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.

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.


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.