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.


  1. Great post! Regarding being paid, I think you'd run into legal problems with the rights holders of the characters if you earned money from it.

    However your skills could certainly be put to use for official conversions, or writing up statblocks for new settings or adventures based on character descriptions. Some licencees do hire freelancers for this sort of work, so it could be worth keeping an eye out.

  2. I was wondering about your efforts to Savage a specific Inhumans character: Karnak. I saw Karnak on a recent episode of the Avengers on the Disney Channel and felt Karnak's unique power set would make for an awesome Savage Worlds build.