Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Thin Blue Line - A Detroit Police Story

The latest project by Melior Via (the company behind Accursed) is a modern urban fantasy setting, which focuses on the paranormal investigations of the psychically gifted police officers of Corktown Precinct.

John Dunn offered to let me have a sneak peek at the current draft of the player's guide, so I thought I'd give a quick overview in case anyone else was interested in the project. I will focus mainly on the crunch because that's the area I know best.

Chapter 1: Detroit History

The first chapter is 39 pages, around a quarter of which covers the history of Detroit, the rest describing the neighborhoods and regions of interest, along with some maps. Most of the information is based on real-world history and geography, but there are also subsections covering supernatural activity.

Someone who is already familiar with the history of Detroit might already know some of this information, but for anyone else the chapter is invaluable. It's also well organised, broken down into separate sections that each cover different parts of the setting.

Chapter 2: Corktown Precinct

This chapter is 11 pages, and focuses on Corktown Precinct and the police force. It delves more deeply into the supernatural side of things, describes the various ranks and roles of the police officers, and explains the recruitment and training process.

Chapter 3: Fresh Recruits

This chapter is 11 pages, and covers character creation, setting rules, Edges and Hindrances.

Everyone begins with Knowledge (Law) d6 for free, which feels a bit excessive to me - I'd expect a typical lawyer to have Knowledge (Law) d6, but for most police officers I would rely on Common Knowledge. Savage Worlds Deluxe actually uses a lawyer with Knowledge (Law) d4 in one of its examples, and none of the Police stats in the Horror Companion have Knowledge (Law) at all.

Characters are also required to take at least d4 in Driving, Fighting, Guts and Shooting, which seems pretty reasonable. However the fact that they're not freebies, and that Legal Authority is explicitly defined as an Edge rather than a setting rule, would imply to me that PCs don't need to be police officers if they don't want to be - a common trope in urban fantasy, where the supernaturally-gifted civilian protagonist is occasionally called upon for their expertise. I don't know whether that is the intent, but I think it would make a fun option, even if it's only included as a footnote.

Setting Rules

  • Just as Lucky: This rule was also used in Accursed, although I'm not overly fond of it for reasons I've outlined before.
  • Lost Illusions: Like "Damaged Characters" from Accursed.
  • Reason and Delirium: A new mechanic, somewhat reminiscent of the Roads/Paths in WoD. It's an interesting idea that fits the setting like a glove, and I think I prefer it to the sanity mechanics I've seen in other settings.
  • Skills: Like in Accursed, Guts is used for Fear checks, Climbing and Swimming are merged into Athletics, while Lockpicking and Stealth are merged into Subterfuge. Two new specific Knowledges (Forensics and Parapsychology) are also included, and they're a good fit for the setting.

As with Accursed, a few Edges and Hindrances are also included from the Horror Companion, although you could ignore them if you didn't want to purchase an extra book.


There are four new Hindrances. Disrupted Psyche is like Cursed from the Horror Companion, except it works against Psychic powers rather than Miracles, and has been reduced to a Minor Hindrance. Glass Jaw has shown up in other settings. The other two are more interesting (and unique as far as I'm aware): Gambler and Haunted.


There are two new Arcane Backgrounds and five new Edges (although one of those is Dirty Fighter, which has appeared in other settings). The Edges don't explicitly list their categories; Parapsychologist looks like a Professional Edge, but it would be nice to know for sure (because of the rules for stacking bonuses).

Chapter 4: Parapsychology

This chapter is 12 pages, and details the new Arcane Backgrounds and their powers, including 14 new powers geared towards different types of psychic characters. Most of the powers look pretty good, the only one I'd take exception to is Autodidact (+6 to any Knowledge skill of your choice with a duration in hours) - I'd personally reduce the bonus to +2 (the same as the Scholar Edge).

As well as Psychics, there are also rules for Nullifiers - characters who are able to block the supernatural powers of others. I wasn't too sure about treating them as an Arcane Background initially, but after reading the extensive flavour text I think it's a good fit.

The chapter finishes up with a few pages on paranormal phenomena and rival organisations.

Chapter 5: Gear Locker

This chapter is 10 pages, and covers equipment and vehicles. There's a lot of gear listed, some of it is the same as SWD and some of it is new. Most of it looks pretty good, although there are a few areas I'm hoping the writers will take another look at before publishing, in particular:
  • Tasers are described but don't have any stats yet. Hopefully they won't work the same as ETU (I explained here why I dislike their version).
  • Splinter Rounds give a +2 bonus to Shooting rolls (the same as shot) but it's not clear whether they inflict the same damage as shot (1-3d6 depending on range) or as slugs (2d10).
  • Cold Iron Rounds gain +2 AP against creatures vulnerable to cold iron, which seems a bit arbitrary; if a fae is vulnerable to cold iron, surely they would still benefit from wearing physical armour?
  • M84 Stun Grenade are described as being "used to blind and deafen enemies", but they don't actually cause either outcome, only Shaken. I would have expected them to work a bit like the Blind power with the Sound (Deafen) trapping from SWD.
  • Tear Gas Grenades also cause only Shaken, which (particularly considering the new Shaken rule) makes it a very weak option that will barely slow most foes down. The same with the Paranormal Irritant Spray. I would have thought Fatigue might be more appropriate.
  • Riot helmets are only 50% effective against head shots, the same as a pot helm - however unlike a pot helm, they have a polycarbonate visor. Helms with visors are usually 100% effective against head shots.
  • Motorcycle jackets provide the same protection as chainmail, which seems quite a lot. Even providing the same protection as leather armour would seem quite generous to me (I usually just treat them as reinforced clothing; +1 armour unless you're hit with a raise).

The version I looked at is still a draft, but it's packed full of good content and is clearly close to completion. It actually reminds me a bit of the novel "Rivers of London" (called "Midnight Riot" in the US) by Ben Aaronovitch, except based in Detroit rather than London, and I can definitely see it appealing to fans of urban fantasy.

You can check out the Kickstarter here, and view the website here. I will definitely be backing this one.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Converting D&D Armor and Shield Enchantments

In a previous post I discussed my ideas for converting magic weapons from D&D to Savage Worlds. This time I'm going to cover armor and shields.

The concept is pretty much the same, although one notable difference is that some of the magic bonuses for D&D armor and shields have a purely financial cost instead of a numeric bonus value. To keep things simple, I chose to stick to numeric bonuses (+1, +2, etc.). Some of the bonuses have also been merged (e.g., "Shadow" and "Silent Moves") or streamlined.

Standard Enchantments

Most magic armor and shields in D&D have a simple fixed bonus in the range +1 to +5, which is applied directly to the wearer's Armor Class. However Savage Worlds is far less granular, and even +1 armor is a potent bonus, so here is the approach I recommend.

+1 Armor: +1 armor, reduced to +0 if hit with a raise.
+2 Armor: +1 armor.
+3 Armor: +2 armor, reduced to +1 if hit with a raise.
+4 Armor: +2 armor.
+5 Armor: +3 armor, reduced to +2 if hit with a raise.

+1 Shield: +1 armor against ranged shots.
+2 Shield: +2 armor against ranged shots.
+3 Shield: +1 Parry.
+4 Shield: +1 Parry, and +1 armor against ranged shots that hit.
+5 Shield: +1 Parry, and +2 armor against ranged shots that hit.

This is also consistent with the ability prices listed in Savage Armoury. Note that if you're using Savage Armoury as well, enchanted weapons and armor should always have the Masterwork ability.

Special Enchantments

The following are some proposed conversions of the special armor and shield abilities used in D&D. As with the weapons, the goal is to retain the general flavor of the original ability, while significantly toning down the mechanical benefits to match those described earlier.

Acid Resistance (+1/+2): Acid damage against the wearer is reduced by 2 or 4 points.

Animated (+2): As a normal action you can release this shield from your hand, causing it to float beside you and protect you as if you were holding it. This is treated as if you were holding the shield for all purposes (including encumbrance and Arcane Spell Failure), except that you can use your hand for other things. You can grasp the shield again at any time as a free action, and cannot activate more than one Animated shield at a time.

Arrow Catching (+1): This shield can be activated as a normal action and deactivated as a free action. While active it attracts arrows, thrown weapons, and other ranged attacks, causing them to veer unerringly towards it. Any ranged attacks made against targets adjacent to you are automatically diverted towards you instead. All ranged attacks against you receive a +1 bonus to hit and halve any penalties for obscurement or poor lighting, but don't inflict any additional damage for Called Shots or raises, as they invariably strike the center of your shield. This ability does not work against spells or area-effect attacks, nor against particularly large attacks such as siege weapons.

Arrow Deflection (+2): This shield can be used once per round to try and deflect a ranged attack that would normally hit you, as long as you are aware of it and not Shaken; make an opposed Agility roll against the attack roll, if you win then the attack is deflected and misses you. This ability does not work against spells or area-effect attacks, nor against particularly large attacks such as siege weapons.

Bashing (+1): This shield inflicts +1 damage when used to make a Shield Bash maneuver.

Blinding (+1): This shield can unleash a flash of brilliant light up to twice per day as a normal action, filling an area the size of a Large Burst Template centered on the character. Everyone within the area (other than the character) must make a standard (TN 4) Agility roll or become Shaken; if a target rolls 1 on their Agility die (or rolls a critical failure if they're a Wild Card) they are also blinded until they recover from being Shaken.

Cold Resistance (+1/+2): Cold damage against the wearer is reduced by 2 or 4 points.

Electricity Resistance (+1/+2): Electricity damage against the wearer is reduced by 2 or 4 points.

Etherealness (+3): This armor allows the wearer to cast Intangibility on themselves, using Spirit for the arcane skill roll; the armor has 5 Power Points for this power.

Fire Resistance (+1/+2): Fire damage against the wearer is reduced by 2 or 4 points.

Fortification (+1/+2): This armor or shield produces a magical force which protects the vitals. Additional damage caused by Called Shots is reduced by 2 or 4.

Ghost Touch (+3): This armor or shield protects against both ethereal and non-ethereal creatures. It can also be picked up and used by ethereal creatures.

Glamoured (+1): This armor can take on the illusionary appearance of a normal set of clothing, although it still retains its normal weight and provides its normal protection. The illusionary appearance is always the same, but remains active as long as the wearer wishes; switching the illusion on or off is a normal action.

Invulnerability (+3): This armor increases the wearer's Vigor by +1 die step.

Reflecting (+5): This shield can be used once per day to reflect a spell that targets you personally (i.e., it doesn't work against area effect spells). Make a standard (TN 4) Spirit roll, with a -2 penalty if the spell was cast with a raise: on a failure you are affected by the spell, while on a success the spell is reflected back on the caster.

Shadowy (+1/+2): This armor grants you a +1 or +2 bonus to Stealth rolls when attempting to move silently or remain unseen.

Slick (+1): This armor grants you a +2 bonus to resist and escape from grapple, constrict, Entangle, and other forms of confinement.

Sonic Resistance (+1/+2): Sonic damage against the wearer is reduced by 2 or 4 points.

Spell Resistance (+2/+4): This armor grants the wearer a +1 or +2 bonus to resist opposed magic, as well as +1 or +2 armor against damage-causing magic.

Undead Controlling (+3): This armor or shield grants the wearer the ability to cast Puppet on any creature with the Undead ability, using Spirit for the arcane skill roll; the armor has 5 Power Points for this power.

Wild (+3): This armor or shield continues to provides its armor and Parry bonuses to the wearer while they are shapechanged into the form of an animal.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Monster Builder

A couple of weeks ago someone on Google+ asked if there were any resources for simple monster creation - a sort of "dummies guide". I thought that sounded like a good idea, as I often see people making mistakes when writing up monsters (particularly with Parry and Toughness), so I put together a tool for it. 

You can access it here: Monster Builder

It's designed to be quick and easy to use, so it doesn't offer the same amount of detail as some of my other tools, but it might be helpful for people who don't yet have much experience with building monsters.