Friday, April 28, 2017

Encounter Difficulty


Over at +The Wild Die Podcast  we released a bonus episode in which we answered a question from +Pure Mongrel concerning encounter difficulty. This is a recurring question in the community. Savage Worlds Deluxe addresses that in the chapter Running the Game. This provides a baseline but as is the case with many Savage Worlds mechanics, this is more art than science. The nature of open-ended die rolls makes it difficult to balance the opposition against a group of player-characters without knowing all of the parameters. I started with Savage Worlds before Deluxe edition where Combat Ratings were introduced. I've never used those so I can't comment on their accuracy. All I can say is that after D&D 3.5, I have no desire to start playing accountant.
Throughout the years, I've had encounters where I thought the players would mop the floor but it ended being a drawn out affair. I've ran encounters where I thought it would be a climatic battle but my carefully "difficult" opposition was defeated in two rounds or less without the player-characters breaking a sweat. Over time, I've come to embrace that. After all, if I wanted predictable outcomes, why would I even bother rolling dice?
+Manuel Sambs suggestion to use the player-character's competence as a baseline for the opposition is great. The guys over at the Savage GM Podcast have tackled this topic many times over. +Richard Woolcock has blogged about it. These are all good advices. I will not expand on that.
With that said, one point from Bonus Episode - Good Vibrations I want to expand on here is the use of GM Bennies.
I have a confession to make. When it comes to GM Bennies, I cheat. Yes. One Benny per Wild Card character plus each GM Wild Card character has two Bennies? Pfff. Players earn Bennies during the course of a session. Along with the Wild Die, this is a distinct advantage player-characters have over the GM.
Your experience may vary. You may have nailed balance down to a science. For me, the best tool at my disposal to control how deadly an encounter is without making combat encounters last too long has been the way I use my Bennies. Again, there's no real science to this but allow me to share some guidelines.

  • If I want an encounter to be more difficult, I assign it a pool of GM Bennies, usually between 1-3.
  • For a final battle or climatic scene I refresh my pool of GM Bennies.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Flawed Characters - Jerry the Ninja Apprentice

"Jerry, is that you?"
After years of training, Jerry is quite versed in the art of Ninjutsu. He has mastered sabotage, espionage and assassination. Only one thing stands in the way of graduating to a full-fledged ninja: breathing. Indeed, Jerry has yet to master this art. He's a heavy breather.

Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d8, Fighting d8, Lockpicking d6, Notice d6, Repair d6, Stealth d8, Throwing d8, Weird Science d8
Charisma: -2; Pace: 8; Parry: 7; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Heroic, Outsider, Quirk (Heavy breather)
Edges: Acrobat, Arcane Background (Weird Science), Assassin, Brawler, Danger Sense, Dodge, Extraction, Fleet-Footed, Martial Artist, New Power, New Power, Quick, Thief
Powers: Bolt (Shuriken), obscure (smoke bomb), stun (flash bomb); Power Points: 10
Gear: Climbing gear, Katana (Str+d6+2, AP 2), lockpicks, ninja suit  

Friday, January 6, 2017

Savage Warhammer

Back in October I had the pleasure of playing in +Bill Lear's Savage Warhammer convention game. Him and I had previously been discussing how to do Warhammer with Savage Worlds and this had me pretty excited. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st edition is one of the first RPGs I've played back in the late 80's/early 90's. The cover captured my imagination.
The game was without a doubt the most fun I had playing in a Savage Worlds game. This reignited my love for Warhammer and before too long I wanted it to be my next campaign. Bill was already running Paths of the Damned and he was gonna play in this campaign so I opted for Terror in Talabheim.

We're three sessions in right now plus the session zero and so far it's been a blast. It's mostly been a lot of role play. Only one small combat so far.
I've been playing Savage Worlds for over 8 years now but believe it or not this is my first foray into a homebrew campaign. I've done countless homebrew one-shots but all my campaigns had been from official or licensed settings until now.
Wanting to do as little work as possible on this, I decided to keep it lean and see what in my extensive library I could use.
The Fantasy Companion was a no-brainer. There I'd get an expanded armory for the players as well as a few edges and hindrances. For black powder weapons I lifted off a flintlock pistol, musket and blunderbuss from 50 Fathoms.
One player wanted to play a priestess of Shallya (healer) so I made herbalism from Hellfrost available to him to give a bit more depth to the healer role.
For the runesmith we put rune trappings to the Weird Science Arcane Background; the priestess uses the Miracles Arcane Background.
For the rest of character creation they followed the character creation rules from Deluxe. I told them if they wanted a piece of gear, edge, hindrance or power from another setting I'd take a look at it. What I wasn't going to do was to go through every page of the Warhammer corebook and sift through my extensive catalog of Savage Worlds material to build a comprehensive player's guide. I'd still be at it today and about to give up if I did that.
There is one thing I wanted to spend a little bit more time on before hand though and that was the Setting Rules.

Setting Rules

Careers

Careers give your characters a place in the Old World. They also offer guidance when creating and advancing your character as to what kind of Skills, Edges and Hindrances they should have.
In other words, they fill the role of Archetypes in Savage Worlds.
You select one Basic Career at character creation and another one upon reaching Seasoned Rank. When you reach Veteran, Heroic and Legendary you can also select from the Advanced Careers list.
Your career(s) will also give you bonuses to Common Knowledge test or various benefits. There is no set list of the actual benefits. Some will be covered under your Edges while others will be awarded as requested. Consider this a "on the spot" ruling. This is because I'm lazy and an exhaustive list will take a lot of time (which I don't have) and because I doubt every possible situation would end up being covered.
Here I had all careers from the Warhammer corebook listed with a random table (thanks Bill). Players didn't opt for very quirky careers for this unlike the one-shot I played in where we had a cook, chimney sweeper, barber/surgeon (me), apprentice wizard and ex-convict.
The guys went for a runesmith, engineer, marine, priestess of Shallya, Mercenary and a squire.

Literacy

Citizens of the Old World are by default illiterate. To compensate for this, every character starts with 1 extra skill point. Ideally this extra point should be spent on a Knowledge skill that pertains to the character's career but the decision is ultimately up to the player. Indicate this on your character sheet by writing down "Illiterate" under the Hindrance section of your character sheet.
Note: This doesn't count as your standard allotted number of Hindrances for the purpose of Bonus points.

If your character concept demands that you be literate (a scribe for instance), you can read/write any language you know but lose the extra skill point.
If a character chooses a literate career later on when reaching a new rank, he/she becomes literate but doesn't lose the skill point.
This is straight out of Beasts & Barbarians. Upon further reflection on this, it was probably unnecessary.

Savage Worlds Deluxe

The following Setting Rules from Savage Worlds Deluxe will be used.
  • Blood & Guts (Warhammer is deadly)
  • Critical Failures (because things should go wrong in Warhammer and no Benny should be able to save your sorry ass when that happens)
  • Gritty Damage (you should be hurting, 'nuff said)
  • Joker's Wild (because I used it in all my Savage Worlds games now and Ranald should smile upon you from time to time)

Sanity

Straight out of the Horror Companion. Simple, no fuss.

Fate Points

In Savage Warhammer, Bennies are called Fate Points. I won't hold it against you if you call them Bennies though.
They work just as regular Bennies but with one added benefit. Before making an Incapacitation roll, the player can spend a Fate Point to get an automatic Success. However, the survival is at a cost determined by the GM.
[Insert evil GM cackle here]

Corruption & Mutations

Corruption measures the influence Chaos has on your character. You can gain Corruption by coming into contact with warping substances, reading Forbidden Lore and Critical Failures on your Spellcasting rolls. You can have a number of Corruption points up to your Spirit die type until you start to suffer mutations.Mutations 
are the result of Chaos' influence on your mind, body and soul. You gain Mutations when your Corruption score is higher than your Spirit die and when you suffer an Injury from a foul instrument of Chaos.Mutations are determined at random using the Mutation Deck from 
Just Insert Imagination .
Mutation Trapping
A mutation trapping can be applied to any power that causes damage, and, in the case of Savage Warhammer, represents chaos magic and warpstone. Anyone suffering an injury from the power or damage must draw a card from the Mutation Deck instead of rolling on the Injury Table, applying the Minor Disadvantage as if it were a temporary or permanent injury, depending on their Vigor roll. If they already have the Minor Disadvantage, they must upgrade it to the Major Disadvantage.
The character essentially gains the Mutant (Minor or Major) Hindrance and while the Wound may be healed, the Mutation remains. This in turn makes it possible for the player-character to pick up the Mutation Mastery Edge. See new Hindrances and Edges for more information on this.
I was inspired by the Codex Infernus to determine the Corruption threshold but used the Mutation mechanics from the Mutation Deck as to what happens when you come into contact with chaos, warp stone, damage inflicted by chaos monsters and going over the threshold basically. Honestly, I believe this has put the fear of Chaos in the players and may not have to use these rules at all. Okay, the campaign is just getting started... I believe there will be a few mutants in the group before too long. :D

And that's it folk. So far I don't feel like I overlooked anything. Everybody is having fun. We're discovering those new characters through NPC interactions and the first flashback scene we played was a hit. I plan on running another one in our next game Sunday. As players warm up and get a better feel for their new character we will be running some Dramatic Interludes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Murder Hobo Show Premiere: Actual Play of Chickens in the Mist




To launch the Murder Hobo Show I've assembled an All-Star cast of role-players and Nerds-International personalities to play the infamous horror scenario Chickens in the Mist.

If the last time we all got together to play is any indication, this promises to be filled with fall-off-your-chair laughter.

Be sure to tune in to www.twitch.tv/murderhoboshow Saturday October 29th at 9am EST

Friday, September 16, 2016

Savage Worlds at FG Con 9 (October 14th-16th)


Hi everybody!
Eric Lamoureux here to tell you all about FG Con 9 on October 14th-16th. FG Con is a virtual convention using Fantasy Grounds (the officially licensed Savage Worlds VTT)  and it's totally free to join! And you don't even have to leave the comfort of your own home.

There are many Savage Worlds games on the schedule from a wide variety of genre, settings, great GMs from all over the world and there is even a game in Portuguese!
Here's how you can join.

Have a look at the amazing selection of games (all times are GMT until you register and set your time zone in your profile)!

The Last Parsec: Omariss Death Worm [FULL]
Winter Eternal: Moth to a flame [FULL]
Savage Warhammer: Night of Blood
Brothers in Battle [Portuguese]
Deadlands Reloaded - The Taxidermist's Tale [FULL]
Shaintar - Fire in the Darkness [FULL]
Gotham Breakout [FULL]
The Commoners
The Savage World of Solomon Kane: Possessed
Badabing Badaboom!
Starsky and Hutch - Savage Sunday
Deadlands Reloaded: Savage Tales of the Magnificent Seven [FULL]
The Savage World of Solomon Kane: The Oncoming Frost
Tropicana - Die Easy (or Die Trying!) [Cancelled]
Savage Secrets: Lady in Distress, Code Name: Jackpot
The Savage World of Solomon Kane: From the Deep
The Wild Die Podcast presents: Live Stream of Deadlands Noir
TMNT in Gotham City [Cancelled]
Savage Warhammer: With A Little Help From My Friends [FULL]
Shaintar - Fire in the Darkness [FULL]
Weird Wars Rome - Fangs of the Viper [Cancelled]
Savage Secrets: Code Name: Skyhook

There's something for everyone at all times of the day and night regardless of where you are located in the world. If the event you'd like to join is full, you can still book. It's common for some people to back out. You'll be the first in line!
Come join us and make this even the largest virtual and international gathering of Savages!
I hope to meet you there!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Behind the Mutation Deck

Back in April +Morne Schaap and I started working on a campaign setting for Just Insert Imagination.
Mutants & Tassels is a pulp fantasy setting set in the Blight, an eldritch 1980’s post-apocalyptic earth. In this Plot Point Campaign, the young heroes come together to defeat a tyrant, ensuring a brighter future for themselves and the people of the Dust Flats.

This started out as Plug & Play adventure. Plug & Play adventures are one-shot adventures designed to fit inside the Game Master screen, and comes with pre-generated characters, maps and various props making it easy to run a session on the fly or at a convention. The first one in the series, Fuhgeddaboudit!, was a success so we were already brainstorming ideas for the next one. Mutants & Tassels started out as a gritty exploration of a Chernobyl-like site but once my brain got a hold of it, it quickly degenerated into a silly gonzo adventure with plant-like lifeforms and an alien landscape.
I also found myself influenced by an excellent movie I had watched shortly prior to this called Turbo Kid. I really liked the imagery, 80's reference and the use of bicycles instead of souped-up muscle cars. To say this movie influenced Mutants & Tassels is an understatement.
What would be an 80's influence campaign setting without 80's role-playing games mechanics, though? I don't know about you but the games I played in the 80's or games from the 80's I played all had a lot of random character creation elements. In Warhammer for instance, your profession and stats were rolled randomly.
But wait a minute, this is 2016 and making a Savage Worlds character is about making choices for what YOU want to play. So I came up with a few minor mutation ideas that would be printed out on cards and dealt randomly at the beginning of the adventure.
During the design process I started looking at +Richard Woolcock 's Savage Abilities to help flesh out those mutations mechanically. There was a lot to work with there for positive abilities but not so much with negative ones. After talking with Morne we decided to contact Richard and see if he'd be interested in working on this Mutation Deck project. We went back and forth for a while, Richard had great ideas, we came to an agreement and a week or two later Richard had 56 cards, setting rules, instructions, Edges and Hindrances done.
Next up was play testing. We all loved the cards but needed feedback and input from more people and wanted to see how they held up during character creation and play.
The most interesting thing we learned during the play test was that the cards really inspired players during character creation. They knew very little about the campaign setting, so the cards helped flesh out a concept for their mutants.
While Morne worked on the layout and artwork, Richard made some changes from the feedback we had gotten and finally, editing by +Ron Blessing.
What I really like about this deck of cards is how versatile it is. It comes with trappings but you can change the trappings to theme it for Chaos or wild magic, aliens, aberrations or whatever your imagination can take them.
  • A Minor Disadvantage is the equivalent of a Minor Hindrance or -1 racial ability
  • A Major Disadvantage is like a Major Hindrance or a -2 racial ability
  • The Advantage is the equivalent of an Edge or a +2 racial ability
So with that in mind, there's a lot you can do with all these mutations and the "mechanics" on the cards. As a Game Master, you can deal a few cards to generate a new race for your campaign setting. You can deal a card or two and add the Advantage to any monster or NPC template to make your own bestiary. You could deal a card to generate Backlash for a Wild Magic Arcane Background, side effects to radioactive damage, trappings for chaotic powers or new injuries from radioactive creatures using the new Mutation Trapping Setting Rules.
And yes, it's an Action Deck with big letters and numbers on them too so you can easily see them across the table!
How will you use your Mutation Deck?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

In media res

This is the sequel to the blog I started about convention or one-shot games.

In the first blog I talked about the hook, now I want to talk about which scene I chose to run first. When you think about it, an adventure is a collection of scenes. When each scene is designed to follow another one, it becomes difficult to pull one out of the mix if you're running out of time and get the full effect. It's much easier to insert more scenes to make the adventure longer.
So maybe you only have 2 hours to run the game, you're expecting 6 players, half of them are new to Savage Worlds, there are 5 scenes in this One-Sheet, Savage Tale, adventure module or whatever you want to run (because you don't have time to prep). Chances are slim to none they'll get past the third scene if there's a combat in there, even with a fast system like Savage Worlds.
Now let me put on a black raincoat, cool shades and ask you: What if I told you there's a way to pace your adventure to last pretty much as long as you want it to last without having to remove any important scenes?

So you've got your hook, now let's wrap it in with the set-up, first scene and goal/destination.

The Don wants you to make Dominic the accountant disappear. Contact Jerry for more information.
[insert conversations with the Don and Jerry along with questions here]
[insert trip to hardware store to get everything on the "Kidnapping for Dummies" list here]
[insert kidnapping scene here]
Hey look at the time, you probably spent more time than you were willing to spend on this part of your adventure and most of it probably wasn't Fast, Furious or Fun with the exception of the kidnapping scene maybe.
Consider starting in media res (in the middle of things).
There's a mob accountant alive in the trunk of your car. You lost a lot of money because of him. The plan is to take him to Coaldale, toss him in a hole and pave a road over his body. You're cruising along on I-95 when your sideview mirror is blown up by what you believe to be a high caliber bullet. What do you do?
Bada bing bada boom! Your game has started with a bang. Maybe the players wouldn't have tackled it this way would they have played it, you say? You're most definitely right. But then again no group wants to role-play every minute of an adventure. Sometimes you fast-forward to the next scene. This is no different really. You just decided where it starts.
After this scene is over, you can answer any questions the players have and provide more details. What state is the accountant in the trunk in? I don't know, you tell me, what did you do to him? Would you like to play it out? Yes? let's go Pulp Fiction with this then.
Why do scenes have to be played in chronological order? Because how do you handle a character dying in a flashback scene Mr. Fancy Pants GM? Remember, incapacitated doesn't necessarily mean dead, and if it's during a flashback scene, why not modify that table and give the PC a permanent injury instead? You can also do as suggested in Beasts & Barbarians and take a Benny from the "deceased" PC.
You have to understand the players are likely playing their character for the first time. Yes, there are hindrances on their sheet and a bunch of stats giving them some type of direction but they still don't know their character.
What I found the best way to put them in character is to drop them in media res where they have difficult choices to make. From the latest examples, do they duck for cover, try to see where the shot came from, pull out their weapon or let out an expletive? This also helps you figure out what kind of players you have at your table.
For players new to Savage Worlds, this allows them to make a few die rolls and get the jitters out of the way.
Starting in media res basically cuts the crap. Do I always start a game out this way? No, I don't, but I found out it makes it harder for the game to switch gears if I don't.
In the next blog I want to show you how I turn this into a full adventure that I can ad lib with and make it last as long as I want it to.