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.