At this year's Arisia convention in Boston, I'll be running Children of the Apocalypse on Saturday at 5:30 and my upcoming setting, Legion of Liberty, at 4:00 on Sunday. If you're in the area, Arisia is definitely worth a visit - it's a great all-purpose geekery convention.
Red Sands was the first setting I ever ran in Savage Worlds, and the one I've run the most often in convention games. The premise is simple; Thomas Edison invents an "Ether Propeller" that allows the 19th century imperial powers to conquer the solar system. The original Space: 1889 setting was steampunk before that was a word. Typical characters can include mad scientists, flying ship captains, explorers, anarchists, scholars, and soldiers.
I've liked the Space: 1889 setting since its original incarnation as a stand-alone game, and the feel is very well suited to a Savage Worlds pulp-style game. The ability to travel the solar system as a member of the British Explorer's Society, mechanics for inventing new technologies, mysterious ancient ruins - the setting provides a lot of great tools.
The Plot Point campaign takes the players across Earth and Mars, but there are Savage Tales available for locations as diverse as Antartica and the Asteroid Belt. Space:1889 has one of the largest assortments of pre-fab adventures of any Savage setting I've encountered, making it an easy startup setting for new players. If steampunk is your thing, Space: 1889 is a great setting to run.
In my previous post, I talked about selecting Edges to build different kinds of ranged combatants. This time, I'm talking melee. What are some of the classic melee archetypes? You have your martial artist, your fencer, your greatsword fighter, your hammer and shield wielder, and your two-fisted knife fighter. What Edges would suit each of these, on top of some solid Fighting skill?
For the unarmed fighter, the Martial Artist/Improved Martial Artist and Brawler/Bruiser pairings put her on a par with a regular sword-swinger. Quick is good for any combatant, but especially important for a martial artist who needs to hit first and hard, and Sweep can reflect the ability to hit multiple foes with a flurry of kicks and punches. The fencer, on the other hand, starts with Florentine, providing excellent defence when fighting single-hand, and to get a real swashbucking feel, you can add Acrobat and Block/Improved Block, to make a fighter that's nearly impossible to hit.
What about the two-handed weapon fighter? Traditionally, he's a damage engine - Mighty Blow and No Mercy help maximize the punishment he deals out. Add in Frenzy/Improved Frenzy for extra attacks (and Berserk, if you don't mind occasionally nailing an ally) and you've got a serious potential for destruction. At the other end of the spectrum, the "sword and board" shield-based fighter is often tasked with tanking; give him Brawny, Nerves of Steel, and Hard to Kill to boost his ability to wear armor and take punishment, and add in Strong Willed to make an unshakable fighter to hold the line. Consider also making this fighter your leader and taking some Command-track Edges.
The two-fisted knife fighter will want Ambidextrous and Two-Fisted, of course. Extraction is also a nice one for an assassin-type fighter, so she can move more freely around the battlefield. Fleet-Footed adds even more to that ability, and this is another fighter where Acrobat makes great sense. Add in the Assassin Edge for a classic rogue sneaky attack.
There you have it - five different melee fighters with five completely different tactical option sets. Sure, if you're looking to min-max damage there's probably an optimum in there somewhere, but these five give a ton of tactical versatility.
Savage Worlds has very little to say on the subject of firing into melee. The only rule is the Innocent Bystander rule - if you roll a 1 (or a 1 or 2 when firing full-auto), you hit someone other than the target. With Bennies in play, this doesn't happen very often, which means that firing into melee becomes rather trivial. This can have some negative effects on game balance, to put it mildly - shooting characters can hang back while one character tanks and just pick off the combatants nearby.
For this reason, I've imposed a penalty for shooting into melee based on the other people nearby effectively providing cover. In general, I call this medium cover (-2), to reflect both the possibility of a large part of the target being obscured and the chaotic situation in the melee. This makes the possibility of actually hitting the target significantly lower, and rebalances the tradeoff between melee and ranged in most cases.