Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Tommy's Take on Camp Terror, an Actual Play Review

 So this weekend I talked my group into taking a detour from D&D 5e to return to an old friend of ours: Savage Worlds. Not for an established setting such as ETU or Deadlands, both of which we love, but to try out a horror one shot from a friend of mine called Camp Terror.


So we fired up Savage Worlds and had us a brutal, throwback horror adventure.

DISCLAIMER: The author (David Anderson) is a friend of mine, but I did pay for this adventure myself, no comps involved. Here's an affiliate link to purchase it on DriveThruRPG. Using said link may grant me a portion of the sales as account credit at DriveThru.

RETRO HORROR IN SAVAGE WORLDS: Camp Terror is designed for Savage Worlds Adventure Edition, with a few tweaks in mind to give it that horror feel. The PDF is a lean 44 pages for $4.95 (the print version is $8.95). The PDF is fully bookmarked and has brilliant layout and graphic design.

Designed as convention game, Camp Terror comes packed with a whopping 14 pregenerated Campers, but you'll need a few: Every player starts with two, and the characters are more fragile than normal in the first two acts of the game (once the third act kicks in, whoever's left are the stars - though not necessarily the survivors - of the show, and become full Wild Cards. They are all based on 80s teen movie stereotypes, some remarkably so (the first five in the book are The Breakfast Club, which is an old favorite of mine).

To account for the players not knowing who their surviving characters will be, all bennies are owned by the players, rather than the characters, and bennies are earned by leaning hard into horror tropes (like wandering off alone, drinking and having sex, that sort of thing).

The setting is a summer camp that's been closed for 13 years after a murder spree, and the new owners are bringing camp counselors in to open the place up (that would be the PCs). Everyone gets two (recommendation is to randomly determine who gets which pregen), to help boost the eventual body count.

The first act is a basic horror movie opening: The camp counselors are put to work by the camp director cleaning up the place in various places around camp. This serves three functions: Fun roleplay, potentially finding items and weapons that can make their chances of survival greater and, most importantly, finding clues about just what happened at Camp Turner 13 years earlier. Once all the sites are addressed, it's time to move onto Act 2.

This is the part that will make or break the adventure. It's left to loose guidance for the GM and players, and it hinges both on players being willing to play into the horror tropes, and the GM being able to manage the scenes and tension in true horror fashion. This isn't your average Savage Worlds game. At least some of these characters are meant to die...but if the players do lean into the horror tropes, their remaining characters can be loaded down with bennies (which they will need for Act 3).

Characters in Act 2 only have a single Wound, making it easy for them to be dispatched in fun and exciting ways. Once the group is whittled down and the shocking revelations of Camp Turner unfold before them, then the remaining campers become full Wild Cards, with 3 Wounds and all, and finally have an honest shot at either fighting back or escaping. I can say that it's very difficult for them to stand and fight, but the author built a number of ways for the heroes to win if they use their cunning...though, this being Savage Worlds, sometimes the dice will just straight up go off and give the players the win (feature, not a bug).

This results in a self contained Savage adventure that should slot into about four hours of fun for horror fans.

The book finishes out with some key advice for running each act, as well as some great looking handouts, and all the needed character sheets.

SPOILER FREE SUMMARY: If you like Savage Worlds and horror, buy it. And then run it. If you like Savage Worlds and you're just intellectually curious about ways to utilize the design space, buy it. Karl Keesler is a legend for his brilliant and evocative layout. David Anderson not only "gets" slasher horror, but he gets Savage Worlds on a design level enough to make the system - which became geared for more heroic action with Adventure Edition - provide a gritty horror experience.

In short, big recommendation. Top notch product, only found one minor editing mistake (regarding a Fear test), and my players - who don't normally play one shots or pregenerated characters - had a blast.

IF THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU, then stop reading. If you want to know a LOT more, keep scrolling and I'll get into our session, as well as many unmarked spoilers.





Seriously, I'm not holding back down here.




If you're gonna play in Camp Terror, don't ruin it for yourself. Trust me.




Alright, we good? So our actual play: I ran it in Roll20, as I do all my games these days (and for the last several years). As I mentioned above, my group doesn't really do a lot of pregens or one shots, and I followed the author's advice and randomly dealt characters to them to boot. My players are troopers and jumped right in. We had a Metalhead ("Rick the Dick") and a Band Geek ("Heath"), a Clown (as in a practical joker, not a Bozo the Clown, named Tony) and his male Cheerleader twin ("Timmy"), as well as a Tabletop Gamer ("Jamie") and HER twin sister the Karate Kid ("Josie").

Act 1 is handled via a series of Quick Encounters, which are basically one roll determining success or failure. The players get the primary clue at each location automatically and success or failure pretty much only determines if they take fatigue from Bumps & Bruises (our Cheerleader got banged up pretty bad, being left with a twisted knee and bruised foot). My players didn't roll well enough at all to get much out of these scenes and, in fact, ended with the Cheerleader having two points of Fatigue and the Metalhead and Karate Kid each with one point. That said, they slipped from character to character well, playing off of each other, and even did a good job of separating player knowledge from character knowledge (such as when one character would find a clue that was maybe relevant to another character's clue, but not acting on that information).

In Act 2, the Metalhead went straight into horror movie mode and wandered off to get his drugs. This led to his early and immediate death as he tried first to escape the cabin when one of the killers (that's a spoiler: there are two masked killers stalking the campers, a brother and a sister) tried to sneak up on him. He probably could have made it, but he instead decided to pull out his survival knife and fight and got murdered for it.

The Clown and the Band Geek headed to girls' cabin to be perves, and the Karate Kid and Tabletop Gamer headed to the girls' cabin to be sensible (which hardly fit the theme yes) and led to all four of them combined there. The girls did wind up shutting the boys out, so I used the woods to spook them (there had been warnings of feral hogs in the woods - an element that is very much present in this adventure). This causes the boys to burst in on the girls.

The Cheerleader was at the campfire by himself, and got grappled by the other killer (the brother), who successfully shoved the Cheerleader's face into the fire, killing him.

Back at the Girls' Cabin, we had quandary: despite the fact that a couple of characters were Doubting Thomases, they were turtled up in the cabin and had blocked the doors. So I had a knock at the door. The Tabletop Gamer went to the window and came face to face with one of the killers (the sister). She freaked and backed up but the group was still not going to the camp director's corpse came flying through the window. This causes three of the campers to fail a Fear test and caused the Tabletop Gamer to panic and run TOWARD the window, where she was snatched out. Her sister (the Karate Kid) followed. The Band Geek and the Clown rushed out a window on the other side and wound up getting lost in the woods.

The Karate Kid and the Tabletop Gamer lost initiative and the killer gutted the gamer in front of her sister. This caused the Karate Kid to lose a Fear test and become Stunned, which made her easy pickings and honestly ended their best chance of having anyone fight it out with the killer(s). This whole sequence got a great nod from the group for feeling very cinematic.

So we shifted to Act 3 with the Clown and the Band Geek finding an old farm house. As they went inside, they saw the Sister Killer (Piety) come into the clearing behind them. Once inside, they went looking for a phone when they head a rocking chair and came face to face with a withered old woman (the mother of the two killers). Before they could decide what to do about that, they saw the Brother Killer (Enoch) standing behind her. The Band Geek had found a kitchen knife and tried to fight it out with Enoch, but that went poorly...and then Piety smashed through the door behind them and they realized there was two.

The Clown used firecrackers as a distraction to get away and the boys tried to hoof it...but The Band Geek was bleeding as he was escaping. This drew the attention of a massive feral hog named Tippy.

The Clown made his escape back to camp as Enoch finished off the Band Geek, whose last vision before death was Tippy and Enoch facing off.

The Clown found the camp bus and tried to start it. He crit failed a Repair roll so, since we were running long, I narrated out what happened next...he smelled the smell of gasoline and saw Piety dropping matches into the trail of gas running from the bus...and BOOM.

Everyone was happy and had a good time, despite the TPK.

That said, I was a little sad that they didn't get to uncover more of the extensive backstory involving Enoch and Piety and just what happened at the camp some 13 years earlier.

IS IT WINNABLE? Well, yes. The campers can escape, even though the bus has been sabotaged, but it's going to be hard.

And yes, this is Savage Worlds, so dice can always explode and you can one shot a killer (well, almost...the Wound Cap rule is in play in Act 3, but that sets up a nice "Oh crap, I thought he was dead!) but very few of the campers are really built for combat at all. That said, the feral pigs aren't friendly with the Turners, they just have a taste for blood, and that can be turned on the killers. Neither killer can swim, either, which can be used to the campers' advantage. And Mama Turner will actually screw with Enoch and Piety once she joins the scene...and if she's killed it'll leave them stunned.

And that's just the ways to win listed in the book. The author encourages you to go with anything that's cool that works.

FINAL ANALYSIS: There's a lot of great ingredients here to play with. I wish I had been a little more prepared because I think a couple of things would have ran smoother, but that's on me, not the author or my players. That said, I know my horror movies pretty well, and so that made for an easier time manipulating events. Player buy-in is going to be huge as well, if you want to get the maximum effect out of it, though. Not that the players can just group up and steamroll the bad guys...unless they get really lucky loading up on weapons and/or dice explode like crazy, Piety and Enoch are fully capable of slaughtering people en masse.

 As a GM, my only complaint when running it was the handouts - which looked great - were formatted at an odd angle, making them difficult to extract to drop into Roll20, but not only am I glad I ran it, I'm tempted to run it again (with different players, obviously, if the opportunity arises).

So I repeat what I said above: Definitely recommended if you're into horror. Also recommended if you're into tweaking the Savage Worlds rules to accomplish different things. Top notch work all around.

1 comment:

  1. Sounded like a lot of fun. And like the slasher movies I don't really watch. Though a friend is easing me into them.