Monday, May 6, 2013

Shane Lacy Hensley visits San Diego, shares stories, ideas, and drops some hints!

Shane Lacy Hensley, creator of Savage Worlds, visited one of San Diego's FLGS: Game Empire on Saturday, May 4th.

At first I tried to think of an event in San Diego that would merit such attention. Was it a Deadlands tournament at Game Empire? No, they had flyers sharing Shane's visit up for the past two weeks but no mention of anything other than the visit.

Was it the Gaslight Gathering, a Steampunk convention with a gaming room open all weekend? No.

So what was it?

Well, at 1pm I discovered Shane was just here to visit his old gaming buddy from College, Richard Speakman. Luckily for us, Richard asked if Shane wanted to visit his favorite gaming store and Shane said yes bringing free Deadlands Comics for Free Comic Book day to boot.  He also wanted to sit and visit with the local Savage Worlds Fans. 

Once we all had our game books signed, Shane sat at the big middle gaming table and answered  questions, listened to our ideas, and shared stories. Before we get to some of the new fast, furious, and fun stuff Shane shared, I had to ask Richard if he had any stories from the old days. 

He offered "How about the first Deadlands session?"

"Excellent", I said. "Tell me!"

Here's the recap:   Back in 1990-91, Shane, Richard, and several others were rpg gamers and college students at Virginia Tech. They liked Westerns but there weren't other wild west games other than Boot Hill . So Shane created his own western adventure for his group but it wasn't like Boot Hill.

The adventure was tough by anyone's standards. One by one each of the characters died. The game ended after the last character took a dirt nap. Shane told them "Don't tear up your characters. Bring them back with you next time."

"It was then we discovered 'the Prospector' and what it means to be Harrowed," Richard explained. And thus began one of the most successful independent gaming lines of our time and the motivator for Shane to create Pinnacle Inc in 1994.

Q&A (a very abbreviated assortment as I could remember)

Question: Are there any types of games you think Savage Worlds doesn't really fit?
Answer: Not really. If you wanted to play a game like GURPS, where there's a rule for everything then SW probably isn't the game for you. Settings give you the freedom to customize so its as flexible as you want.

Question: How do you handle puzzles within a game without bringing the game to a halt when a player just doesn't get it?
Answer: That's not a rules issue but a GM fiat. You'll have to judge how it moves the game along. If it stops it, maybe just a simple roll to see if he figures it out, then move on.

Question: What was going thru a Kickstarter like and would you do it again?
Answer: It was great and unlike many others, we made money on it.  We're looking to do another at the end of the year (see below).

Question: What are some upcoming projects now you're full time again at Pinnacle:
Answer (in no particular order):
  • Weird War: Rome
  • Weird War I
  • Sci-fi Companion
  • A NEW Savage Worlds Sci-fi Setting coming to Kickstarter at the end of the year. If you liked Star Frontiers, you'll love this. ( I cannot wait for this. Our old gang loved Star Frontiers)
  • A Solo Savage Worlds adventure
  • And so much more in Deadlands!
Then Shane asked us questions:

Question: Do you guys like big books or smaller ones?
Answer(s): Me: I like the big books as I like to read thru the wealth of stories. Others(the majority): Prefer smaller books as they're easier to carry around. Simple rules sets allow us to create our own extended parts of the settings.

Question: Do you all want more rules about using downtime to add to character back-stories?
Answer(s): Various yesses and comments on the positives of interludes. More is better.
Shane follow up: Well, good. Because we've got some of that coming.

[My apologies for all the great ideas and conversation I didn't capture. Anyone else that was there, please share!]

Some fun Trivia
I couldn't end without sharing a personal bit of trivia I discovered: Did I mention Shane speaks Russian?  Part of his Master's in Special Operations included Russian. After discovering his MA in Special OPs, I mentioned my degree was a BA in Russian and my grand dreams of working in the State Department. He quickly asked "Vwi govarete pa-rusky?" "Da, plo-ha, govaru pa-rusky!" I responded*. The guy is just plain cool.  [* You speak Russian? Yes, badly I speak Russian!]

Last Thoughts
"What's This?!!? - Our own homebrew setting of course!
Shane shared that the friendships in gaming are what it's all about. Richard and his old gang at Virginia Tech created great memories and were a large part of his future career. One of those friendships was why he made time to come out and visit.

I shared how our old gaming gang began in the late 1970's and we have kept in touch ever since. Although I left gaming in 1989, the friendships endured over time and distance.

In 2007 we discovered Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition and Maptool, We've been gaming ever since. Most of the old gang meets virtually with some new blood added as well.

Our new group has members from New Jersey, 3 parts of Texas, me in So. California, and our GM in Washington State with heavy Canadian overtones, eh.  It was fun to show Shane our home-brew campaign that is now 227 pages of blood, sweat, and tears by our GM, John Riggs. We've had a blast saving the world and kicking Nazi butt.

I can see why so many folks who meet Shane comment on what a great, down to earth guy he is. I can't say enough good things about him. Who takes a couple of hours of personal vacation time to visit the local gamers and just sit and visit? 

Thanks Shane! You rock.


  1. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to pick Shane's brain and absorb some of the great homebrewed ideas around the table. Thanks again for your time and passion!

  2. Brian RosenbergerMay 7, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    I know that when the original Deadlands came out I was amazed and instantly wanted more. I called the 800 number in the book and next thing I know I was talking to Shane. A call that was just a request for a catalog turned into an hour long discussion about what I liked and disliked about the system. Shane is very good at listening to his players. Now all these years later my wife and myself still play Deadlands.

  3. As I think about it, I've spent good money to go to gaming conventions and the panels there were usually an hour. We had 2.5 hours of fun open discussion. What a blast!

  4. I can't wait to find out more about the Star Frontiers-like game.