Monday, 16 January 2017

Blackwood: An upcoming setting for Savage Worlds

Eli Kurtz of The Mythic Gazetteer has been discussing his Blackwood setting for a while, and has also posted many of his playtest sessions on YouTube. But now he's released a free One Sheet adventure and a set of archetypes, which means other GMs can start getting in on the action as well!

Get the One Sheet here: The Seven Quillcrows.

And the archetypes here: Blackwood Archetypes.

You can also read more about it on their blog.

I've already had the chance to take an early look through the setting book (I even contributed some additional Edges and Hindrances to the document), and it's got a lot of great content.

If the Brothers Grimm had written a Savage Worlds fantasy setting instead of a series of fairy tales, I imagine it would have looked a bit like Blackwood. In fact, many of the adventures seem to draw direct inspiration from folk tales, although they tend to be inspired more by the original (darker) stories than the modern versions, and they're all linked together into a single cohesive world. It's cleverly done, and the setting is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Check out the free stuff, I'm pretty sure there will be more to come!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Bone of Contention: SWIFT-d12 One Shot

Now that other people are looking at the SWIFT-d12 draft document (and in at least a couple of cases, doing some playtesting), I've decided to start releasing a few adventures for it.

Last month I ran the first playtest of SWIFT-d12 using Sanguine Solstice, which was actually the first One Sheet I wrote for Saga of the Goblin Horde. However it's also a Christmas themed adventure, and I thought it might be better to release something less seasonal (particularly as it's now January).

Back in February last year I released Bone of Contention, the second One Sheet adventure for Saga of the Goblin Horde, and it's still one of my favourites - so I've decided to re-release it for SWIFT-d12.

You can get it here: Bone of Contention.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

SWIFT-d12: Magic System

Publisher's Choice Quality
Stock Art © Rick Hershey
/ Fat Goblin Games
There were some recent questions in the SWIFT-d12 community about magic, so I've decided the magic system would make a good subject for a blog post.

The three class Feats are Savant, Scrapper and Sorcerer, and the latter boosts the Magic secondary ability. Each ability has four skills, and Magic is no exception; the four Magic skills (referred to as "disciplines") are: Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment and Invocation.

Sorcerer Capabilities

Each sorcerer typically has one of the eight spheres (Flame, Wind, Mind, etc) which determines the flavor of their magic, and also provides some additional effects and options. Some sorcerers might have a second sphere, but this will require a special Feat.

Each sorcerer knows two techniques for each point of Magic they have, and one technique for each point in Magic skills. For example a sorcerer with Magic +1 and Invocation +1 would have 3 techniques. These techniques represent the different ways in which each discipline can be used.

Disciplines and Techniques

The disciplines are designed to cover most types of spell, and provide a fair amount of flexibility in terms of what the sorcerer can achieve.

Conjuration allows the sorcerer to create something from nothing. The techniques are Summoning (create creatures), Fabrication (create objects), Warding (create tangible barriers) and Glamor (create intangible effects such as light or darkness).

Divination allows the sorcerer to discover information. The techniques are Scrying (project your senses), Insight (learn secrets), Augury (predict the future) and Dowsing (detection).

Enchantment allows the sorcerer to place spell effects upon existing things. The techniques are Blessing (a positive effect), Compulsion (control something), Curse (a negative effect) and Transmutation (shapechanging).

Invocation allows the sorcerer to simulate non-magical actions without the need for tools, and also covers metamagic. The techniques are Destruction (offensive spells that simulate a Combat skill), Prestidigitation (utility spells that simulate a primary skill or simple action), Counterspell (resisting other spells) and Dispel (undo other spells).

For example, summoning an elemental would require Conjuration/Summoning, while animating a corpse would use Enchantment/Control, mind reading would use Divination/Insight, and so on. Prestidigitation is particularly versatile as it covers almost any action you could normally perform with a primary skill, and removes the need for (generic) tools: you could climb the side of a house if you had a ladder, therefore you can use Prestidigitation to teleport onto the roof; you could open a door if you had some lockpicks (the spell can't simulate something as specific as the right key), therefore you can use Prestidigitation to magically unlock it; you could push someone with a Shove stunt, therefore you can knock them back with Prestidigitation. In short, it's just like performing the normal action, except you do it with magic and add a cool spell description. Of course the character won't be able to achieve the same sort of bonuses as a non-spellcaster specialist, but they'll have a pretty diverse range of capabilities.

Spell Principles

A "spell" is based on a specific sphere, discipline and technique, but also includes four principles, each of which has four possible values:

Area represents how large an area the spell effects, and must be one of Point, Small Area, Medium Area or Large Area. There are also three types of area shape: Beam, Cone and Sphere.

Duration represents how long the spell lasts, and must be one of Instant (lasts until the end of your turn), Seconds (lasts until the end of the round), Minutes (lasts for the remainder of the combat) or Hours (lasts for the rest of day). The duration is intentionally abstract, to avoid bookkeeping.

Range represents how far the spell extends, and must be one of Touch, Short Range, Medium Range or Long Range.

Target represents how many targets the spell affects, and must be one of Single, Double, Triple or Quadruple. Note that a spell which targets more than one individual cannot also cover an area, unless that ability is granted by a specific Feat.

The principles also determine the mana cost, for example a fireball that fills a Small Sphere (+1) and has Medium Range (+2) would cost 3 mana.

Magic Feats

Not all types of spell are covered by this system, but it covers most things, and other options (such as healing) can be accessed by taking special Magic Feats. Similarly, some Feats can expand the functionality of certain techniques - for example the Illusionist Feat allows the sorcerer to create detailed illusions using Conjuration/Glamor.

The Magic Feat list will eventually be expanded so that each sphere has a few specialties of its own.

Mana

The Sorcerer Feat grants 10 mana each time it's taken, and mana can be recovered with a successful Concentration check as a normal action, so while sorcerers can run low on mana, they never really run out completely. A particularly effective strategy for spellcasters is to declare a spell as their primary action and a Concentration check as their secondary action, allowing them to refuel while casting.

It's worth noting however that you cannot recover mana from an active spell, so if you cast a buff on someone the mana is committed until the spell expires or you choose to terminate it. Furthermore, if the spell has a duration in Hours, you must wait a few minutes after it ends before you can recover the mana, so buffing up before combat will leave you with less mana to use during the fight.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

SWIFT-d12 Character Creation

As the subject came up recently in the SWIFT-d12 community, I thought it might be worth writing a blog post about character creation, giving an overview of the process and providing a few examples.

Character creation in SWIFT-d12 is designed to be fast. Instead of building your character up from nothing, you start with an average-across-the-board baseline and then adjust it, applying bonuses and penalties to make the character unique.

The same concept can also be applied to NPCs, making it easy to create them on the fly; a typical enemy NPC would just have +0 in everything. Creating tougher foes can be as simple as giving them a +1 or +2 in everything. Particularly weak characters might even have negative abilities (for example, a peasant would probably have Combat -1).

Races

Each race provides a combination of benefits and drawbacks, with a total worth that's fairly comparable with a regular Feat. The available races are defined by the setting (Saga of the Goblin Horde has bugbear, goblin, gremlin, half-human and hobgoblin).

Primary Abilities

There are six primary abilities, and they start at +0. Each race grants +1 to one primary ability, and players may also increase one primary ability of their choice by +1, as well as (optionally) moving 1 point from one or two primary abilities to another. The total of all primary abilities for a starting character will therefore add up to +2.

The primary abilities are Strength, Agility, Endurance, Cunning, Instincts and Dominance. The ability names are flavored for Saga of the Goblin Horde; the generic version of SWIFT-d12 will probably use more traditional ability names.

Secondary Abilities

Each character also has two secondary abilities, Combat and Magic. These start at +0, and can only be increased with Class Feats.

Note that even Combat +0 indicates reasonable competence at fighting. In settings where this isn't always appropriate, there might be a "Non-Combatant" Flaw or something similar.

Derived Traits

Each character has four derived traits. Speed indicates how far you can move each round. Resilience represents how resistant you are to injury (it is 5 + Size + Constitution + Armor), Capacity indicates how many “significant items” you can carry (3 + Strength) without penalty, and Leadership (3 + Dominance + 1 per Class Feat) is used in Saga of the Goblin Horde to indicate how many gang members you have.

Skills

Each ability has four skills, representing exceptional capabilities beyond the innate talent and training implied by abilities. Most people (and starting characters) have +0 in everything, representing average competence across the board. Each skill has specific uses, but to keep this short I'll just list them by name:
Strength: Climb, Jump, Muscle, Swim
Agility: Dexterity, Reflexes, Ride, Stealth
Endurance: Concentration, Fortitude, Stamina, Vitality
Cunning: Appraise, Craft, Lore, Wits
Instincts: Perception, Search, Survival, Willpower
Dominance: Bluff, Diplomacy, Husbandry, Intimidate
Combat: Brawl, Melee, Shoot, Throw
Magic: Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Invocation
Skills based on primary abilities are called "primary skills", while those tied to secondary abilities are called "secondary skills". Whenever a character makes an ability check, they add their ability and skill modifiers to the d12 roll, subtract any penalties, and require 7+ ("lucky 7") to succeed.

Flaws

Each player can choose two Major Flaws, four Minor Flaws, or one Major and two Minor Flaws. Flaws are defined as either Handicaps (crunchy, incur an actual mechanical penalty) or Quirks (fluffy, roleplaying only). Minor/Major Handicap Flaws allow you to add +1/+2 to a primary skill of your choice as compensation.

Here are a couple of examples:
Proud [Minor/Major Quirk]
This individual has an overinflated opinion of his own importance and accomplishments, and little respect for the achievements of others. As a Minor Flaw he might just be vain or willful, while as a Major Flaw he would kill or die to protect his fragile ego.
Pungent [Minor/Major Handicap]
This goblin suffers from a very ripe and overpowering body odor, making him particularly easy for enemies to smell. This usually only applies when he is quite close to the enemy, or upwind of them, unless they have an exceptionally sharp sense of smell. As a Minor Flaw the character suffers a -1 penalty to Stealth checks in situations where the enemy can smell him, and they receive a +1 bonus to Survival checks when trying to track him. As a Major Flaw, the penalty increases to -2 and the bonus increases to +2.
Feats

Each player starts with one Class Feat and two other Feats of their choice. They gain another Feat every time they gain a level. Every four levels (i.e., level 4, 8, 12, etc) they gain a Class Feat, at other levels they gain any other Feat for which they qualify.

There are three Class Feats: Savant, Scrapper and Sorcerer. Scrapper gives you a +1 bonus to Combat, Sorcerer gives you a +1 bonus to Magic, and Savant gives you a bonus to two different skills of your choice (+2 to a primary skill, or +1 to a secondary skill). Each Class Feat can be taken a maximum of three times, and you can mix and match if you wish. Savant cannot be applied to the same skill more than once, but allows you to increase the skill bonus beyond the normal maximum (so Savants dominate in their fields of specialty).

The other Feats provide a wide range of different benefits (Ambidexterity, Quick Draw, Weapon Finesse, and so on), but are approximately half as powerful as Class Feats. The other Feat categories are Combat Feats (Scrapper only), Magic Feats (Sorcerer only), Expert Feats (Savant only), Common Feats (available to everyone) and Legacy Feats (can only be taken during character creation).

Example 1

Bob wants to play a bugbear warrior, so he chooses the bugbear race, which gives him Strength +1. He then chooses to increase Strength again as his free bonus ability, then move a point of Cunning to Endurance. He now has Strength +2, Endurance +1, and Cunning -1.

Bob decides to take two Major Flaws: Gluttonous and Ignorant. Ignorant is a Handicap, giving him a -2 penalty to the Lore skill, which means he's allowed to add +2 to another primary skill of his choice. He chooses Intimidate +2. He also gains Stealth +1 as a bugbear racial bonus.

Bob takes Scrapper as his Class Feat (giving him Combat +1), and for his other two Feats he chooses Cleaving Blow and Thick Fur.

Example 2

Buffy wants to play a goblin scout, so she chooses the goblin race, which gives her Agility +1. She then chooses to increase Instincts to +1 as her free bonus ability.

Buffy decides to take one Major Flaws (Snobgoblin) and two Minor Flaws (Blood Oath and Foible), but these are all Quirks, so she doesn't gain any skill modifiers from them. However she does gain Stealth +1 and Survival +1 as goblin racial bonuses.

Buffy takes Savant as her Class Feat, using it to boost Shoot (primary skill) by +1 and Stealth (secondary skill) by +2. For her other two Feats she chooses Skill Focus (boosting Stealth and Survival by another +1 each) and Fast Reflexes.

Example 3

Joe wants to play a goblin pyromancer, so he chooses the goblin race, which gives him Agility +1. He then chooses to increase Cunning as his free bonus ability, then move a point of Strength to Cunning as well. He now has Strength -1, Agility +1, and Cunning +2.

Joe decides to take one Major Flaw (Obsession) and two Minor Flaws (Foible and Hideous). Hideous is a Handicap, giving him a -1 penalty to the Diplomacy skill, which means he's allowed to add +1 to another primary skill of his choice. He chooses Concentration +1. He also gains Stealth +1 and Survival +1 as goblin racial bonuses.

Joe takes Sorcerer as his Class Feat (giving him Magic +1), and for his other two Feats he chooses Skill Focus (boosting the Invocation primary skill to +1) and Elementalist.

Monday, 9 January 2017

SWIFT-d12 Dice Mechanics

Back in 2013 I described an alternative dice system for Savage Worlds, based on the d10. Although I felt it would work quite well, it was only really intended as a thought experiment, because the multiple die step solution is a signature feature of Savage Worlds. However when it came to designing my own system, I actively wanted to avoid duplicating Savage Worlds mechanics, so I decided it was time to give my d10 approach some serious consideration.

While the d10 solution is certainly viable, I'm not a big fan of the die shape, and there are already several popular systems that use the d10 in a rather specific way. I find the d12 more pleasant to roll, and the additional sides also give a larger range of values. The d20 would also work well, but it comes with its own set of assumptions (about game mechanics) that I'd rather avoid.

Probabilities

Although I wanted the mechanics to work differently to Savage Worlds, I did want to keep the probabilities of the core dice system reasonably similar, so that I could easily convert my adventures, as well as reuse the knowledge, tools and fan supplements I've built up over the last few years.

The Savage Worlds traits d4-d12 become SWIFT-d12 abilities in the range -1 to +3, so that an average character in Savage Worlds with d6 across the board would have +0 in everything in SWIFT-d12.

Thus the Savage Worlds Wild Card:
d4: 62.5% chance of success (19.3% raise).
d6: 75.0% chance of success (25.9% raise).
d8: 81.2% chance of success (24.6% raise).
d10: 85.0% chance of success (39.8% raise).
d12: 87.5% chance of success (49.7% raise).
Is roughly the equivalent of a SWIFT-d12 Champion:
-5: 16.0% chance of success (0.7% critical).
-4: 30.6% chance of success (2.8% critical).
-3: 43.8% chance of success (6.3% critical).
-2: 55.6% chance of success (11.1% critical).
-1: 66.0% chance of success (17.4% critical).
+0: 75.0% chance of success (25.0% critical).
+1: 82.6% chance of success (34.0% critical).
+2: 88.9% chance of success (44.4% critical).
+3: 93.8% chance of success (56.3% critical).

+4: 97.2% chance of success (69.4% critical).
+5: 99.3% chance of success (84.0% critical).
While a Savage Worlds Extra:
d4: 25.0% chance of success (6.2% raise).
d6: 50.0% chance of success (13.9% raise).
d8: 62.4% chance of success (12.5% raise).
d10: 70.0% chance of success (30.0% raise).
d12: 75.0% chance of success (41.7% raise).
Is roughly the equivalent of a SWIFT-d12 Minion:
-5: 8.3% chance of success (0% critical).
-4: 16.7% chance of success (0% critical).
-3: 25.0% chance of success (0% critical).
-2: 33.3% chance of success (0% critical).
-1: 41.7% chance of success (0% critical).
+0: 50.0% chance of success (0% critical).
+1: 58.3% chance of success (0% critical).
+2: 66.7% chance of success (0% critical).
+3: 75.0% chance of success (0% critical).

+4: 83.3% chance of success (0% critical).
+5: 91.7% chance of success (0% critical).
And of course, the odd glitch in the probability curve no longer exists, as SWIFT-d12 doesn't use exploding dice for ability checks.

Damage

In my original design I used polyhedral dice for damage, but as I'd already standardized the ability checks to use the d12, I decided to do the same for damage, except with the d6. This makes it easy to convert weapon damage, as a d4 weapon (such as a dagger) inflicts -1 damage, a d6 weapon (such as a shortsword) inflicts +0 damage, a d8 weapon (such as a longsword) inflicts +1 damage, and so on.

Thus a regular attack inflicts 2d6 damage plus modifiers, while a critical hit inflicts 3d6 damage plus modifiers. In theory there could also be weak/partial hits that inflict 1d6 damage plus modifiers, but the system doesn't use those (at least at the moment). An average guy (+0 across the board) with an average weapon (+0 damage) would just be making straight rolls without modifiers.

Another benefit is that I can still use my custom d6 goblin dice :)

Summary

While the SWIFT-d12 solution does require adding an additional modifier to the roll, during playtesting I found it saves time hunting around for the right dice (or worse still, accidentally rolling the wrong dice, and then discussing whether or not you should reroll), so it's still nice and fast to use. The system only uses two types of dice, and it's pretty easy to remember that you use d12 for ability checks and d6 for damage rolls.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Hobgoblin Marauder

A new year means a new month, and therefore a new archetype. There are five races in Saga of the Goblin Horde, and I've previously covered four of them (bugbear, goblin, gremlin and half-human), so for the fourteenth archetype I've decided to explore the final race.

Meet the hobgoblin marauder!

As usual, the Savage Worlds version of the archetypes is available here, and the SWIFT-d12 version here.

If you're looking for somewhere to use them, there are six Savage Worlds One Sheet adventures available here, here, here, here, here and here. I haven't yet had the chance to convert the adventures to SWIFT-d12, but I plan to do so in the near future.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

SWIFT-d12: First Goblin Playtest

Yesterday I had the opportunity to run my first playtest for SWIFT-d12, using an early draft of the rules along with the newly converted archetypes for Saga of the Goblin Horde. I ran it for the same group I usually play Sundered Skies with (giving our regular GM the chance to play for a change!), so there were five players in total.

Manuel and Heike resumed their usual roles as Maeson Crispyface the goblin pyromancer and Izzy Toecutter the goblin scout, while Daniel played Skally Finback the river goblin, Babsi played Krusty Snaggletooth the gremlin saboteur, and Claudia played Amalia Bloodylocks the goblin princess.

As it's nearly Christmas I decided to run Sanguine Solstace (with Sleigh Heist on standby, should we finished early). We started at 7pm, but probably spent at least half an hour talking about the setting and the new system, and finished at around 11pm, so it was fairly comparable with the typical 3-hour adventures I ran using Savage Worlds.

As with all of my SotGH One Sheets, Sanguine Solstace is split into five scenes.

Fireside Tales

This scene normally uses the Savage Worlds Interlude rules. I don't have Interlude rules in SWIFT-d12, but it was easy enough to ask the players to spin a short tale in return for a Karma Point. The SW goblin archetypes have a background suggestion for each of the four Interlude categories (Tragedy, Victory, Love and Desire).

The SWIFT-d12 archetypes don't have the category names, but they still include four background suggestions each, so the only real difference was that the players didn't need to draw and consult a card - they just chose (or made up) any story they liked. So overall I'd say this scene worked just as well with SWIFT-d12 as it does in SW.

Home Invasion

This scene is normally handled as a Stealth-based Dramatic Task. Although SWIFT-d12 does have extended ability checks which can work in a similar way, I wanted to make this scene a bit more interesting, so I prepared ten cards before the adventure. Each card described a particular foe who might raise the alarm (guards at the gate, a couple of young lovers on a rooftop, an old drunk staggering through the village, etc) along with two different sets of mechanics for dealing with them.

The goblin bosses first scouted out the dangers, with each player making a Perception check. On a success they drew one card, while on a double success they drew two cards. I asked the players to describe to each other in-character what they'd found, then afterwards they could discuss the cards out-of-character, and exchange cards if they wished. The goblin princess ended up with two cards, while the other characters had one card each.

The players then took turns going through their cards, choosing which of the two mechanics they wished to use to resolve the card, describing their actions, and making their ability checks. Everyone (except the goblin princess, who already had two cards) then had to draw a second card, representing a danger they'd failed to spot earlier; their ability checks for these cards were made at -2.

Fortunately the characters were able to overcome all of the dangers without anyone raising the alarm, and everyone really got into the spirit of the setting, with some hilarious over-the-top antics. The river goblin terrorized the docks, the goblin princess rolled the lovers off the roof, the goblin scout leapt from the watchtower onto the heads of two guards, and so on.

The card-based mechanic took a lot longer than a Dramatic Task (or extended ability check), but I think it was worth it.

Wrecking Crew

This scene allows each player to choose one of eight different options, sabotaging the village before the humans realize what's going on, and I actually ran it in pretty much the same way as the original One Sheet. Maeson set the tavern on fire killing everyone inside, Izzy found a sniping spot and lay in wait, Skally trashed the boats at the dock, Krusty knocked out the lanterns illuminating the village square, and Amalia tossed the heavy bar off the gate and kicked it wide open so that the goblin gang members could enter the village and join the fight.

Yuletide Massacre

The main combat encounter involved 5 PC goblin bosses and their 20 allied gang members facing off against 6 guards and 20 villagers. The new initiative system worked okay, but could probably use some tweaking. The combat itself was just as fast as Savage Worlds, and I was rather pleased with the wound system - the enemy Champion (comparable with a Wild Card) took quite a beating, but the lack of Soak rolls made it feel as if every blow mattered (as opposed to a lucky Soak roll undoing a player's action for the turn). The goblin princess also took a nasty blow, the sort of lucky damage roll that would usually put a SW character out of the fight, but it proved far less crippling in SWIFT-d12.

Maeson also made use of the magic system, tearing up the enemies with blasts of fire. Although the magic system is semi-freeform, it still proved very quick and easy to use. I can see some potential for abuse though, and will probably tweak it a bit - I've already started bouncing ideas off Manual.

Mopping Up

The final scene used my new chase rules, and although it wasn't a disaster, it didn't work as well as I'd hoped. I think this was mainly due to two factors. Firstly, the chase system had been designed with one fleeing character in mind, while in this case there were several fleeing villagers. Secondly, the villagers were Mooks (similar to Extras in SW), and simply weren't competent enough to have any reasonable chance of escaping the PCs.

Summary

For a first test-run I think it went well, and everyone seemed to have fun. The players got to grips with the mechanics quite quickly, and although we forgot things a few times, I'm sure we'll get better with practice. Hopefully everyone will be up for another playtest in the future!