Monday, 26 September 2016

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Successful Playtest

Ten brave adventurers set forth from the frontier town of Riverside, investigating rumors of a nest of vile goblins living in the nearby mountains. They expected to find gold and glory, but found only death, as the pint-sized fiends lured them into one ambush after another. Only the bard survived, but he had been tortured physically and psychologically by the goblins, and never sang again.
Two days later, the town itself came under attack, presumably by the same group of goblins. The vicious creatures destroyed two of the town's taverns and stole the third, smashing its supports so that it slid into the water. They rode the stolen tavern down the river and surfed it over a waterfall, escaping into the night.
At the weekend I ran Saga of the Goblin Horde for a group of six players. Half of them were already familiar with Savage Worlds, but I was still a bit nervous about running a game for such a large group, particularly as each player would be controlling five characters (a Wild Card boss, and four goblin gang member Extras). That's a total of 30 characters under player control!

However everything went surprisingly smoothly, and I was able to run two adventures back-to-back in about six hours. The adventures I ran were Dungeon Squat and Pub Crawl, which will be the first two episodes of the Plot Point Campaign. Manuel Sambs has written a very detailed report of the game here:

The Saga of the Goblin Horde continues

So make sure you check out the above link if you're interested in the setting!

The adventures involved my usual mixture of Interludes, Chases, Dramatic Tasks and Quick Combats, as well as two traditional combat scenes. I also introduced a simple two-stage mechanic for preparing and triggering traps, using a small deck of custom cards, and the players seemed to have great fun with it, so that's definitely a concept I'll look into using again in the future.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Chronicles of the Goblin Princess: Preview

The goblin princess, armed with an ogre sword,
a heavy golden ball, and steel-toed slippers.
Rick Hershey has completed the custom illustration that I commissioned for Chronicles of the Goblin Princess (in just two days!), and I'm really pleased with it, so I thought I'd share it and give a brief overview of the first three adventures.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Chronicles of the Goblin Princess is a series of adventures that can be treated as Savage Tales in the main Saga of the Goblin Horde campaign, or run as their own mini Plot Point Campaign.


Once upon a time, the chieftain of the Redfang tribe had a daughter who was so dangerous that he feared she would usurp him, so he called upon seven swamp hags to share their wisdom and advice, and together they hatched a plan.

On her sixteenth Birthday, the princess pricked her back on several poisoned arrows, and fell asleep just long enough for her father to drag her to a nearby tower, lock her up, and throw away the key. Thick metal bars across the windows prevented her from escaping, and most of the tribe forgot about her, but she managed to survive on insects, rats, birds, and the occasional suitor foolish enough to scale the tower. And there she remained, trapped in the tower for 100 days...

The Princess and the Peabrain

The foolish leader of a band of ogres has kidnapped the goblin princess from her tower, only to discover that she'd been locked away to protect others, rather than for her own safety. With the ransom demand laughed off by the chieftain, and the ogre body count steadily rising, the kidnapper becomes increasingly desperate to return the princess.

The Frogfolk Prince

While frolicking through the forest one day, the goblin princess encountered one of the frogfolk sitting in a pond, claiming to be a prince. The princess immediately hurled her heavy golden ball at him, crushing his skull like an overripe melon, then dragged his corpse home to have it stuffed and mounted as a trophy. With the recent alliance between the frogfolk and the Redfang tribe now in tatters, the chieftain will need to call upon his top negotiators.

The Steel-Toed Slipper

One day, the chief decided that he needed more gang bosses, so he held a Grand Brawl and invited the most aggressive goblins in the tribe to participate. At the last minute, a mysterious masked candidate entered the fray, and everyone was entranced by her brutal moves. But when the Grand Brawl ended at the final stroke of midnight, the mysterious goblin left, leaving behind a single steel-toed slipper embedded in the head of her final victim. Can the chieftain find the owner of the slipper, and grant her the promotion she so richly deserves?

Further adventures

The original plan was to have three adventures based around the goblin princess as an NPC, but I've decided to expand the series with a few more adventures where she can be either an NPC or a PC. So far I've sketched up some ideas for "Little Red Riding Dress" and "Bloodylocks and the Three Bugbears", but I'm open to more suggestions!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Latest News

I've got a load of new stuff coming up for Saga of the Goblin Horde over the next few weeks, so I thought I'd give an overview for those following the development of the setting.

Samhain Surprise

My fourth goblin One Sheet is finished, and I'm planning to release it a couple of weeks before Halloween. Frank Turfler (of Middle Kingdoms Adventure & Trading Company) will also be releasing a set of free maps to go with the adventure! His final map will be released at the same time as the One Sheet.

You can read more about the free maps here. As usual, hi-res versions of the maps will also be available to his Patron supporters.

Next Archetype

The majority of the artwork used in Saga of the Goblin Horde was created by Rick Hershey. Many other Savage Worlds products use his work as well, but I think it's a particularly good fit for my goblin setting (and not just because his company is called Fat Goblin Games!).

Rick recently started a new art subscription, this time for fantasy characters. Figure illustrations are pretty versatile pieces in general, useful for both covers and interior filler, but they're particularly good for archetypes - and better still, subscribers can post suggestions. I really like the other two subscriptions I've bought, so I decided to get this one too, and of course I posted a suggestion for a crazy goblin concept. You can imagine my delight when Rick added my suggestion a week later!

So as a result, I've decided I'm going to use Squiggle Mushroomhead for the October archetype: the goblin psychonaut (a tribute to an old friend of mine!). This will give me the opportunity to delve into some previously unexplored aspects of the setting, and reference a couple of new abilities from the main book.

Goblin Princess

After seeing the Squiggle artwork, I decided it was about time to commission a private piece as well, so I contacted Rick yesterday and he's already sent me a first sketch. The new illustration will be used for Chronicles of the Goblin Princess, a series of side adventures that can be treated as Savage Tales in the main campaign, or run as their own mini Plot Point Campaign.

One of the advantages of releasing Chronicles of the Goblin Princess as a separate PDF is that I can make it system-neutral if necessary. The same approach could be used for other adventures as well.

Playtest Session

A few months ago I ran a session of Saga of the Goblin Horde for Manuel Sambs and his girlfriend. As Manuel was already familiar with my other One Sheets, I ran one of my unreleased adventures, Root of the Problem. The game worked out great and we all had fun, although it was shorter than I'd planned.

Next weekend I'm going to run another game. This time it'll be a larger group, and I've prepared two adventures that can be run back-to-back if necessary (Dungeon Squat and Pub Crawl, which are also the first two episodes of the PPC - both are humorous spins on the traditional dungeon crawl concept). Manuel has prepared some of his awesome table tents for the goblin archetypes, so hopefully we'll get some pictures to post after the game!

Custom Wild Dice

Inspired by Kristian Serrano's SBN Wild Dice, I decided to order some custom laser-engraved Wild Dice for Saga of the Goblin Horde. They're 16mm green Oblivion dice with a goblin head in place of the 6 spot, and I will post pictures as soon as I get them (although this may take a few weeks).

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Setting Design: Wild Card Symbols

Characters in Savage Worlds are divided into two categories: Wild Cards and Extras. The PCs are Wild Cards, as are important allies, major villains, special monsters, and so on; as a rough rule of thumb, if an NPC is important enough to have a name, background, and plot protection, they're probably a Wild Card. On the other hand, if your ally wears a red shirt without a name tag, they're almost certainly an Extra.

Wild Cards traditionally have a symbol beside their name to indicate their Wild Card status, with the precise symbol changing from setting to setting. However it'll be a recurring theme throughout the book, and repetition is one of the major principles of graphic design, so I think the subject is worthy of a blog post.

The precise choice of Wild Card symbol is obviously going to be a matter of personal (and artistic) taste, so I will instead focus on the technical aspects.

File Format

There are three typical file formats for Wild Card symbols, as follows:

Raster Image
Ideally using a lossless format such as png or tiff, this option is preferable for highly detailed Wild Card symbols, such as the Joker in Pinnacle's older supplements, or the witchmark symbol in Accursed. The downside is that the image will become pixelated when enlarged.

Vector Image
This is used in much the same way as a raster image, but is calculated with vectors instead of drawing pixels, allowing the image to be scaled without losing quality. The downside is that it sometimes doesn't work too well with complex images, or those with subtle color gradation.

Dingbat Font
The third option is to use a dingbat font, such as wingdings. The downside of a font is that the image will be monochrome, however it scales like a vector image, and doesn't need to be precisely positioned on the page like an image.

Comparison of raster and vector/font images, with
the enlarged Wild Card symbol on the right.


I decided to take a quick look through a variety of different Savage Worlds PDFs, and see what sort of Wild Card symbols and file formats they used. Here's what I found:

Core Rulebook
Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition: SW Joker (raster image).
Savage Worlds Deluxe: Cross (wingdings font).

Official Companions
Fantasy Companion: SW Joker (raster image).
Horror Companion: Monstrous skull (raster image).
Science Fiction Companion: Star (dingbat font).
Super Powers Companion: Explosion (vector image).

Old Pinnacle Settings
50 Fathoms: Skull and crossbones (dingbat font).
Evernight: SW Joker (raster image).
Necessary Evil: SW Joker (raster image).
Rippers: SW Joker (raster image).
Sundered Skies: SW Joker (raster image).

New Pinnacle Settings
East Texas University: Pentagram (raster image).
Lankhmar: Blade (dingbat font).
Rippers Resurrected: Mask (WildCard font).
Savage Tales of Horror: Skull (WildCard font).
Weird Wars Rome: Blade (dingbat font, same symbol as Lankhmar).

Licensee Settings
Agents of Oblivion: Martini glass (raster image).
Hellfrost: Dragon head (raster image).
Drakonheim Savage Companion: Skull (vector image).
Accursed: Witchmark (raster image).
Realms of Cthulhu: Elder Sign (raster image).

Pinnacle frequently used the Savage Worlds joker (a raster image) in many of their earlier books, but appear to have created a custom WildCard font for some of their newer books, which is a rather elegant solution.

My Solution

In the past I've mostly used dingbat fonts for Wild Card symbols, although some of my recent releases used raster images. Since then I've moved on to vector images, and finally back to fonts.

When I commissioned my cover from Lord Zsezse Works, they also provided me with the title text, which included a small goblin head to dot the letter 'i'. The goblin head is also a perfect fit for the Wild Card symbol, so I decided to use it for that as well. The only problem was that it looked a bit blurry around the edges when I tried to shrink it.

Fortunately there's a free vector graphics editor called Inkscape, which I was able to use to convert the icon from a raster image to a vector image. I've also used the vector image for some custom laser-engraved Wild Dice, which I'll discuss in a future post (once they arrive).

However the vector images still need to be manually positioned to make sure they're all lined up, which is fiddly and annoying - and worse still, Scribus doesn't seem to have any way to anchor images to a specific location in the text, so whenever the layout changes, all the Wild Card symbols need to be manually repositioned!

My final solution was therefore to use to create a new font, with the goblin head as one of the characters. In theory I could extend the font with other symbols in the future, and create my own WildCard font like Pinnacle have done, and that's certainly something to consider. But for the time being, I only need the one symbol, so my custom dingbat font only has one character.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Updated One Sheets

Last month I updated the trade dress on my goblin archetypes, and mentioned that I was planning to do the One Sheets "soon" - well, I've finally had the chance to update them too, so now all of the Saga of the Goblin Horde PDFs are in the same style, using the custom cover and page backgrounds I commissioned from Lord Zsezse Works.

The One Sheets originally included stats for the goblin gang members, but rather than reprint the stats in every single One Sheet I've decided to move them into an additional page at the end of the archetypes PDF, along with the gang-based rules from the setting book, and the fast-track promotion concept using the Mutation Deck that I originally described here.

As usual, you can download the archetypes here, and the One Sheet adventures here, here and here.

The Samhain Surprise One Sheet I've mentioned a few times is also finished, but it won't be released until closer to Halloween.

In other news, I've finished the gazetteer chapter for the setting book, and I'm about half done with the "gods and magic" chapter, so the player half of the book is getting very close to completion.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

About Me and Freelancing

Kyle Carty on the Official Savage Worlds Facebook Group recently promoted a new group for RPG freelancers, where people can introduce themselves, and share their knowledge and experience. The group is called "Tabletop Freelancer Resources", so check it out if you're interested in the subject.

However his post got me thinking about the path I've taken, and as it seems a lot of other people are also interested in getting into freelancing or self-publication, I thought I'd give an overview of my background in roleplaying games, and how it took me to where I am now.

I don't usually talk much about myself, preferring to focus on my work, but I thought I'd make an exception this time, as it helps explain why I do what I do. If you're only interested in the freelancing part, feel free to skip to the Savage Worlds section (I've added a picture as a bookmark, just scroll down to that).

Primary School

My first experience with roleplaying games was red box D&D. I was about 8 years old, and the GM was a year older than me, but neither of us had much idea what we were doing. We played a few times, and I even asked my grandparents for my own copy of the game as a Christmas present, but I soon moved on to other interests.

Secondary School and Sixth Form College

Fast forward a few years. I was now about 12 years old, and heavily into Fighting Fantasy and other "choose your own adventure" books, but then my parents mistakenly bought me a copy of Dragon Warriors for Christmas (it was the same size, shape and artistic style as the FF books). I was instantly hooked, and soon convinced a group of friends to start playing with me.

Over the next 6 years my friends and I played many different roleplaying systems, and invented several of our own. But eventually we turned 18, and scattered around the country to attended different Universities.


University life brought its own experiences, including a roleplaying society and various organized events. I made many new friends, and played with various different groups, but the majority of my gaming was World of Darkness, particularly Vampire the Masquerade.

Work Life

After graduating I moved to a different part of the UK, and it took around two years before I was able to assemble another group - then six months later I moved again for a new job. Once again it was probably a couple of years before I formed a new group, and then I moved yet again, this time to another country.

Life Abroad

In October 2001 I moved to Germany. I'd learned my lesson by this point, and wasn't willing to just wait around, so I immediately started hunting for a group. It took a few months, as I needed to find a group who were willing to initially play in English, but I was successful.

Over the years most of the players moved away, and occasionally others would join. I eventually became the full-time GM, as none of the remaining group were interested in GMing, and although I ran several different systems (and tested a few more homebrew systems of my own devising), most of my campaigns alternated between D&D 3.5 and WoD.

I loved the way skills scaled in WoD, the way you could start play as a competent character, or even be an expert in your chosen field. I also thought the merits and flaws were really cool, giving characters a unique feel. However the combat just didn't do it for me - I didn't run many fight scenes, but when I did they felt anticlimactic, just rolling fists full of dice and counting the successes. I found WoD great for the story, but not the action.

By contrast, D&D 3.5 had the game mechanics to support interesting and tactical combat, and I found the fight scenes could get pretty exciting at times (although it slowed down when there were lots of opponents). However I really didn't like the skill system. It was certainly a step up from the "non-weapon proficiencies" in 2nd edition, but it still felt tacked on, and I didn't like the way the skills were so heavily tied to your level (i.e., you start out completely incompetent, and can eventually swim up waterfalls). I loved the feats though.

Then in 2010, I discovered Savage Worlds...

Savage Worlds

Even my son likes Savage Worlds!
Savage Worlds combined the things I liked best about both D&D 3.5 and WoD. The skill system scaled like WoD (i.e., you could start out as an expert in your chosen field if you wished), but the combat was tactical and exciting (and even more flexible than D&D, without getting bogged down when there are lots of combatants). It had Edges (which combined the merits of WoD with the feats of D&D) and Hindrances (like the flaws of WoD), and even had Bennies (like fate points in D&D 3.5 Eberron, which was another mechanic I really liked).

I also liked the dice mechanic. The WoD dice pools could get out of hand, while rolling a single d20 in D&D always felt a bit too random. But Savage Worlds found a compromise between the two - roll a trait die and a wild die, and keep the highest. And of course you had Bennies for rerolls if the situation was important enough.

I liked the way Savage Worlds wounds are handled more like WoD, so you don't have to chip away at hit points like a lumberjack chopping down a tree, instead there's just 3 "health levels" for the PCs and important NPCs. The fact that Extras don't have wound levels or a wild die helps speed up combat considerably, as I can throw a handful of dice to resolve all their attacks simultaneously, and I no longer need to track hit points or write down initiative (I hate bookkeeping).

And of course, Savage Worlds also has some really cool settings, most of which have an unusual twist, and game forums with a very friendly and supportive community. So once I got started, there was no going back.

Fan Content: Tools

Although I was new to Savage Worlds, by this point I'd already been roleplaying for more than two decades, and had created several of my own systems from scratch - not to mention my other hobby of designing and developing competitive online games, where precise game balance is far more important.

Therefore it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to learn that I'm a bit of a tinkerer when it comes to game design, and right from the start I was interested in understanding and expanding the mechanics of Savage Worlds (something which newbies are generally discouraged from doing, admittedly!).

Within three months I'd created the first prototype of a Combat Simulator, which became my first Savage Worlds tool. Since then I've developed over 30 additional tools, most of which are available online, including character builders, random character generators, adventure generators, monster converters, a statblock analyzer, and so on.

Designing such tools gave me a much better understanding of how Savage Worlds works, and helped build my reputation as a contributor within the community, but it also led me to something new: creating fan PDFs.

Fan Content: PDFs and Blogging

As I've already mentioned, I'd previously developed several homebrew roleplaying systems. However I'd only ever produced them as simple documents, initially with pen and paper, then later with a word processor. But Savage Worlds has many fan developers, and most of them release their work as a PDF. With a quick Google search, I realized that I could easily create PDFs simply by exporting my Word documents - then all I needed to do was make the results look good.

Back then, Storn Cook would frequently post samples of his awesome artwork on the Pinnacle Forums, and allowed much of it to be used under a Creative Commons license. I used his art extensively (and PM'd him to make doubly sure he was okay with it), and in March 2012 released my first fan supplement: Supernaturalis.

The reception from the community was pretty lukewarm, but people seemed particularly interested in my weapon creation system, so I turned that into a separate fan PDF and released it a month later as Savage Armoury - it proved a big hit (in fact it's still probably my most popular creation to date), so I started churning out more PDFs: Savage Arcanum (June 2012), Savage Spellbook (May 2013), Savage Dragons (October 2013), Savage Undead (October 2013), Savage Frost Giants (January 2014), Savage Beasts (February 2014), and Savage War of the Burning Sky Player's Guide (February 2014) and GM's Guide (9th March 2014).

At this point, Matthew Hanson of Sneak Attack Press contacted me, asking if I was interested in producing supplements for him as a freelancer. This caught me off-guard, it wasn't something I'd considered - and while it was flattering, I wasn't entirely comfortable about selling the rights to my work. I thanked him and said I'd let him know if I wanted to publish anything.

My next supplement was more complex, incorporating many elements of game design, and I released it as Savage Abilities in August 2014. I took a bit of a breather at that point, as I was also working on my tools, and involved in design discussions on the Pinnacle forums. And of course becoming a father in October 2014 threw me a little off my game!

In December 2014 I started this blog as a place to post my conversions, after getting into trouble for posting them directly on the Pinnacle forums (sorry guys!), although since then I've found it generally quite a convenient location to post my thoughts and ideas. It was also in December 2014 that I started working on my most ambitious fan PDF to date; at 160 pages, Savage Vancian Magic took me around seven months to write.

However by the time I'd finished Savage Vancian Magic, in July 2015, I'd already taken my first steps into the world of freelancing.

Freelance Work: Obatron Productions

In September 2014 I saw that Obatron Productions were looking for articles for Savage Insider, and better yet, writing for them didn't require giving up my rights - so I sent them a pitch, and they accepted it. My "Savage Archery" article was published!

I later followed up with two more article submissions, "Back from the Dead" in March 2015, and "Status and Renown" in August 2015, although the latter was for an issue hasn't been published yet.

Freelance Work: SPQR Games

In January 2015 I saw that Mat Greenfield was looking for someone to write up the stats for various NPCs in his Guild of Shadows setting, so I applied. Sadly someone else had already taken the job, but he asked if I'd be interested in reviewing his mechanics instead, and I readily agreed. He liked my feedback so much that he hired me to make the changes directly, and I got a bit carried away.

The Kickstarter had mentioned "more than 30 custom Edges and Hindrances", yet there were currently only 14 - so I added 17 more. The Kickstarter also mentioned expanded rules for disguises, so I add those too, along with additional rules for minions. Mat was so pleased with my work that he listed me as co-author, and then hired me to review the mechanics in the adventures and write the Rogues Hall of Fame.

The Rogues Hall of Fame was a stretch goal that the Kickstarter nearly reached, and Mat wanted to include it anyway as a thank you to the backers. The original plan was to include stats for 10 famous rogues from history, but I expanded it to 30, and had them double-up as valid starting characters. I also handled the layout and artwork, so this was the first licensed product that I literally created entirely myself. 3 of the NPCs were dropped from the final product due to being more "villain" than "rogue", so I secured permission to release them as an unofficial bonus page under the fan license.

Freelance Work: Sneak Attack Press

In August 2015, Sneak Attack Press announced the Kickstarter for Drakonheim: City of Bones. I backed it, and immediately fell in love with the setting. I also recalled my earlier exchange with Matthew Hanson, and feeling more confident after my recent freelancing efforts, I decided to contact him.

Drakonheim is a system-neutral setting, but Sneak Attack Press also publish a lot of content for Savage Worlds. Matthew had a lot on his plate with other projects, but was interested in hiring me to create a Savage Worlds companion for Drakonheim, and convert his earlier Heroes of Drakonheim adventures from D&D 5e.

Whereas my work on Guild of Shadows had been flat rate, Sneak Attack Press paid by the word, so now I had to be a bit more careful about what I wrote. The earlier setting book already contained the flavor text, so I focused almost exclusively on the mechanics, trying to keep them interesting and concise. I also had to make sure I didn't deviate from the published setting, so I had to thoroughly familiarize myself with the setting book, and maintain close contact with Matthew.

Once the documents were complete (and after a short delay to avoid competing with Savage Rifts), Sneak Attack Press ran a successful Kickstarter to fund the artwork, and with Matthew's permission I released a couple of free One Sheets under the fan license to help promote it: Gray Matter and Broken Crown.

Freelance Work: Gun Metal Games

In December 2015, David Jarvis wrote a number of posts describing aspects of his new setting, Codex Infernus. I was interested in the project, having backed it on Kickstarter, so I responded to a few of his posts and gave feedback on the mechanics. David sent me a private message and asked if I'd like to do some editing work, and I readily accepted.

While the setting was nearly complete, there were still a few things missing, which gave me the opportunity to contribute some new content. David wasn't satisified with the corruption rules, for example, so I wrote a revised system for him. I also created an angel race (which will be released in a future Forces of Light supplement), and expanded rules for the Faith skill, including angelic and demonic weapons.

My first proposal for divine weapons wasn't what David was looking for, so I turned the content into a fan supplement called Eldritch Weapons. This also allowed me to practice the layout and presentation skills I'd been working on.

Freelance Work: Melior Via

In January 2016 I decided to update and expand my Savage Frost Giants fan supplement, which contained guidelines for an unofficial Witchbreed for Accursed. John Dunn mentioned Savage Frost Giants in the next Kickstarter update for Accursed: World of Morden, which I had eagerly backed earlier in the month, and the SBN News Podcast mistakenly reported that I was working for Melior Via. I corrected them, but John decided he liked the idea, and asked if I'd be interested in writing a One Sheet for Accursed!

I'd already released two One Sheets under the fan license by that point (Sanguine Solstice and Bone of Contention), and John had already seen them, and said he'd like something similar. So I sent him a pitch for Dark Queen's Gambit, he gave it the thumbs-up, and two weeks later I submitted the finished adventure.

Freelance Work: Just Insert Imagination

In April 2016, Eric Lamoureux contacted me. He'd been impressed by my work on Codex Infernus, and wanted to know if I was interested in working on a new project for Just Insert Imagination - a Mutation Deck. Eric's initial idea was to create a deck of around 40-52 cards, each listing three versions of a mutation: One disadvantage comparable with a -1 racial ability, one zero-sum mutation, and one advantage comparable with a +1 racial ability.

I proposed turning it into a 56-card deck that also doubled up as an Action Deck, complete with four Jokers, with each card offering an Advantage comparable with an Edge, and two Disadvantages comparable with Minor and Major Hindrances. It took a couple of weeks to complete the first draft, but that was followed by four months of polishing, play-testing and refinement, and I think it was worth the wait!


My freelancing experience has been varied, interesting and educational, it's given me the chance to network with some very talented and creative people, build up some credentials, and I've gained a lot of valuable insight into the publication process. However when I sell the rights to my work, it sometimes feels like I'm selling a little piece of my soul, so in general I view freelancing as a means to an end - a stepping stone to becoming self-published. That certainly doesn't mean I won't do more freelancing work in the future, but I'm trying to avoid working on things that close off avenues I might like to explore with my own supplements in the future.

The early fan PDFs I produced were simple Word-exported PDFs with low-resolution artwork, they were functional but ugly. But as my standards have increased, so have my costs; high production values require proper layout and high-quality artwork, and even stock art can get expensive when you need a lot of it. Now that I've started commissioning custom art, my overheads are increasing accordingly, and this isn't sustainable for a hobby (my artwork is currently all funded through my freelancing). But pride in my work prevents me from lowering my standards.

Last year I started sketching out some rough ideas for Saga of the Goblin Horde, releasing my first One Sheet adventure, Sanguine Solstice, in December 2015. I released the next adventure, Bone of Contention, in February 2016. Then in March 2016 I released the third adventure, Egg Hunt, along with four archetypes and an overview of the setting. Since then I've been releasing one new archetype each month, while working in parallel on the main setting book, which I hope to have completed by the end of the year (or perhaps early next year at the latest).

Once that's finished there are several other personal projects I'd like to work on, including two mini-settings that I'm really excited about, several unusual adventure ideas, and a few new splats. I'd also like to re-release expanded versions of my older PDFs with new layout and artwork, like I've already done for Savage Frost Giants, Savage Undead and Savage Dragons.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Building Goblins Quickly with the Mutation Deck

The goblin race in Saga of the Goblin Horde has a natural predisposition for unusual mutations, for reasons that are more fully explored in the setting book itself. This is primarily represented through various new Edges and Hindrances (as can be seen in some of the archetypes), but it's also an excellent fit with the new Mutation Deck from Just Insert Imagination.

Fast-Track Promotion

In Saga of the Goblin Horde, the players take on the role of gang bosses, each leading their own pack of goblin cut-throats. Should a PC be incapacitated or killed during play, it's pretty straightforward to let the player promote one of their gang members to Wild Card status and carry on playing. But this replacement character is going to feel very generic (gang members all have the same stats, to keep things simple during play).

A generous GM might allow the player to fully design their new character, but doing this in the middle of the game can seriously slow things down for the rest of the group. Therefore I'm going to outline a very quick and easy way to convert a goblin gang member into a unique Wild Card, using the Mutation Deck.

Base Stats

All goblins in Saga of the Goblin Horde have Darkvision, Size -1, and suffer a -4 Charisma penalty when dealing with humans. They also begin with Agility d6, and a free d6 in Stealth and Survival.

My proposed character creation process therefore works as follows:
  1. Draw three cards from the Mutation Deck (this can be split up by suit into four decks if you wish), representing the core character concept.
  2. Begin with d6 in all attributes, and d6 in Fighting, Notice, Riding, Stealth, Survival, and Throwing.
  3. Begin with d6 in three other skills, chosen from Climbing, Intimidation, Shooting, Swimming, Taunt and Tracking.
  4. Increase one skill and its linked attribute from d6 to d8.
  5. Add the Mutant Hindrance for all three mutation cards, one as a Major Hindrance, and the other two as Minor Hindrances.
  6. Take the Mutation Mastery Edge for one of the Mutant Hindrances.
  7. Take either a second Mutation Mastery Edge, or one of the other new Edges from the Mutation Deck (Elemental Focus, Physical Endowment, Psychically Gifted, or Shapeshifter).
  8. Choose a name, pick up three Bennies for the new Wild Card goblin, and you're ready to go!
The new character can take control of the rest of the gang for the remainder of the session, after which they'll have to calculate their gang size as normal.

If the player's original character later comes back (e.g., perhaps they were only incapacitated), the new character isn't demoted, they simply leave to start their own gang. Perhaps the player will encounter them again in the future as an NPC!


Joe is playing Big Brak, a vicious bugbear brute who loves combat. During one particularly deadly encounter he is incapacitated, leaving Joe with four gang members but no playable boss.

The GM allows Joe to promote one of his gang members to the role of temporary boss, so Joe draws three cards from the Mutation Deck to determine what sort of concept the new character has, and gets Hyena Jaws, Flame Kissed and Metal Bond. He then writes down his starting attributes and skills, picks three more skills (Intimidation, Shooting and Swimming), and increases Intimidation (and therefore Spirit) to d8.

Publisher's Choice Quality Stock Art
© Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games
Joe chooses Metal Bond as a Major Hindrance, and Hyena Jaws and Flame Kissed as Minor Hindrances, then he takes Mutation Mastery for Flame Kissed (his new character can cause her hands to burst into flames) and Elemental Focus (she can also breathe a jet of fire at her enemies).

Finally, Joe names his new character "Sissi Hotlips", grabs three Bennies, and he's ready to play!


While my goal here is to outline a system for quickly creating replacement characters, the exact same approach could also be used for generating regular characters at the beginning of a session. This can be particularly useful for one-shot games where the player doesn't fancy any of the existing archetypes.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Initiative: Jokers Don't Go First

...Jokers go whenever they like.

Something that I've seen crop up from time to time during games and discussions is the false assumption that Jokers always act first in combat. This assumption overlooks one of the biggest tactical advantages of the Joker:

If you're dealt a Joker for initiative, then you can act whenever you like, even interrupting other characters in the middle of their own actions!

Of course any card can be used to go on Hold in order to act later in the round, but if you become Shaken while on Hold you lose your action, and if you want to interrupt someone mid-action you have to beat them with an opposed Agility roll, which can often be a risky prospect.

By contrast, with a Joker you don't need to go on Hold, because you can act whenever you like - so there's no risk of losing your action from becoming Shaken. And if you wish to interrupt someone mid-action, you automatically succeed, unless they have a Joker as well!*

So while it's true that Jokers can go first, it's usually better to wait until your enemy tips their hand, as often you can ruin their declared action while taking your own. If you wait until an enemy starts charging towards you, for example, you can automatically interrupt them and step just beyond their reach, preventing them from taking their intended attack. Or if they decide to shoot you, you can interrupt them to take your own shot before moving behind heavy cover (or even flicking off the light switch if you're indoors), giving them an unexpected penalty to hit you.

Savage Worlds offers a range of interesting tactical options, and Jokers are one of my favorites. So the next time you're dealt a Joker in combat, don't just act first - act tactically!

* When two characters have been dealt a Joker, and each wishes to act before the other, some people like to house rule that one color of Joker acts before the other. If you're using the Mutation Deck (where each of the four Jokers has a different suit) you could even use the standard suit-based order of initiative. However the official stance is that the conflict should be resolved with an opposed Agility roll.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Goblin Wolf Rider

Month ten means the tenth archetype, and this time I'm posting it really early in the month, as I'm planning to run a game for a local group, and want to get the latest archetype finished before I announced the game.

So without further ado, allow me to introduce the goblin wolf rider!

As usual you can get the archetypes here, and the three One Sheet adventures here, here and here (the fourth adventure, Samhain Surprise, will be released next month).

Note that I've adjusted the fonts to keep the archetypes in line with the latest draft version of the setting book.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Hex-Based Plot Point Campaign

This is the final post in a three-part series about the geography of the Saga of the Goblin Horde setting, referencing the map created by Eli Kurtz of the Mythic Gazetteer.

In the first post I described the natural borders surrounding the goblin lands, while in the second post I discussed the organization and territorial borders of the goblin tribes. This time I'd like to take a short look at the mechanism for grid-based travel, and Savage Tales triggered by points of interest.

Click to enlarge (to 25% of the full size map).

I've previously blogged about overland travel, and even designed a hex-crawl system for the Heroes of Drakonheim adventure, but the approach I'm using in Saga of the Goblin Horde is intentionally simpler, as the goal of the system is somewhat different.

Each hex represents an area 8 miles across, and characters can move a number of hexes per day equal to half their Pace - so most people can move 3 hexes per day. When moving through swamps and mountains, you move half a hex at a time (either moving from the center of a hex to the line between two hexes, or from the line to the center of an adjacent hex).

Moving across the plain and into Darkmire Swamp.

Each time the characters enter a hex, the GM draws a card to check for a random encounter (if multiple characters are traveling together they only draw one card in total, not one card each). The chance and type of encounter depends on the terrain and other factors, and the card mechanism means that the further you travel, the more likely you are to encounter something. The GM can also simply choose to trigger an adventure at an appropriate point in the journey, of course.

The adventure will depend on the terrain, although some locations automatically trigger a specific Savage Tale, much like the approach used for the Plot Point Campaign in 50 Fathoms. For example there are several possible adventures that are available within any part of Shadowglade Forest, but visiting the Bone Quarry hex for the first time will trigger a specific adventure.

In this way, the players are free to roam the land as they see fit, triggering a combination of Savage Tales tailored to their current location, and random adventures created through the adventure generator. This should give the world more of a sandbox feel, which is something I really liked about the 50 Fathoms Plot Point Campaign.

The actual Plot Point Episodes are triggered in response to the players' overall progress, rather than their current location, although the GM can obviously speed up or slow down the rate at which the main storyline develops. But the idea here is that the overarching plot shouldn't freeze just because the players decide to wander off and do their own thing for a few weeks - the bad guys will continue to follow their own agendas at their own pace.

Thus while the Savage Tales are designed to encourage a sandbox feel, the Plot Point Episodes are designed to feel like an ongoing story that continues to play out at its own pace. The players should still have enough time to explore and do their own thing, but the Plot Point Episodes add an element of pressure that pushes the campaign forward and keeps the overall storyline on track.