Savage Worlds for demos or one shot games works well. It’s a relatively streamlined RPG system and pretty easy to get into. One hiccup however are dealing with hindrances. For prep work you have to really make fleshed out pre-generated characters. Yet once a person sits down, they are somewhat locked into a persona as skills, edges, and their flaws for their character are set for them. When I run my demo games I shake this up a bit.
I don’t have hindrances for my Savage World pre-gen characters. Instead I prepare a bunch of cards with hindrances and tie them to motivations. Players pick a motivation early in the session and gain the hindrances associated with it.
To get the ball rolling quickly when they first sit down, I don’t have players bother with introducing their characters. Instead I hand wave things some and give a nod to the idea that they are all gathered under specific circumstances facing a particular situation together. Once they all get a firm grasp of the challenges ahead of them, I pass out several cards with general motivations on them.
Each card has one word that sums up something the PC would strive to achieve, a drive, or a core aspect of their persona. On the back of each card are more details along with specific hindrances. Once they’ve had a moment to digest all the information, I finally have them introduce their character to the others.
Another key point I bring up with this is if a player pushes the group or does actions that would fulfill their motivation, they get a bennie. Sometimes I have this associated with a particular location depending on the session. If they achieve the task of pushing the action so that they can satisfy their motivation, a bennie is rewarded.
This method does tend to work for more structured one-shots or demos. I’ve run a survival horror, sci-fi game and another weird WW2 game where exploration and investigation was warranted. Having the motivation cards linked to particular areas really drove players to discuss with (and at times connive) each other into exploring a particular area. This helped push the characters into being proactive which is especially helpful for a timed demo game.
Another benefit is that once a player understands the stakes involved and has an idea what would drive them to make certain decisions, they get a better feel for their character. Delaying that initial character introduction until they’ve selected their motivations and the scene is set, allows players some time to let their ideas ferment some. You can really see people get into their character, and they seem to embrace their hindrances more.
As I mentioned, I’ve done this for a few demo games. Most of the time I have people sit down that have never played Savage Worlds. One game I had a table full of 6 players with zero RPG experience. Using these motivation cards helped them jump into the game easily. They had time to get a better idea who was actually depicted on the character sheet. And I’m especially happy to say everyone had a blast while playing.
Sometime I need to formalize my adventure notes and post my past demo games. But I just didn’t want to wait on conveying this concept. It’s worked so well for me and also helps push the players into being proactive. The next time you are running a demo game or a one shot for Savage Worlds, consider using this idea.