Sunday, 15 February 2015

Guild of Shadows: Character Builder and the Thief Edge

One of the Kickstarter projects I backed that I've been particularly looking forward to getting my hands on is Guild of Shadows - a dark urban fantasy setting based around the nefarious activities of a thieves guild.

With the project now so close to completion, I was recently hired to take a look over their mechanics, making any final edits for balance and consistency. As I'm a big fan of the genre, I also took the opportunity to propose a further 14 Edges and 3 Hindrances, all inspired by various rogues from history or fiction.

I've obtained permission to produce a web-based character creation tool for the setting, which you can access here:

Guild of Shadow Character Builder.

I'd also like to give an overview of a potential problem with the Thief Edge that some may have already wondered about, along with my solution...

The Thief Edge in a Thief Setting

Savage Worlds has two Edges in the core rule book that provide a Stealth bonus: Thief gives +2 Stealth in urban areas, while Woodsman gives +2 Stealth in rural locations.

The Thief Edge is particularly nice in that it also boosts Climbing and Lockpicking, as well as trap-related uses of the Notice and Repair skills. The large number of bonuses are somewhat balanced by the fact that it's usually a fairly niche Edge, and has some very tough requirements.

However because Guild of Shadows is an urban thief-focused setting, the Thief Edge is no longer even remotely niche - it boosts several of the most useful skills, and is the only way to get a Stealth bonus. When I ran a similar style of campaign in the past, most of the players invested in Thief simply because it was so useful.

But it gets worse. The tough requirements mean that each Thief also needs to boost one attribute, and assign around half of their skill points in a specific way, leaving them much less room to differentiate themselves from each other - and even if they're able to stand out in smaller ways, because most of their starting points are tied up in heavily boosting the same set of abilities, they're still likely to feel quite similar to each other (at least mechanically-speaking).

Removing the Thief Edge wasn't an option, because Guild of Shadows is designed to be slottable into existing settings and campaigns if the GM wishes, and such campaigns could well have characters who have already taken the Edge.

So I approached the problem from a different angle, and added two new Edges: Highwayman and Urban Ranger. Like Thief, they are Professional Edges, which means their bonuses don't stack with each other - thus there are now three different Edges which grant the much-coveted +2 Stealth bonus, each of which provides other benefits as well, and Urban Ranger also has a 'backdoor' through another Edge. The end result is that characters in Guild of Shadows can obtain that +2 Stealth bonus without sacrificing diversity.