Monday, 11 March 2019

Tricube Tales: A "One Sheet" RPG System

A couple of months ago I posted a link to a minimalist RPG I was working on called "Tricube Tales". After playtesting and incorporating feedback (with special thanks to Eli Kurtz and his players), I've tightened up the rules and hereby present the revised system, with a simple "One Sheet" layout (two pages, designed to be printed on both sides of a single sheet of paper).

Download here: Tricube Tales

Like my earlier Blood & Bile system, Tricube Tales has player-facing mechanics, with the players rolling 1-3d6 against a variable target number. However, it doesn't use color-coded dice (one of the main entry barriers for Blood & Bile). Instead, the number of dice is based on the character's Archetype, which consists of a trait (agile, brawny or crafty) and concept (warrior, pilot, investigator, etc).

The "Dark Gifts" and "Assets" from Blood & Bile have been converted into a generic "Perks" concept, while the "Curses" have been merged with the Karma-fueled "Flaws" concept from Swift d12, and are called "Quirks". Instead of a dice-pool to represent health (which was a great fit for the Blood & Bile vampire theme, but not so good for other settings), Tricube Tales uses a Resolve/Affliction system loosely inspired by Blade in the Dark.

Overall I'm pretty pleased with the final product, but I do feel it could use better examples. The mechanics are nice and simple (and fairly easy for the players to understand), but the capabilities and limitations of Perks often come down to personal interpretation and GM discretion. This is fairly intuitive for people who are used to systems like Fate or Risus (both of which provided some of my inspiration) but may prove problematic for others. I feel the system could easily be turned into a small book, with expanded guidelines and lots of examples. But that's a project for another day ;)

Example Characters

I'm a big fan of the plug-and-play adventures by Just Insert Imagination, and I think they'd be an excellent fit for a very light system like Tricube. So (with their permission), here are some quick character conversions for Fuhgeddaboudit! and Punted in the Bonce, showing how to retain the flavor of interesting characters despite the simplicity of Tricube Tales.


Michael “the bull” Savini
Archetype: Brawny Thug
Perks: Iron Will, Fruschetti Mobster, Scary
Quirks: Big Mouth, Clueless, Dyslexic
Gear: Revolver, Machete, $50

Jimmy Cobetto
Archetype: Agile Cugine
Perks: Acrobat, Thief, Fruschetti Mobster
Quirks: Green, Overconfident, Stubborn
Gear: Revolver, Switchblade, $240

Jovanni “Big joe” Bartolone
Archetype: Brawny Bruiser
Perks: Boxer, Strong as an Ox, Fruschetti Mobster
Quirks: Clumsy, Mean, Overweight
Gear: Revolver, Sawed-Off Shotgun, $100

Luciano “Puppy” Rizzi
Archetype: Crafty Conman
Perks: Gift of the Gab, Nose for Trouble, Fruschetti Mobster
Quirks: Cowardly, Compulsive Gambler, Vengeful
Gear: Brass Knuckles, Ruger, Tommy Gun, $30

Paulie “Pops” De Luca
Archetype: Agile Old-Timer
Perks: Ace Driver, Street-Smart, Fruschetti Mobster
Quirks: Anemic, Elderly, Delusional
Gear: Baseball Bat, Revolver, $250

Punted in the Bonce

Shifty Geoff
Archetype: Crafty Lout
Perks: Alert, Really Sneaky, Largument Expert
Quirks: Greedy, Extremely Annoying, No Sense of Loyalty
Gear: Replica Pistol, Swiss Army Knife, Photo of Daughter

Massive Steve
Archetype: Crafty Salesman
Perks: Ace Driver, Gift of the Gab, Intimidating
Quirks: Arrogant, Snob, Chain Smoker
Gear: Replica Shotgun, Cricket Bat, £500, 5 Cigars, Lighter

Archetype: Crafty Housewife
Perks: Hotty, Keeps Herself Fit, Manipulative
Quirks: Attention Seeker, Holds a Grudge, Spiteful
Gear: Replica Pistol, Handbag, £200, Chewing-Gum

Archetype: Brawny Boozer
Perks: Fast on his Feet, Ex-Navy Officer, Veteran Blagger
Quirks: Loves to Armwrestle, Overconfident, Stubborn
Gear: Real Pistol with 3 bullets

Archetype: Agile Psycho
Perks: Gift for Violence, Natural Brawler, Scary as Heck
Quirks: Vicious, Obsessed with America, Dog Lover
Gear: Switchblade, Can of Cola, Replica Revolver

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Savage Worlds: World Builder and Game Master's Guide

The World Builder's Guide for Savage Worlds was released last night, and it includes my article "Turning Ideas into SWAG". The article covers some of the same subjects I've explored in my setting design blog posts, but it's more detailed and comprehensive, going through the entire process from start to finish, with lots of tips and advice.

If you backed the Kickstarter, you should have received your copy of the guide by now, so if you're considering publishing your own setting (or perhaps some other product) through the Savage Worlds Adventurer's Guild, make sure you check out my article!

Of course, there are plenty of other articles as well. Here is a short overview of what else you can find inside the World Builder's Guide:

World Building: Provides some general tips and information about creating your own settings, adventures, and Plot Point Campaigns.

Savage Worlds for All Ages: Jodi Black talks about how to prepare and run games for players of different ages, including multigenerational games.

Risks & Reversals: Owen Lean explains how to design exciting adventures and campaigns, using examples of how famous movie scenes could be reproduced in the Savage Worlds system.

High Powered Games: Tracy Sizemore covers power levels and game balance and gives some suggestions on providing interesting challenges for the players.

Building Your Tribe: Chris Fuchs and Chris Landauer share their experience of organizing games, clubs, conventions and events, including how to be a good GM or player at a convention game.

The Long Game: Shane Hensley talks about the history of Savage Worlds, with a particular emphasis on the evolution of Deadlands, and how he kept the story fresh and exciting.

Under the Hood: Clint Black takes a look at the underlying game mechanics, provides suggestions on building interesting characters, and gives some advice about tweaking and adapting the rules.

There's also an "Anecdotes" chapter, containing some shorter articles:

The Art of the Celebrity Con Game: Ed Wetterman shares his experiences and tips about preparing and running convention games.

A Foundation of Crunch: Shane Hensley gives a fun anecdote about a Weird Wars Rome game where the rules helped reinforce the narrative.

Running the Big Game: Sean Patrick Fannon talks about how he plans and runs games with very large numbers of players.

Designing a Savage Investigation: John Goff gives some valuable insight into designing and running investigative adventures.

Common Sense: Shane Hensley reminds GMs and players to use common sense when interpreting the rules.

Failure is Always an Option: Darrell Hayhurst talks about how to make critical failures interesting, and avoid derailing the game with them.

Bennies: Shane Hensley discusses the importance of the Benny economy, and provides some suggestions on how to keep things running smoothly.

House Rules and Ringenbach’s d30: Shane Hensley and Ron Ringenbach talk about experimenting with the rules, using Ron's d30 house rule as an example.

Savage Streaming: Jordan Caves-Callarman gives insight and advice about live streaming games and building an audience.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Printing your own Savage Worlds softcover

The final revision (5.2) of the Savage Worlds Adventure Edition has now been released and sent to the printers. The PDF version can also be printed for personal use, so some savages have started looking for different ways to print it themselves. I generally prefer using PDFs, but a few people have asked me how they could print the PDF through Lulu, so I thought I'd look into it.

Even those who have already ordered the physical book may want a cheap and expendable softcover for use at the table, where the occasional beer, coffee, or soft drink may get knocked over during the excitement of combat!

In an earlier blog post, I provided step-by-step guidelines for printing Saga of the Goblin Horde through Lulu. Unfortunately, the Savage Worlds PDF is not "print-ready" -- it's designed for screen use, not for Print-on-Demand. As such, you will need to make some adjustments before you print it. I've previously explained how to create print-ready PDFs through Scribus, but it's not as easy when you're working with a finished PDF.

The four problems with printing the Savage Worlds PDF through Lulu are (1) low resolution (it's designed for the screen rather than for printing), (2) no bleed, (3) it uses layers, and (4) there is no gutter. The low resolution isn't something that can be addressed, but I don't think it's a major issue (if you want a high-quality book, you should buy the hardcover from Pinnacle).

If you're lucky enough to have a copy of Acrobat Pro, you should also be able to remove the background layer from the Savage Worlds PDF (so the background appears white instead of textured). Do this if you can, it'll make the end result look better because Lulu will add a white bleed area as the default. Sadly I don't own Acrobat Pro, and couldn't find any other way to remove the background, but I'll update this blog post if I find a solution.

UPDATE: As rgmelkor on reddit pointed out, it's possible to hide the background in Acrobat Reader and then print to PDF. This does indeed generate another version of the PDF without a background, although the PDF is very large, and (at least for me) some of the pages get rotated by 90 degrees. However, this does provide a way to remove the background without Acrobat Pro (just make sure you set the paper source to the PDF page size, so that it maintains the same page size).

UPDATE 2: I found a tool called "PDF Architect 6" which allows you to simply switch off the background layer and re-save the PDF. You only need the free version, and you can download it here.

There are a couple of free online tools you can use to deal with the remaining issues: iLovePDF and docuPub. The latter offers better compression and can also remove layers, but it has a 20MB limit on uploads, so we'll need to split the 27.5MB PDF with iLovePDF before we can flatten it.

Flatten the PDF

The first thing we want to do is remove the front and back cover, and then flatten the remaining PDF, so that it can be processed by Lulu.

1. Click here and use iLovePDF to split the Savage Worlds PDF into four files. Click "Select PDF file", add the 4 page ranges "1 to 1", "2 to 100", "101 to 209" and "210 to 210", then click "Split PDF" and download it. When you unzip the folder, it should contain 4 files:

UPDATE: It's been drawn to my attention there was another update to version 4.2 of the PDF on 10th February. It didn't change the version number, but did add a blank white page after the cover (bringing the total page count to 211). If you have this version, discard the blank page when you split up the document (i.e., set the ranges to page 1, page 3-100, page 101 to 210, and page 211).

UPDATE 2: Version 5.2 of the PDF has added another blank white page at the end, bringing the total page count to 212. For this version, set the ranges to page 1, page 3-100, page 101 to 210, and page 212.

Front cover: Savage_Worlds_Adventure_Edition-1-1.pdf
First half: Savage_Worlds_Adventure_Edition-2-100.pdf
Second half: Savage_Worlds_Adventure_Edition-101-209.pdf
Back cover: Savage_Worlds_Adventure_Edition-210-210.pdf

2. Click here and use docuPub to compress Savage_Worlds_Adventure_Edition-2-100.pdf at the highest possible quality. On the "Image Settings" tab set the quality to 100, 100, 10. Then click on the "Discard Objects" tab and check the "Discard hidden layer content and flatten visible layers" checkbox. Choose the file, press "Upload & Compress", then once it's finished compressing click the "Savage_Worlds_Adventure_Edition-2-100.pdf" hyperlink, press the download button at the top of the page, and save over the top of the old file.

3. Repeat the previous step for Savage_Worlds_Adventure_Edition-1-1.pdf and Savage_Worlds_Adventure_Edition-101-209.pdf, and once again save them over the old files. Savage_Worlds_Adventure_Edition-210-210.pdf can be skipped.

4. Click here and use iLovePDF to merge Savage_Worlds_Adventure_Edition-2-100 and Savage_Worlds_Adventure_Edition-101-209 back together (ignore the other two files). Click "Select PDF files" and add the two files, then click "Download merged PDF". Rename the file to "SWADE.pdf", and double check that you put the two halves together in the correct order.

Create the Cover

We now need to prepare the front and back cover, which should be JPG images.

1. Click here and use iLovePDF to convert Savage_Worlds_Adventure_Edition-1-1.pdf to a JPG. Rename the file to "Front.jpg", you will also need to crop and/or resize it to include a bleed area. If you're using the A5 page size I recommend, the cover should be 1787x2555 pixels.

2. Repeat the previous step for Savage_Worlds_Adventure_Edition-210-210.pdf, and rename the file to "Back.jpg".

Add the Gutter

This is where it gets a bit tricky. You can't simply "add" a gutter margin, because it'll change the proportions of the page. So the solution I recommend is to resize the PDF to A5, as this will change the proportions of the page and therefore leave a white area on one side that we can use as a gutter.

1. Click here and use docuPub to resize SWADE.pdf to A5, placing the original content in "right-center". Click "Upload & Resize" and then save the result as "SWADE_odd.pdf". It should have a white gutter margin (a blank vertical strip/area) down the left side of each page.

2. Repeat the previous step, except this time place the original content in "left-center". Click "Upload & Resize" then save the result as "SWADE_even.pdf". This time there should be a white border down the right side of each page instead.

3. Click here and use iLovePDF to split SWADE_odd.pdf into individual pages. Click "Extract all pages", then press "Split PDF" and download the file. Unzip the files, and delete every even-numbered page (i.e., file 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc) so that only the odd-numbered pages (1, 3, 5, etc) remain.

4. Repeat the previous step for SWADE_even.pdf, except this time delete all the odd-numbered pages, so that now you have one folder with odd-numbered pages and another with even-numbered pages.

5. Merge the two folders (from the previous two steps) together. If you receive a warning about a duplicate file, then you've messed up and forgot to delete one of the pages. If the total number of files in the new folder is not 208, then you've messed up and deleted a page you shouldn't have. You need to be really careful to make sure you get this right!

6. Click here and use iLovePDF you merge all of the pages back together. Make sure they are ordered correctly. Save the merged PDF as "SWADE_A5.pdf". Note that you will have to do this in two stages if you have the free version of iLovePDF, as it has a limit of 120 pages at a time, so merge the first half into one PDF, the second half into another PDF, and then merge the two PDFs together.

7. Open SWADE_A5.pdf and go through it thoroughly, page by page. The first page (and every other odd-numbered page) should have a white gutter margin down the left side, while the second page (and every other even-numbered page) should have a white gutter margin down the right side. The total PDF should be 208 pages, and you should check once again that they're in the correct order.

UPDATE: iLovePDF no longer allow you to merge more than 20 pages at a time. This makes the above process even more laborious, as you'll have to merge the entire book together in sections and then stick the individual sections together as well. The solution does still work, but it requires a lot of effort. Fortunately, I've found a much easier alternative.

3 (revised). Download and run jPDF Tweak, check the "Multiple file input / Select pages" and "Interleave documents" checkboxes, and load SWADE_odd.pdf and SWADE_even.pdf -- set the former to only include odd pages, and the latter to only include even pages. Click the "Output" tab (top right), set the output filename to SWADE_A5.pdf, and press run. Check the resulting PDF to make sure the pages are in the correct order.

Tip: An easy way to check the gutters are correct is to click "View", select "Page Display" and then "Two Page View" (using Acrobat Reader), as then you can see at a glance if the gutters are the inside of the pages:

Look at the above image, and you can see the white gutter margin in the middle of the two pages -- it's on the right-hand side of the left (even-numbered) page, and the left-hand side of the right (odd-numbered) page. The page numbers are on the outer corners of each page, while the gutter margin is on the inside of each page. This ensures that the text doesn't disappear into the binding of the book, as that would make it difficult to read.

Print your PDF

At this point, you should have Front.jpg, Back.jpg and SWADE_A5.pdf files. You can follow the same guidelines I posted here to print your book through Lulu, except the product size will be A5 and the number of pages is 208. Lulu can sometimes have difficulty processing very large PDFs, so you may have to try a few times. If it still doesn't work, try using iLovePDF to compress the PDF (at the highest compression quality).

UPDATE: A few people have reported having trouble processing the SWADE PDF on Lulu. Shenchermo from reddit had this problem as well -- but found it finally worked after using iLovePDF to compress the file at medium compression.

I recommend going for a premium A5 perfect bound black-and-white softcover for £4.57 / $5.41 / €5.96 + shipping (so look out for one of Lulu's "free shipping" special offers). You will receive some warnings about the image resolution when you upload the PDF, and there will be a white bleed area around the page, but that's the price you pay for doing this on the cheap!

It should also be noted that A5 has the same proportions as A4, so if you're one of those people who prefers a larger book (perhaps because of the bigger text), you can easily resize the PDF and covers to A4 instead of A5.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Tricube Tales: A minimalist generic RPG

I started designing a new roleplaying system in September 2016, as I wanted an alternative to Savage Worlds. Initially, I had two very different ideas for how the system should work. One of those ideas evolved into Swift d12, and I still have major plans for that system, but it's turning into a rather bigger project than I'd originally envisioned. The second idea was a much lighter system, and it had the working title "Small Worlds".

Small Worlds

Drawing inspiration from Frank Turfler's Savage Dungeons project, Small Worlds was designed to have a similar look-and-feel to Savage Worlds, and even be compatible with its statblocks, so that people could use it with the many free One Sheets adventures that are available online. I revisited the concept again after the ENnies, when there was some discussion about the definition of "game" -- I wondered if it would be viable to include a 2-3 page alternative mini system in the back of a Savage Worlds setting book, so that it could technically be played as a standalone product.

Small Worlds needed dice-based attributes, but I wanted to avoid exploding dice, as I don't like the effect they have on the probabilities at certain Target Numbers. However without exploding dice, it would be impossible for a d4 to ever succeed at TN 5+, or d6 to succeed at TN 7+, etc. Thus I decided to have the player roll their attribute dice and difficulty dice at the same time, and compare them.

However, the dice mechanics didn't really feel right. They worked, but they felt fiddly and overly complex compared to the simplicity of the rest of the system, and it also felt unintuitive for the player to roll the difficulty dice themselves. You can view the system here if you're curious.

Tricube Tales

Last year I designed a minimalist RPG called Blood & Bile, which uses 1-3d6 for trait checks. I like the dice mechanics, but the problem is they require color-coded dice, which seems to be a major turnoff for a lot of people (I guess not everyone has sufficient dice of specific colors). I tried to think of ways to remove the need for colored dice, but I came up blank.

Then I picked up Tiny Dungeon, while it was Deal of the Day on DriveThruRPG. Tiny Dungeon also uses 1-3d6, but as an Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic (conceptually much like D&D 5e, The Black Hack, etc) -- so players roll 2d6 for most tests, 3d6 if they have the advantage, or 1d6 if they're at a disadvantage. It's a simple and intuitive solution, so I shamelessly pinched it.

Once I'd dropped the stepped dice mechanics from Small Worlds, the only thing it had in common with Savage Worlds was the terminology, so I changed that too, tightened up the rules, and named the new system "Tricube Tales". Eli Kurtz ran the first playtest last week, and feedback was pretty positive.

You can get the current version here: Tricube Tales

I'm still trying to decide what to do with it. I think it might be worth pairing it with a simple setting, as that would provide the reader with some working examples of how to build characters and resolve challenges. Another possibility might be to include some guidelines for applying the rules to different genres. Or maybe I'll just release it as a simple "One Sheet" system.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

An Axe to Grind: Christmas One Sheet

Here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
Chip, chop, chip, chop,
the last goblin is dead!

A couple of years ago, a goblin crew hijacked a flying sleigh belonging to a mysterious red-robed sorcerer, and unceremoniously tossed him overboard. The jolly fellow was dashed upon the mountains below, leaving nothing but a stain to mark his passing.

A few days ago, a dyslexic human witch accidentally brought the red-robed sorcerer back from the afterlife while attempting to summon the devil. After breaking free from the ritual and killing the witch, the sorcerer headed west into the goblin lands, seeking revenge!

Every year, I release a new Christmas-themed One Sheet for Saga of the Goblin Horde – Sanguine Solstice in 2015, Sleigh Heist in 2016 and Season's Beatings in 2017. Here is the adventure for 2018:

Get it here: An Axe to Grind

This One Sheet is a direct sequel to Sleigh Heist and Season's Beatings, although it can also be run as a standalone adventure. The Configurable Map has also been updated.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Designing and Selling Custom Decks of Cards

Thematic Action Decks are very popular within the Savage Worlds community, and several publishers offer custom decks tailored to their own settings. There are even decks with specialized features, such as the Mutation Deck by Just Insert Imagination, or the Hellfrost Action Deck by Triple Ace Games.

The new Chase rules in the upcoming Savage Worlds Adventurer's Edition also require a second Action Deck, and it wouldn't surprise me to see publishers introducing new decks with special features for Chases. Pinnacle has released a preview of the Chase rules here.

While it's already possible to create your own Action Decks (like I did with my Countdown Decks), once the Savage Worlds Adventurer's Guild (SWAG) goes live, we'll also be able to publish decks that explicitly reference the Savage Worlds system. This will include Adventure Decks, equipment cards, NPC cards, decks with special rules (like the aforementioned Mutation Deck), and so on.

Getting Started

OneBookShelf (OBS) provide a lot of information about printing your own cards, including specs, tutorials, and templates for InDesign and Scribus. Take a look here for the details, and pay particular attention to this page.

As well as poker cards, you can also print (smaller) bridge cards and (larger) tarot cards. The same approach can be used for printing tiles and poster maps.

Designing your Cards

You can use image-editing software like Photoshop or GIMP to design the cards themselves. If your cards have text, some people will recommend adding that with your desktop publishing program (i.e., Scribus or InDesign) -- however I personally like to create the entire card as a single image, as this makes it much easier to offer print-and-play and Virtual TableTop (VTT) versions of my cards as well. It also means I can use a standard Scribus template to rapidly generate a new deck.

Usually, playing cards only have portrait illustrations on the face cards (king, queen, and jack) and jokers. Some Savage Worlds rules explicitly reference "face cards," so it may also make it easier for the players if you follow this standard. On the other hand, if you can afford sufficient artwork, some players really enjoy having a unique illustration on every card!

Development Costs

The artwork is probably going to be your main expense when producing a deck of illustrated cards. If you already have plenty of artwork for your setting book, then you can reuse it for your cards -- but if you have to commission a full set of artwork just for the deck, it could take hundreds of sales to recoup your expenses, and the market for custom decks simply isn't that big. Even if you're buying stock art, it can be difficult to break even, let alone make a profit.

For my Countdeck Decks, I used artwork I'd already purchased for the Saga of the Goblin Horde and Monster decks, and bought (and cleaned up and combined) some stock art for the Galactic deck. I used a free font for the ranks and suits, and for the special symbols. It was a lot more work than I'd expected, but it was an interesting learning experience, and I was pleased with the results.

Of course, the decks don't need to be individually illustrated, particularly if they're primarily text-based. The Mutation Deck is a good example of this approach -- while it has a nice visual design, its main value lies in its functionality (the mutations).

Printing Costs

As of December, premium poker cards cost 9 cents each, so a standard 54-card deck of playing cards (plus a title card) will cost $4.95 to print. You can reduce this cost by ordering in bulk, but you will need to order at least 5,000 cards (they don't all need to be the same deck, so if you offer multiple decks you could order a mixture).

Deck Cases

When it comes to deck cases, you have two options. The first is a clear plastic case, which comes in "standard" and "large" sizes (holding up to 70 and 120 cards respectively). The second option is a tuck box, which can be designed for 54, 72, 90 or 120 cards (or 80 cards for tarot decks). You cannot offer both deck cases for the same product.

If you offer a clear case, the customer can choose to add it when they purchase your deck. This will cost them an extra $1 (regardless of deck size). Sometimes they'll get the large case, even if your deck is regular sized -- I'm not sure why, but I'm guessing it depends on what the supplier has in stock.

If you offer a tuck box, you will have to design it yourself, although once again OBS offer templates. As of December, the tuck box adds $2.25 (for a 54 card deck) or $2.50 (for all other sizes) to your production costs and is automatically included in the order. The tick boxes are quite a snug fit, and it can be a bit of a squeeze if you decide to offer 4 jokers instead of 2.

It should also be noted that if you offer your decks in a bundle, the customer cannot currently add plastic cases. They can purchase them separately (as part of the same order), but then the cards won't be delivered inside the case, and thus the shipping cost will be higher. OBS have said they hope to address this in the future.

Shipping Costs

OBS only offer card printing services in the US, and the shipping costs to Europe are brutal (this is the same for everything, it's not specific to OBS). However you need to order a proof before you start selling your cards, so it's a necessary expense.

This isn't a problem for publishers living in the US, of course. But for me (in Germany), the postage was $14.55 for 1 deck, $23.58 for 2-6 decks, then went up to $35.21 for 7 decks (I stopped checking after that). That's part of the reason why I decided to create multiple Countdown Decks -- it meant I could order two proofs at once, and add a few goblin decks to give to friends and family!

Unfortunately, while multiple decks can reduce the postage costs, they also increase the chance of your cards getting stuck in customs (adding further delays and expenses). Gah! OBS have said they're looking into a European printer for cards, so I really hope they find one soon!

Selling your Deck

OBS will keep 30-35% of any profit you make on top of the production costs (depending on whether you have an exclusive or non-exclusive deal with them). You will also need to recoup the cost of your artwork, as well as the printing and postage of your proof prints and/or any promotional giveaways for reviewers. A little breathing room in the price will also give you the opportunity to hold sales, or include discounted decks in bundles.

When I looked at other Action Decks on DriveThruRPG, I noticed that standard thematic playing decks tended to sell for around $10, while those with special features often sold for $15. In the end, I settled on a $12 price tag, or $9 each if you buy the bundle.

I was also quite surprised to see how popular the plug-and-play version is. That's a PDF designed for home printing. I sell those for $3 each (or include them for free if people buy the physical deck).

One drawback with print-on-demand decks is that you don't earn Publisher Promotion Points (PPP) from them. You do earn PPP from plug-and-play sales, but not from the physical decks. This is particularly annoying for me, as cards are currently the only print-on-demand products I sell!

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Status and Renown

I originally wrote this article over three years ago, back in August 2015 – but unfortunately it was never published, and much of it will become obsolete once the new Adventurer Edition of Savage Worlds is released.

However I figured it could still be of interest to some readers, so I've decided to release it now before it's too late. Enjoy!


The greatest of heroes – and the most terrible of villains – are frequently preceded by the tales of their mighty deeds and grand accomplishments, and the influence of a powerful politician may often prove a far bigger long-term threat than the military skills of a mere gunman or lone swordsman.

Savage Worlds describes trappings as the “heart and soul” of the powers system, but it's also very common to apply trappings to Edges, Hindrances, and even skills. In this article I will show how trappings can be used to create characters with influence and prestige, with a particular focus on two core Edges that many people take too literally: Noble and Beast Master. If you ignore their flavor text (which is really just a default trapping) and focus on the underlying mechanics, what they actually do is as follows:

• Noble: You have high status in your society, and receive special treatment. Gain +2 Charisma and the Rich Edge. You can have minions, a home, and other assets, but you also have great responsibilities.

• Beast Master: A particular category of creature won't attack you unless provoked or angered, and you receive one loyal minion who can be replaced if lost.

Once we strip away the default trappings, what we end up with are two generic Edges representing various types of status and renown.

Noble Concepts

Here are ten example character concepts that apply their own trappings to Noble and Beast Master:

 A pirate captain could take Noble to represent her standing among other pirates, the booty she steals, her ship and its crew, and her responsibilities to the crew. She could also take Beast Master to represent her fearsome reputation (other pirates won't attack her unless provoked or angered) and to grant her a loyal first mate.

 A mafia boss could use Noble to represent his high status in criminal society, his ill-gotten gains, his estates and employees, and his responsibilities to his family. He could also take Beast Master to represent his renown (other criminals fear him and won't attack unless provoked) and to grant him a loyal bodyguard.

 A famous singer might take Noble to represent her popularity, her income, her expensive home and her adoring fans, as well as the responsibility for maintaining her public image. She could also take Beast Master to represent being a media darling (the media loves her and doesn’t attack her image unless provoked or angered) and to grant her a loyal manager.

 A town sheriff in an Old West setting could take Noble to represent his authority, the loot he confiscates from outlaws, his office and lawmen, and his responsibilities to the town. He could also take Beast Master to represent the respect of the people (citizens won’t turn on him unless provoked or angered) and to grant him a loyal deputy.

 A princess would use the default Noble trappings, but could also take Beast Master to represent the love and admiration of the common people (the populace won’t turn on her unless provoked or angered) and to grant her a loyal handmaiden.

 A noble savage might take Noble to represent his status among the beasts, the natural treasures of the jungle in which he lives, his domain and the animals within it, as well as his responsibility for protecting the jungle from those who would harm or destroy it. He could use the default trappings for Beast Master.

 A mercenary captain could use Noble to represent her military reputation, the money she earns, the troops she leads, her camp followers, and her various responsibilities. She could also take Beast Master to represent her renown (other mercenaries respect and fear her, and prefer not to side against her) and to grant her a loyal second-in-command.

 A pastor might take Noble to represent his popularity, the tithes he receives, his church and congregation, and his vows and duties. He could also take Beast Master to represent the love of the people (citizens wouldn’t turn on him unless provoked or angered) and to grant him a loyal aide.

 An action movie star could take Noble to represent his popularity, the income from his movies, his expensive home and many fans, as well as his numerous duties and responsibilities as an actor. He could also take Beast Master to represent the admiration of his follow actors, and to grant him a loyal assistant.

 The leader of a thieves guild might use Noble to represent her position of authority, her share of the loot, her secret hideout and guild members, and her responsibilities and duties to the guild. She could also take Beast Master to represent her dangerous reputation (other thieves are scared to cross her) and to grant her a loyal bodyguard.

Supporting Edges

In addition to Noble and Beast Master, there are several other Edges that could easily be reskinned to represent reputation:

 Attractive and Very Attractive: Rather than just physical appearance, these could also be used to represent the allure of your fame and power.

 Rich and Filthy Rich: As well as money, these Edges also grant further assets and responsibilities, which could easily represent the benefits and drawbacks of high status. Note that Noble already gets Rich for free.

 Connections: This Edge can be taken multiple times, and can represent fans, or those you control or who are indebted to you.

 Leadership Edges: These Edges grant bonuses to those who obey and follow you, and could just as easily represent fanatical loyalty as military leadership skills.

 Followers: This Legendary Edge can be taken multiple times, and grants five loyal minions each time it is taken. This can be an effective way to gain permanent loyal staff and retainers, but the minions are not replaced when killed, so if possible you should try to use the minions from the Connections Edge for cannon fodder duty.

 Sidekick: This Legendary Edge grants you a Wild Card minion who is generally loyal, but who doesn’t always follow your orders. It can be a great way to represent a headstrong protégé, or the heir to your dynasty.

Many settings introduce further Edges that can also be beneficial. In particular, keep an eye out for Edges that allow Persuasion to be used for Tests of Will, or which allow Charisma to be added to Taunt or Intimidation rolls, as these are very powerful bonuses for a character with high Charisma.

Reputation-Based Hindrances

Just as it’s possible to apply trappings to Edges, so the same principle can be extended to Hindrances. With the appropriate trappings and flavor text, Hindrances like Outsider, Enemy, or even Bloodthirsty might easily be reworked to fit certain character concepts.

Besmirched (Minor)
You were accused of doing something horrific in some point in the past, and your reputation has been forever tainted as a result. You might be innocent of the crime, and may even have been acquitted in a court of law, but in the eyes of the public you will always be guilty, and they'll never let you forget it. You suffer a -2 penalty to Charisma.

Hacker’s Target (Minor/Major)
Someone keeps trying to obtain your private and personal information to leak to the press, the government, a rival organization, or simply to post on the internet. As a Minor Hindrance they just want to humiliate you, while as a Major Hindrance they’re hoping to find something that could lead to your arrest or even your death.

Media Scapegoat (Major)
The media despises you, and you are frequently followed around by reporters and paparazzi eager to dig up (or make up) new dirt. Actions you take in public will be reported in the worst possible light, and anything you say in front of reporters will be turned into sound bites that can be replayed out of context. You suffer a -4 penalty to Charisma when dealing with those who have read about you in the tabloids or seen news reports about you on the television.

Unruly Relation (Minor/Major)
One of your relatives has a knack for getting themselves into trouble, and this often reflects badly on you. Perhaps you have a sibling with a drug habit, a teenage son or daughter who shoplifts for attention, or an alcoholic uncle with a predisposition for violence. As a Minor Hindrance the relative is usually just an inconvenience and embarrassment, while as a Major Hindrance their actions cause frequent problems and risk seriously jeopardizing your career. Should the relative meet a sudden and untimely end, replace Unruly Relation with another Hindrance appropriate to their fate (such as Besmirched).

Political Powerhouse

As an extreme example of how you might build a reputation-focused political character, consider the following individual:

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d10, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Skills: Intimidation d4, Knowledge (Politics) d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d12, Streetwise d8, Taunt d4
Charisma: +2; Pace: 6; Parry: 2; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Arrogant (Major), Vengeful (Minor), Greedy (Minor)
Edges: Noble

Noble represents his political status, his income, his home and constituency, as well as his various duties and responsibilities. As the character increases in power and influence, he might choose to take the following advances at each rank:

 Novice: Connections, Charismatic, Connections
 Seasoned: Attractive, Connections, Filthy Rich, Connections
 Veteran: Very Attractive, Connections, Beast Master, Connections
 Heroic: Intimidation d6 and Taunt d6, Connections, Strong Willed, Connections
 Legendary: Professional (Persuasion), Expert (Persuasion), Sidekick, Connections, Connections

As the politician grows in experience he would become increasingly influential, and after 20 advances he would end up as follows:

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d10, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Skills: Intimidation d6, Knowledge (Politics) d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d12+2, Streetwise d8, Taunt d6
Charisma: +8; Pace: 6; Parry: 2; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Arrogant (Major), Vengeful (Minor), Greedy (Minor)
Edges: Beast Master, Charismatic, Connections x 10, Expert (Persuasion), Filthy Rich, Noble, Sidekick, Strong Willed, Very Attractive

Beast Master represents his status as a media darling: He is very popular with the media and receives frequent and highly favorable attention from most outlets. He also has a loyal spin doctor who would never betray his secrets.

Sidekick could be his daughter, son, or protégé – or perhaps even a chauffeur or bodyguard.

With Persuasion d12+2 and Charisma +8, the politician would use d12+10 for Persuasion rolls, ensuring 2+ raises except on snake eyes. With 10 Connections Edges, he would be able to request the service of up to 50 soldiers each session – and unlike the minions granted by the Followers Edge, these could be easily replaced the following session if killed. The Connections Edges could also be used to obtain financial assistance, specialized experts, and all manner of sensitive information and dark secrets about his rivals and enemies.

Obviously this is an extreme example, but it shows how a character can be built around social power and influence, and the ability to control and manipulate others. The same concept could just as easily be applied to a king (who rules over various lords and their vassals), a necromancer (who calls upon the spirits of the dead to reveal their secrets and animate an army of corpses), a demonologist (who knows the true names of many demons and can command them to obey her every whim), and so on – once again, it’s all about the trappings.

Legendary Status

Here is a quick overview of the Legendary Edges listed in the Savage Worlds core rules:

Martial Arts Master: Gives the same benefit as the Novice Brawler Edge, but you can take it multiple times and the bonuses stack.

Professional and Expert: These Edges each give the same benefit as raising a Trait by one die step, but they allow you to exceed your normal maximum.

Master: This boosts your Wild Die for one specific Trait.

Tough as Nails and Improved Tough as Nails: These each provide the same Toughness bonus as the Novice Brawny Edge, but unlike Brawny they don’t also increase your Load Limit.

Weapon Master and Master of Arms: These each grant the same benefit as the Seasoned Block Edge.

Followers and Sidekick: These Edges give you minions which are not replaced if killed. The minions granted by Followers are basic Extras and are likely to die quickly in combat, while the Sidekick is a tougher Wild Card but includes additional built-in drawbacks.

As you can see, the Legendary Edges are not usually any stronger than other Edges, at least not innately – their main benefit is that they stack with existing bonuses. Their requirements are also quite narrowly focused: in addition to Legendary rank, some might require d12 in a directly appropriate Trait and/or another Edge, but that’s all. From there we can extrapolate, giving us a basis for designing new Legendary Edges for a reputation-based character, for example:

Great Renown
Requirements: Legendary
You are particularly loved or feared by one category of people, such as the media, criminals, the police force, etc. Members of the chosen category will try to avoid confrontations with you when possible, but will still react if you push them too far.
In addition, you receive a single loyal minion of some sort. This minion is a normal Extra with 4 attribute points and 8 skill points, and is replaced after about a week if killed or dismissed.

Majestic Presence
Requirements: Legendary, Command Presence
Your presence is truly awe-inspiring, and your followers rally fanatically to your call. Your “command radius” is increased to 20”.

Never Give Up!
Requirements: Legendary, Hold the Line!
Your men will fight to the bitter end in order to protect you. This Edge adds an additional +1 bonus to the Toughness of those under your command.

Requirements: Legendary, Noble
You belong to the cream of your society, with a status far beyond that of a mere Noble. You receive an additional +2 Charisma and gain access to considerable resources and benefits, although your responsibilities also increase accordingly, and not all of them can be delegated away.

The same principle outlined here could also be applied to designing other Legendary Edges.


Although Savage Worlds places a strong emphasis on combat, it is perfectly possible to create viable and interesting characters who focus on social abilities, relying on their resources and minions (and perhaps Tricks and Tests of Will) when a fight cannot be avoided.

But even if you wish to play a ferocious warrior, you should at least consider investing in one or two Edges geared towards boosting your reputation – the skalds won’t sing of your great exploits if they don’t know who you are, and your enemies won’t tremble before you if they don’t even recognize you!