Saturday, June 11, 2016

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

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

Part 1—Setup
Part 2—Attributes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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