Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Travel Times: Tactical and Overland

I've recently been thinking about travel times - it's something I usually handwave, but sometimes it's important, even if only for narrative purposes. If I just make up journey times, it sometimes causes inconsistencies later on. But equally, I don't want to spend too much time calculating exactly how long each journey takes.

In Savage Worlds, a character with Pace 6 moves 6" per round, where 6" (on the tabletop) represents 12 yards, and a round lasts 6 seconds - this works out at just over 4 miles per hour. However the "Travel" section suggests halving a character's Pace to calculate their travel speed in miles per hour, which means a character with Pace 6 would move at 3 miles per hour.

The discrepancy between the two isn't unreasonable, as the first situation represents movement over a very short period of time in the heat of combat, while the second is averaged over an hour of walking. However what it doesn't cover is characters who wish to push themselves harder and/or for longer.


I've decided to extend the movement by borrowing a concept from D&D: A character who "hustles" moves at twice their normal speed; characters are assumed to be hustling during combat, but if they wish to perform another action as well (such as attack) they can only hustle for half of their turn.

In Savage Worlds terms, this works a bit like the Defend maneuver: it only applies if you don't perform any normal actions. A character who wishes to move and does nothing else can double their Pace for the round.

However this raises the question of how running should work. I do think it's fine to have both - running is less reliable than hustling (because the additional movement is based on a die roll), but allows a character to perform other normal actions as well (one could draw parallels with Defend vs. Full Defense).

But if hustling represents a fast jog, and running represents combining fast movement with another action, what happens if someone just wants to run as fast as possible, and do nothing else? To address that, I borrowed another concept from D&D, which I call sprint.

Tactical Movement

There are now two additional maneuvers which any character can perform:

Hustle: You can double your Pace for the round if you don't Defend or take any normal actions (you may still take free actions), as long as you're not Shaken. If you wish to perform normal actions while moving quickly, you should instead use the run maneuver.

Sprint: This is a full round action (no other actions are allowed), and reduces your Parry by 2 until the beginning of your next turn. Your Pace is doubled and you roll (and add together) two running dice, but you must subtract your encumbrance penalty from the total. You must move in a relatively straight line, and cannot cross Difficult Ground. If you sprint for a number of rounds equal to your Vigor you suffer a level of Fatigue, and sprinting again for the same period of time causes a second level of Fatigue. You cannot sprint while Exhausted.

Note: If you're playing Shaintar, it already has a maneuver called All Out Move, so you can ignore sprint.

Overland Movement

When travelling long distances, your Pace determines your hustling speed in miles per hour (e.g., Pace 6 can hustle at 6 miles per hour). Hustling represents a fast jog, and requires a Vigor roll once per hour to avoid Fatigue. You can hustle for up to eight hours per day, but must stop if Exhausted.

Walking is half the speed of hustling (e.g., Pace 6 can walk at 3 miles per hour), the same as in SWD, and there is no penalty for the first eight hours of walking per day. You can walk more than eight hours by making a forced march: make a Vigor roll for each additional hour, suffering a level of Fatigue on a failure. Incapacitation results in unconsciousness; it is literally possible to march until you pass out.

When riding a mount, it's the mount that makes the Vigor roll (and suffers the Fatigue) rather than the rider. A mount can even hustle when Exhausted, but if incapacitated by Fatigue (from either hustling or a forced march) there is a good chance the mount will die - roll to see if it survives as if the incapacitation were caused by damage. The rider must make a Riding roll to leap from their mount if it collapses; on a failure, they suffer 2d6 damage.


Characters only move at full speed when using a major highway, or when using a road or trail through a forest, moor or plain. When characters use roads through other types of terrain, or go off the beaten track entirely, they typically move at 75% speed, reduced to 50% when moving cross-country through deserts, forests, hills, mountains or swamps, or 25% when moving through jungles.

Therefore to calculate how many miles someone can walk in an eight-hour day, you can simply multiply their Pace by 1-4, depending on the terrain. For example a character with Pace 6 can walk 24 miles per day along a forest trail (Pace times 4), 18 miles per day along a mountain road (Pace times 3), 12 miles per day through a swamp (Pace times 2) and 6 miles per day through a jungle (Pace times 1). When moving through mixed terrain, the GM can approximate or average the results, depending on how much accuracy is required.

Flying creatures and aerial vehicles usually move at full speed, although strong winds and severe weather conditions can be treated as a 25%, 50% or 75% speed reduction. A tailwind can provide a bonus to Pace, typically +6 for a strong tailwind.

Similarly, swimming creatures and watercraft usually move at full speed, but can be slowed down by weather conditions. Sailing vessels can benefit from the wind and tides in the same way as aerial vehicles, while river boats gain a bonus to their Pace (typically +6) when moving downstream. A river boat can also float downstream without being actively rowed (i.e., it has base Pace 0, but with +6 for moving downstream), but still needs to be steered.


Instead of acceleration and top speed, fantasy watercraft can simply be given a Pace the same as a creature. It is possible to hustle as normal using oars, but if the vehicle has sails the roll is instead made with Boating, and failure causes a level of damage to the boat or ship. It is also possible to push yourself in the same way as a forced march - this is always based on Vigor, but a crew can work eight-hour shifts to avoid fatigue (meaning that a sailing ship with a full crew doesn't need to take breaks).

A simple raft or barge has Pace 1, a keelboat has Pace 2, a rowboat has Pace 3, a sailing ship has Pace 4, a warship has Pace 5, a longship has Pace 6, and a galley has pace 8.

So for example, you could cross a river in a rowboat at 1½ miles per hour, or 3 miles per hour if you really row hard (the equivalent of hustling). But if you row downstream you'd move at 7½ miles per hour, or 9 miles per hour if you row hard - or you could allow your boat to float downstream at 6 miles per hour, only using your oars occasionally to push the boat away from rocks.

Exploring Shaintar

Once you know how far the party can move per day, it's usually pretty easy to look at the map of your game world and see how long it will take to travel from A to B. To give an example, I've copied a tiny section of Shaintar's huge world map (with permission from Sean Patrick Fannon), which has a scale of 1.2 pixels per mile. The map is both detailed and clearly laid out, making it ideal for this sort of exercise.

On top of the map I've positioned a ruler consisting of concentric circles, each representing a distance of 25 miles (I created the ruler specifically for the Shaintar map, so that it would match the scale). I prefer this style of ruler as it makes it easier to see the distances in all directions at once.

In this particular example, the PCs are located in the town of Blue. You can easily see at a glance that it's around 25 miles to Stonebridge, around 75 miles to Fadrin and Riverside, perhaps 80 miles to Colbi, and nearly 100 miles to Sorlin and Lanthor. Of course that assumes a straight line, but in most cases there are roads which are (more or less) straight. Even if the PCs wish to visit Sorlin, it would probably be faster to take the road (via Fadrin) rather than walking in a straight line across the plains.

The speed of the group will obviously depend on their slowest member:

• Dwarves (Pace 5) can walk 20 miles per day on major roads.

• Humans (Pace 6) can walk 24 miles per day on major roads.

• Ogres (Pace 7) can walk 28 miles per day on major roads.

• Brinchie (Pace 8) can walk 32 miles per day on major roads.

• Riding horses (Pace 10) can walk 40 miles per day on major roads.

• Aevakar (flying Pace 12) can fly 48 miles per day* regardless of terrain.

If the group wants to head to Stonebridge they can probably make it in a day (in which case they wouldn't need to make camp for the night, so it would effectively become an 8 hour trip). Even dwarves could probably manage it in a day if they didn't mind pushing themselves a bit to keep up - either hustling for a couple of hours, or turning it into a 10 hour trip (or a combination of the two).

But what if the PCs want to head all the way down to Lanthor? That's nearly 100 miles, and would take a group of humans about 4 days on foot. With horses they could make it in 2½ days. But there's a third option - the Silver river. Rafts only have Pace 1, but they receive +6 Pace for moving downstream. If the PCs row the raft for 8 hours (Pace 1+6) and then just let it float for the remaining 16 hours, they'll travel 80 miles in a full day! They should arrive in Lanthor a few hours into their second day of travel.

* The Draft Rider Edge (which allows the Aevakar to fly 100 miles per day) can also be justified within these guidelines as a "forced march" - the benefit of the Edge is that the Aevakar no longer needs to make a Vigor roll every hour to avoid Fatigue.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Small, Medium, Large and Huge Cone Templates

Savage Worlds uses three types of Burst Template for area effect attacks. The Small Burst Template (SBT) is 1" radius, the Medium Burst Template (MBT) is 2" radius, and the Large Burst Template (LBT) is 3" radius.

However there is only one Cone Template, which is 9" long and 3" wide at its widest point (effectively a cone ending in a 3" diameter semicircle). This gets used for all sorts of things, such as flamethrowers, breath weapons, elemental attacks, certain offensive powers, flashlights and bullseye lanterns, and so on - the Horror Companion even uses it for sprays of blood! In short, every effect which is cone-shaped uses the same Cone Template.

While converting D&D spells for my Vancian magic system, I found that while many of the spells filled a "radius burst", and could be handily represented through the three Burst Templates, there were also quite a few that filled a 15, 30 or 60 foot cone (the Savage Worlds Cone Template is the equivalent of a 45-foot cone). So I finally decided it was time to add some more Cone Templates.

You can download them here: Savage Cone Templates.

Although the Cone Template is often compared with the Medium Burst Template in terms of value (probably because it covers a fairly similar area), I decided not to simply halve its length and width to create the Small Cone Template, as I didn't want a template 4.5" long and 1.5" wide. Instead, I decided to split it into four templates as follows:

  • Small Cone Template (SCT): 3" long and 1" wide.
  • Medium Cone Template (MCT): 6" long and 2" wide.
  • Large Cone Template (LCT): 9" long and 3" wide.
  • Huge Cone Template (HCT): 12" long and 4" wide.

The Savage Worlds Cone Template is now the Large Cone Template. I decided to follow the standard naming convention - Burst Templates are Small (1" radius), Medium (2" radius) or Large (3" radius), creatures are Small, Medium, Large or Huge, and my Cone Templates are named in the same manner. For the record, I did also try creating a Huge Burst Template for the sake of completeness, but sadly it doesn't quite fit onto an A4 page.

As far as what the new templates are used for, that's entirely up to you.  New spells?  Miniature flamethrowers?  Differently sized breath weapons for younger and older dragons?  I'm sure you must have some ideas!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

12 different starting characters with Fighting d12

One claim that comes up from time to time is that PCs who start with Fighting d12 are too specialised and narrowly focused to be good at anything else. While it's certainly true that Fighting d12 requires a major investment of skill points (and I generally recommend that players try to spread their points around a bit more) it doesn't mean the character has to be a one-trick pony.

In this post I'll describe 12 starting characters with Fighting d12, each of whom can also contribute to the party in other ways.

Note that this is once again an elaboration on a post I've made in the past on the Pinnacle forums, but as the subject came up again recently I thought it was worth revisiting - and as the "Taking Action" issue of Savage Insider (Volume 2, Issue 2) should be coming out soon, I thought it would be fun to include a few more characters using some of the options from my Savage Archery article.

Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d4
Skills: Fighting d12, Notice d4, Shooting d6, Stealth d4, Survival d8, Tracking d8
Charisma: -; Pace: 6; Parry: 8; Toughness: 5 (1)
Gear: Leather armour (+1), axe (Str+d6), medium-pull self bow* (Shooting; range 12/24/48; 2d6; +1 damage on a raise from broadhead arrows*)
Hindrances: Wanted (Major), Phobia (Minor: Snakes), Illiterate (Minor)
Edges: Woodsman
Background: Jed is an outlaw who lives off the land and takes whatever he needs. As a child he nearly died after being bitten by a rattlesnake, and he never fully recovered, either physically or psychologically.
Party Role: Jed is an expert outdoorsman and highly skilled tracker. He is competent with a bow, but truly excels with his axe.

Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d12, Notice d8, Repair d6, Shooting d8
Charisma: -2; Pace: 6; Parry: 10; Toughness: 5
Gear: Rapier (Str+d4; Parry +1), small shield (Parry +1), medium-pull repeating crossbow* (Shooting; range 10/20/40; RoF 2; 2d4+1; AP 1 from quarrels*)
Hindrances: Reckless Shot* (Major), Death Wish (Minor), Enemy (Minor)
Edges: Crossbow Speed Shooting*, McGyver
Background: Shalk is a skilled crossbowman with a reputation for recklessness and an utter disregard for the safety of both himself and his supposed "allies" (some of whom are still trying to settle the score).
Party Role: Shalk is effective at both melee and ranged combat, but is also a wiz with mechanical devices. He's designed his own repeating crossbow, and can rig up all manner of other useful devices to aid the group.

Attributes: Agility d12, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d4
Skills: Fighting d12, Notice d4, Psionics d8, Riding d12, Shooting d12
Charisma: -2; Pace: 5; Parry: 9; Toughness: 5 (1)
Gear: Leather armour (+1), staff (Str+d4; Reach 1"; Parry +1), light-pull composite bow* (Shooting; range 9/18/36; 2d6)
Hindrances: Elderly (Major), Ugly (Minor), Quirk (Minor)
Edges: Arcane Background (Psionics; uses the No PP rule), Steady Hands
Powers: Beast Friend, Smite, Boost/Lower Trait
Background: Mork is an ugly and eccentric old hermit with a mysterious past. He loves animals, and spends most of his life in the saddle.
Party Role: Mork excels at both melee and ranged combat, and uses his psionics to enhance his skill further - he can use Boost/Lower Trait to increase his skills above d12, Smite to enhance his damage, then charge on his mount for a further +4 damage. In ranged combat, Steady Hands negates the penalty for firing from horseback, and his mount makes him fast enough to evade most melee attackers. He can also use his powers to buff his allies, and give himself non-combat skills when needed.

Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d10, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d6 
Skills: Fighting d12, Boating d4, Climbing d4, Lockpicking d4, Riding d4, Shooting d4, Stealth d4, Swimming d4, Throwing d4 
Charisma: -; Pace: 6; Parry: 10; Toughness:
Gear: Rapier (Str+d4; Parry +1), medium shield (Parry +1), medium-pull pistol crossbow* (Shooting; range 9/18/36; 2d4+1; AP 1 from quarrels*) 
Hindrances: Curious (Major), Wanted (Minor), Big Mouth (Minor) 
Edges: Jack-of-All-Trades 
Background: Jack has spent his life wandering the land, trying his hand at dozens of different trades and professions - not all of them legal. His habit of poking his nose into other people's business combined with a loose tongue when it comes to secrets has ensured that he never stays in one place (or one job) for too long. 
Party Role: Jack can handle any role the party might be missing, or provide a backup if the main character is unavailable. He can sail a ship, talk to NPCs, pick locks, tend the wounded, do research, repair a broken wagon, gather information from the street, track and forage in the wilderness, and provide information on any knowledge-related task you might need. 

Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6 
Skills: Fighting d12, Climbing d6, Lockpicking d6, Notice d4, Persuasion d4, Stealth d8, Streetwise d4 
Charisma: -; Pace: 6; Parry: 8; Toughness: 6 (1) 
Gear: Leather armour (+1), short sword (Str+d6), dagger (Str+d4) 
Hindrances: Overconfident (Major), Greedy (Minor), Enemy (Minor) 
Edges: Connections, Thief 
Background: Cutter isn't the brightest of street thugs, but he's a skilled thief and a master with the blade, and he has guild connections he can call on when needed. 
Party Role: Cutter competently fills the standard thief role, and can also call upon his connections in a pinch should the party require outside help. 

Sir Rylak 
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d4 
Skills: Fighting d12, Intimidation d4, Stealth d4, Knowledge (Battle) d8, Knowledge (Military Engineering) d8, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Riding d4 
Charisma: +2; Pace: 4 (d4 running die); Parry: 9; Toughness: 6 (1) 
Gear: Leather armour (+1), rapier (Str+d4; Parry +1) 
Hindrances: Elderly (Major), Obese (Minor), Loyal (Minor) 
Edges: Command, Noble, Scholar 
Background: Sir Rylak was awarded his knighthood for outstanding military service many years ago. He hasn't aged gracefully, but he's still recognised as a master with the blade and a scholar of tactics, and is well respected for his many great deeds in the service of the crown. 
Party Role: Sir Rylak is a competent face for the party, and his Command Edge provides a bonus to other PCs during combat. He's also a learned scholar on the subject of military history, making him very useful should the party ever find themselves commanding troops on the battlefield. 

Father Peter 
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d4, Vigor d6 
Skills: Fighting d12, Faith d8, Healing d6, Knowledge (Medicine) d4, Notice d4, Survival d4 
Charisma: -; Pace: 6; Parry: 9; Toughness:
Gear: Staff (Str+d4; Reach 1"; Parry +1) 
Hindrances: Code of Honour (Major), Pacifist (Minor), Cautious (Minor) 
Edges: Arcane Background (Miracles), Elan 
Powers: Healing, Boost/Lower Trait 
Background: Father Peter is a wandering priest. He considers violence a last resort - but he didn't always feel that way. In his youth he was trained by the military faction of his church, and was top of the class, but then something changed his outlook on life. Now he prefers to save lives rather than take them. 
Party Role: Father Peter can provide healing, both magical and mundane, and can also boost the attributes and skills of his allies during combat.

* This weapon, Edge or Hindrance comes from the Savage Archery article in Savage Insider (Volume 2, Issue 2).

Shaintar characters

These characters are designed for the Shaintar setting. As the characters are generally stronger, and there's a much wider variety of Edges, it's easier to create more interesting and diverse characters with Fighting d12 than it is using just the core rules.

Race: Eldakar 
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6 
Skills: Fighting d12, Notice d6, Investigation d4, Knowledge (History) d4, Knowledge (Politics) d4, Persuasion d8, Stealth d4, Streetwise d4 
Charisma: +6; Pace: 6; Parry: 11; Toughness: 8 (3) 
Gear: Partial chain (+3), rapier (Str+d4; Parry +1), parrying dirk (Str+d4; Parry +1), Bracers (+1 Parry) 
Hindrances: Curious (Major), Stubborn (Minor), Cautious (Minor), Enemy (Racial) 
Edges: Bard, Charismatic 
Other Abilities: Low Light Vision, Detect Arcana at will, +2 sight-based Notice, +4 damage from Black Iron and Blood Steel 
Background: A wandering bard, Koralle combines his fae beauty with natural charm. 
Party Role: Koralle's +6 Charisma makes him a fantastic face for the party, and his racial senses make him a good watchman. 

Race: Dwarf 
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d4, Strength d8, Vigor d8 
Skills: Fighting d12, Knowledge (Engineering) d4, Knowledge (Metallurgy) d4, Notice d8, Repair d8 
Charisma: -; Pace: 4 (d4 running die); Parry: 9; Toughness: 10 (3) 
Gear: Partial chain (+3), dwarven axe (Str+d8; AP 1), medium shield (Parry +1) 
Hindrances: Arrogant (Major), Stubborn (Minor), Obese (Minor) 
Edges: Apprentice Wright, Keeper of the Old Ways 
Other Abilities: Low Light Vision, can use Vigor for fear checks, sinks like a stone. 
Background: An engineer with a fondness for building weapons. 
Party Role: Grom is a skilled engineer capable of improvising devices when needed.

Race: Ogre 
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d4, Strength d10, Vigor d8 
Skills: Fighting d12, Notice d6, Investigation d4, Knowledge (Kal-A-Nar Empire) d4, Knowledge (Magic) d6, Sorcery d8 
Charisma: -4; Pace: 7; Parry: 9; Toughness: 11 (3) 
Gear: Partial chain (+3), battle axe (Str+d8), medium shield (Parry +1) 
Hindrances: Wanted (Major), Vow (Minor), Vengeful (Minor), Outsider (Racial) 
Edges: More than Muscle, Sorcerer 
Powers: Bolt, Obscure, Deflection 
Other Abilities: Attackers get +1 to hit, +2 scent-based Notice, Reach 1, +2 Size, Thermal Vision 
Background: A former slave of the Kal-A-Nar Empire, Grog escaped and learned magic before returning for some payback. He's been a thorn in the Empire's side ever since. 
Party Role: Grog is a strong fighter as well as a competent spellcaster, and knows his way around the Kal-A-Nar Empire. 

Race: Goblin 
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d4, Vigor d6 
Skills: Fighting d12, Notice d4, Tracking d4, Knowledge (Magic) d6, Stealth d6, Streetwise d4, Survival d4, The Way d8, Throwing d8 
Charisma: -2; Pace: 6; Parry: 10; Toughness: 5 (1) 
Gear: Partial leather (+1), staff (Str+d4; Reach 1"; Parry +1), Bracers (+1 Parry), dagger (Throwing; range 3/6/12; Str+d4) 
Hindrances: Bloodthirsty (Major), Loyal (Minor), Vengeful (Minor), Quirk (Racial), Outsider (Racial) 
Edges: Adept, Training 
Powers: Healing, Deflection, Mind Reading 
Other Abilities: Attackers suffer -1 to hit, +2 scent-based Notice, Hardy, -1 Size, Thermal Vision 
Background: A goblin wanderer, Raff is far more dangerous than he appears. 
Party Role: Raff is a ruthless warrior, but is loyal to his friends. He's also a potent psionicist trained in psychic healing and interrogation, and is comfortable living off the street or the land. 

Race: Korindian 
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6 
Skills: Fighting d12, Swimming d6, Boating d4, Climbing d4, Healing d4, Knowledge (History) d4, Notice d6, Stealth d6, Survival d4, Throwing d6, Tracking d4 
Charisma: -2; Pace: 6; Parry: 11; Toughness: 7 (2) 
Gear: Korindian studded leather armour (+2), korindian fighting sticks (Str+d4; Parry +1), Bracers (+1 Parry), sling (Throwing; range 4/8/16; Str+d4) 
Hindrances: Code of Honour (Major), Quirk (Minor), Cautious (Minor), Enemy (Racial), Outsider (Racial) 
Edges: Child of the Island, Martial Artist, Training 
Other Abilities: Low Light Vision, cannot use metal, +1 Parry, +2 damage from Black Iron and Blood Steel 
Background: A well trained Korindian warrior who has left his island home. 
Party Role: Talshin is skilled at surviving in forests and jungles (thanks to Child of the Island), and deadly with both weapons and unarmed combat.

Wasting Points

A common argument against starting with a skill above its linked attribute is that it wastes skill points, however this is only true if you later plan to raise the attribute. As Agility d8 already unlocks all of the Agility-based Edges (at least in the core rules), for some characters that may be as high as they ever wish to take it - they can only raise one attribute per rank, after all, and a melee character may decide they'd rather focus on Strength or Vigor.

If you've no wish to ever raise your Agility above d8, don't plan to raise any other Agility-based skills above d8, and you take Agility d8 during character creation, it can make a lot of sense to start with Fighting d12.

But even if you start with Agility d8 and Fighting d12, and later plan to raise Agility to d12, at most you've wasted 2 skill points. If you'd left Fighting at d8 and waited until you'd raised Agility before increasing Fighting, you'd save an advance in the long run (assuming there were other skills you wanted to raise) - but you'd also be a worse fighter until at least your second Seasoned advance (five total advances, which usually requires around 10 gaming sessions).

At that point you need to ask yourself if it's worth reducing your combat effectiveness for the first 10 gaming sessions in return for a free advance at the end. Some players might think so, others might not - what if the campaign only runs for a dozen sessions? What if your character dies after a dozen sessions? Isn't it better to create the character you want to play right from the start?

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Accursed Witchbreeds: Dragons and Ghuls

The Accursed setting originally included six witches and their witchbreeds: Djinn (mummies), the Crone (golems), Chimera (mongrels), the Morrigan (revenants), Sanguinara "the Blood Witch" (dhampir) and Baba Yaga "the Forest Witch" (vargr). The shades and ophidians were added later, designed by two of the Kickstarter backers, but before they were announced there was quite a bit of speculation about them.

This lead me to propose three new unofficial witchbreeds of my own. One of them was the jötnar, frost giants created by the witch Skuld, which I turned into the Savage Frost Giants supplement. The other two witchbreeds never made it off the forums, so I've decided to repost my notes here where they're more likely to be found.

Lilith "the Serpent witch" (Dragons)

This proposal was designed to show how my Savage Dragons supplement might be used in Accursed.

A corruptor and temptress, Lilith spawned dragons, serpents, wyverns, hydras, and other such creatures by tainting her victims and warping their form. Her foul children served as living siege weapons during the Bane War, and although most of them accompanied her back beyond the Darkfall Peaks, some remained in Morden.

Acceptance and Defiance of the curse

Stage 1: Acceptance 

Dragons who accept their draconic taint will rapidly grow in size and strength, although this acceptance also brings out the bestial side of their nature. 

Effect: Gain an Age Edge (even if you don't meet the rank requirement; if you've got them all you can take Venerable instead). Gain Bloodthirsty (if you already have the Hindrance then you suffer an additional -4 Charisma instead); you have a strong tendancy to eat enemies and prisoners. 

Stage 2: Acceptance 

As the dragon continues to grow, so does its blind aggression. 

Effect: Gain another Age Edge, as well as the Excessive Greed Hindrance (if you already have it then apply another -2 Charisma). You now always use Wild Attack in melee combat, and rolling 1 on your Fighting die hits a random adjacent target as if you were Berserk (if you're Berserk as well, a 1-2 hits a random target). 

Final Stage: Acceptance 

When the dragon gives in completely to its primal urges, it becomes a devastating force of nature. 

Effect: Gain another Age Edge. You can never assume human form; if you already have Humanoid Form you must replace it with a dragon Edge for which you meet the requirements. If someone flees from you while you're not in combat, you must make a Spirit roll to resist chasing and killing them. If you kill someone and there are no other enemies actively attacking you, you must make a successful Spirit roll, otherwise you spend your next action eating them. 

Stage 1: Defiance 

When the dragon defies the taint, they start to feel more comfortable in their human form. 

Effect: Gain the Humanoid Form Edge (if you already have it, you instead gain +1 benny per session). You now have to make a successful Spirit roll whenever you wish to shapechange into a dragon during combat: unless you get a raise the Spirit roll consumes your entire action for the round. 

Stage 2: Defiance 

As the connection continues to weaken, so does their unnatural lust for treasure, and ease with which they can assume their draconic form. 

Effect: Lose Treasure Hoard. It now takes you even longer to shapechange; use the same rules as the vargr Bestial Form when transforming into a dragon. 

Final Stage: Defiance 

In some cases the character is able to break the connection entirely, becoming completely human. 

Effect: You can no longer shapechange into a dragon. Your Strength is reduced by one die step and you lose your Low Light Vision. If you have any Edges that only apply to your dragon form (other than the free Scourge Edge), you may exchange them for different Edges. If you have the Water Dependancy Hindrance, it should also be replaced with something more appropriate.

The Dream Witch (Ghuls)

One thing I noticed about the witchbreeds was that there were no true doppelg√§nger-like shapechangers, capable of impersonating different people. I thought that would make a great fit for an espionage/infiltration role, so I drew some inspiration from Yidhra for the witch:
"Yidhra (The Dream Witch or Yee-Tho-Rah) usually appears as a youthful, attractive, earthly female, though her shape may vary ... To survive in a changing environment, she gained the ability to take on the characteristics of any creature that she devoured ... Members of Yidhra's cult can gain immortality by merging with her, though they become somewhat like Yidhra as a consequence."
"One of her avatars is Madam Yi, appearing as a human female dressed in beautiful white and black robes which constantly billow on some unseen wind, on which she may hover or fly. Her beautiful face is like the painted face of a porcelain doll and her bloodred lips and closed almond-shaped black eyes are forever frozen on a smooth and bone-white face. Long black hair is braided into a single ponytail. The avatar’s hands both end in very long, razor-like black fingernails." 
For the witchbreed itself, I drew inspiration from the ghul of Arabian folklore: 
"A ghul is also a desert-dwelling, shapeshifting, evil demon that can assume the guise of an animal, especially a hyena. It lures unwary people into the desert wastes or abandoned places to slay and devour them. The creature also preys on young children, drinks blood, steals coins, and eats the dead, then taking the form of the person most recently eaten." 
Curse Game Mechanics 

Ghuls are the creations of the Dream Witch, they gain the following racial package: 
  • Sharp Nails (+1): Ghuls have long black razor-sharp fingernails that inflict Str+d6 damage. 
  • Low Light Vision (+1): The eyes of a Ghul gleam in the dark like those of a cat, allowing them to ignore the penalties for Dim and Dark lighting. 
  • Face of the Dead (+2): After consuming a relatively fresh human corpse and making a successful Spirit roll, the Ghul can take on the form the corpse had in life. It usually requires about half an hour to consume a corpse (although the Ghul can reduce the time by 10 minutes on a successful Vigor roll, or 20 minutes on a raise), and the new form can be maintained for a number of days equal to the Ghul's Spirit. Observers can make a Notice roll at -4 to detect that something is wrong, or -2 if they're familiar with the original person. 
  • Disturbing Diet (-2): The metabolism of a Ghul can only digest blood, bones and raw flesh. Although they devour relatively fresh corpses for the purposes of shapeshifting, they far prefer the taste of decomposing flesh. This gives them -4 Charisma when dealing with those who are aware of their diet, and can have significant consequences if they're caught graverobbing, or a human limb falls out of their backpack while they're in civilised company, etc. 

They also have the following racial Edges:

Dark Dreams 
Requirements: Novice, Ghul 
  As a gift from the Dreaming Witch, some Ghuls have dark and disturbing dreams which can grant them foreknowledge of events yet to come. They gain the same benefits as the Visions Edge. 

Hyena Form 
Requirements: Novice, Ghul 
  Many Ghuls are able to shapechange into the form of a hyena (use the same stats as a dog). This works like the Shape Change power, with Spirit as the arcane skill die. A roll of 1 on the Spirit die causes an automatic level of Fatigue, while a critical failure also causes a wound. Hyena Form doesn't use or require Power Points, but does follow the usual rules for Maintaining Powers and Disruption. 

Poisonous claws 
Requirements: Seasoned, Ghul 
  The claws of some Ghuls can cause paralysis. A victim who is Shaken or wounded must make a Vigor roll or become paralysed, at which point they fall prone and miss their next turn completely. After that they remain paralysed until they next draw a card of the hearts suit for initiative, at which point they can act normally. They cannot roll to recover from Shaken until the paralysis ends. 

Improved Poisonous claws 
Requirements: Veteran, Ghul, Poisonous claws 
  The poison has become even more potent. Vigor rolls to resist paralysis are now made at -2.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Dragon Kings Alternative Races

Dragon Kings is a rich and immersive setting with some very unusual races, it's well worth checking out. The setting is system-agnostic, but there are free supplements available for various systems, including Savage Worlds. Before the Savage Worlds supplement was available I wrote up some of my own ideas for how the different races might be balanced. Rather than just let my design notes vanish into the void, I thought I'd post them here.


The Attites are a human tribe renowned for their physical beauty and silver tongues. They are skilled warriors, but prefer diplomacy over combat.
  • Attractive (+2): Attites gain the Attractive Edge.
  • Divergent (+2): Attites are the most widely spread of the human tribes, with a large number of ranks and castes. They begin with one Edge of their choice, although they must still meet the requirements.
  • Racial Enemy (-1): Attites hold an unmitigated hatred for slavers, and suffer a -4 penalty to Charisma when dealing with Watu.
  • Traditions (-1): Attites have a number of unusual customs and strict traditions. This is treated like the Minor Vow Hindrance, as the punishment for serious transgressions can be exile or even death.
Hindrance suggestions: Some Attites have Pacifist as a Minor Hindrance, preferring to fight only as a last resort.


The Chindi are a matriarchal tribe of humans, who celebrate life and place great importance on their extended families.
  • Open to Ideas (+2): Chindi are very open to new ideas. They begin with one Edge of their choice, although they must still meet the requirements.
  • Educated (+1): Chindi are well-educated, and begin with d6 in one Knowledge skill of their choice.
  • Racial Enemy (-1): Chindi despise the Bev al-Khim, and suffer a -4 penalty to Charisma when dealing with them.

Cold Skins/Oritahl

Most of these human-sized bipedal lizard folk have animal-level intelligence, but PCs are always considered "emergent" (they don't have (A) listed after their Smarts attribute).
  • Powerful (+4): Cold Skins are strong and resilient. Their Strength and Vigor both begin at d6, and can be raised to d12+1 with normal advances.
  • Scaly Skin (+1): Cold Skins have +1 natural armour. This doesn't stack with worn armour.
  • Natural Weapons (+1): The teeth and claws of a Cold Skin inflict Str+d4 damage.
  • Thermal Vision (+1): Cold Skins can sense thermal radiation. They halve all penalties due to bad lighting, rounded down.
  • Desert Adaption (+1): Cold Skins receive a +4 bonus to resist heat-based environmental effects, and only require half as much water as humans.
  • Thick Witted (-3): Even emergent Cold Skins are simpletons compared to many other races. Smarts requires two points per step to raise during character generation, and the Cold Skin must dedicate two advances to raising Smarts during play.
  • Outsider (-1): Cold Skins face significant prejudice and even outright hostility from the other races, who consider them pests that are only useful for hard labour.
  • Cold Blooded (-1): Cold Skins find it difficult to function in cold temperatures. They suffer a –4 penalty to resist any cold-based environmental effects.
  • Natural Instincts (-1): Cold Skins strongly favour using their teeth and claws during combat, and it requires a conscious effort for them to use manufactured weapons. They must succeed on a Smarts roll (as a free action) whenever they wish to ready their weapon/s, on a failure they can still perform other actions normally but cannot ready their weapon/s that round.
Gifted with Weaponry
Requirements: Seasoned, Cold Skin, Smarts d6
  Some Cold Skins learn to overcome their natural tendency to settle conflicts with teeth and claws, and such an achievement earns them considerable status among their kin. This Edge removes the Natural Instincts ability, and grants the character a +2 Charisma bonus when dealing with other Cold Skins.

Hindrance suggestions: Many emergent Cold Skins are Clueless and/or Illiterate.


Krikis are sentient insect-like creatures who control the vast Hivelands. Only the warrior caste can be found in the surrounding territory, and unlike the short-lived drones and workers, the warriors are self-aware, independent, and capable of surviving indefinitely. For obvious reasons, PCs always belong to the warrior caste, which is reflected by the abilities given here.
  • Chitin (+2): Krikis have +2 natural armour from their overlapping chitin plates. This doesn't stack with worn armour.
  • Low Light Vision (+1): Krikis ignore penalties for dim and dark lighting.
  • Mandibles (+1): The powerful mandibles of a warrior caste Krikis inflict Str+d6 damage.
  • Strong Legs (+1): Krikis can leap distances of up to half their Strength plus 2 as a normal action, although they can't leap and run in the same round.
  • Honey Crop (+1): Krikis only require half as much water as humans to survive in the desert, and also have an internal water bottle inside their abdomens. Although this internal reserve is not connected to their digestive system, the Krikis can puncture it in an emergency to extract nutrition (this doesn't inflict enough damage to cause a wound).
  • Outsider (-1): Krikis are mysterious and inscrutable to the other races, and the memories of the Chitin Wars are still fresh in the minds of many. Krikis suffer -2 Charisma when dealing with other races.
  • Racial Enemy (-1): Cross-colour racial rivalry and hatred runs deep, and the different factions battle constantly over resources. Krikis suffer a -4 penalty to Charisma when dealing with Krikis of a different colour.
  • Racial Enemy (-1): Krikis have primarily fought against the Makadans, who hate them with a passion. Krikis suffer a -4 penalty to Charisma when dealing with Makadans.
  • Hive Loyality (-1): Although the warriors caste are independent thinkers, the needs and interests of their hive are still heavily ingrained into their behavior.
Secondary Arms
Requirements: Novice, Krikis
  The Krikis typically use two limbs as arms and two as legs. However they also have two additional limbs that are normally hidden beneath their chitin, which they use for grooming. A Krikis with this Edge has learned to use her smaller limbs to manipulate tools and devices, as if they were a second pair of arms, although they are too short and weak to hold weapons or use in combat.

Hindrance suggestions: Many warrior caste Krikis are Curious, often patrolling or scouting, and always on the lookout for new hive locations.


The Makadans are a human tribe, renowned for their fighting skills.
  • Warrior Culture (+2): Makadans begin with either one free Combat Edge (they must still meet the requirements), or Agility d6 (this does not increase their maximum Agility).
  • Martial Prowess (+1): Makadan society is based on martial strength and warfare, and even those of peaceful professions carry long knives for use both in and out of combat. Makadans begin with d6 in Fighting.
  • Racial Enemy (-1): Makadans hate the Krikis, having born the brunt of their invasions. They suffer a -4 penalty to Charisma when dealing with Krikis.
Warrior Code
Requirements: Novice, Makadan, Trademark Weapon
  Makadan warriors immerse themselves in Kod, the Warrior Code, which teaches them to seek out and hone their ability with the weapon that best utilises their strength. When this Edge is taken, the character gains one free Combat Edge of their choice, and may ignore either the rank requirement or the trait requirements (but not both).

Hindrance suggestions: Many Makadan are Overconfident or Arrogant, overly impressed by their own prowess and exploits.


The Nordor are sturdy humans who live in the frozen north, with a culture based around physical strength and martial prowess.
  • Adaptable (+2): The Nordor are a varied people, adapting to the land in order to survive. They begin with one free Edge, although they must still meet the requirements.
  • Survivor (+1): Nordor live in harsh conditions, and the rite of adulthood requires the ability to survive in the frozen wilderness. Nordor begin with Survival d6.
  • Martial Preference (-1): Nordor have a strong preference for broadswords and short bows, considering other weapons to be unsuitable for a true warrior. This is treated like the Quirk Hindrance.
Hindrance suggestions: Many Nordor are Stubborn or Vengeful.


Pachyaur are elephantine centaur-like creatures with the head, skin and lower body of an elephant. Their thick trunks are capable of manipulating objects, although the trunk suffers an offhand penalty (as well as the normal multi-action penalty if combined with another action), and they suffer a -4 penalty to scent-based Notice rolls while holding something with their trunk. Most belong to the Brachachon subrace, which is described here.

  • Powerful Back (+4): Pachyaur are able to carry an immense amount of weight on their back and shoulders. They can carry 30 times as much as a human (150 times Strength instead of 5 times Strength).
  • Enormous (+2): Pachyaur are typically around nine feet long and nine feet tall. They gain +4 Size (and therefore +4 Toughness) and begin with Strength d12, which can be increased to d12+4 through normal advances. They are considered Large; they suffer a -2 penalty when attacking Medium creatures, and Medium creatures gain a +2 bonus when attacking them back.
  • Eidetic Memory (+2): Pachyaur have an exceptionally good memory, and can easily and automatically recall conversions, maps, diagrams, and so on, without needing to make a roll.
  • Keen Smell (+1): Pachyaur receive a +2 bonus to scent-based Notice rolls.
  • Natural Weapons (+1): Pachyaur have powerful legs, with wide feet easily capable of trampling foes. Male Pachyaur also have tusks, which are frequently carved or sharpened. These natural weapons inflict Str+d4 damage.
  • Thick Hide (+1): Pachyaur have grey wrinkled hides that are tough to penetrate, granting them +1 natural armour. This doesn't stack with worn armour.
  • Loyalty (-2): Pachyaur are very loyal and protective towards each other, as well as to non-Pachyaur companions, but they become extremely violent towards those who betray them. This is treated as both the Loyal and Vengeful Minor Hindrances.
  • Stubby Fingers (-2): Pachyaur have short, stubby fingers that make it difficult to manipulate tools and objects designed for humans. This treated like the All Thumbs Hindrance when using devices not designed for the Pachyaur's hands, and human-sized weapons are considered improvised (i.e., -1 to attack and -1 Parry) and break if the Pachyaur rolls 1 on their skill die.
  • Brachachon (-2): The Brachachon subrace have one fewer benny each session (this doesn't apply to the Watu).
  • Racial Pride (-1): Pachyaur refuse to wear any form of harness, yoke or tack.
  • Great Appetite (-1): Pachyaur typically consume between eight and sixteen times as much food and water as a human, and require four times as much water as humans in order to survive in desert conditions.
  • Stubborn (-1): Pachyaur are ponderous and stubborn by human standards, due to their different perception of time. Once they've set their mind on something, they are loathe to give up.
Trunk Proficiency
Requirements: Novice, Pachyaur, Agility d8
  The Pachyaur no longer suffers the offhand penalty when using their trunk.

Trunk Fighter
Requirements: Seasoned, Fighting d8, Trunk Proficiency
  The Pachyaur can perform a Fighting attack with his trunk as part of a multiple action without suffering the normal -2 multi-action penalty.

Vidijo Killer
Requirements: Seasoned, Pachyaur, Fighting d6
  The Pachyaur reduces the penalty for attacking Medium or smaller foes by 1.

Vidijo Killer, Improved
Requirements: Veteran, Vidijo Killer
  The Pachyaur reduces the penalty for attacking Medium or smaller foes by 2.


Penmai are small humans who have adapted to living in trees.
  • Agile (+2): Penmai are naturally dexterous and acrobatic. Their Agility begins at d6, and can be raised to d12+1 with normal advances.
  • Prehensile Tail (+2): Penmai have a prehensile tail, which can be used as an additional limb with no offhand penalty.
  • Avian Kinship (+2): Penmai have a close kinship with birds, particularly the sanid, who they can summon to transport them around. This allows the Penmai to fly at their normal Pace with Climb 0, using the Riding skill to maneuver and the Mounted Combat rules for fighting.
  • Natural Climbers (+2): Penmai glide through the trees with monkeylike precision. They gain the Wall Walking ability when navigating through trees and vegetation, and begin with a free d6 in Climbing.
  • Fast Runner (+1): Penmai are able to run with great speed. They roll d10 instead of d6 when running (or d12+1 if they also have Fleet-Footed).
  • Weak (-3): Penmai can never increase their Strength above d6.
  • Diminutive (-2): Penmai are slightly over three and a half feet tall, and although their long limbs allow them to move as fast as a human, they have considerably less muscle mass. They suffer -1 Toughness, and can carry only 3 times their Strength in pounds without penalty instead of the usual 5 times Strength (note that if they take the Brawny Edge, it allows them to carry 5 times their Strength, the same as a normal human).
  • Claustrophobic (-1): Penmai strongly prefer open spaces with access to the sky, and become agitated in enclosed spaces, suffering a -2 penalty to all Trait tests.
  • Community Outlook (-1): Penmai don't have a concept of individual property ownership, instead they place great value on personal debts and favours. This is treated as the Quirk Hindrance.
Master Sanid Rider
Requirements: Seasoned, Penmai, Riding d8
  An elite group of Penmai called the "nok" are the masters of sanid-based travel. They receive a +2 bonus to Riding rolls when being carried by sanid, and may use their Riding skill instead of Agility when performing aerial tricks. They can also spend bennies to make Soak rolls for the sanid carrying them; this is handled with a Riding roll at -2 (cancelling their usual +2).

Hindrance suggestions: Most Penmai dislike being around fire, and some may even have a Phobia of it.


The Prajalu are a tribe of short, muscular humans, with a reputation for being skilled traders and craftsmen - as well as poisoners and child stealers.
  • Heritage (+2): Prajalu recognise the necessity of adaptation. They begin with either one Edge of their choice (although they muts still meet the requirements), or with Strength d6 (this does not increase their maximum Strength).
Hindrance suggestions: Most Prajalu have the Outsider Hindrance, representing their strong distrust of foreigners (with the exception of Nyutu performers).


The Watu are a subrace of the Pachyaur, and have the same racial abilities. However they differ slightly in appearance, as well as in physiology and culture, dominating the eastern Equatorial Basin with their slave-owning, agricultural society. Replace the Brachachon ability with the following:
  • Superiority Complex (-1): Watu are taught from birth that their culture is superior to others, and this attitude is reflected in the way they talk and act. Treat this like the Quirk Hindrance.
  • Racial Enemy (-1): Watu suffer a -4 penalty to Charisma when dealing with Attites, due to the Attites unrelenting hatred towards them.
Beastly Way
Requirements: Veteran, Watu
  Referred to as "kubiti" among the Watu, this Edge works the same way as Beast Master, except it also allows a degree of basic communication, and it only applies to elephants and colossadants. The "companion" represents the beast the Wadu is currently training.

Hindrance suggestions: Most Watu are also Arrogant, considering themselves dominant to other races.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Fighting Schools

From time to time I see posts from people looking for a way to handle fighting schools. I know there are a few existing solutions out there, but I fancied having a go at creating my own, which I felt should be generic enough to handle both martial arts and swashbuckling styles of combat. Much like the weapons in Savage Armoury, I also wanted the fighting styles to be customisable by the player, rather than writing a laundry list of premade schools.

A fighting style is represented by a series a customisable Edges, and members of a particular school will typically have the same abilities for each Edge. Players can select whichever abilities they wish, representing either their own unique style, or membership to a particular school (which they should then describe as a plot hook for the GM).

For a martial arts school that teaches unarmed techniques, the character should also take the Martial Artist Edge; the GM may even wish to add it as a requirement for the Fighting Style Edge.

Fighting Edges

Fighting Style
Requirements: Novice, Fighting d8
  Choose a core principle for your fighting style. When fighting someone who is also using a Fighting Style, if you have the advantage due to your core principle you receive a +1 bonus to your attack rolls. This bonus only applies when both combatants are using a Fighting Style.
  Select 1 point worth of abilities from the technique list for your principle. You may choose multiple abilities if you wish, as long as they add up to 1 point.
  This Edge may be taken up to three times, once for each of the three core principles, however you may only use one Fighting Style Edge at a time. You must declare which Fighting Style (if any) you are using at the beginning of your turn, as a free action, and the benefits last for the remainder of the scene or until you declare a different Fighting Style.

Improved Fighting Style
Requirements: Veteran, Fighting Style
  You've mastered the principle of your fighting style. When fighting a foe who is also using the Fighting Style Edge, if you have the advantage due to your core principle you now receive a +1 bonus to Parry (in addition to the attack bonus).
  Select another 1 point worth of abilities from the technique list for your principle, this may include an Improved ability if you wish. You may choose multiple abilities, as long as they add up to 1 point.
  This Edge may be taken up to three times, but must be applied to a different Fighting Style Edge each time. You only benefit from this Edge when using the associated Fighting Style.

Muscle Memory
Requirements: Heroic, Improved Fighting Style, Fighting d10
  This Edge applies to one specific Improved Fighting Style Edge. You've trained so extensively with one of your styles that you no longer need to declare it at the beginning of a scene; it is now always active, as long as you are conscious, even if you are Surprised or attacked with the Drop (although you may still change to another Fighting Style on your turn with a free action as normal).

Fighting Stance
Requirements: Seasoned, Fighting Style, attribute d8+
  You've learned how to use a particularly effective fighting stance, although it's difficult to use. Spend a benny as a free action while using any Fighting Style to gain the benefit of this Edge for the remainder of the encounter.
  Select 2 points worth of abilities from any principle, this may also include 1 point of Improved ability if you wish. The most expensive ability also determines the attribute requirement for this Edge (in the case of a tie, the Edge requires all of the joint-highest attributes at d8+).
  This Edge may be taken multiple times, but you can only use one Fighting Stance at a time. Changing stance is a free action, and doesn't require the expenditure of another benny (i.e., spending one benny allows you to freely use all of your stances for the encounter).

Fighting Discipline
Requirements: Seasoned, Fighting Style, attribute d8+
  Select up to 1 point worth of abilities from any principle. The most expensive ability also determines the attribute requirement for this Edge (in the case of a tie, the Edge requires multiple attributes at d8+). You benefit from this Edge when using any Fighting Style.

Improved Fighting Discipline
Requirements: Seasoned, Fighting Discipline
  Select 2 point worth of abilities from any principle, however these abilities must also include whatever abilities you took for the Fighting Discipline Edge - i.e., both Edges combined give a total of 2 points worth of abilities (this may also include 1 point of Improved ability if you wish). For example you might take +1 damage (worth ⅔) with Fighting Discipline, then upgrade it to +3 damage (worth 2) with Improved Fighting Discipline. You benefit from this Edge when using any Fighting Style.

Secret Technique
Requirements: Wild Card, Seasoned, Fighting Style, Fighting d10
  You've mastered a particularly deadly yet highly specialised fighting technique. Select 4 points worth of abilities from any principle, this may also include up to 2 points worth of Improved abilities if you wish. You only benefit from these abilities when you are dealt a Joker during combat while using a Fighting Style, and the abilities remain until the beginning of your next turn.

Core Principles

Each fighting technique belongs to one of the three core principle: Rock, Paper or Scissors. Rock represents strength and resilience, Paper represents a more spiritual or intellectual focus, and Scissors is based on speed and reflexes. Each core principle has the advantage over one other core principle (Rock overpowers Scissors, Scissors outmaneuvers Paper, and Paper outsmarts Rock).

Rock Principles
  • Bonus Damage (⅓): +1 damage on a raise (Strength, Stackable, Improved).
  • Combo Attack (Push) (1): When performing an attack and a Push maneuver the same round, reduce the MAP by 1 (Strength, Improved).
  • Damage (⅔): +1 damage (Strength, Stackable, Improved).
  • Focus (Power) (⅓): Increase the bonus damage on a raise by +1 die step, cannot exceed your Strength (Strength, Stackable).
  • Free Strike (Cleave) (1): Free Fighting attack against a second foe after incapacitating someone (Strength, Improved).
  • Hardy (½): A second Shaken result is not upgraded to a wound (Vigor).
  • Ignore Pain (½): Ignore 1 point of penalty from wounds (Vigor, Improved).
  • Knockback (1): Opponents are knocked back 1" for each raise on your attack roll, if they hit a solid object they suffer an additional +d6 damage (Strength).
  • Natural Armour (⅓): Armour +1, doesn't stack with worn armour (Vigor, Stackable)
  • Penetrating (⅓): +1 AP (Strength, Stackable).
  • Push (½): +1 bonus to perform and resist push maneuvers (Strength, Stackable)
  • Reactive Attack (Retaliation) (1): Free Fighting attack at -2 against someone who hits you, but rolls under your Toughness for damage (Vigor, Improved).
  • Soak (½): +1 bonus to Soak (Vigor, Stackable).
  • Tough (⅔): +1 Toughness (Vigor, Stackable).

Paper Principles
  • Attentive (½): Gang Up bonuses against you are reduced by 1 (Smarts, Stackable).
  • Blindsense (½): Can sense and approximately pinpoint things within 6", attacks using blindsense are made at -2 (Smarts).
  • Combo Attack (Intimidation) (1): When performing an attack and an Intimidation test the same round, reduce the MAP by 1 (Spirit, Improved).
  • Combo Attack (Smarts Trick) (1): When performing an attack and a Smarts trick the same round, reduce the MAP by 1 (Smarts, Improved).
  • Combo Attack (Taunt) (1): When performing an attack and a Taunt test the same round, reduce the MAP by 1 (Smarts, Improved).
  • Cool-Headed (1): Draw one additional action card for initiative, keep the highest (Smarts).
  • Fearless (¼): +1 bonus to resist Fear tests (Spirit, Stackable, Improved).
  • Focus (Chi) (⅓): Increase the bonus damage on a raise by +1 die step, cannot exceed your Spirit (Spirit, Stackable).
  • Free Strike (Vengeance) (1): Free Fighting attack (even when Shaken) against someone who causes you a wound which you fail to Soak (Spirit, Improved).
  • Reactive Attack (Opportunist) (1): Free Fighting attack at -2 against someone who becomes Shaken (Smarts, Improved).
  • Reroll Trait (½): Gain a +1 bonus to the final result when spending a benny to reroll a trait check in combat (Spirit).
  • Smarts Trick (½): +1 bonus to rolls when making and resisting Smarts tricks (Smarts).
  • Tenacious (¼): +1 bonus to recover from being Shaken (Spirit).
  • Unerring (1): You almost never miss; if your attack roll is under your foe's Parry but higher than 1, you hit their torso for half damage (Smarts).

Scissors Principles
  • Accuracy (1): You automatically hit your foe's least armoured location on a raise (Agility).
  • Agility Trick (½): +1 bonus to rolls when making and resisting Agility tricks (Agility).
  • Attack (1): +1 to attack rolls (Agility).
  • Combo Attack (Agility Trick) (1): When performing an attack and an Agility trick the same round, reduce the MAP by 1 (Agility, Improved).
  • Defence (1): Foes suffer a -1 penalty to hit you with both melee and ranged attacks (Agility).
  • Fast (½): Increase Pace by +1 and running die by +1 die step (Agility).
  • Focus (Finesse) (⅓): Increase the bonus damage on a raise by +1 die step, cannot exceed your Agility (Agility, Stackable).
  • Flurry (1): Can perform two Fighting attacks at -1 or three Fighting attacks at -3, as a single action (Agility, Improved).
  • Free Strike (Alacrity) (1): Free Fighting attack against someone who move adjacent to you (Agility, Improved).
  • Lunge (1): +1" Reach (Agility).
  • Qinggong (½): Only really appropriate for wuxia settings; works like Flight, except the character must start and end their movement on solid ground (Agility).
  • Reactive Attack (Riposte) (1): Free Fighting attack at -2 against someone who attacks you and misses (Agility, Improved).
  • Slippery (¼): +2 to resist and escape from grapple, constrict, Entangle, and other forms of confinement (Agility, Stackable).
  • Evade (1): Once per round, you may prevent one free attack from being made against you (before it is rolled) with a successful Agility roll (Agility, Improved).

Technique Notes

Each ability is followed by its cost, where 1 is the value of a full Edge. Each ability also lists an attribute, which is to determine the requirements for certain Edges.

Focus can be stacked with itself (for +d10 damage on a raise), but different Focus types do not stack with each other.

Combo Attack can be Improved (reducing the total MAP by 2), but you cannot use more than one type of Combo Attack in the same round.

Evade can be Improved (if the Agility roll is a raise, you cannot be targeted by any free attacks until the beginning of your next turn), but a character with the Extraction Edge cannot take Evade (and vice versa).

Stackable abilities can be taken twice. Improved abilities can also be taken twice, although the second time must be with Edge that explicitly permits Improved abilities. If the ability is both Stackable and Improved, it can be taken up to four times. You cannot benefit from a particular ability more than twice (with Stackable or Improved) or four times (with both).

Flurry allows the character to roll make two Fighting attacks (with a -1 penalty to all actions that round) or three Fighting attacks (with a -3 penalty to all actions that round) as a single action (i.e., roll two or three Fighting dice with one Wild Die). The Improved version reduces the penalty to -0 for two attacks and -2 for three attacks. This ability cannot be used the same round as any other effect that allows the character to attack multiple foes in one action (such as Frenzy, Sweep, Rapid Attack, etc).

Free Strike grants a maximum of one free Fighting attack per round when not Shaken (unless otherwise stated), while the Improved version allows a free Fighting attack every single time it's triggered. You cannot use more than one type of Free Strike in the same round, and a character with the First Strike Edge cannot take Free Strike (or vice versa).

Reactive Attack grants a maximum of one free Fighting attack per round with a -2 penalty when not Shaken, and the Improved version removes the -2 penalty. You cannot use more than one type of Reactive Attack in the same round, and a character with the Counterattack Edge cannot take Reactive Attack (or vice versa).


The following are some simple examples of what martial arts fighting styles might look like, and are loosely based on real world fighting styles:

Black Tiger Fist
Requirements: Novice, Martial Artist, Fighting d8
  Uses the Rock principle and grants Damage and Bonus Damage. Improved grants Ignore Pain and Hardy.

Choy Li Fut
Requirements: Novice, Martial Artist, Fighting d8
  Uses the Paper principle and grants Attentive twice (Gang Up reduced by 2). Improved grants Cool-Headed.

Fanged Snake Style
Requirements: Novice, Martial Artist, Fighting d8
  Uses the Scissors principle and grants Accuracy. Improved grants Reactive Attack (Riposte).

The following are some fictional examples of what a fighting stance might look like:

Bull Stance
Requirements: Seasoned, Fighting Style, Strength d8+
  Grants Damage three times (+3 damage) for the scene when you spend a benny.

Eagle Stance
Requirements: Seasoned, Fighting Style, Agility d8+, Smarts d8+
  Grants Unerring and Defence for the scene when you spend a benny.

Viper Stance
Requirements: Seasoned, Fighting Style, Agility d8+
  Grants Free Strike (Alacrity) and Lunge for the scene when you spend a benny.

Fighting disciplines and secret techniques could also be created in much the same way.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Creating NPCs on-the-fly

Once again this is a subject I've posted about before, but I feel is important enough to be worth repeating on my blog.

One of the big advantages of Savage Worlds in terms of preparation time is that it's very easy to make up generic NPCs on-the-fly - for complex monsters I still prefer to have a proper statblock, but simple NPCs such as shopkeepers, thieves, town guards, etc, don't usually need to be written down. Instead, I mentally put them into one of three categories and make up their stats in my head when needed:
Basic Extras
These have d6 in all attributes, and d6 in all skills appropriate to their concept. If you're unsure whether or not a particular skill is important, leave it at d4. You can also lower one or two attributes to d4 if you wish, if they're the sort of thing at which the character concept is typically bad.
ExampleA basic thug might have Smarts d4, while a basic priest might have Strength d4, but they'd both have all other attributes at d6. The thug would also have Fighting d6 and Stealth d4 or d6, while the priest would have Faith d6 and Knowledge (Religion) d6, but the priest's Fighting would be either d4 or unskilled.
Experienced Extras 
These have d8 in one or two attributes that are particularly important to the character concept, and d6 in their other attributes. They also have d8 in their primary skills, and d6 in their secondary skills, with d4 in any other skill they might feasibly have and require. You can also grant them one or two appropriate Edges (even if they don't meet the requirements), or a +2 bonus in one or two non-combat skills.
Example: An experienced city guard would probably have Strength and Vigor d8, Fighting, Shooting and Notice d8, and a couple of appropriate Edges (such as Alertness and Combat Reflexes). An experienced diplomat might have Smarts d8 and Spirit d8, Persuasion d8, Streetwise d8 and Notice d8, but Fighting d4, as well as a couple of Edges such as Charismatic and Connections.
Elite Extras 
These have d10 in one or two attributes that are particularly important to the character concept, and d8 in secondary attributes. They also have d10 in their top skills, and if they're combat-oriented they gain one Improved Combat Edge (as well as its requirement) in addition to their one or two other Edges.
Example: An elite bodyguard might have Strength and Vigor d10, Agility and Spirit d8, Smarts d6, Fighting d10, Shooting d10, Notice d10, Improved First Strike, Alertness and Combat Reflexes. An elite thief could have Agility d10, Smarts and Spirit d8, Strength and Vigor d6, Stealth d10, Lockpicking d10, Climbing d10 and Fighting d8, as well as Acrobat, Thief, and perhaps Improved Extraction. 
This approach makes it very easy to think up an NPC Extra on the fly. All I need to remember is something like "basic blacksmith" or "experienced ranger", and that gives me enough information to mentally calculate the stats. I can also use the same approach for unimportant NPCs when writing down notes for an adventure, on the off-chance that I do later need some stats for a particular NPC.

Memory-hook Minions

The previous approach works well for individual NPCs, but often I just need a load of identical minions or faceless cannonfodder, and I like to make those even simpler so that I don't need to calculate anything. To that end, I use four types of combat NPC that are extremely easy to remember: 
Frail-Four Fighter
Trappings: Elderly farmer, sickly slave, street kid 
Stats: Strength d4, Vigor d4, combat skills d4, Toughness 4, Parry 4, damage 2d4 
Gear: Club, dagger or sling. 
The Frail-Four Fighter is very weak, and usually represents someone who fights by necessity or opportunity. 
Standard-Six Soldier
Trappings: Bandit, mercenary, soldier, town guard 
Stats: Strength d6, Vigor d6, combat skills d6, Toughness 6 (1), Parry 6, damage 2d6 
Gear: Shortsword, shield, leather armour. Sometimes a bow, or spear. 
The Standard-Six Soldier is the standard combat NPC, suitable for a wide range of roles. This is the typical opponent that PCs are likely to encounter in combat. 
Experienced-Eight Eliminator
Trappings: Mercenary captain, sergeant, veteran soldier 
Stats: Strength d8, Vigor d8, combat skills d8, Toughness 8 (2), Parry 8, damage 2d8 
Edges: Block 
Gear: Longsword, shield, chainmail 
The Experienced-Eight Eliminator is the more experienced melee NPC. One might be encountered as the nameless leader of a group of Standard-Six Soldiers, or several might be encountered as an experienced fighting unit. 
Topflight-Ten Tank
Trappings: Elite soldier, royal guard 
Stats: Strength d10, Vigor d10, combat skills d10, Toughness 10 (3), Parry 10, damage 2d10 
Edges: Improved Block, Weapon Master, Master of Arms 
Gear: Greatsword, breastplate 
The Topflight-Ten Tank is extremely tough, and should be reserved for only the most powerful of NPC Extras, such as a king's personal guards. Generally speaking an NPC this powerful would normally be a Wild Card in its own right. Be aware that the Topflight-Ten Tank can slow down combat - you might use it to delay the escape of an important NPC, but don't use it as general combat fodder. 
As you can see, the NPCs are numbered based on their combat values and their names are memory hooks, so that I never need to look anything up or work anything out. If the PCs are facing six mercenaries and a mercenary captain, all I need to remember is that the mercenaries are Standard-Six Soldiers with 6 in everything, while their captain is an Experienced-Eight-Eliminator who has 8 in everything. 

Should they require non-combat skills that fit the concept, I'll base those on the minion type as well. For example an Experienced-Eight Eliminator cavalryman would have Riding d8, a Standard-Six Soldier assassin would have Stealth d6, a Topflight-Ten Tank bodyguard would have Notice d10, and so on.

Defining an "average human"

Although there is no official definition of an "average human", it's possible to extrapolate by looking at various statblocks in the official books. If you look at the typical "soldier" in the Allies section of the core rulebook, for example, you'll see it has d4 in Smarts, d6 in all other attributes, d4 in Stealth, and d6 in the other skills (including combat skills). The "experienced soldier" has two attributes at d8 and the rest at d6, combat skills at d8, and a couple of combat Edges. The Fires of Ascalon one-sheet adventure in the back of Savage Worlds Deluxe also lists "Village Fighting Men" as having d4 in Smarts, d6 in their other attributes, d4 in Fighting and d6 in Notice. 

There are some even better examples in the Fantasy Companion, such as: 
  • Bandit: d6 in all attributes and relevant skills. 
  • Citizen: d6 in all attributes, d4 in combat skills, d6 in other relevant skills. 
  • Mercenary: Vigor d8, all other attributes and relevant skills at d6. 
  • Courtier: Smarts d8, other attributes d6, primary skills d8, Fighting d4. 
  • Town/City Watch: d6 in all attributes, combat skills d8, other skills d6. 
  • Militia: d6 in all attributes, combat skills d6, other skills d4/d6. 
We can see that citizens (covering "everything from farmers to crafters") and courtiers would typically have Fighting d4, while most bandits, mercenaries and village militia would have Fighting d6, and the Town/City Watch (described as competent guardsmen) would have Fighting d8. The Horror Companion also has a "typical cultist" who has Smarts d4, but all other attributes and skills d6, as well as a "Police Patrolmen" who has Spirit d8, other attributes d6, combat skills d8, other skills d6-d8. 

From that I've extrapolated that most humans have d6 in all attributes, sometimes with a single d4 or d8. Most also have d6 in skills related to their profession, or d8 if they're particularly well trained, but only d4 (or unskilled) in other skills. 

Real Professionals have Professional Edges

It's not uncommon to see people describe characters with a high skill die as being renowned experts or athletes in their chosen field, however the skill die alone is a better representation of raw talent than of professional training; an Extra with d12 in their chosen skill still has a 25% chance of failure at standard difficulty (TN 4) tasks. To represent professional skill levels, you should also apply a Professional Edge. Savage Worlds Deluxe describes Professional Edges as reflecting "many years of practicing a particular trade", and many of them grant a +2 bonus to their associated skills, meaning the character will only fail at standard difficulty tasks on a roll of 1.

Thus the Professional Edges help to differentiate between a skilled professional (d8+2) and someone with exceptional talent but without professional training (d12). Both get the same result on average (if you ignore the Wild Die), but the professional is far less likely to make silly mistakes (12.5% chance of failure at TN 4, instead of 25% chance for d12). For a Wild Card, d8+2 is far superior to d12 - not only because the +2 is added to both the trait die and wild dice, but also because it means the character will only fail at standard difficulty tasks if they roll snake eyes.