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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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)
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.
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:
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.
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!