Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Making of Aliens Versus Predators: The Savage Worlds One Shot

Blue_Hill was kind enough to be interested in the notes I went with when setting up my Aliens Versus Predator Colonial Space Marine Savage Worlds one shot two Thursday nights ago.  I'm going to share the process, but the beauty and the sad truth is, I didn't have to do much to get this game up and running.  Its one of the things I really do like about Savage Worlds.

The Plan

Wednesday night, when I told my friend, GM of our Shackled City game, that I could try and throw together a Savage Worlds one shot so everyone had something to play, I decided to scan the internet to see what Savage Worlds conversions were out there to trip my imagination.  I've got the core rules, and a few Hellfrost books, but I really didn't want to try and condense Hellfrost into a demo.  Its really a setting designed for a more standard long term high fantasy campaign.

I came across this site:

Savage Heroes

From there, the conversion that jumped out at me for a fun one shot was this particular one:

Aliens versus Predator

The most time consuming part of this process was making up the pregenerated characters.  I printed out character sheets, and then built each character based on the professional edges listed in the Aliens versus Predator conversion document, which made it easier, as I was just building characters to fit the edge requirements.

For the scenario itself, I really did just have a rough outline.  Here is how it went, and it took me only a few minutes to throw it together.

1.  PCs land at landing zone one hour march from settlement.

2.  If the PCs come back to the drop ship, they can resupply their ammo.  If they come back without having encountered the Predator, then the pilot and co-pilot will be dead, leaving clues to where the predator took them as trophies, off into the forest.

3.  For each section of the settlement the PCs enter, I draw a card.  A face card indicates an encounter.  A jack is a damaging environmental effect that can be shut down by repairing machinery.  Any other face card indicates alien drones equal to 2 x the number of PCs sneaking up on the PCs through the air vents.  A joker means that aliens sneak up on the PCs, and once combat starts, the predator sneaks up on the PCs and starts to pick off whichever side is winning the encounter.

4.  The settlement building consists of the opening hallway, the medical wing, the wildlife preserve, the lift down, the second level living quarters (left and right wing), the lowest level hallway and the power core.

5.  The medical wing has four people in cryosleep, all injured, two infested with chestbursters.  No other planned encounters unless the cards say so.  I benny each for each saved settler, per PC  (i.e. taking the cryosleep pods out of the facility).

6.  The wildlife preserve has 2 x the number of PCs in facehuggers trying to sneak up on them and infest them, plus any encounter indicated on the cards.

7.  The lift can only have a "damaging effect" encounter, or a "damaging effect encounter" and the predator if a joker is pulled.

8.  Living quarters on both sides are empty.  Encounters if the cards indicate encounters, plenty of room for investigation and clues for the next area, mainly that anyone still alive is down further and that there are even bigger aliens waiting.

9.  Lower level hallways filled with "webbed up" settlers.  Searching allows the PCs to find about a dozen still alive, and about half in need of medical attention if they survive.  There are twice as many settlers, but the other dozen are all beyond any help at all  (ready for chestbursters to shoot out).  Two more bennies for everyone if they attempt to save the webbed up settlers.

No planned encounters except what the cards indicate.

10.  Power core.  Alien Queen and two Praetorian aliens attack the PCs.  No other encounter unless a joker is drawn, in which case the predator shows up and jumps the winning side of the fight.

I was freehanding the rooms on paper when the group had an encounter, vaguely based on what I thought the room should look like with a reasonable amount of room for the encounter.  I was using Gaming Paper's singles:

Gaming Paper

Also, just for fun, I was using the NPC rule for ammo for the PCs, just to see what would happen.  That means that instead of tracking individual ammo, the PCs would have very high, high, low, or no ammo, and the ammo level would go down each time a PC draws a two for initiative.  Other PCs could lower their ammo level to increase someone else's, and a trip to the drop ship would refresh ammo levels one time and one time only.

I also only gave the PCs the standard Marine rifle  (sans the grenade launcher), or the heavy weapons guy got the big smartgun machine gun and a flame rifle.

The cards I was using for initiative were the standard Studio 2 Savage Worlds Action and Adventure Deck cards, although I was only using the "action" deck  (the normal cards):

Savage Worlds Action and Adventure Deck

One deck is the standard deck of cards that you use for just about anything, including Savage Worlds initiative, and the other deck is a set of player boons that they can play in a campaign to give themselves little edits to the game to work in their favor.  I decided not to use that deck for a one shot.  Seems better for full blown campaigns.

The Session

Now, how did this work?

First, I'm not sure the ammo levels thing had the desired effect.  I was picturing the whole "oh crap I'm out of ammo" feel of action horror films like Aliens, but it didn't quite work, and it also made me limit things like grenades just because the ammo level thing doesn't work well with unlimited grenades, for example.  Nothing game breaking, just didn't work the way I would have liked.

Now, remember, no adventure survives contact with the players.  To be honest, its what makes gaming worth gaming, and its what makes being the GM rewarding a lot of times. 

Instead of going into the settlement right off, my PCs wanted to explore the forest, maybe find a vehicle.  So I let them track vehicles into the wild, where they ran into the Predator right off the bat, and a fight ensued.  Half the team got tore up, but the medic, in particular, got hit hard, and even harder when a couple of d4 medical treatments were administered.  It was hilarious.

Since the predator was already dead right off the bat, the drop ship wasn't taken out.  The PCs went back to the carrier, and their Lieutenant orders them back down to the planet.  They tell the officer that the place looks deserted and there are vicious aliens, and he says aliens don't exist and they need to find the settlers.

Heading back down, they find the cryosleep settlers, decide to get them back to the carrier, run into aliens, and get tore up again, especially the medic, again. 

On the ship they argue with the Lieutenant that the settlers they woke up explained that most of the settlers were dead and the colony was infested with aliens.  The Lieutenant ordered them back down.  The sergent decides to shoot the Lieutenant rather than go back down, but doesn't because of the other marines on board.

The sarge then taunts the Lieutenant into coming down with them.  This is something I really like about Savage Worlds.  I wrote down the stats for a seasoned soldier from the core book, gave him one of the marine rifles, and handed him to one of the players to run, and it worked great.

Since the "negotiation" on the ship took a while, the group decided that since it was a one shot, they really did want a shot at the queen, so the group heads down straight to the queen in the power core, and they took her on.  Surprisingly no fatalities, due in no small part to the Lieutenant rolling really well on his attacks.

I will say that the fights felt like they ran faster, but I didn't seem to actually get more encounters out of 3.5 hours than I do out of Pathfinder.  That's not an indictment of Savage Worlds, because the fights did seem to move faster, and were a lot easier to run.  Plus, two big wild card encounters and a gaggle of aliens in one of the encounters, and it was pretty easy to keep track of it all.


  1. This looks good. I'm not very familiar with Alien vs Predator movies but as I know that some of my players those I want to test this. Your adventure sounds bit like movie "Ultramarines" ( and I had that in my mind when I first read your later blog post and found this setting from Savage Heroes. After reading this post I'm sure that I should run Aliens versus Predators adventure.

  2. You forgot to mention the Penis Pancakes!

    And the fact that we ended the mission with just about everyone in the group firing on the LT when he wanted to keep exploring the base.

    I thought the ammo thing was reasonable. I know we pulled 2's often enough that we started wondering about how long the ammo would last. If you were to run it again, I'd say that you could start with the ammo one lower on the track to give it more of the feel of scarcity, and give everyone the grenade launchers, but start them at very low so that a single deuce would mean that they were out.

  3. @Blue_Hill, the game session was definitely based more on the old Dark Horse comics and the video games rather than the movies. The comics and games were set in the time period of the Aliens movies, including Colonial Space Marines, while the movies are set here on Earth in the present time.

  4. @Gamer Curmudgeon, yeah, I realized after I posted the summary that I had missed the part where, after being ordered back to the planet twice, and after fighting the alien queen, the marine's CO said they needed to keep looking for survivors, at which time, he was promptly fragged by the Sarge.

    Also, Sarge had the "mean" personality trait, and one of the grunts had the "annoying habit" trait, which one of my players took as "asking stupid questions all of the time. Thus Sarge began a campaign of making really inappropriate comments about Annoying Question Grunt's mother.

    And somehow that turned into an x rated breakfast conversation.

    I love gaming.

  5. Hmm maybe I should look for those comics as I hear about them for first time.. I'm also thinking Space Hulk miniature game when Aliens vs Predators is mentioned but with less armor and more horror. This should be good.