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I'm running a Deadlands campaign with players who come entirely from D&D and have never played Savage Worlds before. All five people in the group have made nearly identical characters (gunslingers) with practically the same stats, hindrances, and edges. I've tried to get some of them to branch out, but everyone is dead set on being a gunslinger.

This is going to make things sort of hard to deal with, because the group is very one-dimensional. Should I try to change the adventure around this so they can deal with it? Or should I just let them have a hard time until someone dies and decides to mix it up? Should I be extra mean and throw something at them I know they can't handle?

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For a fun take on a related situation, read this post: – Duffadash Jul 22 '11 at 7:55
@Duffadash I really love the "DM quietly put notes aside he had for today" Like..screw that my plans are ruined. – MrJinPengyou Apr 29 '13 at 12:38

14 Answers 14

up vote 55 down vote accepted

Unless this makes the game boring for you as a GM, don't make it a goal in itself to have the players vary their characters. The players won't like being forced into roles they don't want to play, and the game can be a lot of fun even with a homogeneous group.

Draw your inspiration from westerns and other action movies where all of the characters are gunslingers, like Young Guns and The Expendables. Focus on combat, but don't be afraid to throw in other types of challenges every once in a while. Ingenious players will always find some way to solve a problem.

If the players are having a hard time getting past a noncombat obstacle you put in their path, consider tossing in an NPC with the required skills—and then have the bad guys attack him. While the NPC is doing his work, it falls upon the players to protect him. Dramatic scenes like these are usually enjoyed by everyone at the table, and the players won't feel that the NPC did all the work.

Finally, encourage the players to flesh out how their are gunslingers are different from each other. While their skills may be similar, there can be a great deal of difference in their personalities and backgrounds. If the players are reluctant to provide this backstory themselves, consider adding social encounters (like negotiations) or moral dilemmas (like hostage situations) into the game to have these differences form naturally during play.

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+1 I believe this advice can be applied to any setting/genre/game. – The Jug Jul 21 '11 at 21:30
On the other end, it should be them that should search for an NPC they need to do something sometimes, with all that implies (find it, try to understand if he's really able, try to understand if he's a madman or a possible traitor, etc.). In no case this NPC should last much more than a single event, or he'd fall under the "lame" case detailed just above. – o0'. Jul 27 '11 at 7:15
You seem to put a lot of meaning into the phrase "toss in". Even if the players themselves instigate a search for a suitable NPC, surely you agree that it's the GM who puts him there. Further, your approach seems to emphasize this search for an NPC that could take a session or more. Unless this search is made into an exciting adventure in itself, many players will feel that they are simply treading water or that the GM is just punishing them for making the "wrong" decisions at character creation. – Jakob Jul 29 '11 at 12:21
Finally, if you are worried about verisimilitude, try to think of ways to transition the NPC naturally into the storyline. For example, if the PCs' employer is wealthy (which is often the case), it's only natural that he would hire the kind of people who can ensure a successful mission. This is not "deus ex machina" because, as described above, it is the responsibility of the gunslinger PCs to protect any NPCs who come along. – Jakob Jul 29 '11 at 12:22

Focus on the differences, not the similarities

Think "Seven Samurai" - the important part was how the guys dealt the breakdown of the society and the fall of their way of life into unimportance, not which one could fight a bit better or worse.

Design your campaign around the characters

This should be obvious, really. That doesn't mean you should make their choice meaningless, of course, but there's little point in pushing them into a scenario where they can't win unless they play something else. They can as well decide to play with a different GM in such a case ...

Break the rules

If the rules say a gunslinger can never do something which your players would find interesting or cool to do, and the reasons why it's not possible to do it boil down to "because of some choice you all did at character creation some months/years ago", screw the rules.

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Fortunately, there are very few "you can't do that because CHARGEN" rules in Savage Worlds—the only one I can think of is not being able to take a Background Edge (e.g., learn magics!) after chargen, but even that rule has been eliminated (or delegated to the GM's setting rules) as of the Deluxe update. – SevenSidedDie May 1 '13 at 19:37

One of the things I have seen happening in Savage Worlds games, is a lot of the characters do tend to start off looking the same. You don't have a lot of points to spend on attributes and hence most players end up with average d6 in them all (may be upping one). Once you give your character a range on skills players tend to spend on similar sets so not to be too specific and end up with a turkey of a character. This is unless they have to select one of the Professional Edges. Most of the Professional Edges tend to make you have to focus your character to a specific set of skills, attributes and edges.

That being said, once the game is going it is surprising how quickly the character start to diverge. There are a lot of things to choice from once you are good enough at combat or the core skills and then players tend to look for something to make there character special.

Hence my suggestion is, don't worry. Give them ideas of things they might like to specialise to, for example a NPC that uses Taunt before shooting.

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Being one-dimensional isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it will make the fights harder for them. Keep that in mind with your encounters so that you don't completely overwhelm them.

Honestly i'd just throw stuff at them with different situations, ones that different character types could/would make easier, eventually one might cave and change their character to help the group. if not, then no loss to the group other than the fights will be harder for less gain.

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Teach 'em what the setting is about. Throw them into situations where they're completely unprepared. Let them die, if the dice roll that way.

When the first one dies, point out the other roles he could choose that would let the party live longer.

Rinse and repeat.

(Note: don't do this if you know your party will get discouraged as a result, make sure they know there are ways they could have dealt with situations better, had their group been better-rounded)

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Well, ultimately if the players want to do that, you can't force them not to. Or maybe you can, but they'll resent it and might not have fun. If they don't have fun, what's the point?

You can do things to encourage the players to try to branch out, but if you simply punish them because they all want to play a certain thing, you'll wind up with a miserable group of players and not much of a game.

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Explore their backgrounds, morals and knacks. But that's the answer everybody will point out. :)

I am very keen of developing the characters in game. Throw some random situations where the characters are separated. From their reactions shall emerge some differences, the roleplay following these scenes may change the whole party dynamics and character roles.

Maybe only two of them see their boss doing something dishonorable, now they have to take a stance about as well convince the other characters (or not!). Maybe one if them end up losing his destrous hand in combat (Roland Deschain in the Dark Tower series) and will change due to that. Or a marriage. Or a personal vengeance, some ancient curse, an unexpected inheritance, maybe some derangement from all the Grit of Deadlands.

Develop and change the characters in game. But for Pete's sake, do it in conjunction with his player. It's not fun to lose your hand if you're not in the mood of playing something like that.

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I read the rules for a game called SHERPA, and one of the examples they used were the Three Musketeers. They are all musketeers, skilled in swordsmanship, riding, and muskets. However, on top of this, one was Noble, one was a priest, another a gigolo. Sort of like multi-classing, I guess.

(Quoting Jakob's answer):

Finally, encourage the players to flesh out how their gunslingers are different from each other. While their skills may be similar, there can be a great deal of difference in their personalities and backgrounds.

I'd ask for back stories, sitting in a saloon somewhere, or on the trail. Then hand out extra Edges and/or Hindrances, maybe a skill or three, as freebies, based on their character's personal history. Sort of like in Burning Wheel. I'm not sure everyone would want the DM tinkering with their character concept, but who really argues with free upgrades? Especially when the DM can point out the in-game logic.

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I am a very experienced SW GM by now and I transitioned my group from D&D, so I recognise this situation.

A great deal of the subtlety and power of SW comes out in the dynamic of play. The attributes and skills and edges on a character sheet do not flesh out the character. The edges may give you a profession, but it is the hindrances that generate interesting play and make the characters distinct personalities.

For your group, look very carefully at the hindrances they chose. New players tend to take the social/psychological ones that seem to "let them off easy" like Arrogant, Cautious, Overconfident, Heroic and Stubborn. Because these have little "crunch" they need you as GM to help them play them properly. Talk to your players about the effect their hindrance would have and that you expect to see it in play. Hand out bennies liberally when they do play the hindrance and call them on it if they are not acting in the spirit of the hindrance, i.e. the Heroic character is reluctant to risk his hide without payment, the Arrogant player is not looking for the toughest guy and challenging him and the Overconfident player is not diving recklessly into the middle of combat.

Bennies are key. Bennies are your way of generating crazy, fun situations at the table.

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Well you could try pregenerating some characters and letting the group choose from them. They havent played so the do not know what to do. Do not put a gunslinger in the pile. Let them play a few games then if one or more wants to create new characters now that the see how the game is played it might be different.

The alternative is you can run a gunsliger campaign. Your group is not going to want to do much more than fight so give them fights. It could be worse they could all want to be doctors and set up a clinic and never leave their home.

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Had another brainstorm. This is a mix of what @Chad and @Jeff said. Instead of going headlong into a campaign first, try creating some pre-generated characters (maybe only partially filled so that they can tweak some themselves) that your players have to pick from and then run through a mini campaign (anywhere from 1-5 sessions), and throw in as many different situations as possible. After this you AND your players will have a better understanding of the system and the character types (i should know, we did this with DFRPG).

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If you have the material and time, I would create encounters that favor the parties single mindedness. Give them situations where they can use their gunslinger abilities as a group. (think of a pack of pack animals) After they have done a few of these, throw in an NPC or two to get some variety and let them see how that plays out as well. Also be sure that after say 3 or 4 encounters tailored to them, give them an encounter which if they were more diverse they could master, but since they are specialized, none of thier tools are really well equipped. A "you get captured" result for that sort of encounter might work best.

Eventually the players will decide if they prefer variety after a few sessions like that.

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This question has been thoroughly answered already, so I'm only posting to point you toward a resource that I have fond helpful for putting some of these suggestions into practice. You will find the advice here similar to that already posted by Rich, Martin Sojka, and Jakob. However, I feel that the extended explanation and examples will be worth your time.

The resource I am talking about is Making the Party: Wedge Issues, an article posted some time ago at the blog Essentially, the advice here is to embrace the sameness and focus on the aspects of each character that define a specific branch of the archetype.

Two hotshot pilots? Is one looking for fame and the other thrills? Is one well-trained and the other a natural? Is one precise and the other flying by instinct? (yes, Iceman vs Maverick)

Hindrances are also your friends here, as the players are likely to be at least slightly different. Look at those small differences, and see if you can think of something about them that tells you how two players' outlooks would be different.

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Make sure that all characters have a similar "on-camera" time. This allows you to have each of them contribute to the plot in equal measure. It avoids one character hogging the plot whole the rest do nothing. If you design your plot so that there is a lot of combat, make sure that some get wounded and have to be taken care by others. Then swap roles.

Most of what matters is the interaction with NPCs and the plot, so make sure that each character has a good reason to be where they are and can bring something to the whole group that no other character can. Again, any good action film/book should provide you with plenty of things to do there.

Finally, give them all some (extra) points to spends on side skills: cooking, gambling, singing, dancing, drawing, whatever. Something to give the character some colour. Then make that skill vital to your game plot.

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