Thursday, April 18, 2019

Bastion—Nature Lover

Yup, this is the first thing to do now that I'm back.

Now that Savage Worlds Adventure Edition is out in full-force, I'm gonna start pushing out some more character builds—back to the basics, right?

And, of course, it's a supers character: so let's get to it.

Name: SST Laboratories Siege Automaton E54, "Bastion"
Race: Omnic
Rank: Seasoned (4 Advances)
Power Level: Street Fighter with Super Karma (35 PP)
Attributes: Agility d6; Smarts d4; Spirit d8; Strength d8; Vigor d10
Pace 6; Parry 4; Toughness 12 (4)
Hindrances: Cannot Speak, Clueless, Loyal, Outsider (Minor), Pacifist (Major)
Edges: Brawler, Common Bond, Fast Healer, The Best There Is (ranged attack)
Skills: Athletics d6, Common Knowledge d4, Electronics d4, Fighting d4, Notice d8, Persuasion d4, Shooting d10, Stealth d4
Super Powers:
  • Armor +4 (2): Advance polymer casing.
  • Construct (8): +2 to recover from being Shaken; doesn't breathe; immune to disease and poison; ignores one level of Wound penalties.
  • Doesn't Eat (1): Nearly-infinite power source.
  • Interface (2): Close-range access tool.
  • Regeneration (8): Level 5, rolls to heal every round. Limitation (–2, action to use). (Self-repair protocols.)

Modes (Switchable)
  • Attack, Ranged (14): Range 24/48/96, Damage 2d8, RoF 3, AP 2, Lethal. Limitation (–1, 35 rounds per reload), Switchable. (Recon Mode SMG.)
  • Attack, Ranged (10): Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d8, RoF 5, AP 2, Heavy Weapon, Lethal. Limitation (–2, cannot move), Limitation (–2, constantly Vulnerable), Limitation (–1, 300 rounds per reload), Limitation (–1, Min RoF 3). (Sentry Mode Gatling Cannon.)
  • Attack, Ranged (10): Range 12/24/48, Damage 3d10, RoF 1, AP 10, MBT, Heavy Weapon, Lethal. Limitation (–2, 10 rounds per mission), Limitation (–1, MBT always on), Limitation (–1, takes a level of Fatigue every 5 consecutive rounds in Tank Mode). (Tank Mode Cannon.)
I've actually been brainstorming this particular build for a good long while. Bastion is a super cool character with a really interesting setup: tons of combat potential, but an unwillingness to actually use any of that power. It's actually a character concept I've always wanted to play.

So, how did I figure what he should actually have? Well, Regeneration is a pretty direct translation of his self-repair ability, and Fast Healer helps to reinforce that—even a heavily damaged, 3 Wound Bastion would only need to make an unmodified Vigor roll to heal himself. His Brawler is mostly due to his robotic structure—solid metal hits hard, and I definitely didn't have enough Power Points to give Bastion a melee attack power.

What held me up on completing this build for a long time is how to manage his weapons. I could not for the life of me figure out how to balance Bastion's mobile recon mode with his high RoF sentry mode, and why a Bastion wouldn't want to constantly use his tank mode. However, this is where Adventure Edition comes to the rescue: the Limitations on the sentry mode cannon are numerous, as Bastion can't move and is always Vulnerable—appropriate, since he's a pretty large target—and his cannon has a minimum Rate of Fire of 3, just like the core rules minigun. I also increased the recon gun's range slightly since the weapon is more accurate than the gatling cannon. With all of that in place, as well as a Limitation due to the need to occasionally Reload his weapons allows his two main modes to both be viable choices (appropriate, since ammo expenditure is pretty ).

His tank mode suffers a few similar limitations. The damage is only 3d10 instead of 4d10 (the actual damage of most World War II tank cannons), but has a low ammo count and suffers the same limitation as the new Berserk Edge: every 5 rounds in the mode, Bastion takes a level of Fatigue. Between that and his ammo limitation, Bastions will generally stay in one of their other modes.

Note that I use a slightly different, more balanced cost for ranged attacks. The damage dice increase to d8 by changing the cost of the power from 2/Level to 3/Level, and the damage dice increase to d10 for an additional 1 PP (up-front, not per-level). So a 2d8 attack is 3 points and a 3d10 attack is 7 points.

So, one good question might be why Bastion's weapons are powers instead of gear. This was primarily done to allow for the Switchable Modifier—so, Bastions actually have to completely switch "modes" to use the right weapons.

The last major point is to ask why Bastion is only a Street Fighter, 30 PP hero. The cheeky answer is that all the Overwatch heroes are only 30 PP heroes, but obviously that's not a clear answer since the obvious follow-up is "well why are Overwatch heroes all only 30 PP heroes." That's a fair question, since on the surface, the setting almost sounds like a Four Color-style supers game, but if you actually look at what these characters' powers are, it becomes a bit more clear. You've got:
  • An accurate cowboy with a .357 magnum revolver.
  • A kind-of-cyborg with shurikens and a "magic" sword.
  • A speedster (who might actually be a teleporter) that is slow enough to need a motorcycle to keep up with normal vehicles.
  • A pretty smart boi who is also a gorilla.
  • A good sniper with a grappling hook.
  • A huge guy with a really strong gauntlet punch. And that's it.
And so on—a few actual powers with a lot of fairly mundane gear. Even the most powerful of any of these, Doomfist's gauntlet, can be easily modeled at 15 Power Points, and there's nobody who's in the strength ballpark of above 10 tons (achievable with only 10 PP, some points in natural Strength, and the Brawny Edge)—Doomfist with the gauntlet is able to throw a car and no other character we've seen on the Overwatch roster matches him in that department. Even Mercy's incredible healing abilities can be handled with The Best There Is (healing) and 15 points. So... Street Fighter is actually the best Power Level to model most of the Overwatch cast.

And that's my Bastion build! Hopefully over this summer you'll start to see a lot more posts here for character builds and design stuff (and hopefully on the Savage MCU sister blog as well).

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Expanded Wealth and blog update

Yes, I'm still alive!

I've been very busy with university the last few months but I did manage to find a little bit of time to put together something I've been mulling over for a few months now.

The Wealth system in Savage Worlds is great, but there's a couple of break points that I experienced the first time I used it, notably Gambling, and I had a hard time figuring out how to balance cost modifiers for purchases and figuring out how much Rewards should be worth.

Well, I recently released my first ever Savage Worlds Adventurer's Guild product to address exactly that: Expanded Wealth! It's great, I get to feel like a professional now! If you grab a copy, make sure you join up at our big ol' Savage Worlds Discord Server; I'm there pretty much all the time!

Anyways, this is more than just a shameless advertisement. I've had a number of products (that are still free!) cooking up over the last few months that I'm excited to get to a point that I can share with all of you fine folks (hint—there are laser swords), as well as updates to the Savage MCU branch of this whole project. After I started my last big update mission, SWADE finally released and a bunch of heroes are being converted over to that edition of the game as well as having their general power levels increased (generally through experience) pretty much across the board.

So, yes, updates are coming, don't you worry! This blog won't be dead until I am. In the meantime, happy gaming everyone!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Thoughts on Black: Suppressive Fire

EDIT: I have updated the original write-up of these rules to represent a slightly more refined version of my original implementation. My reasoning remains the same, so feel free to read the full mechanic or to skip down to the write up of the new mechanic itself.

A bit of a departure from my usual fare, there's been a lot of news coming in about the upcoming edition of Savage Worlds (now officially named Savage Worlds Adventure Edition), and almost all of it is really exciting. I'm getting to work on a big ol' mega post that should see the light of day before the end of the month about my thoughts on everything and all of the great new changes (along with a couple changes that sound good maybe but that I'm more on the fence about). For those curious and who haven't been keeping up with things lately, here's a really good video summary of the changes and a thread on the official forums discussing everything and getting more in-depth with some implications and ideas that come with the new changes.

Today, though, is something that I finally feel very proud of: my house rules for the new Suppressive Fire mechanics. Lots of props to forum user and Discord member SteelDraco, who discussed a lot of the ideas that made it into my final draft, particularly the implementation of the Distracted condition.

The Maneuver
Before we get into the game mechanics of this move, I want to touch on the point of actual suppressive fire in the real world. In the words of Wikipedia, "the purpose of suppression is to stop or prevent the enemy from observing, shooting, moving or carrying out other military tasks that interfere (or could interfere) with the activities of friendly forces... The primary intended effect of suppressive fire is psychological. Rather than directly trying to kill enemy soldiers, it makes the enemy soldiers feel unable to safely perform any actions other than seeking cover. Colloquially, this goal is expressed as 'it makes them keep their heads down' or 'it keeps them pinned down.' However, depending on factors including the type of ammunition and the target's protection, suppressive fire may cause casualties and/or damage to enemy equipment."

When looking at this, it's pretty clear that the point of suppressive fire is effectively to keep enemy morale down, making them too scared to act against allied forces. Therefore, when constructing a suppressive fire mechanic, you want to create a situation where the mechanic itself feels very effective at keeping enemies down, particularly by making it frightening to leave any cover you've situated yourself behind. That said, the goal of the mechanic should not be to wound enemies: merely to scare them through the possibility of being wounded. Typically this is used in lieu of actually attacking targets if they are behind cover, hidden away, or otherwise not in a good position to target.

The Problem
The option to use Suppressive Fire has been in the rules since Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition back in 2007, and its implementation hasn't really changed since, including in the Savage Worlds Deluxe edition that was released in 2011/2012. While a good addition—machine guns definitely need the ability to affect more than 3 or 4 targets at a time, and suppressive fire is a standard tool in military operations—the rule has almost no teeth in practice.

The way it works is by placing a template down and having the shooter make his roll with the usual penalties (auto-fire, range, etc.). On a failure, this template disappears and there is no effect, while on a success, targets under the template have to make Spirit rolls, adding any cover modifiers as bonuses to their roll. A failed Spirit roll means the target is Shaken, while a 1 on the Spirit die indicates that they are hit. This costs 5 times the weapon's RoF.

The problem should be fairly clear to anyone that has tried to use this mechanic, but to lay it out, it's pretty borked. The goal of the mechanic is to "incentivize" enemies into keeping their heads down while your allies maneuver into a more favorable position, specifically by forcing them into cover (or to stay in cover they already occupy) and be more willing to stay down than to actually act.

The implementation of this rule only requires characters, at worst, to roll a 4 on their Spirit die to avoid any penalties whatsoever. Unfortunately, this makes using Suppressive Fire on characters in cover completely pointless—an Extra with a d6 Spirit behind Medium Cover has an 83% chance of success (only failing if he rolls a 1), and is guaranteed instant success behind Heavy Cover. This becomes more pronounced against characters with higher Spirit (88% for a d8 Spirit Extra in Medium Cover) and Wild Cards (97% for a d6 Spirit character in the same).

Granted, this was initially implemented under the old Shaken rules, where you needed a raise to be able to act normally out of Shaken, but under the new rules that has been downgraded to only a success. A good change on its own, but one that completely invalidates Suppressive Fire as soon as most enemies act, even when it does work (which is only even remotely likely if characters are not in cover). In fact, characters that are more likely to even be using the kinds of weapons that allow for suppressive fire (Shooting d8+) would have a 25% chance to just hit an enemy in Medium Cover outright, even in Full Auto fire—and if their cover is thin, it might even be completely ignored by its AP! A character with Rock and Roll would have almost a 50% chance to hit the same enemies!

In any situation where Suppressive Fire should be useful, the rule as written is strictly worse than simply firing on one's enemies. A successful rule should be more likely to affect large numbers of enemies than trying to target them directly, and should be especially effective at forcing enemies to keep their heads down under threat of losing them, without necessarily being more reliable at killing an enemy in the open than simply shooting them. PEG's emphasis on the latter, "less reliable at killing" part of such a mission statement regrettably takes the teeth out of the maneuver when it should count the most.

The Fix(es)
There have been a ton of suggestions that have risen out of the community for fixing the Suppressive Fire mechanic in a way that grants it its teeth back, preferably making it even more useful for a character that is a particularly good shot.

One of the most common fixes is changing the active roll from being a Shooting roll with all the usual penalties to simply being a Shooting roll opposed by the Spirit of targets beneath the template (who may add their cover bonuses as usual). While this is a clean solution, it generally takes out the nuance of suppressing enemies at a farther range, or being in a position where the gunner can compensate for his autofire (using Edges or by stabilizing his shots with a bipod). Additionally, it does not allow for the clean implementation of the option to simply spray until the gun is completely empty, or using suppressive fire as a method of controlling battlefield movement (by, for example, firing down an alleyway continuously so that enemies can't run up the alley to kill you). This also still does not account for the fact that the point of suppressive fire is to keep enemies down and not firing back at your allies, since all it does is to Shake the enemy—which, as mentioned earlier, is not entirely difficult to bypass.

My proposed fix, with input from SteelDraco, makes this maneuver cleaner, allowing nuance in the conditions the attacker is under and allowing for the gunner to actually suppress an enemy force, keeping their heads down while your own troops maneuver to out of any kind of cover. This should even work on player characters, as being out in the open under suppressive fire feels far more lethal and terrifying. We have been testing a slight variant in my Weird Wars game, which has been extremely successful, and this newest variant actually fixes the few problems I had with the previous iteration. All that you need to know to understand this is that in the upcoming edition, the Distracted Condition inflicts a –2 penalty on a character's Trait rolls. Without further ado:

Suppressive Fire
This house rule is meant to replace the underwhelming Suppressive Fire mechanic from Savage Worlds Deluxe, implementing some of the new conditions from Savage Worlds Adventure Edition without causing it to be too overly complicated.

The attacker places a Medium Burst Template on the battlefield and makes a single Shooting roll, including standard modifiers for range, the full-auto penalty, and any other miscellaneous factors (but ignoring the target’s modifiers for being prone or in cover). This uses 5 times the weapon’s Rate of Fire in bullets (so a RoF 3 machine gun uses 15 bullets). If failed, the bullets simply spray without focused effect.

If successful, targets caught in the area must make a Spirit roll (at –2 if the attacker scored a raise), adding the Cover penalty they would receive against the attack as a bonus to the roll. Victims that roll a 1 on their Spirit die (regardless of Wild Die) are hit and suffer damage normally. Characters that do not score a raise are Distracted until the end of their next turn, and failure leaves the victim Shaken. Receiving a Shaken result while already Shaken does not cause a wound, as it results from psychological factors.

►Maintaining Suppression: If the attacker doesn’t take any other actions (including movement) in the round they begin this maneuver, he may maintain his suppressive fire, leaving the template in place until his next turn. This immediately ends if the shooter is Shaken, forced to move, or is otherwise interrupted.

Characters starting their turn or entering the template must make their Spirit roll as above (including the –2 penalty against a raise), but may only add the lowest Cover bonus they intend to use within the template to their Spirit roll (so a character planning to run through open ground within the suppression gets no bonus, even if he begins behind Heavy Cover—characters who wish to fire back without exposing themselves more than necessary may attempt to Fire Blind to retain a higher cover value, of course). This roll must be made before a character takes any actions. Running through multiple suppressed areas prompts multiple Spirit rolls, as necessary.

Example: Private Smith and his squad is caught in the open under Suppressive Fire, and the gunner is maintaining it for the round! He succeeds his Spirit roll, but at the beginning of his Turn must roll again since he begins within the template (at –2, since he is Distracted). Afterwards, he runs to a nearby building and then to a window (Medium Cover) to fire back at the enemy.

Corporal Jameson was already inside the building with Heavy Cover when the Suppressive Fire began, so he succeeded his Spirit roll with a raise! On his turn, he wants to stand and fire back at the enemy, exposing himself to Medium Cover, and must make a Spirit roll with the +2 bonus from Medium Cover. He only gets a success, Distracting him and imposing a –2 to his Shooting roll. 

PFC Buddy was inside the building with Jameson and succeeded on his Spirit roll with a raise as well, but decides on his Turn that he wants to take a shot out the window and run out of the building so he can close his distance with the enemy gunner. He makes his Spirit roll with no bonus, since he intends to run out with no cover at all, before firing his weapon.

Finally, their corpsman, Private Jackson, must cross the building through the Suppressive Fire to get to a wounded ally. He keeps his head down, retaining his Heavy Cover, and makes his Spirit roll at +4 before getting to work on his friend.

In addition to this, one Edge in several settings that include weapons capable of suppression is the Grazing Fire Edge, which originally allowed the character's Suppressive Fire to hit his targets with a roll of 1 or 2 on the Spirit die, rather than just on a 1. However, this effect is somewhat underwhelming as it does not make the character more effective at Suppressive Fire and simply relies on lower rolls from the victims. I recommend changing the Edge to impose a –2 penalty on Spirit rolls when using Suppressive Fire, and a –4 if he achieves a raise, in addition to the written effect. Anyone under his machine gun is going to want to find some cover quickly!

While this may not be the best version of the rule possible, this is certainly the cleanest and most flexible I've seen it as, retaining its lethality and enforcing a kind of psychological warfare not just on the player characters, who will likely struggle to pull themselves up and actually fire back at the enemy, but on the players themselves, at least from our experiences in Weird War II. If anyone from PEG gets the chance to read this, I do hope they consider making a change like this to allow Suppressive Fire to gain back some of its bite and be as cool of an option as it should be!

If any of you guys have any comments or suggestions, leave them down below as usual! It's good to be back, and I should have a lot more of these coming in the near future.

Monday, August 21, 2017

On Arcane Background (Ritual Magic), and the Cold and Heat Trappings

Since we're talking about powers and magic anyways, I wanted to bring up a couple of small things that I'd noticed for the benefit of my good readers.

In the Fantasy Companion, one of the new Arcane Backgrounds is Ritual Magic: the idea is that a chracter is slower and less powerful than a full-blown wizard or sorcerer, but is far more safe and consistent in the use of his abilities. Unfortunately, the mechanics that back this up are that these casters have fewer power points, a lot more penalties, and are less likely to recieve backlash—overall, they're strictly worse than other casters.

I address this by adding a new mechanic: Ritual Preparation. Ritualists may concentrate for a full round (taking no movement or any other actions)—if a character is Shaken, wounded, or Fatigued during this time, he must make a Smarts roll to maintain his concentration. If he's successful in his concentration, the ritualist may add +2 to cast any power on his next Action. This change presents ritualists with 2 casting options every round: they can rush their casting to simply cast the power as usual, or they can exercise a smidge of patience to make their spell practically guaranteed to fire or increase their chances of getting a raise. This also makes a good ritualist more position-oriented, as their spells are more consistent and powerful (due to a higher raise chance and lower Backlash chance), but they are far less mobile then their counterparts.

If this isn't enough to make Ritual Magic viable, GMs might consider allowing the user to utilize one of the Ritual Casting options from the Horror Companion when casting his abilities, specifically the extended range, duration, or effect. If including the damage option, the GM may wish to halve the effect from +2d6/4d6 to +1d6/2d6.

The other thing I have recently discovered is a likely misprint in SWD, possibly due to rushed inclusion: the section on Trappings in Chapter 5 of Savage Worlds Deluxe was based on a similar section from the Fantasy Companion, but was formatted to be cleaner to read. In it, Cold/Ice and Fire/Heat both include options to Fatigue an enemy. However, the Cold/Ice Fatigue notes the downside of either halving range or doubling the PP cost, while the Fire/Heat Fatigue does not. This has led to some confusion as to why the Heat Fatigue Trapping is strictly better than the Cold Fatigue Trapping.

The short answer is that it isn't. The original wording from the Fantasy Companion states that the Fatigue caused by Fire/Heat functions identically to the Cold Trapping—this detail simply didn't translate into SWD. [This has been verified by the publishers to not be the case; the Vigor roll or suffering Fatigue apparently is a "free" Trapping, whereas the ability to suffer a –2 to the roll on a raise is the "expensive" part. Personally that feels backwards to me—a Vigor roll for Fatigue is a very powerful effect to get for free, at least comparable to an entire new power, but I don't want to spread misinformation.]

I know this post was short, but I wanted to mention it before I forgot. I may do an entire post on Trappings later on but for now I hope this helps someone somewhere out there.

Monday, August 14, 2017

On Power Lists in Savage Worlds

Hoo, it's been a while. I'm hoping to start posting more of my general Savage Worlds design thoughts here alongside the usual character builds, but seeing as the builds business has been slow recently I figured this is as good a return to form as any. This recently came up on the Savage Worlds Discord Server as a question, but my response was abnormally large and I wanted to elaborate on some parts of the post. 

Spell lists are an... interesting concept in Savage Worlds. It's not at all acknowledged by Savage Worlds Deluxe and is only touched upon in the Fantasy Companion, but it is an integral part to most Savage Settings. Deadlands50 FathomsLankhmar, and Weird Wars RomeWeird War I, and Weird War II all have Power Lists for their various Arcane Backgrounds. So, should your setting include Power Lists for your Arcane Backgrounds?

Well, that's a complex question. Power Lists serve a variety of functions, and different game worlds need them (or don't) to fulfill different purposes. 

The primary beneficiary from Power Lists is your world. Examples from established settings include:
  • 50 Fathoms has Elemental Magic, with short spell lists for each element. For example, only earth mages can cause earthquakes, only air mages can fly, only water mages can heal, and fire mages have the highest variety of directly offensive magic options. This allows the single Arcane Background to have multiple different identities within it (creating inherent variety) with well defined roles. Furthermore, each identity has 13–19 different powers available to it, requiring a character to invest almost his entire career from Novice to Legendary just to master the spells of a single identity, allowing for enormous amounts of combinations for character distinction. Few fire mages are alike, at the end of the day, but all of them can be labelled and sought out in-setting.
  • Deadlands has several Arcane Backgrounds: hucksters, blessed, and weird scientists to name a few. Not only do all of these Backgrounds have wildly different core mechanics (setting them apart in play), but they have large varieties of powers for each type of caster. Some powers (like hunch) are even only available to a single Background. The enormous amount of powers allows for most casters to use a large portion of the book's powers, but predefined Trappings and a few spells unique to certain casters allow any character from each Background to feel wholly unique, powerful, and focused on their core concept.
  • Weird War I (minor spoilers ahead) has three Arcane Backgrounds: Magic, Miracles, and Psionics. In WWII, these only become available to specific individuals, but in the Great War these arts were only just being discovered. Psionics is primarily an offensive power, miracles (implied to be granted through Christianity) is more geared towards biblical powers such as healing and blind, and black magic is far more utilitarian. Powers such as growth/shrink, summon ally, and teleport are wholly unavailable in the setting. All of these reinforce the tone of both the horrors of war and those of the supernatural, while allowing each Background to be defined beyond the amount of starting Powers and the arcane skill's linked Attribute.
  • The Fantasy Companion includes (outdated) spell lists for different deities, as well as a set of predefined "Sins" for each. This will be further defined below, but it is worth mentioning here as much of my discussion is going to revolve around a more or less "generic" fantasy setting.
Power Lists grant an in-game and out-of-game distinction between different kinds of casters, allowing them their own unique identity not just in the setting, but across the character's gaming career as a whole. Someone playing as an air mage in 50 Fathoms will play very differently from Black Magic in Weird Wars, a huckster from Deadlands, or a wizard in a swords and sorcery game, both because of the powers available and the way that the world around the casters interact with them because of the capabilities that they're expected to have. For players choosing between Magic, Miracles, and Psionics, this provides a more interesting and engaging choice for players, helping to enter the mindset of "what does this Arcane Background say about my character?" rather than "I don't like Backlash so I'll take Miracles."

Power Lists, Miracles, and Worldbuilding
Speaking of Miracles, however, the concept of Power Lists is particularly integral to casters of a more religious bent. We will be referencing the way that Power Lists are implemented in the Fantasy Companion, since as a toolkit it's much easier to imagine scenarios within without knowing any specific setting. However, the design principles here ripple out to just about any setting.

Rather than Backlash, these casters suffer from Sins. That means that miracle-workers will almost never be hit in the face with their Sins in the middle of a battle, while other arcane casters normally can, significantly or entirely cutting back on the Arcane Backgrounds' detriment in combat. On top of that, the less restrictive the caster's Sins are, the less likely they are to come up at all

Let's assume that a hypothetical GM opted out of Power Lists for his campaign. As a player, if a character could take an Arcane Background and sacrifice one power up front to never have to deal with the consequences of rolling a 1 on their arcane skill die, why wouldn't they? This is especially bad if the GM doesn't define his Sins very well, or if they are defined but easy enough to avoid that they are effectively nonexistent.

Beyond simple "balance" reasons, though, this is another aspect of worldbuilding that is exceptionally important. The reason a god or pantheon exists, in any realistic culture or setting, is because they can offer something that no one else can: this is why individuals dedicate their entire lives to the study or praise of these deities. Let's take a simple example from the Fantasy Companion in the Goddess of Healing. Supposing the same hypothetical world as before, where every Power is available to normal magic users, why would a culture worship a Goddess who's entire goal is to heal people when men can go off and learn this power of their own accord, through magic? This can be expanded to apply to all the deities in a given world; conversely, why have magic if any god or goddess can grant all of the same abilities with less risk involved? And furthermore, in settings with a pantheon, why worship a particularly restrictive god/goddess when a less restrictive deity will grant the same capabilities?

Power Lists address all of these issues, granting a counterbalance to the benefits of Sins vs Backlash and providing a point of "balance" between the restrictiveness of different deities from both a mechanical and lore standpoint. This is likely why the Fantasy Companion opted to grant different spell lists to the distinct deities, and why wizards and sorcerers aren't able to take healing-oriented powers. While a side-effect of this is that it makes worlds feel a little bit more like traditional D&D fantasy, the overall effect produces consistency and unique pools of casters.

In addition, always remember that any powers available in your setting are available to both your players and your nonplayer characters, and make sure to construct your challenges and lore around that. If the divination and grave speak powers are available to any priest, wizard, or ritualist, then not only can the party sidestep most mysteries, but any powerful casters worth their salt should be able to sidestep them as well: the murder of a high-ranking official or ruler should only rarely remain unsolved, and if they are then they simply cannot be solved through the use of these powers. 

It is also always valid to limit the availability of certain powers to better fit the tone of your setting: for example, the above example of Weird Wars disallows several powers that grant the players too much to escape or overcome the horrors they face, ensuring that one character taking the summon ally power doesn't upturn the entire premise of the setting.

One complaint I have seen about the Power Lists for deities in the Fantasy Companion is that they are far too restrictive, only allowing a small handful of powers at most. This claim is partially valid, but there is an equally valid reason for that: the original publication of the Fantasy Companion does not include content that it introduced in any of its tables or lists anywhere in the book (check for yourself: not a single piece of weapon, armor, or power introduced in the Fantasy Companion is present in any Magic Item Tables, spell lists, or Bestiary Entries). 

The edition of Savage Worlds that was published at the time only included 30 spells; of those, deities only possessed roughly between 15 to 25 powers, giving miracle users a decent selection to work from while still limiting their spells to be in line with the severity of their Sins. I actually attempted to do a little bit of legwork here, providing both Deity Power Lists and Magic Item Tables that include the spells and abilities introduced in the Fantasy Companion.

As two examples, the Spell List originally granted by the Goddess of Healing only provided 16 spells. My new list includes all of the spells on the original list, along with ten more. Similarly, the God of the Sun provided 24 powers—5/6 of the entire power list at the time. I've granted him an additional 17 powers to remain proportional. I've listed all of my personal power list additions in a separate section below: let's keep the article moving.

Another thing that I have seen mentioned is that power lists can make different kinds of casters within the same Arcane Background feel less distinguished from one another: if all patrons of the Goddess of Healing can only choose from 16 different powers, there are going to be a lot of priests that begin play with *healing* and *boost/lower trait*, right?

I disagree with that notion. Aside from my own rules increasing this potential number of powers to 26 instead of 16—only going by the original Fantasy Companion printing—there are 78 possible starting combinations of powers, 120 with the "Born a Hero" Setting Rule (allowing the taking of the Seasoned Rank powers). With the new list, that increases to 153 combinations, or 325 with the new list. [Source: math]

I suppose a counter might be that as characters Advance and take more of the possible powers, they might begin to mold into the same subset of powers. That, also, is poppycock. Using the original Fantasy Companion lists, a character would need to spend 70 XP solely on acquiring new powers to have every possible spell available to him: no Power Points, no Holy Warrior or Champion or Rapid Recharge or Faith increases. Using my updated lists, a character that spent the same 70 XP on nothing but powers has over 5 million possible combinations of powers they might have taken, and would need 160 XP of nothing but spells to have every available power.

And these examples are only for characters who chose the Goddess of Healing, which is far and away the most "restricted" Deity available with regard to power choices. Sun priests have 120 possible starting combinations with the original list without Born a Hero, and have 253 with the new list—they would require a full 210 XP of Advances to completely fill out their powers list, and one with 70 XP of powers has 200 billion possible combinations—double the total number of humans to have ever lived ever. Remember also that none of these take into account Trappings that change the mechanics of powers, which further increases the potential variety significantly—you can have half a dozen characters with the bolt power alone, with different Trappings and mechanics for each one. [Further counterpoint might be that without powers list, the same 70 XP miracle-worker has a combination of up to 200 trillion powers, but honestly that's starting to leave the realm of conceivability and likely doesn't add much to the game.] 

Considering that all of this is before even considering different Edges, Skills, Attributes and Hindrances that make characters unique (along with their gear), really, variety isn't much of a problem with Spell Lists.

On the contrary, I would like to propose the idea that running a game without spell lists runs more of a risk of losing variety than running with. Remember that every distinguishing feature in an Arcane Background helps set it apart from every other feature, having major impacts on all groups and characters involved in taking the background. Every group of casters should feel unique through Backlash, powers, and Trappings, allowing all kinds of casters to feel unique. Casting this net too wide (without power lists) means that, when every character can take every power, no Arcane Background is going to have one of the three above distinguishing features. The difference between Magic and Psionics in SWD core is just the Backlash: starting powers and PP are identical. Instead of having "magic users" and "miracle workers" and "alchemists" and "psionicists," now you simply have "casters" with different kinds of backlash.

Cons to Power Lists
As with any kind of design decision, including or not including something can vastly change the tone and consistency of your game. While I've listed many of the benefits of Power Lists above, there are a couple of major cons that come with this stuff.

The primary drawback isn't really game related: making these lists takes time. Depending on how many Arcane Backgrounds/Deities inhabit your world, this kind of project can take hours to complete, and may people are too busy working or planning or family-ing to really manage something as minute as whether or not one of your players could maybe hypothetically take the slumber power if they wanted to.

The secondary drawback is one that I've heard a few times as well, though it's one that is a bit more wishy-washy in terms of whether or not it holds water: the concept of pre-defining what powers a character can take before the character is even conceived can limit player concepts. Personally, I don't believe that it does—the available power lists aren't particularly restrictive without reason, and many times the powers available to a certain background are only available by virtue of how that background functions within the setting: e.g. mages in 50 Fathoms having to choose what kind of Element they specialize in channeling, or Healing priests being disallowed from taking blast or burst (why would a Goddess of healing and peace grant her followers the ability to level buildings?).

Which is Best For You?
Different approaches work better for different tables. Some of the more common scenarios and situations will hopefully be listed here: 

I'm running an existing Pinnacle or third-party Savage Worlds Setting: If this includes Power Lists, then use them. I've outlined all of the above benefits of utilizing them, and the best part of existing content is that they've already done the legwork for you. It will benefit your world and your casters will have more interesting choices than what kind of Backlash they'd prefer in their Arcane Background.

I'm running an original homebrew campaign, or adapting an existing setting for the use at my table: Unless you're planning on running lots of people through your campaign, or you're expecting some really long-term stuff or for characters to come in and out very frequently, a pre-defined Spell List isn't super necessary. The function that Power Lists should serve is to make sure that characters stay within the capabilities of your world and the lore within, keeping consistency for everyone involved and giving players the ability to peruse what powers are available to them without constantly consulting the GM. If you still wish to create Power Lists, and you have the time to do so, feel free.

The alternative is simple as well: restrict players by concept. If your acolyte of the War God wants to take "Summon Ally," figure out why, and use your god-given GM veto powers if you can't see why the God would or could grant their follower that ability (summoning warrior angels is good; summoning shadow fiends probably not so much).

I'm running a one-shot or convention game, but not in an existing Setting: If you're here, chances are you're just using pre-gen characters, so Power Lists really don't matter—they exist so that players know what kinds of powers are appropriate for their Arcane Background, so unless players are choosing to build their own characters then Power Lists would be a waste of time (and even then, the above "restrict by concept" solution is a better fit anyways).

I am running or designing a Setting designed for other groups to play in: It is crucial that you include Power Lists in your setting, for all of the worldbuilding, aesthetic, design and balance purposes listed above. Not only does it keep consistency, but it means that anyone else coming along to pick up a copy of your setting will fall into the first category here, and it is your job to do the legwork for them to play in: that's why you're designing a setting for other people anyways. It keeps your world coherent, makes your casters memorable, and makes sure that everyone knows what your intent was behind "the God of the Harvest."

Hopefully this covers all the major bases. If Power Lists are available, or if you have the drive and time to make your own, I strongly recommend doing so.

BONUS: Expanded Fantasy Companion Power Lists
For those who would like to try a Fantasy Setting with Powers Lists but aren't fans of the lists presented in the Fantasy Companion due to how limited they are, here are expanded entries that should feel a lot more open for player choice. This section is gonna be pretty much useless without that Companion, so don't expect full lists for most of these (because of copyright stuff). 

Light/obscure may be taken as a single power, but if a Power List from the Fantasy Companion doesn't list both, their Trappings preclude the caster from using the unlisted effect.

Goddess of Healing
In addition to the original 16 powers available, add the following 10 powers: banish, bless/curse, blind, concentrate, divination, drain power points, legerdemain, slumber, succor, and summon ally.

God of Justice

In addition to the original 19 powers available, add the following 15 powers: analyze foe, banish, bless/curse, blind, concentrate, confusion, divination, drain power points, intangibility, legerdemain, mind reading, slow, succor, summon ally, and warrior's gift.

God of Knowledge

In addition to the original 19 powers available, add the following 14 powers: analyze foebanish, bless/curse, concentrateconfusion, darksight, divination, drain power points, farsight, legerdemain, mind reading, succor, summon ally, and wall walker.

God of Nature

In addition to the original 23 powers available, add the following 18 powers: banish, bless/curse, burstconcentrate, confusion, damage field, darksight, divination, drain power points, draining touchgrowth/shrink, havoc, intangibility, jet, pummel, succor, summon ally, and wall walker.

God of the Sea

In addition to the original 21 powers available, add the following 16 powers: banish, bless/curse, concentrate, confusion, darksight, divination, drain power points, draining touch, havoc, intangibility, legerdemain, pummel, slow, succor, summon ally, and warrior's gift.

God of the Sun

In addition to the original 24 powers available, add the following 17 powers: banish, bless/curse, blind, concentrate, confusion, damage field, divination, drain power points, farsight, growth/shrink, havoc, jet, legerdemain, pummel, succor, summon ally, warrior's gift.

God of Thieves

In addition to the original 20 powers available, add the following 17 powers: analyze foe, banish, blind, concentrate, confusion, darksight, disguise, divination, drain power points, farsight, growth/shrink (shrink only), intangibility, legerdemain, mind reading, slumber, succor, wall walker.

God of War

In addition to the original 19 powers available, add the following 13 powers: bless/curse (Strength, Vigor, and combat skills only), blind, damage field, divination, drain power points, farsight, growth/shrink (growth only), havoc, jet, pummel, slow, summon ally, warrior's gift.

Arcane Background (Alchemy)

In addition to the original 18 powers available, add the following 18 powers: blind, concentrateconfusion, damage field, darksight, disguise, draining touchfarsight, growth/shrink, intangibility, legerdemain, puppetslow, slumber, succor, telekinesis, wall walker, warrior's gift.
> Additional Targets: For powers that grant the option to affect additional targets for additional Power Points, the GM may allow this to instead be additional potions from the same “batch.” This allows for a single Alchemy roll for multiple potions of these powers. Remember that this also affects the cost to maintain the power after it has been consumed as well. [This is per a suggestion on the now-defunct Savage Worlds forum; I'll link to the post if I can find it in the archives later.]

Arcane Background (Troubadour)

The Troubadour Edge in the Fantasy Companion always seemed odd to me. It almost tries to function as the Adept Edge by changing the nature of the Background, but the Troubadour Edge takes it an extra step further by requiring a different arcane skill and removing Sins in favor of Strain.
From the Edge itself:
"Despite using the rules for Arcane Background (Miracles), Troubadours typically don’t worship a specific deity for their power. They believe in the power of the arts, so their Arcane Skill is Perform (Spirit) instead of Faith."
Considering its requirements (Arcane Background (Miracles) and Perform d6+), this creates an odd scenario where to take the Edge at character creation, that requires two entire Edges for effectively a normal Arcane Background. Additionally, taking the Edge after character creation is almost worse, as the character is affected by Sins until he takes the Edge, and must still use a Faith die which becomes useless after the Edge is taken: either he cannot reliably cast spells until he takes Troubadour by neglecting Faith, or he invests in Faith but the Edge and now never has a use for the Faith die again.

Instead, I use Troubadours as their own Arcane Background, the rules for which I've listed below:

Arcane Skill: Perform (Spirit)

Starting Power Points: 10
Starting Powers: 2
Spell List: armor, banish, barrier, beast friend, bless/curse, blind, bolt, boost/lower trait, concentrate, confusion, deflection, detect/conceal arcana, disguise, dispel, drain power points, elemental protection, entangle, environmental protection, farsight, fear, havoc, healing, intangibility, invisibility, light/obscure, pummel, puppet, quickness, slow, slumber, speed, speak language, stun, succor, teleport, wall walker, warrior's gift.
Troubadors are traveling entertainers who bring news and amusement to people across the land. They use the same system for Strain (Backlash) and for "mundane" uses of the Perform skill as listed under the now-defunct Troubadour Edge in the Fantasy Companion (page 7). Their Power List contains 37 powers.


I hope you guys like this kind of "Insights and Ideas" content; I'm hoping to do more in the future. If you have any thoughts, comments, whatever, leave a comment, and feel free to join up in the Savage Worlds Discord channel; I'd love to see some new blood come in sometime!


Friday, March 10, 2017

Percy de Rolo—Human Gunslinger

After finally catching up on Critical Role, and getting swamped with university work, I've finally finished the first of what I hope to be another good series of characters. I've had to basically learn all of 5th edition D&D and how all of the systems and monsters interact. For the little bit of magic referenced in this write-up, I use my own Savage 5e D&D magic system (for the sake of accuracy), which is heavily inspired by Zadmar's Savage Vancian Magic.

Spoilers for Critical Role (Episodes 1–89) below

Name: Percival Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III
Race: Human
Experience: 130 (Legendary)
Agility d10; Smarts d12; Spirit d8; Strength d6; Vigor d8
Pace 6; Parry 5; Charisma 2; Toughness 8 (2)
Hindrances: Arrogant, Bad Eyes (m), Enemy (Orthax), Loyal.
Edges: Accurate Attack (Shooting), Dead Shot, Elan, Gunsmith, Hip-Shooting, Jack-of-All-Trades, Magic Initiate (Warlock), Marksman, Musketeer, Noble, Quick, Quick Draw.
Skills: Boating d4, Fighting d6, Knowledge (Engineering) d8, Knowledge (History) d6, Knowledge (Metallurgy) d8, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Repair d8, Shooting d12, Stealth d6.
Cantrips: Become friends; minor illusion.
Novice Spells (1/day): Curse.
Languages: Common, Celestial, Elvish.
Inventory: Boots of Spider Climbing (1 hour), Cabal's Ruin [Attunement] (+2 to resist magical effects; when affected by a spell, the character may spend a benny (if used against a damaging spell, this also counts as a free Soak roll) to swallow the spell and gain 2 charges per Spell Rank up to 10: every 2 charges spent adds +1 electric damage on a physical attack), Dragontooth Necklace (pulses when allies with other necklaces from this set are Incapacitated), Earring of Whisper, Glasses, Gloves of Missile Snaring [Attunement] (Ranged Defender Edge), Gunsmith's Tools, Mithril Chain Shirt (Armor +2, torso only), Bad News (10/20/40, 2d8, Min Str d6, 2 action reload) with Scope (negates 2 points of ranged penalties) and an enchanted "flashlight" opal, Diplomacy (Vigor roll or Incapacitated; Vigor every round to recover, burns out with a 1 on the Fighting die), Dragonslayer Longsword [Attunement] (Str+d8+1, Fighting rolls +1, additional +4 damage vs dragons), Retort (5/10/20, 2d6+1, 4 shots, blackpowder revolver, 2 actions to reload per barrel), Animus [Attunement] (5/10/20, 2d6+3, 6 shots, blackpowder revolver, 2 actions to reload per barrel, user is Shaken with a 1 on the Shooting die).

Percy's backstory is best relayed through the character biography Taliesin (Percy's player) wrote, which preceded the early episodes of Critical Role:
"Percy was the third child of seven children, born to a noble family who lived far to the north in the ancient castle of Whitestone. With so many siblings to share the burdens of lordship, Percy turned his attention to the sciences, engineering, and naturalism.
One day, a mysterious couple, named Lord and Lady Briarwood, came to court. During a feast held in their honour, the Briarwoods violently took control of the castle, killing or imprisoning everyone who would stand in their way.
Percy awoke chained in the dungeon, only to be freed by his younger sister. Together they fled, chased by the Briarwoods' men. As they ran, Percy's sister took several arrows to the chest and fell. Percy kept running, eventually jumping into a freezing river and floating unconscious to freedom. He did not remember waking up on a fishing boat. He barely remembered the next two years, as he slowly made his way as far south as possible.
Then one night, Percy had a dream. A roaring cloud of smoke offered him vengeance against those who destroyed his family. When he awoke, Percy began to design his first gun."
Percy was rescued by the rest of the party of Vox Machina from a prison cell in Stillben after he attempted to murder a woman named Anna Ripley, who was connected to the Briarwoods. Since then, he has traveled with them, fighting trolls, dragons, demons, dread lords, beholders, and other vile monstrosities with his family.

After leading an uprising in Whitestone and assassinating the Briarwoods with the assistance of his friends, Vox Machina returned to the capital of Emon to witness the attack of the Chroma Conclave, and subsequently set out to dismantle the Conclave piece-by-piece. After nearly a month and a half of nonstop conflict, uprisings, alliances, worldly travel, and vestige hunting, the party only recently put down the last of the Chroma Conclave. Now, they journey forward as the heroes of the land.

Percival is an extremely talented engineer and inventor, building up bizarre and unique gadgets from a taser glove to inventing the first firearms (of which he is quite proficient). However, his inspiration for the latter appears to have been the product of a shadow demon named Orthax, who also granted Percy limited magical abilities—Orthax has since been banished, having possessed Ripley before Vox Machina murdered her to avenge Percy after his first "death."

Percy is also a self-professed nerd, having deeply studied history and engineering, as well as dabbling in just about everything. While his intellect can sometimes go to his head, deep down he is a kind soul who would do anything to help his friends.


As far as a purely Savage Worlds Percy goes, I would simply replace "Magic Initiate" with No Mercy (#nomercypercy), and change Cabal's Ruin to absorb Power Points on a 1:1 basis, and expending 2 adds +1 to Percy's next attack roll. Otherwise, Percy is already one of the characters most suited to Savage Worlds with the removal of his few spells.

He can fire off a few less shots per round, but that's balanced out by doing tons of damage (for a fantasy setting) and also more realistic—blackpowder weapons are not fast weapons and magazines weren't a thing for them until fairly recently.


Now that I've finally caught up to Critical Role, I'm able to going to start pumping out Savaged Critical Role characters—and even Savaged D&D 5e characters on the whole if I found some interesting ones. Anyways, if you have any question, comments, or criticisms (either of the build or of D&D on the whole), let me know down below.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Tiberius Stormwind—Draconic Sorcerer

So, I've been rather quiet here for the last few months on here. I've gotten some writer's block on the Savaging of things (currently flip-flopping between the posts on the Fighting skill and on Investigative skills), but while I've been procrastinating I've started watching Critical Role, a show where a bunch of professional voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition.

While I'm one of the last to enjoy the weird, overly complex magic rules, game-y and inorganic combat system, and fairly restrictive class system that runs to the core of D&D, this show is amazing, and the players are all amazing roleplayers. As such, I couldn't help getting sucked into the fun. And whenever that happens, I inevitably end up Savaging whatever I see as well.

I'm still catching up, on Episode 29 right now, but with the departure of Tiberius—Orion Acaba's character—from the adventures of Vox Machina, I figured he'd be worth writing up and posting, so the blog has some more content while I try and figure out how to continue my How To: Savage Everything series or procrastinate and update older characters instead.

While working on these characters, I used a hybrid between Zadmar's Savage Vancian Magic supplement, as well as my own Savage Dungeons and Dragons document that makes changes to several Edges, adds some new ones, and provides stats for the races found in D&D and Pathfinder. I won't be explaining how they work in the bio below, so you'll want to skim through those to get a good idea of what everything does.

Spoilers for Critical Role (Episodes 1–28 below)

Art by Mikandii

Name: Tiberius Stormwind
Race: Dragonborn
Experience: 70 (Heroic)
Agility d8; Smarts d6; Spirit d10; Strength d6; Vigor d8
Pace 6; Parry 5 (1); Charisma 0; Toughness 9 (2)
Hindrances: Arrogant, Bad Eyes (m), Big Mouth, Loyal, Outsider, Obligation (m—dragonborn clan), Vow (m—collect his artifacts)
Edges: Draconic Ancestry, Heroic Sorcerer, Size +1, Noble, Arcane Lineage, Dragon's Breath, Enchant Minor Items, Quickened Caster, Potent Caster
Skills: Fighting d4, Intimidation d8, Investigation d6, Knowledge (Arcana) d8, Knowledge (History) d6, Persuasion d8, Sorcery d12.
Power Points (Breath Attack only): 5
Cantrips: Control Flames, Light, Telekinetic Touch, Unerring Strike.
Novice Spells: Feather Fall, Glamour, Invisibility, Ray of Heat, Sphere of Silence.
Seasoned Spells: Combat Invisibility, Fireball, Flight, Obelisk of Stone, Rockskin.
Veteran Spells: Glacial Blast, Improved Dispel Magic, Telekinesis, Teleportation Circle.
Languages: Common, Draconic, Dwarvish.
Inventory: Glasses, Cloak of Displacement (–2 to hit as long as you are not Shaken, Incapacitated, or restrained in any way), Circlet of Concentration (+2 to rolls for Concentration), Ring of Holding (1 additional Novice/Seasoned spell per day), Ring of Protection (Armor +2), Surge Blade (two-bladed spear—Str+d6, Parry +1, Reach 1, 2 hands), Earring of Whisper, Bottle of Infinite Air, Decanter of Endless Water, Deck of Illusions, Bag of Holding.
Bag of Holding: The Mending Wheel, 8× knife (Str+d4), mini-crossbow (6/12/24, 2d4, AP 1), 20× mini bolts, Immovable Rod (8,000 pound capacity; Strength –4 to move 2" per round), Scroll of Telescription, Dust of Illusion, vicious short sword (Str+d6, damage +1 on a raise), 20× wooden stakes, canteen, 35× mirrors, Wand of the War Mage (ignore up to 2 points of penalties for cover or called shots with spells).

Tiberius' backstory is best described in short order by the character bio provided by his player, which preceded the early episodes of Critical Role:
"Greetings and salutations. I am Tiberius Stormwind. I hail from a town called Ty'rex, located in the heart of Draconia, born from a politically respected family.
"At the age of 15, I succeeded in passing the Sorcerer's Rite, showing prodigy-like control of my magic. The judges and the Draconian high council were amazed at how powerful my spells were for how long I had been training. At 20 years old, I was the youngest appointed member of the magic guild in Draconian history. For the next few years, I almost went mad from the malaise of being a guild member, as it's rather boring.
"However, one day I happened upon a chamber, unused for quite some time. In the room were stacks of books and maps of the surrounding cities and areas around the known world. For months I would frequent the chamber, and learned of artifacts from legend. After a long period of research, I made a list of artifacts that caught my eye. I brought these findings to the high council and was told that all of the information in the chamber I had stumbled upon was either believed to be fiction, or unsolvable mysteries, and hence were lost forever. I found those answers to be unacceptable. 
"A year later I devised a ruse and managed to convince the city council to lend me support in me leaving Draconia on a mission of peace and diplomacy for the surrounding kingdoms. Going from town to town and making friends and allies, in and for the name of Draconia. Being a red dragonborn, I had quite the task on my hands in that respect, but that was exactly what I needed, so I could explore the world and find these artifacts, as I felt the truth was out there.
"Some may describe me as buffoonish, but I say poppycock to all that. I am much sharper than most give me credit for. I just don't... pay attention to things sometimes. I've also been known to be rather cunning, loyal, happy-go-lucky, and well, dangerous. I can't help but show my true scales every now and then. But overall, I think I'm quite friendly for a dragonborn."
Tiberius is a powerful—yet fairly absent-minded—dragonborn sorcerer, who joined the adventuring group Vox Machina (then known as Super High-Intensity Team—the name was later changed for obvious reasons) while on his journey to find the fabled artifacts in the lands outside of Draconia. He accompanied and risked his life with this group several times, and even acquiring one of his artifacts (the Mending Wheel) along the way—but trading away a "piece of his luck" for it. The meaning of this is of yet unclear.

He, along with Vox Machina, have faced demiliches, dragons, dark necromatic magics, demons, dread lords, even a beholder, and for all of their services for the land and to the kingdom of Emon, they were bestowed fame and a small castle called Greyskull Keep. It has been a long couple years for Vox Machina, and they continue to adventure and save as many as they can.

Tiberius, however, eventually leaves Vox Machina behind for yet unknown reasons, attempting to prepare further for the assault on the Briarwoods, the evil family that overthrew the family of one of his fellow party members, Percival.

Tiberius, as a sorcerer, has access to a rather "limited" (by d20 terms) selection of spells; he can cast up to 6 of each rank per day. While he can likely cast spells at Heroic rank as well, he has yet to utilize any of those, as he departed before he was able to acquire those levels of spells in his D&D iteration. He is an extremely fast and powerful caster, an exceptional talker, and far more intimidating than most might expect.

His young age and burial in work in the draconic magic guild, however, has done little to help his actual wisdom—while he plays up his buffoonishness to throw strangers off, some of it is simply hard-wired: he routinely speaks out of turn and says whatever comes to his mind, and tends to carry himself with an air of arrogance over his mastery of the magic arts. Deep down, however, he is deeply loyal to his friends, and he will easily and thoughtlessly risk everything to save his friends if they get into trouble.


Just for giggles, I decided to make the character using the Savage Worlds powers system rather than Vancian magic, just for proof of concept to see if this would work to recognizably recreate the character. This is not an entirely accurate representation of the character—that's up above—but it is a far, far easier version to play and manage without dealing with "spell slots" and other poppycock.

Name: Tiberius Stormwind
Race: Dragonborn
Experience: 70 (Heroic)
Agility d8; Smarts d6; Spirit d10; Strength d6; Vigor d8
Pace 6; Parry 5 (1); Charisma 0; Toughness 9 (2)
Hindrances: Arrogant, Bad Eyes (m), Big Mouth, Loyal, Outsider, Obligation (m—dragonborn clan), Vow (m—collect his artifacts)
Edges: Arcane Background (Sorcery), Draconic Ancestry, Size +1, Charismatic, Dragon's Breath, Enchant Minor Items
Skills: Fighting d4, Intimidation d8, Investigation d6, Knowledge (Arcana) d8, Knowledge (History) d6, Persuasion d8, Sorcery d12.
Power Points (Breath Attack only): 5
Power Points: 15
Spells: Armor (stone skin), blast (fireball), dispel, fly, invisibility, light/obscure, telekinesis.
Languages: Common, Draconic, Dwarvish.
Inventory: Glasses, Cloak of Shadows (–2 to hit), Cap of Concentration (+2 to rolls for Concentration), Ring of Protection (Armor +2), Ring of Storing (slow), Surge Blade (two-bladed spear—Str+d6, Parry +1, Reach 1, 2 hands), Earring of Whisper, Bottle of Infinite Air, Decanter of Endless Water, Deck of Illusions, Bag of Holding, Scroll of Blight (draining touch).
Bag of Holding: The Mending Wheel, 8× knife (Str+d4), mini-crossbow (6/12/24, 2d4, AP 1), 20× mini bolts, Immovable Rod (8,000 pound capacity; Strength –4 to move 2" per round), Scroll of Telescription, Dust of Illusion (disguise), vicious short sword (Str+d6+1), 20× wooden stakes, canteen, 35× mirrors, Wand of Mini-Fireballs (bolt).


Hopefully I can continue to work on the characters of Vox Machina, and port them into Savage Worlds. One of my favorite things about the system is due to it's modularity, you can compare the capabilities of characters from any medium and setting to any others, and I definitely want to see how the party shapes up against the many, many other characters I've worked on—some of which are even voiced by the actors that created these D&D characters.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

How to: Savage Everything, Part Four—Social Skills

While some of the most famous characters of the many Savage Worlds are fierce warriors, incredible marksmen, and even some powerful sorcerers, some of the greatest unsung heroes are the ones that kept fights from breaking out in the first place. Manipulating allies and enemies alike fall into a trio of skills: Intimidation, Persuasion, and Taunt. These three, in addition to a few Edges and Setting Rules, have the potential to be some of the most history-altering skills of anything else.

Don't worry, we'll cover combat skills and more action oriented skills later. Here's some previous posts that I've made in this series (and we have a long way to go; probably around 10 more for Skills alone).

Part 1—Setup
Part 2—Attributes
Part 3—Skills [Boating, Climbing, Driving]

A caveat I want to add that I don't know if I made clear in the previous post: the aforementioned "Active Skills," while active and require a skill roll to use, do not necessarily require the skill to be performed: you may still be Unskilled and attempt a Shooting roll (and Active Skill), for instance.

Let's also refresh on the rules for Tests of Will: it's an opposed roll that grants you a +2 on your next action against the target (no matter how many turns or cards go between these actions, distinguishing them from Tricks). With a raise, it also shakes the target as well. This is also assumed to have situational bonuses for very on-point digs or intimidating techniques (and appears to assume to be capped at +2).

Lastly, a refresher on the Reaction Table: these are the levels of cooperation an NPC can have towards a PC or an idea. A character that is Friendly, for example, would almost certainly be Hostile to the idea of harming his family. Whenever using Intimidation or Persuasion, all it can do is to move a character a couple of places along this track. For a refresher, the levels are "Hostile," "Uncooperative," "Neutral," "Friendly," and "Helpful."

With all that out of the way, let's jump in!

Intimidation [Active]: "Frightening an opponent through force of will, threats, or just really big guns." Narratively, this does exactly what it sounds like: intimidate people. Of course, the book only outlines a single use of this skill: the Test of Will. This is a combat action, however: if you intimidate someone, they're going to try and stay the fuck away from you because they have a not-unreasonable chance of landing a solid attack on your with that +2. This does not account for the social side of things, of which there are 2: interrogations, and forcing cooperation.

The Interrogation Setting Rule that is the most streamlined and well-integrated is found in Deadlands: Noir. The basic gist of it is that the rules are basically a special case of the Social Conflict rules, where you make your rolls opposed by the target's Spirit: the number of total successes and raises you get determines how successful the interrogation was. If the setting you're Savaging from supports it, this is an incredible judge of a characters' Intimidation capabilities.

Forcing cooperation is probably best put into mechanics by Zadmar: one minute of interaction and an Intimidation roll opposed by their Spirit cooperates as though they were "Friendly" (as though they were Persuaded) as long as they're under your influence, as well as a little while after with a Raise. The next time they see you, they're Uncooperative, or Hostile if they were already Uncooperative. Failing this roll moves them down a level on the Reaction Table.

An important thing to remember with regards to the specific die type of Intimidation: Intimidation is always opposed. That means the Intimidation score of your character is based wholly off of the Spirit of the opposing character: there are a couple of caveats to this though:
> The Wild Die: If you are a Wild Card with the Intimidation skill, your Wild Die means that you are always more likely to Intimidate Extras because you roll two dice rather than one. In addition, as far as Extras go, you have somewhere like a 60% chance of success if you have a d6 in the skill (due to the Wild Die) vs their average d6 in Spirit (with no Wild Die). So, effectively, Wild Cards are almost always more Intimidating and less likely to be Intimidated.

Persuasion [Active]: "Convincing others to do what you want them to do." Another skill that does exactly what it says on the tin: Persuasion allows you to get people onto your side. This means convincing them to lower the prices of their goods, lend you a helping hand, or even in Social Conflicts in the courtroom or in the presence of a high council. This, unlike Intimidation, is not usually opposed, and it adds your Charisma to the roll. With a decent bit of Charisma and a reasonable Persuasion skill, it's very easy to consistently persuade people to your side.

Unfortunately, failing this roll means that the NPCs mood moves down a spot on the Reaction Table, so people that talk a lot and people generally don't get angry at him for doing so probably has at least one Charisma-increasing Edge.

With regards to Charisma, by the way: always remember that Attractive and Very Attractive are only really applicable if it's actually built into the character, not the actor they're portrayed by. A character only has these if it's acknowledged in-universe that they're good-looking. The more people that identify this, the more likely the character has the Edge: Ellen Page is pretty attractive, but if her character's husband is the only person to ever acknowledge this or be influenced by this, that character may not have the Edge.

Again, Persuasion only moves people around on the Reaction Table, and is not mind control. Do not treat this as mind control.

Another use for Persuasion is bartering (opposed Persuasion vs Smarts to lower the price of an item by a small percentage), and lying (Persuasion vs Notice). Bartering is more of an in-game thing, as that's not normally the kind of thing shown onscreen, but very good liars tend to have at least a little bit of Persuasion and/or Charisma. Lastly, it can be used in Interrogations, opposed by the target's Spirit in the Social Conflict.

As a side note, when Savaging things, Persuasion can be used against other characters in the show/movie/book that might be considered a Player Character, even though the rules says it doesn't work that way. The only reason it doesn't work that way is so you don't have an awful player come in and start trying to convince the party to become his personal slaves.

Taunt [Active]: Probably the least useful of the three, Taunt is getting under someone's skin and throwing off their concentration. In combat, it functions like Intimidation except against an opponent's Smarts, and against certain enemies it may even cause them to be distracted and go after you rather than their current target (although that's a far more rare corner case).

Taunt doesn't have much of a use outside of combat except for one: Interrogations. Like Intimidation and Persuasion, Taunt can be used to trick someone into revealing information that they otherwise wouldn't (most famously in modern pop culture in this scene from the Avengers), opposed by the target's Smarts. Otherwise, it's subjectively up to the GM to decide its usage: perhaps you'd use it to draw away a rabble of guards by the gate, or simply to get someone off your back.

It's honestly one of the more niche skills of the three here, but it still very much has its place.

As a corollary, remember that Taunt isn't just getting under someone's skin or being annoying, or smarmy, or an asshole: it's doing it with an actual benefit to yourself (either in combat or in weird corner cases). And, as with Intimidation, this is opposed at all times, while Persuasion is generally not.


I know this took a long time to pop out, but I've been busy these last couple months. I'm going to try and increase my savaging activity as much as I can, but before I go, let's take a look at our good friend Inigo again:

Inigo isn't the most social of characters, but he does have an irresistible charm and good manners, which he uses a couple of times, convincing the Dread Pirate Roberts to trust him long enough to toss a rope down a cliff to him early on in the movie, and later trying to get the miracle man to help his friend (although that second time, it wasn't enough to get the guy to help: probably went from Uncooperative to Neutral).

He is, however, quite the scary man: with the massive Fezzik backing him up, he scares the crap out of a guard to cooperate with him, and he freaks the hell out of the 6-fingered man with a hell of an Intimidation roll near the end of the movie; that warrants the d6 all on its own.

Name: Inigo Montoya
Race: Human
Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Pace 6; Parry —*; Charisma 0; Toughness 5
Skills: Boating d6, Persuasion d4, Intimidation d6
*Parry not listed due to not listing Fighting yet

As always, leave questions and comments and complaints about how long between posts I take below.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

How to: Savage Everything, Part Three—Skill Musings and Boating, Climbing, and Driving

It's been a little while, but I'm back at it with my next entry in the series. While last time we tackled some of the tough parts of dealing with Attributes, this time, we hit Skills. I'll leave a link to the previous posts on the subject below, and then we'll hop right into it.

Part 1—Setup
Part 2—Attributes

Now, before we get too far into it, one of the most important things that we need to know is that you have to be careful to not fall for semantics traps. This goes beyond just skills and applies to the system as a whole.
Rule: Do not just chalk up a maneuver or skill to its name: seek out what its mechanics are. Just because someone can sweep the legs out from under someone else doesn't mean that they have the Sweep Edge—in fact, a sweep like that would more be a Called Shot (where the target must make a Strength roll vs the damage or go Prone). The Sweep Edge specifically hits everything adjacent to you: so sweeping the legs out from everyone around you would definitely qualify for the Sweep Edge.
I'll cover this in more detail as we go in below, but it's really important to not just give someone an ability because the name matches if the mechanics don't follow through. With that out of the way, let's get into the big thing: skills.

Step Three: Skills
Savage Worlds is an extremely light system. I believe there are a total of 18 skills, something like that, and each skill only has a paragraph or two detailing their use. While these broad skill categories can be a blessing, it also makes it very difficult to both judge what some kinds of borderline skills, and to judge what the difference is between die types of skills.

One important thing to keep in mind is that Skills are far more focused than Attributes. While a single Attribute can cover a lot of things (such as Vigor being used for Toughness, Soak Rolls, healing rolls, holding breath, poisons/disease, Fatigue, and several monstrous abilities), skills only cover a couple of common tasks (Investigation is finding information in libraries and online, while Streetwise is finding information on the streets and through contacts) that are likely to come up fairly often.

Remember, of course, that skill rolls are only important in high-stress, high-octane situations. Most people in modern settings can drive, for example: that's simply Common Knowledge for most adults. However, the Driving Skill requires rolls for precise control and maneuvers, as well as for chases. If a character can drive but cannot handle the pressure of a chase scene, or isn't reliably able to make a 90-degree turn, then they probably don't have the Driving skill. To this end, one thing I want to do is introduce the idea of "passive skills," "active skills," and "common skills."
Tip: A Passive Skill implies that the skill has situations where the character's die type in a skill can passively influence a characters' capability to perform a task, even without a roll. For example, die types in Strength—while not a Skill—passively increases how much the character can lift, even though they do not have to roll to do this. Skills like this will be labelled [Passive], implying that they have a passive component to them as well as rolling as usual.
Tip: An Active Skill means that this skill is purely active. The skill does not have any component—derived or implied—that functions without the skill, and it is wholly dependent on the skill itself and tend to require dice rolls to perform. Something like Lockpicking may fall under this category: a lock will not be picked under any circumstances without actively picking the lock.
Tip: A Common Skill is one that, in certain settings, is simply a given. For example, adults in a modern setting can drive a car down the road unless specified otherwise, even without the Driving skill (though performing any maneuvers or or avoiding an imminent wreck is going to be extremely difficult). Googling the closest burger joint probably also does fall under this, though using Google to find anything important or not immediately available would require an Investigation roll. Most Common Skills are setting-specific: a samurai warrior dropped off in modern Tokyo could not drive a car any better than an art major could pick a medieval lock.
With that in mind, I want to give a quick overview of what each skill does and some things to keep an eye out for when you're deciding if a character has it, or how to determine what level they have the skill at. Let's get started, this is gonna take a while.

Boating [Passive]: This is used for working on any any kind of watercraft, be that a sailing vessel, a motorboat, or a submarine. Keep in mind that even if a character isn't captaining a ship, they still have the Boating Skill if they're part of the crew: this is used for tying knots and setting rigging. The average Boating Skill of a ship's crew can grant bonuses or penalties to the captain's navigation rolls as well (as per 50 Fathoms, which should be your go-to reference for how to handle boating of any kind), so on almost any standard vessel, crews are going to have a d6. The occasional d4 doesn't hurt, as long as it's not too much, or is balanced out by a couple d8s as well.

As an aside, a setting rule I go with is that it requires Knowledge (Navigation) to actually navigate the high seas in large vessels (or the deep trenches, in the case of submarines). This is the ability to read maps or stars and otherwise know where it is you're going without having any notable landmarks to help you on your way. In this case, Boating is for much shorter journeys or much smaller ships.

Climbing [Common]: Climbing seems straightforward enough: it's the climbing of things. However, something many forget is that this is not simply your ability to scale a structure: anyone can scale small objects, ladders, or a knotted rope given time. Climbing—the skill—refers to climbing in situations that are stressful, like when time is of the essence (e.g. being chased), or at a notable penalty (unskilled, while wounded, etc). A character that only climbs up ladders occasionally to navigate a ship or small building probably doesn't have climbing, but someone that constantly climbs things, or climbs primarily under duress, almost certainly does.

Remember, failure does not mean that the character falls, it simply means that they don't make any progress in their climb. They require a total of 1 or less to fall, which requires either a critical failure or some kind of penalty—this implies that someone that consistently falls from a simple climb is likely Unskilled.

As for the extent of their skill, the primary factor is their speed and the rate at which they fall from their ascent. Remember that a single successful climbing roll raises a character up a number of in-game inches equal to half their Strength. This means even a weakling (d4 Strength) climber can move a vertical of 12' with a success, while an average-strength (d6) character ascends 18' up in a single round; simply put, it's an additional 6' per step of Strength.

However, this should not be used as a measure of Strength if another guideline is available (such as carry capacity). Instead, Strength should be used as a measure of this character's default speed at the climb. In this way, you can also see if characters have an excessively high climbing skill. While an average decent climber can scale 18' in a round, an incredible climber can scale 30' in a round, even if he is only of average strength. That's around 5 feet per second. With this in mind, recall how much more difficult it becomes to scale at this speed up a wet cliff, or up one with very little to grab onto (both which impose a –2 penalty that stacks with the other). If someone can consistently climb up surfaces like this, then either they are expert climbers (d10 or d12), or they have an Edge like Traceur or Thief that helps to alleviate such penalties.

For you folks coming from d20, keep in mind that Climbing is not needed to simply ascend a steep-ish slope; for that I would use either Strength or Agility instead, or even just count it as Difficult Ground if it was level enough.

Driving [Common]: The Driving skill is one of the most straightforward skills in the book. It it used to control any kind of ground of hover vehicles in your setting. Tanks, cars, hoverbikes, or anything of the sort. As for its uses, it has a couple: Chases and Maneuvers (including making rolls to maintain control of the vehicle when it goes Out of Control).

If a character engages in Chases fairly often and typically wins out of them, then he likely has a high Driving. If a character performs any of the maneuvers listed in the Vehicles Situational Rules, then he should have the skill as well. As to the extent which they have the skill, just keep an eye on how often they succeed at their tasks. If they succeed more often then not, Wild Cards probably have a d6 or higher. If they succeed at very difficult maneuvers, or against other highly skilled drivers, then it is likely higher.

As an aside, I've heard the argument that motorcyclists should use the Riding skill for motorcycles instead, citing the notion that "you don't drive a motorcycle, you ride one." With this, I wholeheartedly disagree: yes, you ride a motorcycle, but this is falling into the semantic trap as mentioned above. The Driving skill, as written, covers all ground vehicles, while the Riding skill "allows a hero to mount, control, and ride any beast common to his Setting;" seeing as one does not have to tame a motorbike, I cannot fathom how Riding would make sense as the skill here. If you want there to be a distinction between driving a car and a motorcycle, then use the Specialization Setting Rule.

As a corollary, I would use the Riding skill for driving horse-drawn carts instead. While you do "drive" these vehicles, typically nothing else in the setting is "driven." Instead, this is the taming of beasts to pull the cart. Instead of controlling them from a mount, however, you control them from behind. I'll touch more on this later on.


I was initially considering covering all Skills in this single post, but I can see now that having multiple paragraphs go into each skill is waaaay too long for my kinds of posts. I'll be breaking these skills posts into a handful of skills each, to allow everything breathing room to work with.

As for our good old friend Inigo, we can fill out his skills as we go along. Inigo is, in fact, steering the ship that the movie effectively begins on. During this boat Chase, he's able to stay far ahead of the following Dread Pirate, but not quite able to lose him. I would give him a d6 Boating to begin with. That said, I would not give him Climbing, opting instead to hold onto Fezzik and have the giant pull them up the rope, rather than ascending on his own.

Name: Inigo Montoya
Race: Human
Agility d8; Smarts d6; Spirit d6; Strength d6; Vigor d6
Pace 6; Parry —*; Charisma 0; Toughness 5
Skills: Boating d6
*Parry not listed due to not listing Fighting yet

I'll get to working on the next posts as I can, but we seem to have quite a long way to go yet.