies, from back left to right: Odre and the Primordeal Goon (multiples). Front: Horc guard.
Oofos and other weirdos.

The overall concept of this adventure is to go steal some Hocus-Poked arms, complete with hands and elbows.  The Heap is affiliated with an organized crime group, and the Boss happens to be (literally) armless.  This is actually fairly common in Low Life; it's a hindrance to the setting. The magic hocus-poked arms are part of a roving exhibit at the local museum.  The hook is that they want to steal these arms and use them to ingratiate themselves to the Boss, Dregzie the Schnoz.

The Heap starts out in a bar where they overhear some oldsters talking about the arms in the museum. After some discussion of how they might go about getting these limbs, the Heap decides to split into two groups: one to scout the museum and one to hit the streets for some information.

Museum Team (Googene, Chunky, and Swovvy):
5 clams to get in, and they spend a few hours there walking around trying not to look too suspicious. Eventually they make it to the special display on the 6th floor where the arms are on display.  They get into the room and search around, looking for security devices and measures.  There is an obvious security door and grate at the entrance to the room.  In the interior of the room, the scouts see some suspended reeks on the ceiling.  Satisfied with the information they have gathered, they decide to leave the museum.  On the way out, Chunky gets a tshirt with 2 neck holes to accommodate his two heads.

Street Team (Smellvyn, Captain Cupquake, Dayvid):
This team starts sniffing around the outside of the museum looking for anyone who might have some information about the museum or the arms exhibit.  The Captain decides to see if she can make some money and get some information at the same time.  She approaches some guards on break and seduces two of them into a "date".

The Heap gets back together and shares information.  Dayvid crafts some fake arms.  Plans are flying around like mosquitoes, with ideas about how to sneak the fake arms in, do the switch and make their escape.  There is even talk of just giving the fake arms to the Boss and selling the stolen arms for their own profit.  See? not a very "nice" set of characters...

The next scene is the "date" with the two guards and the cremefillian, Captain Cupquake.  I keep it vague but wanted to reward a good plan, even if it is pretty edgy as a prostitution scene.  I decide to abstract it using the dramatic task rules. On the final turn, Captain Cupquake gets a Queen of Clubs - signifying a complication. I offer a benny if she can decide / invent her own complication and she comes up with that she ran out of cream filling. I decide to require a vigor roll to overcome this complication, and a success with two raises is rolled.  The date ends well for Captain Cupquake, and the next is the pillow talk phase to get information about the museum security and the arms exhibit.  More information is learned, including the password to get into the room where the arms are kept.  At this point, the guards have lost their usefulness and it was decided that they would kill the guards afterwards.

The secret phrase 'Tippytoes' is yelled out from CC; Smellvyn and Dayvid come in to help finish them off.  One of them almost gets away. They think of a few ways to try to clean the scene, and decide that the best solution is the Croaches in the group will eat the bodies to destroy the evidence, saving the uniforms for later, of course.

The Werm Guard / john is shaken while the other guard /john runs away.
Night approaches and the Heap again decides on a two-pronged attack.  One team (Dayvid and Chunky) will climb the outside of the building and attempt to get into the museum through a window.  The other team (Googene, Smellvyn, Captain Cupquake and Swovvy) use the guards' uniforms from earlier and stage a ruse to get into the museum.

Infiltration Team:  Climbing up the building, they both fail at the third floor; losing their grip, they fall back to the ground.  Chunky takes minimal damage while Dayvid takes 3 wounds.  One soak roll later, they climb the building again, stopping this time at the second floor. Attempting a smooth break-in, Chunky manages to smash the window, though loudly.  But at least it's open.

Meanwhile, Team Ruse is talking to the exterior guards and telling them of something they overheard earlier detailing a plan to break into the museum and steal the arms.  Swovvy and Googene are dressed in the guards' uniforms while CC and Smellvyn are in fake handcuffs.  The head guard is called in to review the situation.  Several rolls with raises later, the head guard (a Horc) is convinced he needs to see this security flaw.  He calls all the other guards and everyone climbs the stairs all the way up to the 6th floor to the room with the arms in it.

Back to Infiltration Team; they enter the museum through their broken window, hearing guard kazoos being blown.  Once they figure out that it is not because of them, they use the distraction to go up to the 6th floor, arriving before Team Ruse.  After shouting the password they learned earlier from the guards: "Open the goosin' door", the door opens and a huge creature (an Odre) is seen standing in the room.  He doesn't attack them right away (they knew the password, after all); he just watches them.  Swovvy grabs the arms.  The Odre now does his job of keeping the arms in the room. He attacks Chunky and Swovvy.

At this time, the other group, along with the head guard and 12 other guards, make it up to the 6th floor.  A move is made, and the three members of the Heap attacking the guards, while Dayvid rushes to the exhibit room.

At the top of the stairs everyone is following the head guard.  Dayvid rushes in.
Dayvid has the arms and is making his break going through the mass of Werm and Croach guards.
Dayvid grabs the arms from Swovvy and makes his escape, running onto another part of the 6th floor.  Meanwhile, the head guard is taken down; the Heap manages to get out of the museum with the stolen limbs, with Chunky and Captain Cupquake suffering a few wounds each.

There is undoubtedly more to the story, but time caught up with us and we had to kill the session there, a successful, if bloody, heist.


The game was a great time.  We had two players completely brand new to RPGs and they brought enthusiasm and imagination to the game rarely seen by even experienced gamers.  The players all made the night funny and creative, and I find myself thinking this is one of the better games I've ever run.

Is Low Life for you and your group?  Maybe.  If you've got open minds, an acceptance of some rude humor and events, and some pretty wild imaginations, this game can be a lot of fun.

A few years back, I met game designer Mike Pondsmith (Teenagers From Outer Space and Cyberpunk).  I had him sign my TFOS books, and we chatted about how a funny game is difficult to run. This game was very successful because the players took control of the situation, made it happen, and made it work.