Friday, 27 January 2017

SWIFT-d12 and Saga of the Goblin Horde

I'm currently splitting my time between two projects (the Saga of the Goblin Horde setting, and the SWIFT-d12 system), with the eventual goal of merging the two together into a single book. Recently I've been focusing on the setting, as it's gradually getting close to completion, but I hope to get back to SWIFT-d12 again soon, and plan to do some more playtesting next month.

Saga of the Goblin Horde was originally written for Savage Worlds, and I do still intend to release a Savage Worlds version under the fan license. However I'd rather not work on two versions of the book at the same time, so I plan to complete the Savage Worlds version first, and then convert it to SWIFT-d12.

Book Structure

Anyone who's looked at the SWIFT-d12 document may have noticed that it's divided into three main sections: Character Creation, Game Rules, and Magic. That might seem a bit arbitrary, but there's actually a method in my madness.

The Saga of the Goblin Horde setting book is divided into nine chapters: Introduction, Characters, Equipment, Setting Rules, Gods and Magic, Gazetteer, Game Master's Secrets, Adventures, and Bestiary. The Introduction, Gazetteer and Game Master's Secrets don't contain any mechanics, so they won't need to be changed for SWIFT-d12. The Equipment Table will need to be converted, but the rest of that chapter is mostly descriptive, and can be left as it is. The Adventures and Bestiary will also need conversion, but I've tested the waters with Bone of Contention and the Archetypes, and I think the process will be fairly straightforward.

The biggest challenge will be the Characters, Gods and Magic, and Setting Rules chapters - and that's where the aforementioned SWIFT-d12 sections come in. Those three sections will be turned into replacement chapters, after merging in any flavor text.

So in summary, three chapters will be identical, three will be converted, and three will be replaced. But the overall structure of the two Saga of the Goblin Horde books will be the same, and that will hopefully help to keep the workload fairly manageable.

Player's Guide

One advantage of the way the book is structured is that the first six chapters are intended for players, and the last three chapters are for the GM, so creating a player's guide would be a simple matter of chopping off the first six chapters and releasing them as a separate PDF.

I created a couple of polls (one on G+ and the other on FB) and it seems there is a general preference for offering a smaller player's guide with the GM content removed, so that's the approach I'm thinking of taking. This would also allow me to release the player's guide much earlier (as those chapters are pretty much complete), giving me the chance to incorporate feedback prior to releasing the full setting.

Next Steps

The first release will be the Savage Worlds version of the player's guide. After that I'll work on finishing the main setting book for Savage Worlds. If I've managed to get SWIFT-d12 into good shape by that point, I will convert it and release both versions of the setting at the same time, otherwise the SWIFT-d12 version will come out a little later.

The Campaign Deck will also be released at around the same time as the setting books, but after that I'll have a bit more breathing space, and I can decide where to go next. I have plans for more adventures for Saga of the Goblin Horde, a generic version of SWIFT-d12, new settings for SWIFT-d12, and so on. But I'd rather not make any firm plans until I see how things work out with the main setting.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Bestiary on a Budget

Most setting books include a bestiary of new monsters for the heroes to fight, and while it's certainly nice to have a written description of each creature along with a little background information, this is one area where I personally like to see some artwork as well. An illustration can really help me visualize what the creatures look like, and gives me something to show to the players (or even turn into trifolds).

But it can often be difficult to find stock art that matches your monsters, and commissioning lots of custom illustrations can end up becoming prohibitively expensive.

That's why I like to cheat.

Monstrous Inspiration

Game designers draw their inspiration from many different places, and it's not unusual to take ideas from mythology or fiction and give them your own spin. But when I created Saga of the Goblin Horde, I decided to use a slightly less orthodox source of inspiration; I browsed the stock art on DriveThruRPG.

So instead of creating a selection of monsters and then trying to find suitable artwork for them, I bought the artwork first, visualized what each creature might be like in my setting, and then wrote descriptions and stats for them.

Page Layout

I decided to give each monster entry a full page or half a page (depending on its importance), and each entry also has its own illustration. The only exception is the "adventurers" entry, which has two pages, as it includes stats for ten different adventurer archetypes that the goblins might encounter.

Breaking the bestiary up in this way makes it much easier to do the layout (particularly if I later realize I've forgotten a monster, and need to insert it in the right place). I also find it's much easier to navigate, as the monster names are always listed at the top of each page, so you don't need to scan through the contents of the page when looking for a specific entry.

Expanded Lore

As with the rest of the book, one of the goals of the bestiary was to provide useful information in a concise manner. I found that after adding the illustration and stat block, there was still enough space for one or two paragraphs about each creature, and that allowed me to include various rumors and revelations that the Game Master can use as adventure seeds.

I think this ties in nicely with the "low prep" style of Savage Worlds, as a GM could easily flick through the bestiary until a particular illustration catches their eye, then improvise a gaming session based on that monster, using the text as inspiration for the adventure.

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.