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.


Variety
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.

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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!

—DoctorBoson

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.

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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.

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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.
—DoctorBoson

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.

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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).

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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.

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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
Experience:
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.
—DoctorBoson

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.

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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
Experience:
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.
—DoctorBoson

Thursday, May 26, 2016

How to: Savage Everything, Part Two—Attributes

I got some surprisingly positive feedback from the first article that I put out about this kind of thing, so I figured I might as well get started on the next one before I go in for my third Civil War viewing (for research purposes, of course).

Now, I'd like to establish something I'm gonna try to do moving forward: Tips and Rules. Tips are just little things that I'm going to toss out there as pitfalls to avoid while making characters. They're not hard and fast rules (nothing really is), but its small important things to keep in mind that will make your job a lot easier. Rules are just rules of thumb that generally inform you of mechanical differences that distinguish one Edge/Maneuver/Skill Check from another.

Remember, before you start getting into the nitty-gritty like we're going to go through here, you need to already have an idea of what this character might look like. I spoke about this briefly in the last post I made on the subject, talking about concept, but I'd like to elaborate on that a little bit more here.

Actually Step One: Preliminary
I touched on this in the last post regarding concept, but I want to go more in depth with it because, the better your preliminary stats are, the better your final Savaged character is going to turn out to be.

Initially I wanted to try and just go through this series without having an example to go along with it, since that would involve, y'know, work, but fuck it. Examples make everything easier and you can see the process of what I'm talking about. So, just for time and simplicity's sake, we won't be doing any massive characters; no super heroes, no characters with 3 movies or a season of a TV show under their belt, and no one that's sitting at like 120 experience (and for the sake of example, no one that I'm too overtly familiar with), but I want it to be a character that's memorable. In that spirit, I want to go through this series using Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride.

You killed my father. Prepare to die.
So let's set up his preliminary—his stats before we can give him any stats or concrete numbers. Now, I've only seen this movie once, and that was about a year and a half ago, so these first numbers are far from concrete and extremely basic, but let's try and figure out where he's sitting.

What's the first thing we know for sure? He's a fighter. A good fighter (d10 Fighting). And the guy is determined as hell to avenge his father (Death Wish (minor) Hindrance, maybe a Spirit of d8 as well). We also know that he's a really, really good guy, and the only reason he does a lot of what he does is to find his father's killer (Code of Honor). He's certainly not a stupid man, but he's not exceptionally intelligent either (Smarts d6). He's also extremely quick with his rapier (Quick Edge and a necessary d8 Agility), and is pretty intimidating in his final assault against his father's killer (Intimidation d6?).

I also sort of remember a bit of Climbing and Swimming in there, so let's toss those in as well, at a d4 each for now. Notice d6 is a good standby, because he had to identify the man that killed his dad. He may have been a good Taunter as well, so we'll drop that in there as well, as well as the Strong Willed Edge since he fits the requirements. As far as his combat monkey-ness, he may have Frenzy and/or Counterattack. Lastly, it's also highly likely that he has Combat Reflexes and Quick Draw as well.

So, where does this leave our lovely hero? Well, here's what we have:

Name: Inigo Montoya
Race: Human
Experience: —
Agility d8; Smarts d6; Spirit d8; Strength d6; Vigor d8
Pace 6; Parry 8; Charisma 0; Toughness 6
Hindrances: Code of Honor, Death Wish (minor—avenge his father), +1 minor Hindrance
Edges: Quick, Strong Willed, Frenzy, Counterattack, Combat Reflexes, Quick Draw, Nerves of Steel.
Skills: Climbing d4, Fighting d10, Intimidation d6, Notice d6, Swimming d4, Taunt d6, +2 skill points
Inventory: Rapier (Str+d4, Parry +1)

Pretty good, right? That's looking to round out at around 30 Experience or so once we're done with him and fill in those extra skill points.

That said, none of that stuff up there matters at all: it's just something we can use as a springboard to tweak as we move forward!
Tip: When doing preliminary character blocks, don't pay any attention to their skill point distribution, their Hindrance Points, or their Edge progression! The preliminary is not the final Savaging product, and having a short list of Edges and Skills to keep a particular eye out for is far easier than going into things and trying to see all the Edges and maneuvers and skills a character uses with nothing to use as a general roadmap.
So, let's go ahead and move forward, starting with one of the most important aspects, the core of all characters: Attributes.

Step Two: Attributes
Agility. Smarts. Spirit. Strength. Vigor. The five base attributes that everyone and their mother has. If it's a character that can be Savaged, it has all of these to a greater or lesser extent. Normally, when making a character, you don't want to dive in straight to your attributes, since characters are generally built around Edges instead, but when Savaging an existing character, starting with his Attributes does a lot to help you establish where his Skills and Edges may be as you move forward.

There's a couple of big things that you can do to lay these out, but first it's important to know what each die type actually signifies. The general metric I use is listed in the blog's introduction post:
  • Unskilled (d4–2): A character only vaguely capable of doing something, or has never tried. A city-slicker that's never been camping would probably been unskilled in Survival.
  • Below Average (d4): A character that is familiar with the basics and principles of a skill, but is sketchy on application and may not be so good at performance under duress. An avid flight simulation player might have a d4 in Piloting.
  • Average (d6): This is the average capability of someone that is involved in a particular field. Most people, for example, have a Strength of d6, but many likely are either unskilled or below average in Shooting. A city cop, however, may have a d6 in Shooting.
  • Above Average (d8): Among a group of friends, or perhaps even a small town, a character with this level of aptitude is likely one of the best. Well-trained city guards or skilled black belts likely are above average in Fighting (with the latter having the Martial Artist Edge).
  • Expert (d10): This is the level where the character may start making a name for himself based on raw skill alone. People he doesn't know may even seek him out for his talents. Skilled ninjas would likely have a d10 in Stealth.
  • Elite (d12): The character is simply one of the best at this. World-famous surgeons likely have a d12 in Healing.
  • Legendary (d12+1): The character's skill in this field is such that stories will be told about it for decades, and perhaps even further. Chris Kyle had a d12+1 in Shooting.
  • Maximum Human Capacity (d12+2): This is the physical limit of the human body to be able to accomplish incredible feats. Captain America has a d12+2 in Strength (as well as Brawny)!

Keep in mind, however, that this metric only means so much, and Edges are something that make a far greater difference than just a single step in a skill. We'll cover Edges in more detail in the next post (probably), but remember not to go too crazy with die types when an Edge would accomplish the same thing for even cheaper.
Rule: Die types are great, but what really defines a character are Edges. As a rule of thumb, a d8 character with an Edge granting him a +2 is going to be comparable to (and slightly better than) a character with a d12 in the same skill or Attribute.
When it comes to methods to measure a character's attributes, that simply comes down to understanding what these attributes are rolled for (the easiest reference for this is Zadmar's post on the subject).

Oddly enough, while Strength is probably the most rolled Attribute (particularly when it comes to melee combat), it's probably the easiest die type to determine, as it's the one where the actual die type itself gives you the most solid metric for its use: Load Limits and Minimum Strength for weapons. If a character exhibits a Strength feat of some kind, such as holding up an extremely heavy object, then you simply need to know the weight of the object in question. If a character hoists up a door that weighs 200 pounds, then he either has a Strength of d10 or d8 with the Brawny Edge.

Other Attributes simply need to look for Edges he likely has (if someone likely has Elan, then he probably has a Spirit d8 to back that up as well), or successful uses of that Attribute (like resisting poisons for Vigor).

Initially, I was also going to elaborate on Skills in this chapter as well, but I think given how much goes into considering die types for each skill, it seems like we'll be getting an entire post dedicated purely to Skills. Instead, I'll end this off with how we would Savage Inigo's Attributes. (I actually already finished giving him all of the numbers he needs, but for the purposes of organization, I'm going to talk about each point in the appropriate post.)

Having just finished watching the Princess Bride again, it turns out that our preliminary Attributes were mostly correct. He absolutely has an Agility of d8; in his first battle, he attempts an Agility Trick against Westley by backflipping over him and landing close by. On top of that, many of the Edges he has also requires a d8, further solidifying the assertion.

However, he does not have the Vigor of d8; aside from never seeing him against any kinds of Poisons, Diseases, or Fatigue, he takes at least a Wound—if not two—from a dagger just before his final battle (cementing him as likely simply having a Toughness of 5). On top of that, during his final fight, even though he won, the man felt those Wounds. He was stumbling around in pain and it took quite a long time for him to unshake, indicating that he doesn't have Nerves of Steel, and eliminating the singular justification of him having his Vigor that high in the first place. On top of that, while he might have had a Spirit of d8, I didn't see anything to suggest that he did, so we drop that back down as well. As well, both his Strength and Smarts are average; not exceptionally strong, and not exceptionally weak; not highly intelligent, but not stupid either.

An argument could be made for a Strength d8, as he carried Westley around while shoving the wheelbarrow that Fezzik was standing in, but he was seriously straining to do that; I'd simply chalk that up to a good Strength roll and not much more. He was having a lot of trouble breaking down that wooden door near the finale as well, which normally takes a roll of 8. While, again, he might have a Strength of d8 and simply wanted to speed the process up, the fact that he called for Fezzik to take care of the door for him strikes me as him just not being strong enough to break it down period.

All that said, here are our "correct" stats for Inigo's Attributes:

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

Again, I encourage readers to build a character alongside these posts, and would love to observe the progress of anyone that doing this. Lemme know in the comments or something, and I highly encourage any questions folks might have. Next time, we'll get in-depth with what Skills do what, and how to really get those down to brass tacks, touching a little bit on Edges as well.
—DoctorBoson

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

How to: Savage Everything, Part One—Setup

I've been doing this, on and off, posting or not, for about four years now. One of my favorite pastimes is to create these popular icons of action and intrigue. If possible, I'd love to be able to make everything into Savage Worlds, but realistically, even if I was paid to do this kind of thing I would never have the time (wait, could I be paid to do this? I wonder how Patreon works...).

So, in lieu of Civil War (rest in peace free time), I wanted to give guys a look into the process that I go through as I put together these profiles. Maybe it'll even give you guys the faculties to try and put your own characters together.

I don't know how many of these kind of articles I'll put out, but I'll just sorta let them flow out as I come up with them. Without further ado: my process:

Step Zero: Rules Literacy
Before you even really get into something like this, you have to be at least mostly familiar with the rules of the game. Know the rules behind damage and Wounds, the rules for Social Conflicts, the rules for Rapid Attacks, for Chases. Learn the modifiers for lighting and range, learn how skill checks are modified and the actual effects of the skills themselves (Persuasion is a big one here), learn Setting Rules for different types of settings, even if they aren't directly applicable to the setting you're building the character for (stuff like the Interrogation rules from Deadlands: Noir are applicable to all kinds of settings!), and familiarize yourself with every Edge you possibly can. Learn how a +1 or +2 affect general rolls, learn about raises and cooperative rolls. Read through all of the Savage Worlds Companions for their gear and Edges and rules and bestiaries. Knowing all of this makes it easier to watch a movie or show or read a book and learn how to translate the narrative you're watching into mechanics, as though this was a (incredibly elaborate) game being played out on the tabletop.

This is really the biggest secret to making these characters work the best. Anything else following this is just going to give specific examples of pitfalls to avoid and little tips that can assist in doing what you're setting out to do.

Step Zero-Point-Five: Setting Literacy
If applicable to certain settings, it's highly important to be familiar with the rules of magic and technology in-universe. The rules of magic in The Elder Scrolls, for example, are very different from the rules of magic in Game of Thrones. Similarly, the rules for plasma weapons in Halo are notably different from the rules in Fallout, or even the Science Fiction Companion (plasma doesn't ignore armor, it's a much more concentrated burst that just hits super hard).

Even if the character that you're making doesn't make use of these rules, knowing how they work allows you to understand how they interact with the characters that do. Establishing anchor points lets you both better accurately create the character and it keeps things consistent if you end up building a different character from the same series, even if neither character end up interacting directly.

Step One: Concept
Just like creating a character for any game, setting, or system, concept will always be key. If you're trying to build a character based on a specific property, though, the concept isn't yours, it is that of the creators. The real trick to doing this is reverse-engineering that concept, which is really a lot easier than it sounds.

The first step to reverse-engineering this concept is to figure out what you see as the concept. This is hardly the final step, but it's one of the most important: familiarity is the best way to go in with a plan, granting you a jumping-off point to create the build the way you'd like.

So, surprise surprise, it's easier to build characters you're familiar with. So before you put anything down for certain, before you start going back to research what these characters actually did, write down everything you remember or a think a character has done. Write down all the Edges and skills they may have, write down where you feel like their attributes should be at. Write down the gear you remember (if that item doesn't exist in the books, bastardize some other item until they're close enough to work with). Don't worry about experience or balance at this point; this is just the first step so that you can get everything you remember out of the way, write down your biases, and have a solidified jumping-off point.

Once you have this concept out of the way, then you can really delve into the nitty-gritty of creating these characters and ironing out their specific die types and Edges. But we can save that for next time.

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As I start to go through all this stuff, actually, I encourage you to follow along with a character you want to Savage yourself, given you have the time. Pick your favorite character from movies or books, characters you might find interesting to play, or just interesting to see how they shape up in terms of Savage (hell, I did House and a bunch of ponies... if it exists, it can be made into a Savage Worlds character), and follow along in the process. Personally, I write all of my character sheets (both for Savaging and just general usage) in Google Sheets, because it's easy to edit and I can access it from anywhere in the world, so that would be my recommendation.

If you actually end up following along, I'd love to follow your progress as you build this stuff up. Leave a comment below talking about your progress, asking questions, or even linking to the Google Doc that you're building the character in. Maybe you'll end up Savaging your favorite character better than I ever could!

If there's a specific step in this process that you find interesting or are confused on, or just generally unsure of, let me know in the comments as well. I may end up focusing the next post of the series on that aspect of things. Until next time, though, have fun and stay Savage.
—DoctorBoson