Friday, October 31, 2008

Not as much fun as I thought.

Much to my surprise, I was unimpressed with InSpectres (Sarah, however, enjoyed it, so I will with-hold serious judgment till giving it a second try). The GM also didn't seem pleased with the way it played out. He'd diverted fairly far from the default structure of the game, and I think that hurt it. Since 3 of his 5 players had no experience with the game, it may have been better to try it straight-up and without alteration. There was also an unexpected amount of rules-lawyering going on. It was surprising and weird to see that happen in a game that's so rules-light.

More than anything, I think what doomed it was two early uses of the word "supposedly". Several of us (me included) kept making "supposedly haunted" equate to scooby-doo-ish "turns out it wasn't a ghost afterall". That undermined our fun. Wish I didn't deserve any of the responsibility for that, but I do. I was trying to play sort of a "Doubting Thomas" style of character, who'd be skeptical early on, then eventually become a believer. I gave one thing a mundane "we were wrong"explanation, and everyone else followed suit thereafter. Such a shame.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

InSpectres tonight

Tonight at Wayward, I'll be playing in an InSpectres one-shot. A week ago I knew nothing (or next to) about this game. Today, I'm really excited and jazzed to be playing it. It's Ghostbusters meets Ghosthunters. You're a small company of paranormal investigators battling ghosts/vampires/zombies/cthulhu/urbanlegends/etc, and the RPG is structured like a Reality TV show, with side-scenes and non-linear story elements. The rules are uberlight, and a good roll doesn't determine success: it determines narration rights. Lets say you go to the library to research the occult danger you're investigating. Instead of rolling high and getting info from the GM (or rolling low and hitting a dead-end) you're rolling to find out whether you or the GM will decide what info you'll get. Win that roll, and you're free to say the villains are Cthuhlu worshipers with ties to the military - it's retroactively the truth, even if the GM was planning to have the villains be masonic werewolves. To run InSpectres right, a GM needs to be freewheeling and egoless. I think we're in for a treat tonight.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Silent November

Just a reminder: Don't expect much to be posted here in November. It's NaNoWriMo, and I've got a novel to scribe.

Amber +/-2

I also admire Amber more thanks to that observation.

Amber had 4 attributes. It has 7 powers. They're very clear that the vast majority of your points should go into the 4 attributes and 1 or 2 powers. Erick Wujcik was also quite up-front that Pattern costs 50 points but is a bargain. He encourages you to buy Pattern, because it's such a sweet deal, and that encouragement has saved the bacon of many a new player on more than one occasion.

Unfortunately, he also claims "Psyche is the most important attribute," then says the same about Strength, Endurance, and Warfare. That makes players not want to trust his advice (and the GM's advice, since we typically use that same line on the players).

Better character creation for Amber would happen if you invert the order. Tell the players to pick (and commit to) one or two powers before the attribute auction. Do it secretly, so no one benefits from knowing how many points others have left. Adjust point totals, then auction as normal. If you have points left over, then we haul out artifacts, worlds, and followers/creatures. If not, don't sweat it.

Still, it's hard to find a more brain-friendly character creation system than the one from the Amber DRPG.

Scion +/-2

Thinking about my latest post, I find I admire Mark Rein-Hagen just a bit more, and the work of the 15 or so authors of White Wolf's more recent Scion line that much less.

  • Mark designed Vampire: The Masquerade. In that first edition, he said there were 13 tribes of vampires, but only let PCs choose from between 7 of them. It was relatively easy to store the archetypes of 7 vampiric tribes in your mind. Easier than 13, anyway.
  • In the game he had 9 attributes, and seemed to know that might be pushing the envelope of some people's memory. So, rather than giving you points to split 9 ways, he instead had you first rank Physical vs Social vs Mental. You'd make that 3-way decision, then move on to subsets of 3-way decisions to make it all easier to handle. Smart move, that.
  • Likewise, instead of 30 skills, you had Skills, Abilities, and Talents, IIRC. You'd prioritize those 3 groups based on your concept of the characters professional or educational background. Then, within each group you'd get some number of points. This wasn't quite as fluid as the Attributes, but it was worthy effort, at least.

But then compare that to Scion:

  • 6 pantheons to choose from in the main book. That's not too bad.
  • But each pantheon has a dozen Gods statted out, and you have to choose one to be your parent. Luckily, you've got mythology to draw upon, it's not clans or characters you've never heard of. You probably already have one or two favorites from mythology.
  • For attributes, they kept the Phy/Soc/Men distinction, and it's subchoices. Good for them. But for skills, they just made one big list of 25 or 30 skills, many of which are further subdivided into specialties. Luckily, skill dice become irrelevant fairly quickly, so poor choices at this stage won't hurt you much.
  • Then you get 10 dots to split between Epics and Boons, combined. Here's where the problems set in.... There's 9 Epics (available at 1-3 dots each, and 15 knacks to choose from for each Epic), and 50+ boons (3 boons each in 16 standard purviews, +3 special purviews that use levels, one of which also has spells which adds another half-dozen choices at least) to choose from if you're making a Hero-level PC. Your divine parent gives you an xp break on half a dozen of those, but it's not such a break that it makes you stay purely "within type" - you can take any boon you want, and most PCs will dip outside the parently purviews.
  • By mid-campaign, you've 200 to 400 things you could be spending your XP on, and it's downright overwhelming.
That last point pisses me off. Faced with a landslide of possible expenditures, the players who are playing for fun, or to portray a character or tell a story just don't work at figuring out the puzzle. They grab whatever strikes their fancy, 'cause they don't want to spend time trying to balance out everything. Meanwhile, the munchkins who are playing to stroke their own egos find it worth their time to analyze and dissect between games. So the very people you don't trust with the most powerful characters end up with characters that are more powerful than everyone else. If you simplify things, and are up-front about the best choices in character design, you end up with minimal power gap between the players you trust and the players you want to throttle.

7 +/- 2; no more than 3x if it's magical

Here's a link to a cool blogpost at Delta's D&D Hotspot about the limitations to how our minds process information, and how those limits should be applied to RPGs. It's good advice, and I plan on heeding it in my own future designs. In a nutshell...
  • The human mind can evaluate (and store in short term memory) between 5 and 9 parcels of information at a time. More than that leads to analysis paralysis (or just forgetting things).
  • Therefore, no single step in character creation should include a choice between more than 5-9 alternatives.
  • Likewise, no single die roll should ever have more than 5-9 modifiers.
  • The more complicated the parcels, the fewer you can handle, and the exact limit varies a bit from person to person. So, to handle the lowest common denominator effect, you should really read "5-9" as "5, maybe 6 if it's fairly simple".
  • Another, largely unrelated property of the human mind is that we tend to think of things as: one-time unique event, two-time coincidence, and three-times means there's a pattern.
  • As a result, things that you want to feel exceptional or magical shouldn't happen more than twice in any single game session. If you can cast that spell 4 times per session, it no longer feels special.
  • An exception would be things that happen 3 times, but with a long pause between the second and third iterations. Like a recurring joke in a movie, when the long-delay third riff occurs, you laugh heartily and say "I shoulda seen that coming!"
Okay, so that wasn't a nutshell - it was 7 nutshells, coming from 2 different nut-trees. But, as a result, it was still just short enough for you to grok the point. (Well, most of you, anyway)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Professional Edges for Savagepunk 2020

New Professional Edges for use with Savage Worlds games trying to emulate the feel of Cyberpunk 2020.

Badge (Professional Edge)
Requirements: Novice, Vigor d8+, Guts d8+,
You don’t just have police connections, you’re actually a part of the force. A character with this edge is a cop or a member of a licensed security service with the legal right to use deadly force. It functions like the Connections edge, but if you use these connections to commit a crime, the GM is free to make you the target of a nasty Internal Affairs investigation. In addition, you have a fancy badge you can waive around to make the riff-raff get into line. The authority and power invested in you by your law-enforcement credentials gives you a +2 bonus to rolls of Intimidate and Persuasion whenever the target of your rolls is afraid of being arrested.

Sway Audience (Professional Edge)
Requirements: Novice, Spirit d6+, Artistry d8+, a positive Charisma modifier
Your artwork has been known to move people to action. While performing (or via a gallery show or other large exhibition) you can sway the crowd to your way of thinking. With a successful die roll, you can affect larger than normal groups of people. A success on an Artistry roll can affect up to 20 people, a raise brings that up to 100 people. Each additional raise doubles the size of audience you can affect.
You can get people to sing along, inspire the crowd to feel a strong emotion, or even provoke them to riot. Getting more precisely controlled action requires not only an Artistry roll, but also a Persuasion roll. The lower of the two rolls determines the maximum number of people influenced, following the scale sited above.
In order to have this impact, you must have an audience. If no one can see or hear your art or message, it will fail to move them. This is not magic.

Jacked In (Professional Edge)
Requirements: Novice, Smarts d6+, Computer d8+, CyberEnhanced
You’ve undergone the necessary cybersurgery and neuroaugmentation to directly interface with computers. You have neural plugs and/or a short-range wireless interface. The upshot of this that you may give commands to computers via thought, rather than keyboard or mouse. You may interact with computers from several feet away, not needing to sit in front of a monitor, and you have an internal heads-up-display of any computer you’re interacting with. What’s more, your reaction speed is much faster than those archaic hardware systems would ever have allowed.
You may take one extra action every round without penalty, but only if that action involves giving a command to a computer or rolling your Computer skill. Therefore you can monitor two computer programs at once, or even search a database while dodging bullets.

Investigative Reporter (Professional Edge)
Requirements: Novice, Smarts d8+, Spirit d6+, Guts d8+, Image d6+, Artistry d4+
You’ve established your reputation as a hard-hitting reporter and champion of truth. Your regular column or special reports pull no punches in exposing corruption, incompetence, and evil amidst governments and corporations alike.
This gives you a +1 bonus on Persuasion, Intimidate, Streetwise and Taunt rolls. In order for the bonus to apply, you must be using the name that you publish under – you can’t be entirely anonymous and use your reputation at the same time. Should you make a public statement that is later proven false, you lose this benefit for about a month.
The other benefit of this Edge is that your editor or publisher has great confidence in you. You get a +2 bonus to any rolls you (or they) make to resist pressure to censor your work or pull you off of a case.

Savagepunk Roles

In Cyberpunk 2020, character Roles are really important. They’re thecharacter classes of CP2020, defining your likely initial skills, andyour special power.

Savage Worlds has nothing of the sort. Butit does have Professional Edges, which allows me to create abilitiessimilar to the Role powers of CP2020.

The primary roles (and their corresponding special skills) of CP2020 are:
  • Cop – Authority

  • Corporate – Resources

  • Fixer – Streetdeal

  • Media – Credibility

  • Med Techie – Medical Tech

  • Netrunner – Interface

  • Nomad – Family

  • Rocker – Charismatic Leadership

  • Solo – Combat Sense

  • Techie – Jury Rig

…andthen there’s some variants in sourcebooks. There’s a variety ofdifferent cultural groups (Spacers, Gangers, etc) that have renamedversions of the Family ability. One of the books had some Stripper orProstitute class with a special ability called Vamp.

Looking at that list, I don’t think I’ll have to make Professional Edges for all of them.
  • Mostwould be just variations on the Connections Edge. Family (and it’s manyderivatives), Resources, and Streetdeal could all be viewed as justConnections with flavorful trappings.
  • CP2020’s Jury Rig isclose enough to SW’s McGyver. Mr Fixit and Gadgeteer kinda catch thefeel as well, but are a bad match since CP2020 doesn’t really allowthings with the power and versatility of Savage Worlds’ ArcaneBackgrounds.
  • A Solo’s Combat Sense can be covered in Savage Worlds via Danger Sense or Level-Headed or Quick or some combination of those.

That does leave a few things for me to design before we can start the game…

3 Savagepunk Skills

A cyberpunk-influenced game of Savage Worlds needs a couple of extra skills that aren’t on the normal savage skill list. These are (as I see it) Artistry, Computer, and Image.

Artistry (Spirit)
This skill governs composition, innovation and style for endeavors of the performing and visual arts. Consider it a gauge of talent and design sense. It does not convey an understanding of art history or musical styles (those would fall under various Knowledge skills), nor does it grant flawless virtuoso performance or photorealistic renderings (either of which is probably best handled by an Agility roll should they ever prove necessary in game). What Artistry does determine is how compelling your style is, and whether or not people think you’re cool. A successful roll of Artistry means the audience likes you. A roll with a raise or two grants you the metaphorical 15 minutes of fame, possibly including glowing reviews, future gigs, lucrative contracts and/or being hounded by the paparazzi as the GM sees fit.

Computer (Smarts)
This skill governs your ability to use, program, optimize and hack computers. It’s what you roll to break into the enemy datafortress, speed up your own processor, search for hidden files in memory, wipe a drive, or install new software. You can also use this skill to size up a computer system by sight, guessing its likely capabilities. Internet searches typically use Investigation, as that skill governs your ability to piece together clues and follow leads. (If it’s a fairly simple fact-checking or database look-up, don’t even roll, just assume anyone with even d4 in Investigation, Computer or any relevant Knowledge can find it.)

Image (Spirit)
This skill is all about what you wear, how you wear it, and how you carry yourself. It’s how you fit in, and how you stand out. It serves as a measure of how well you control your personal image, and also governs your taste in clothing, the size of your wardrobe and the extent of your acting and personal grooming skills. A successful roll of Image can catch someone’s eye, or, if you’d rather, it can hide you in a crowd. Any attempts to disguise yourself use this skill, as well.
In addition, a successful roll of Image just prior to any scene allows you to adjust your wardrobe and perceived style to match (or impress) the group you expect to interact with in that scene. Make the roll as you arrive at the scene’s location, and specify the group/organization/culture your roll applies to. If you succeed on the Image roll, you gain a temporary +1 bonus to your Charisma when interacting with that group. This assumes you have at least a casual awareness of the group. If you’ve been lied to or mislead about their personality or nature, the bonus can’t be used. If you interact with any groups that are radically different from how you've dressed yourself, the bonus becomes a penalty. Dressing to fit in with the Fashion Yakuza won’t do you any good on Posergang turf, or vice versa.

Me Fix Og

Me play Og. Me like Og. Og fun. ...but it's not quite perfect. Of the 7 classes, 2 or 3 seem underpowered.
  • Problem: Banging Caveman's power is inferior. There's two cavemen who are designed to be more effective in combat: Banging and Strong. Out of every 6 attacks, Banging caveman averages 3 damage, Strong averages 4 (1 more). Against a critter with Evade or Armor 1, their damage is 2 from both of them. Against a critter with Evade 2, Banging caveman finally comes out ahead. But even then he's then only averaging 1 damage every 6 attacks. At best that makes for a really long boring battle (he'll forget how to attack once or twice before the fight is over), but it's more likely to result in Banging Caveman becoming Dead Caveman since dinosaurs and megafauna will do 4 to 20 times as much damage. Worse yet, anyone who takes the Throwing ability outperforms Banging Caveman.

    Solution: Improve Banging Caveman's attack rating to 3+ (the same value for hitting that one gets if they take the Throwing ability). He'll outperform Strong Caveman most of the time, but it's balanced a little by Strong Caveman's bonus to Lift rolls. Strong Caveman can also take the Throwing skill to do 2 damage at a range, making him again better than Banging caveman, but only if he devotes an ability choice to it. Banging caveman's real advantage then is he gets the good attack without spending a skill choice to do it. It's not a great advantage, nor terribly well balanced, but it's better than it was.

  • Problem: Grunting Caveman's power almost never works. Obviously, that's intentional - he's not a wizard, he's a proto-shaman. However, it's also "balanced" by the power only being attemptable once per scene. Scenes in Og aren't clearly defined - the PCs wander about largely randomly, and the GM improvises wildly. As a result, Grunting Caveman could fail the roll early in the game, and think he's not elidgible to Grunt again the rest of the night.

    Solution: Treat the roll for Grunting more like it's an unskilled action, but allow only two successful uses per session. That is, roll a d6 when you Grunt. On a 1 you get a disasterous result (ala double 1's in the default rules) or forget how, GM's choice. On a 2 through 4 the Grunt does nothing, but you can try again next turn. On a 5 or 6, the Grunting is a success and it saves your bacon. You can keep trying as often as you want, subject to the normal forgetting how rules, until you've had two successes. This makes it more readily usable, but still far from a sure thing, and a series of bad die rolls can leave you uselessly accomplishing nothing for 5 or 6 turns in a row.

  • Problem: Eloquent Caveman's bonus is kinda small, if you're using random word assignment (which is my preferred method - I have the PCs draw words out of a hat).

    Solution: Next time someone makes an Eloquent Caveman, I'll have them pull half their words out of the hat, and then decide on the other half.

    Alternate Solution: For an on-going campaign, this problem could be solved by just working into the plot a semi-friendly tribe that the Eloquent Caveman can trade words with. This is the intended balancing feature in the game, but considering the plot tends to be pretty random (and player-driven, or more likely feigned-stupidity-driven), it's hard to force it to happen in the game. A semi-friendly tribe becomes an enemy tribe with one bad roll or goofy moment. Still, if you plan for it, you can make Eloquent Caveman's advantages pay off.

Those solutions should get all the PC classes back into rough parity.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Contemplating Options

I'm working on a random chargen system for use with SavageWorlds campaign that is designed to capture the feel of Cyberpunk 2020.I wantthe system to be reminiscent of the Lifepath charts from CP2020.

However,insteadof charts, I want a shorter & more abstract system. I thinkI'llhave it use playing cards: Cards are used for initiative inSavageWorlds, but not much else, and I'd be happy to justify theirexistencea little more. As a plus, it might feel a bit reminiscent ofthe systemfrom the original Deadlands (and/or the tarot card spreadsfrom 7th Seasourcebooks).

I think I'll have each PC be definedby 5 cards,and each card represents a specific event in yourcharacter's life thathelped define the person they became. Possiblyit's draw 7, discard 2,but it may just be 5-card stud. 5 is a nicenumber - it's notoverwhelming or overly detailed, and a normal SavageWorlds PC gets 5Attribute points and 15 Skill points. That means Icould try:
  1. Eachcard gives you +1 to one specific Attributeand +1 to 3 skills. Thiswould work with a draw 7, discard 2, method.Characters would be alittle random, and tend towards generalization.

  2. Eachcard givesyou +1 in one of your choice of two attributes. Likewise,each cardgives you 3 points to spend on a short list of two to fourskills. Thatway, two PCs with similar events in their past wouldn'tbecarbon-copies. However, it would also make the chargen systemslower,so I'd be tempted to make this a straight draw system. This mayplay havoc with the system by which Attributes limit Skills in SavageWorlds - what happens if you get 3 skill points but the skills inquestion are above your attributes so they cost 2 points per level?

  3. As #2, above, but instead of skill points, you get +1 to three skills from alist of 3 to 5 per card. We dodge the Attribute bullet by disconnecting skills from attributes at chargen. More exciting cards can also give you Hindrances and Edges, as long as the card balances out. On the plus side, we don't care whether the PC has the legal number of Edges or Hindrances, since they don't (in this version) ever get to take Hindrances on their own, and, when all is said and done, only get to pick Edges to represent cyberware. The big downside is that PCs are even more random than the previous method.

  4. Eachcard gives you +1to one skill (on average). In addition to the 5 carddraws, PCs get 5 attribute points and 10 skill points. This gives you alot of flexibility in character creation, but at thecost of making thecards/backstory less important. However, it means the Attribute-to-Skills feed becomes more important since PCs can customize the character more.

  5. Cards only give Hindrances and Edges. Attributes and Skills remain yours to pick and spend as you see fit.

There's probably a few other options I haven't even considered yet.

I roll Romance

Great quote from last night, that just popped back into my head:
"Can I roll the Romance skill to try to get Sarah Palin to rub my caveman's belly?"

Savage Cyberware

Update/Edit: This post is a nightmare. You'd be far better to use my new system, which is far more elegant, and doesn't add all this unnecessary complication to the character creation process. I'm leaving this old post here for posterity, but the new Cyber Die system is a huge improvement. It puts Cybernetics into Savage Worlds without adding ridiculous numbers of Edges to your typical character, as the system below did...

Context: Cybernetics system for Savagepunk 2020.
CyberneticEdges are only available as bonus edges via the Cyber-Enhancedbackground edge. Because they can be made inaccessible by damage(until repaired), they should be marked or recorded on a different partof the character sheet. Other Edges may be taken as Cybernetic Edges, provided a good rationale explains them as such. If taken as a Cybernetic Edge, the Edge is treated as Cyberware from then on, and is vulnerable to being damaged.

The following tend to be a little bit better than normal Edges, which hopefully is balanced/mitigated by restricted access (unless the PCs are rich, they can only get these at the start of the campaign) and the vulnerability of being shut down when damaged.

Cybernetic Edge
Requirements: Novice, Cyber-Enhanced
Oneof your arms (your choice) has been replaced by a cybernetic limb thatis stronger and harder than organic flesh. This gives +1 to yourdamage for Fighting attacks made via that arm, +1 to any Strength rollsmade predominantly via that arm, and grants +1 parry.

Cybernetic Edge
Requirements: Novice, Cyber-Enhanced
Yourlegs have been replaced with cybernetic models that are faster,stronger, and harder than organic flesh. This gives +1 to your Pace, +1to your damage when kicking, and +1 to any Strength rolls made torepresent things you’re doing with your legs.

Cybernetic Edge
Requirements: Novice, Cyber-Enhanced
Oneor more of your sensory organs have been replaced by cybernetic devicesthat with superhuman capabilities. This gives you +2 on rolls of Noticeand Tracking where such a sense would be useful.

Expanded Sensory Data
Cybernetic Edge
Requirements: Novice, Cyber-Enhanced, Cybersenses, Notice d8+
Yourcybersenses are augmented to not only outperform human senses, but toextend to frequencies that humans don’t normally perceive. You may seeinfrared or ultraviolet, hear ultra- or sub-sonics, etc. You may ignorepenalties for darkness or other environmental distractions to yourNotice, Tracking, and attack rolls. This also opens up possibilities ofsecret communication via those expanded frequencies, should equipment,some other Cybernetic Edge, or player ingenuity come up with a means.

Smartgun Link
Cybernetic Edge
Requirements: Novice, Cyber-Enhanced, Cybersenses, Shooting d4+
Yourgun is wired directly into your brain, with a targeting reticle in yourfield of vision or heads-up-display, and the ability to fire by simplythinking “shoot”. When wielding a Smartgun, you add +1 to your Shootingrolls. Nearly any shooting weapon may be purchased in a smartgunversion. Smartguns cost double dollar value of a “normal” version, andtypically must be special-ordered from gun stores. They cannot be firedby anyone who doesn’t have a Smartgun Link. A smartgun must be pluggedin and/or turned on before it can be fired, so drawing one requires anAgility roll. Should a Smartgun be broken or damaged, the difficultyto repair it is 2 higher than for the normal version.

Cybernetic Edge
Requirements: Novice, Cyber-Enhanced
Whethervia covert subdermal armor, Kevlar fibres woven into the skin, or moreobvious external plating, your body is protected by a layer of armorthat can’t be removed. You gain +2 armor to your entire body, and itnegates 2 points of AP from bullets. You may wear normal armor overthis with no penalty.

Improved Cyber-Armor
Cybernetic Edge
Requirements: Seasoned, Cyber-Enhanced, Cyber-Armor
Thebonus armor from the Cyber-Armor edge is improved by +4, to +6 total.The AP negation to bullets is increased from 2 to 4. However, thisarmor is too bulky to hide (though it may still look flashy, it doesn’thave to scream “armor”), and you can no longer combine it with externalarmor (such as helmets or kevlar jackets).

Cybernetic Edge
Requirements: Novice, Cyber-Enhanced
Viaadvances in miniaturization, power systems, polymers, and otherscientific breakthroughs, an amazing new marvel of technology has beenpacked into your alloy-and-organic chassis. When you chooseState-Of-The-Art, pick one other Cybernetic Edge (or non-cyberneticEdge being taken as a Cybernetic Edge) you are purchasing at the sametime. You may reduce any one requirements of that Edge by up to twosteps. For example, if the Edge normally requires Fighting at d10, youcould take it with a Fighting of just d6. If it’s normally a LegendaryEdge, you could take it while at Veteran Rank. However, you can'treduce two different requirements - only one.
You may takeState-Of-The-Art multiple times, but only once per Rank, and only onceper affected Edge. Subsequent State-Of-The-Art edges must apply todifferent (new) Edges.

Weapon Arm
Cybernetic Edge
Requirements: Novice, Cyber-Enhanced, Cyberarm, Strength d6+
Yourcyberarm has a built-in weapon. It may be any type of gun or meleeweapon you can afford, provided that you are strong enough to carry it.As an extra restriction, your Strength code must be higher than anysingle die in the weapon’s damage code. So, a character with d8Strength could have a shotgun, knife, or most pistols built-in to theirarm, but not a Molecular Sword, since that weapon’s damage codeincludes a d8. Note that the +1 damage bonus of the Cyberarm adds tothe damage of the Weapon Arm if it’s a strength-based weapon, but hasno impact on what size of weapon can be built into the arm.
If theweapon is a small one that normally requires only one hand to use, itmay be somewhat concealed in the arm, requiring a Notice check to spotit when not deployed. Larger weapons, however, are obvious to even acasual observer.

I've got lots more ideas for CyberneticEdges, and the above is just rough drafts. The design goal is basicallyto convert the feel of Cyberpunk 2020's various cyberwear into SavageWorlds without going to the painstaking detail that CP2020 dictates.

Remember,they work just in the context of the proposed system from a few postsago, so they can be a little bit better than some non-Cybernetic Edges.I'm also toying with a lifepath system, a bit like Cyberpunk 2020,which would make characters a little more random than in normal SavageWorlds, so putting slightly more power in these Edges isn't a horriblething. That said, I do still have to be careful about power creep.

I'll be posting more (and possibly revising some of the above) between now and when I run the first session.

Update/Edit: This post is a nightmare. You'd be far better to use my new system, which is far more elegant, and doesn't add all this unnecessary complication to the character creation process. I'm leaving this old post here for posterity, but the new Cyber Die system is a huge improvement. It puts Cybernetics into Savage Worlds without adding ridiculous numbers of Edges to your typical character.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I just got back from Wayward, where I ran Og for the Emerald City Game Feast group. So. Much. Fun. Everybody was in stitches, we laughed really hard and got all crazy. I'm now going to be running it again on November 15th at the yearly free Con the group puts on. Go Bang Big Smelly Thing!

Mark and John knew Land of the Lost nearly as well as I do. I GM'd, I have an excuse. I had to do research. They're just geeks. :)

No one (but me) was expecting Sarah Palin's Vice Presidential Inaction Rangers to show up. Instead of Al Gore, Gary Gygax, Nichele Nichols, Stephen Hawking and Deep Blue (per Futurama's VP Action Rangers), we had Palin, Joe the Plumber, Charles Keating, Elian Gonzales and Jenny McCarthy. They got sucked into the Land of the Lost via Pylon, landing in the midst of a fight between the PCs and Alice (the Allosaurus) when Grunting Caveman grunted. When all was said and done, only Palin survived, running off into the woods with her Moose Rifle to live a life not unlike Danielle (the crazy french woman) from Lost.

This was the most miniatures-intensive game I'd played in a long while, but that's too be expected of Og. With limited PC vocabularies they need something to gesture at, and it's a great excuse to buy plastic dinosaurs. The PCs were all D&D minis - quaggoths, primitive orcs, ghouls, mongrelmen, and anything else that liked like a caveman or Pakuni. The Sleestacks were D&D lizardmen, troglodytes, sahaugin, and kuotoa. I had an infernal T-Rex for Alice, and then picked up a couple of Papo and Safari Limited figurines to be the other dinosaurs (Spike, Junior) and a Dodo to be a random Terror Bird. It paid off, the game ran smooth, fast, and funny.

It was Ogsome.

Savagetics (Updated)

Update/Edit: This post is a nightmare. You'd be far better to use my new system, which is far more elegant, and doesn't add all this unnecessary complication to the character creation process. I'm leaving this old post here for posterity, but the new Cyber Die system is a huge improvement. It puts Cybernetics into Savage Worlds without adding ridiculous numbers of Edges to your typical character, as the system below did...

Background: as seen in previous post, I'm toying with the notion of Cyberpunk in the Savage Worlds setting. So I'll need rules for Cybernetics, Genetic Modification, Bioware, Wetware, and the like.

A quick search of the interwebs turned up Cyborgs as a monster trait and Cybernetics as an Arcane Background on Savagepedia. Neither is quite what I want, but it's got my brain cells running.

I don't want Cybernetics as an Arcane Background. Specifically, I don't think Power Points really capture the feel of CP2020 cybernetics. Your standard cyberarm doesn't run out of power and need to shut down for an hour. For that matter, most of the 31 powers in the Explorer's Edition don't match up to Cybernetics terribly well. Your cyberarm's extra strength doesn't line up well with Boost/Lower Trait. My cyberarm doesn't make my legs stronger, or make your arms stronger, or make you weaker, or make me Smarter, all of which can be done with Boost/LowerTrait. Sure, Trappings can reign that in, but you'd have to pump up theother aspects of the Power to balance. If you're gonna do that, why notjust make a Cyberarm Edge that does it for less complexity. There maybe Cybernetics that make sense as a Power or Arcane Background, butthat'd be the exception.

Afterall, I'm not looking for CP V3 level supertech. I'm looking for good old fashioned chrome and bolts.It's not Clarkean, it's not the Lost In Space remake, it's not sonic screwdrivers. It's mostly just wires and bitz where your flesh used to be.

That said, here's my gut instinct / second draft.

Players start off by making normal novice characters. There are no Arcane Backgrounds, and it’s generally understood that at this point they are buying the “meat capabilities” of their characters, un/pre-cybered.

Once normal character creation is done, everyone get’s cybered up. They get the following Edge for free: Cybernetically Enhanced.

Cybernetically Enhanced (Background Edge)
Requirements: Novice
You’re wired in, chromed up, and/or cyber-enhanced. Some portion of your flesh has been cut out and replaced with metal, and/or your nervous system has been computer integrated. No doubt about it, the machines have made you better than you were before, but some would say you’ve lost a bit of your soul in the process.
Your Charisma is reduced/penalized by –1. This cannot be removed, but it does not prevent you from taking other Edges that give you Charisma bonuses. You’re no longer entirely human, and that makes you a little cold.
As compensation, you gain 4 bonus Edges. Most often these will be Cybernetic Edges, a special category of Edge that represents hardened components and cyborg devices integrated into your body. However, you may actually take any Edge you want for the bonuses, provided you can justify it by pointing to a cyber device in a Cyberpunk book and explaining that the Edge is a logical benefit of having that bit of cyberware.
Examples: You could take Ambidextrous, and explain it’s a result of your advanced neural processor and targeting link. You could take Jack-Of-All-Trades to represent your “skillsoft” chipware and augmented memory database. Trying to justify “Noble” and “Filthy Rich” as the result of your cyberware might be more than the GM is willing to accept.
Cybernetic Edges may not normally be taken unless you have this Edge first.
Any time a Cybernetically Enhanced character takes a 3rd wound or is incapacitated, it is assumed their Cyberware is badly damaged in the process. The GM selects one of their bonus Edges to be deactivated by the damage (two if a single fight did a 3rd wound and incapacitated them. They cannot use or access that Edge until it has been repaired. Getting it fixed takes a Repair skill roll, with a –2 penalty if not done at a properly staffed and resourced cyberware facility, and 1d6 hours of work per Cybernetic Edge being repaired.
If the PC party makes a big score, the GM may choose to reward them with some number of bonus Edges to represent new cybernetic upgrades. Other than such awards, cybernetics can’t be purchased. This perhaps doesn’t make a lot of sense from an in-character and monetary viewpoint, but it is required for the sake of character balance and avoiding rampant inflation within the campaign. Savage Worlds is a light system, not intended for lots of economic book-keeping.
Bonus edges do not count as advancements, nor do they affect a character’s Rank. Starting characters still count as Novices, regardless of cyberlimbs and gadgetry, until they’ve accumulated 20 xp (and the 4 advancements that come with those XP).

Update/Edit: This post is a nightmare. You'd be far better to use my new system, which is far more elegant, and doesn't add all this unnecessary complication to the character creation process. I'm leaving this old post here for posterity, but the new Cyber Die system is a huge improvement. It puts Cybernetics into Savage Worlds without adding ridiculous numbers of Edges to your typical character, as the system you just read did...

Savagepunk 2020

An aside: The "best" thing about Savage Worlds is how easy it makestitling blog posts. Just add Savage to front of things, or swap outwords for Savage. I'm so glad the game wasn't named "Buttweasel Worlds".

We used to have this MOC campaign... it was a Cyberpunk 2020 campaign withrandom craziness furnished via Morton's List. I loved that campaign,but it had one problem: the PCs had to be total freakin' cowards. Wewere a freakin' booster gang, and the sort of nutcases happy to puttheir lives in the hands of the Morton Boulder as a weeklysemi-religious experience - those characters shouldn't be cowards! Butwe were dirt poor gangers, and the CP2020 system isn't kind to thosewho can't afford armor, so we had to play cowards or die repeatedly. Wedidn't end up dying...

While talking today, Sarah and I lamentedthe passing of that game, and she mentioned that it bugged her that wewere such scaredy cats. In her experience, she maintains, CP2020 ain'tthat lethal. But she'd played mostly in high school, with power gamersand munchkins, where subdermal armor, skinweave, and metalgear wouldfrequently all end up on the same PC. Short of that kind of abuse ofthe layering system (which our poor gangers couldn't afford), headshots are nearly always lethal in CP2020, and 10% of hits areheadshots. Bravery gets you killed in Cyberpunk.

The otherproblem with CP2020 is how long it takes to build a character (PC orNPC). Even if you just need the random chombatta in an alley, he needscyberoptions, weaponry, and the SP values for every limb. It's a fun,gritty system, but it's a big pain in the ass to improvise.

Aswe discussed those truths, our eyes collectively lit up. Savage Worldscould get us back the MOC campaign concept without having to playcowards or deadmen. We've got recent experience with a very flexiblegeneric system, with low PC lethality and very simple NPC statimprovisation.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Savage Idea

I not only missed that Joshua had more than just 3 pages on Savage Worlds, I also missed the coolest page. His specific, concrete advice on how to make Savage Worlds combat more exciting is very cool.

Italso just inspired an idea... Fights tend to be more exciting if there's stuff in the environment to interact with. A battle amidststeaming geysers is far more interesting than one that's set on afeatureless plain. Some games spend a lot of word count achieving this,with rules to govern every possible terrain type and improvised weapon.However, Savage Worlds doesn't have quite the complicated run-down ofterrain features that, say, D&D 3.5 has - and that's largely a goodthing, as it makes SW combat Faster and more Fun (though I suppose itdoesn't make it any more Furious). FFF is what it's all about.

Here'sa simple house-rule for Savage Worlds - it's not even a house-rule somuch as a philosophy or plan to use existing rules in specific ways.Basically, as a SW GM, you'd just commit to including in every fightscene one feature which you'll apply as a modifier to one specific typeof action/roll. Possible roll types include Agility Trick, SmartsTrick, Intimidation roll, Fighting roll, Shooting roll, Damage roll,etc. In the steaming geysers example, you might add +2 damage to anyattack that involves knocking or backing a foe into a geyser. You stillremain open to applying modifiers where appropriate when the playerscome up with something cool. The only difference is you're preplanning/ guaranteeing at least one such modifier is out there per encounter,and telling the PCs this at the start of the adventure. It's sort oflike there's a puzzle to figure out - a hidden bonus in every scene.

Theplayers already want to describe their actions colorfully, as the gameis more fun when they do. Sometimes, however, someone's having "writersblock" and keeps falling back on "I shoot them again!" Sometimeseverything's going so fast, people just jump at only the most obviousmoves. If they know, however, that there's a bonus out there waiting tobe discovered, and all they have to do is work it into the descriptionof their actions, I think it will jazz-up combat nicely. You'll want tovary it a lot, probably putting it on Tricks and the like slightly moreoften than straight-up attacks, so that you reward cleverness andexperimentation.

NPCs can use the bonuses too, by the way, but only once a PC has discovered / used it.

Update: An obvious alternate is to do it like Stunts in Scion. Anything coolthat uses the established terrain / setting gets +2 automatically. Thatmay be a little too powerful, but at least it doesn't require any prepwork on the GMs part.

Yellow and Blue make Ork

So, apparently a 5th Edition of WH40k has released sometime earlier this year, and, along with it, a new Orky Codex. This edition continues the gritty ork style of 3rd and 4th edition. To me, that is a such a downer. The new ork deathcopta's, which come in the new main rule set, are very sweet, but other than that, they just don't feel like orks to me. They feel like Goff Orks only, and fairly uncolorful Goff Orks at that.

As a former WH40k Second Edition player, Orks are all about flavor and color. I like the goofy Orky glyphs painted on my Bad Moonz Yellow armor, and the blue face paint for good luck on the drivah of my big red buggy. I want Gretchin with blunderbusses, and Runtherdz pushing snotlings, squig wargear, and all sorts of ridiculous artillery that's only slightly less dangerous to me than the enemy. When I'm playing Orks, I want random, I want crazy, I want to scream "Waaaagghhh!" at the top of my lungs. But most of all, I want the six orky clans with all their flavor and foibles.

And it's a good thing, too, because if it weren't for that disconnect between what I want and what the rules provide, the very charismatic manager at the GW store down the road would have had me sold on that beautiful boxed set with 3 ded sexy deathcoptahs.

Savage Links

A few interesting links that a google search for Savage Worlds turned up:

On some guy's blog from a month ago, he talks about 3 things he hates about Savage Worlds. In adjacent posts he also discusses things he likes about it, and things the GM should avoid, but the "Three Bad Things" post is most interesting to me. Not because I want to bag on the game, but because his 3 nits are different from the nits I pick. I love bennies, and hadn't yet noticed the character generation issues he belabors. He considers the damage system (which I dislike) to be one of the best features of the game. The three consecutive posts make for an interesting read.

This Savage Worlds probability analysis pretty much confirms what I'd felt: the odds in Savage Worlds are a little strange. If the difficulty is 6, you're better off with a d4 than a d6. If the difficulty is 12, you're better off with a d10 than a d12. That much I'd begun to suspect, but I'm glad to see that once the numbers are crunched out further, the differences are only a percent or so off. I was a little worried the mathematical paradox would be far greater. Just the same, I still see little point in taking anything above a d8.

What every new Savage Worlds GM needs to know, according to the Pinnacle Forums. The most useful to me is the "balanced encounters" system. "System" may be too generous a term for it, but it's a step in the right direction. I've been playing Scion for the past year and change, so I'm sick and tired of RPGs that give you no clues how long a fight will last and whether the PCs will slaughter, be slaughtered, or just spin their wheels ineffectively till the GM improvs a solution. In a nutshell, the "almost a system" presented on the forum is this: determine average damage for the heroes. Set the Toughness of the foes at 0-1 points above that average damage. For every PC, add 2 extras or 1 wild card villain, or increase the toughness of an existing villain by 1. Roughly. YMMV.

Savagepedia is a wiki, so anything I say about it could be completely invalidated at the drop of a hat.

Combat Survival Guide is technically just a table of modifiers, but it's organized as a problem-solving tool, so you can figure out what you need to do depending on the situation. Even traditionally "non-combat" characters will find something in that PDF that they can do to help the group win the fight. Tricks and Tests of Will are some of my favorite parts of the Savage Worlds system.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Next Up: Wham Trek

I think sometime in November I will run Wham Trek. In a nutshell, I plan on using Savage Worlds to make a one-shot that's part Star Trek, part the board games of Tom Wham (most especially Awful Green Things From Outer Space and the Snits games). I can use the boards from those games as maps for the PCs to reference.

Right Over My Thick-Skulled Caveman Head

According to the Og design journals at the firefly games site, I missed a pretty major joke in the original Land of Og. Characters never level up. Or rather, it takes 25,000+ xp to level up, and the biggest single award is about 2,000 xp per PC - and that's for the nastiest biggest dinosaur you'll never kill anyway. As Robin Laws describes it, it's like D&D if you had to kill Asmodeus (or some other major demon/devil/dragon/titan) a dozen times in order to get to second level.

I'm so jaded and used to house-ruling XP systems, I completely missed the joke (when I read Land of Og).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Land of Cha-Ka

It's my turn to GM for the Emerald City Game Feast group this week. Last Friday morning I toyed with the idea of running Land of Og. I've always wanted to play (or GM) Og, the caveman RPG where you get a handful of words to express yourself. The total list is 18 words (Fire, Hairy, Rock, Stick, Smelly, etc), and each character gets just a fraction of them. I love the idea of players using charades, half a dozen useless words, and lots of pointing to try to convey their actions, it makes me laugh.

But, truth be told, Land of Og was a barely playable game. Funny as heck to read, but not a good game, I'm afraid. I've never really admitted that before, as I've met Aldo Ghiozzi (the author of the first two editions) on several occasions, and he's always struck me as a not just a really nice guy, but a really smart man, too. When Wargames West went under, Aldo offered me a part time job despite my being in another state, and you just can't dis a guy who went out of his way to make sure you had a safety net. Aldo is a prince among men. I kept Land of Og around hoping to one day play it, and did my best to overlook unnecessarily complicated rules and the fact that one character class ("Smart Caveman") seemed brokenly better than all the other classes. So, Friday morning, I resolved to play it within a week, and knew I had to honestly look at Og's warts. An hour or two later, I started brainstorming simplified rules of my own based on the Og concept. It was designed during a time when RPGs were clunkier as a matter of fact, and didn't have the benefit of today's more streamlined design ethos, and I planned to update it for my own use.

Later that afternoon, on my way home from my chiropractic visit, I stopped in at Gary's Games, and what should I discover by Og Unearthed Edition sitting on their shelves. I didn't even know this third edition of Og existed. It seems Aldo figured out his awesome concept wasn't being done justice by the previous rules sets. So he hired award-winning game author Robin D Laws to simplify it. Needless to say, I bought it on the spot. I then swung by Top Ten Toys on my way home, where I purchased several quality painted plastic dinosaurs to use for miniatures. At home I found a bunch of D&D minis that, while they won't work for cavemen, per se, they would work for Pakuni, the monkeymen like those appearing in 2001, Land of the Lost, or - get this - the antagonist section of Og Unearthed Edition. I've got quaggoths, primitive orcs, grimlocks, ghouls in animal skins, a dinky little mongrelman, and a really fat Taer. Perfectly mismatched, and just about in-scale for the dinosaurs. I will be running a heavily Land of the Lost influenced Og session this Thursday, and the PCs will be Cha-Ka's clan. It's gonna be fun.

I also hauled out the minis from my Betrayal At House On The Hill boardgame to be Marshall, Will and Holly, or perhaps Sarah Palin's Vice Presidential Action Rangers, gone back in time to prove mankind and dinosaurs coexist. I love it when a plan comes together - especially a plan that mocks young earth creationists.

The Unearthed Edition is an improvement over Land of Og in nearly every respect. It's far more elegant, less fiddly, and both play and character creation look to be much faster. It's no longer level based, and doesn't have numerous derived statistics. You don't start with one word, you start with 1d6+2. You only use d6's, and generally just one per action. The writing remains entertaining, and the game portions are better than ever. You can still "forget how" to do things, so you're still playing dumb cavemen. I'm grateful that Aldo and Robin made this happen.

Here's a cute little "small world" moment. I posted to the group's list saying that I'd decided on Og for Thursday, and Mark replied. Turns out that he, Sophie, Edmund and Laura had playtested this edition of Og before it released last year, so a couple players will already know the system. On closer inspection, their names show up in the credits on the first page of the book. How funny.

Savage Waffles

Brace yourselves - I'm gonna waffle on my Savage Worlds position a little more. In this post I'm gonna criticize it all over again, and then talk about little nuggets I really admire. I have yet to make up my mind fully on the game, and will no doubt be getting my $10 worth (and then some) before I settle on a position.

The damage issue remains the stickler. On further reflection (and after hearing counter-arguments from the rest of the Thursday group), I'm forced to conclude that you do, indeed, add up your damage dice. How'd I miss/misinterpret it? I'd pretty much skipped the Gear chapter, reading the Character Creation chapter and the Rules chapters first. I figured the equipment section of a non-genre-specific game wasn't vital to understanding the way the system worked, since half that equipment wouldn't be available in any given one-shot. Whoops!

The answer was there amidst the Gear. That chapter explains how damage codes for weapons work. It's still not crystal clear, but it'd be hard to interpret a Str + d6 +2 Katana to do anything other than 4-14 damage in the hands of a character with d6 Strength. Likewise, most rifles do 2d8 damage - compare that to a Bazooka, which does 4d8. Clearly, they intend the dice to be added together - if you were only using the single largest die, the bazooka would roll 3d12 or even 2d20, not the same size dice as all those conventional sidearms. If you were using just the highest die, PCs would laugh off LAW rockets, .50 cal MGs, and artillery. As much as I hate the delay as someone counts up the damage total from 2d8+1 and a d6 raise where 2 of the 3 dice exploded, I must admit that's preferable to PCs soaking Panzershreks.

The more serious offense is the book's complete lack of a clear example that would render it unambiguous. The damage and healing section is pages 74-78, but the muddied evidence of how it works is buried on pages 42 and 53. None of the three "examples" in the damage / healing section involves any actual dice rolls - it says Buck "does just enough damage to get a shaken result" instead of something more useful like "Buck rolls a 2 and 4, doing 6 damage, which is just enough to get a shaken result against the foe's Toughness of 6". This detailed example is not omitted for lack of space, since the 5-page section in question has two large pictures and a quarter column of (wasted) blank space. It's just sloppy, the sort of thing that should have been caught by blind playtesting and fixed in editing.

Oh well, I've seen worse - if this were Scion, the rule wouldn't just be vague, it'd be implied to function differently in every chapter it got mentioned in, with some instances being undeniably contradictory to each other. Savage Worlds dodged that bullet, but I'd still rather see Pinnacle set the bar just a tad higher than it did.

Here's a few other things I'm griping about today:
  • Edge Summary: The chart is a pain to read. There should have been three lists - one organized alphabetically, and a second organized by Rank requirement, and a third by category/type. As it stands, you search by the name of the Edge, not by what it does, nor by whether or not it's available to you. Until you're really familiar with the options, that organization scheme is not so useful.
  • Chart blindness: For that matter, all the charts in the book could use lined or colored backgrounds to demark entries - it's easy to wander a line up or down the Edge chart by mistake, and the same goes for the Hindrance Summary and the various Weapon charts.
  • Social Stuff: The Tests of Will mechanic (see below) is pretty sweet, but ultimately leaves you unable to Intimidate someone into fleeing. I'm happiest with games that allow you to play a character smarter and/or more charismatic than you (the player) are, and Savage Worlds comes really close but ultimately fails. In the end, it seems they were worried that social power would wreck too many plotlines. I think that's a shame, since they could have made social powers really strong against Extras but not Wild Cards without too much effort. It's the sort of thing I could see myself crafting a houserule for, possibly stealing some ideas from 7th Sea's awesome Repartee system.
  • Allies: I like that the PCs get to play thier own henchmen. However, I think it's dumb that you can't get Edges to accumulate a sidekick or followers until you've reached Legendary Rank (which means you've played at least 27 sessions). Even worse is that those henchmen are very vulnerable and go away if they die. This seems like it might not have been playtested as thoroughly as it should have been. On a related note, the game deals well with mass combat, and claims to deal well with allies. The truth of the matter is, assigning a squad of 10 allied soldiers to accompany the PCs would bog the game down nightmarishly. Brute squads, were are you when we need you?
  • First Strike (and the like): This power seems just a bit buff for it's meagre requirements. I guess that's supposed to be mitigated by the GM moving his villains carefully, but it's hard to say how often that will happen as planned. Most disturbing is the fact that many of the bonus-action Edges (of which there are 9 in the book) have similar requirements, so a combat-focused PC might stack several of them. Combining Two-Fisted, Frenzy and Improved First Strike on one PC would allow for a sick number of attacks each round, but at least it's not a combo you can start with as a Novice character.

Rather than ending this on the downer note, I'm going to talk about the bits of Savage Worlds that I really like...
  • Pace: Some games have movement systems that are so vague everyone pictures the fight differently. Other games avoid that by use of miniatures, but this usually results in all humans moving at the same pace, or predetermined speed per character that means if two PCs race the same one wins every single time. Savage Worlds neatly balances this - standard pace is the same, but running gets a nice random (yet measurable) boost, and you can make a character (without too much effort) who's faster or slower than average. It does all this elegantly, to boot.
  • Fatigue: The game scores more points by coming up with simple, interrelated systems for resource deprivation and environmental hazards. Staying up all night and not eating for days makes it that much harder to resist succumbing to freezing weather, as it rightly should, but without clunky complexity. Bravo!
  • You play your own Allies: The actual system for Allied NPCs isn't terribly innovative (in fact, I complained about it above), but I like that they go to such lengths to clearly spell out that players control their henchmen and followers in combat. I already do as much in most RPGs, but it's nice to see a published book specifically insist on this way of running things.
  • Mass Combat: The mass combat system isn't quite as colorful or detailed as the one in 7th Sea, but it's very playable and nicely abstracted. PCs are a major force on the battlefield, without having to play out hundreds of skirmishes.
  • Powers: The books only 160 pages, yet they manage to fit in the tools for an a very large number of genres and settings, including 5 different mix-and-match "magic" systems. There's a lot of overlap in those systems, but I'm fairly amused by the way they made each feel different.
  • Built For Success: The typical difficulty is 4, which even the weakest / least prepared PC will hit a good 20% of the time. When working in their specialty, the PC has a better than 50% of succeeding on the overwhelming majority of tasks. It's a feel-good experience, unlike many games where the average roll is a miss or failure.
  • Initiative: The reverse alphabetical order tie-breaker somehow rubs me wrong, but the rest of the card-based iniative system is beautiful. It keeps combat from getting too predictable, yet the cards serve as an easy reminder of who goes next. I especially like the bonus-effect of the Jokers, and how they provide unpredictable moments in the spotlight.
  • Tricks and Tests Of Will: These are likely to become my favorite parts of the combat system, though the game really desperately needs an Edge that removes the multiaction penalty for performing a Trick and an attack at the same time.
  • Hold, Standoff, and The Drop: Many RPGs can handle Held Actions, but few provide workable simulations of Standoffs and/or The Drop. In Savage Worlds, if the bad guy has The Drop on you, you play along if you know what's good for you. Pinnacle gets kudos for elegant mechanics to simulate all this.
Definitely getting the hang of the system, now.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

On second thought, I actually like Savage Worlds

I picked up the Explorer's Edition of Savage Worlds, wanting to better understand the mechanics that were so infuriating me. Turns out, the system is far better than I'd given it credit for. 2 of my 4 complaints have been significantly reduced as a result of my improved familiarity with the rules. A third complaint is possibly a house-rule or a mistake, and discussion of the issue may fix or mitigate it. The fourth complaint I can side-step whenever I make characters.

My gripes were:

  • Most characters get one action, but some get two. Turns out I was wrong on this one. Anyone can take up to around 3 actions (one with each hand, and one with their mouth, maybe a fourth if you're really creative), but the penalties are pretty large. There's at least 4 edges that mitigate this in someway, getting rid of penalties or providing specific bonus actions under certain circumstances. More importantly, there's fairly robust Trick and Social systems that allow non-combat characters to do interesting things in fights. I'd seen those systems in action, but misunderstood and thought you needed specific edges to use them. Now that I know the system better, I'll be having a lot more fun when fights break out.
  • Diminshing Returns. I brought up the subject with the folks Thursday. Mark, at least, agreed that there's not much mechanical benefit to going above a d8, but clearly the others hadn't spent much time thinking about that before. Luckily, it turns out there's a number of Edges in the book that give numerical bonuses to rolls - if you want to play a genuine expert at something, you're better off taking the appropriate Edge than high dice in skills.
  • Huge damage pools. Well, reading the Explorer's Edition rulebook, there's nothing to suggest that a damage code of 2d6 is "roll two dice and add them together" and not "roll two dice and use the highest die" like all the other rolls. Either it's in the longer version of the rules, or it's a house-rule the group's been using, or someone made a mistake somewhere. I posted to the group, and hope to learn soon whether or not I'm missing something. If we revert to the version written in the Explorer's Edition, combat actions would speed up, the math would simplify, and one-hit-kills would all but dissapear. Fingers crossed.
    Update: I was wrong on this point. Clearly damage is meant to be added together, or else the difference between a rifle and a rocket launcher wouldn't be 2d8 vs 4d8. It'd be 2d8 vs 2d12 or 2d8 vs 3d10 or something with a larger die type than the rifle has. Still, it's annoying that the rules don't cover that in a more explicit example. This also raises the question of: do individual dice explode, or does the roll explode? The answer is individual dice, but the rules don't make that statement terribly explicit, either.
  • You roll d4s, generally mixed with other dice. I still hate plastic caltrops, but I can avoid them myself by keeping my stats at d6s and d8s, so it's not a huge deal. Since most of what we play with this group is one-shots I feel no need to affix the judge's eye on other people's rolls. Even if anyone in that group were going to cheat, it's not like it'd have lasting impact on the course of a campaign, or invalidate someone else's character concept by continually outperforming them. In short, I can and should just relax about this one.

In summation: (Despite my protests in recent posts) Thursday's Toon City Vice session and a read of the rulebook convinced me that Savage Worlds is a far better game than I'd given it credit for. I recommend the Savage Worlds system (and strongly recommend it if you're looking for a crunchy yet generic rules set for use with one-shots), especially the Explorer's Edition. That book is light weight and portable, and costs a mere $9.99! A whole RPG for $10 is pretty sweet.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Diminishing Returns in Savage Worlds

While righting that last post, I realized something that almost was a bullet point, but deserves it's own attention as a separate topic. I've long wondered about exploding d4s.

Not some clandestine CIA plot to eliminate Castro's D&D group, though that could make for an interesting tale, I'm sure. Hmm... there's a one-shot concept in there somewhere.

Instead, by "exploding", I'm referencing dice that you get to reroll and add to the total if they score their highest face. I think Savage Worlds calls it Acing the dice, but I first encountered it in 7th Sea, where it's said they explode. If you rolled a "10" you'd roll again and add 10 to the total. If you rolled a second ten, you'd roll a third time and add 20 to that roll.

Exploding dice have strange interactions with systems that use multiple die types. Barring explosion, the average roll of each standard die type is 1 higher than the die type preceding it (except the jump from d12 to d20, of course), so a d4 roll averages 2.5, a d6 roll averages 3.5, etc. However, that flat progression falls away when you start messing with exploding dice. The average roll of an exploding d4 is about 3.56, and the average roll of an exploding d6 is about 4.19. Those numbers aren't quite accurate - I'd have to take the math out past several more explosions to figure out the actual repeating digits. But, it should be clear from these aproximations, that there's diminishing returns. Each consecutive upgrade in die size gives you a smaller boost to your average roll.

It's worth noting that since dice explode, there's technically no upper limit to rolls. Sure, you're probably not ever going to get "6" two dozen times in a row and score around 150 on a roll. But getting a d4 to roll "13" will happen from time to time, and I've yet to see (only 3 sessions of actual play) a difficulty above 10. If that holds true, then die size doesn't end up mattering much. An exploding d6 has a 1 in 12 chance of hitting difficulty 10, and a d10 only has a 1 in 10 chance. The d10s a little better, but not a lot.
The most common difficult I've experienced as a player is "4". A d4 has a 25% chance of hitting that, a d6 has 50%, a d8 has 62.5% chance, and a d10 has 70%. Again diminshing returns.
All this does for me is reinforce my deep-rooted desire to buy my d4s up to d6s.

So, with diminishing returns, and the possibility (though infrequent) of the lowliest die scoring any number the best die can score, you'd expect the system to make high die-code skills fairly cheap.

Nope. To get a high die-code in a skill, you typically first buy a high rating in the Attribute it's linked to. That costs points from a very limited pool, so some other attribute will "suffer" for it. (Again, having the low die in something ain't that horrible, but Attributes also generate some static numbers that are based on non-exploding averages or maximums, so it can hurt if you chump stat the wrong the Attribute.)

If instead you choose to buy the skill above the corresponding Attribute, then the higher levels cost double. That double cost hardly seems worth it, since you're at the point of diminishing returns. Especially since those same value in points will buy you another Edge. Edges are special powers (like Feats in D&D) - they make your character unique, and they are almost always of greater benefit than just rolling a slightly larger die.

Damnit. Now I've worked myself into a weird place. I've pretty much convinced myself that there's illogical flaws in the Savage Worlds system. However, I have friends playing said system, and I've very much enjoyed meeting them, gaming with them, etc. I'm quite certain I'll continue playing with them. I'm tempted to steer them to Fate (or more Wushu), but doubt they'll make that switch based on my recommendation. After all, I haven't even read the Savage Worlds book, and haven't given it a fair try, and I'm still the new guy of the group. I've done an analysis that tells me that taking a skill above a d8 is dubious, but I see d10 skills on PC sheets at game night quite often. Either there's something I'm missing, or they just haven't analyzed the math. My personal code of conduct won't let me sit quiet on this discovery. Munchkins game the system and keep the secrets to themselves - not me. But you can't put the genie back in the bottle. Clearly, any future PCs I make will be from an informed viewpoint. So I'm going to have to point it out to the group, which will lead to spirited conversation. Natural human reaction is to say "no, I'm not in error" and debate, so they'll want to. Since I've never read the book, I'm inadequately prepared for that debate - there could be balancing factors I'm missing. So that means I have to go buy a book for a game I would not choose to run. I'll be buying it for the express purpose of talking my friends out of running it, and/or figuring out the optimal character builds, should talking them out of it be impossible. That whole situation stinks. I kinda wish I'd never run the math that lead to this conclusion.

(And no, I can't just ask to borrow theirs. We've known each other for a short time, or rather, a small number of events over several months. Long enough that someone might spontaneously offer, but still new enough you'd seem impolite to ask. Besides, if I'm going to turn a whole group off of a company, the least I can do is throw one final sale in that companies direction. Luckily, I think there's a $10 or $12 pocket guide to the game, which will assuage my guilt without hurting my budget.)

Miscellaneous d4-related thoughts

These are things that crossed my mind while writing that last post, but didn't quite fit.
  • There's a few alternate d4 designs. There's d8s numbered 1-4 twice, and d12's numbered three times. I have one of the latter, which is cool. Sadly, most games that require 1d4 will make you roll 2d4 or 5d4 somewhere along the line, so having one such d12(1-4x3) does me little good.
  • There exists a patent for an alternate d4 design that looks much better. It's made of four isoceles triangles, and you read it by looking at the top face, just like any non-d4 die. Probably it would roll better than existing d4s, but I have nothing but theory to support that. Nobody is making them currently, and the patent rights prevent duplication by other companies for another 5 or 10 years. Hmm... it's a TSR patent. I wonder if Andy would know anything about it? Haven't called him since September - this could be a good excuse.
  • Speaking of whom, what was Andy (or whichever of his WotC colleagues) thinking in making all those 2d4 damage weapons in 4th Ed? It's almost like they think 2d4 is some sort of intermediary between 1d8 and 1d10. It's not. Higher minimum, slightly higher average, but most importantly: steep bell-curve. Every other weapon die has a flat damage probability, but those 2d4 scythes and 2d6 mauls do very predictable median damage amounts with only rare excursions to the upper and lower damage totals. I haven't been able to deduce the logic behind why those particular weapons are given the otherwise non-existant curve. Definitely going to have to ask him about this.
  • Of course, though I'm complaining about 2d4 becoming a regular feature of D&D 4th, it could be worse. In the Savage Worlds RPG, there's times you end up rolling 1d6 and 1d4 at the same time. The dice explode, d6 on a 6, d4 on a 4, you gotta figure out which ones you're rolling again, and your neural pathways go kaplooie. (See previous post. Math and movement use different sections of the brain.) At least D&D only has you roll d4s alone, or together with other d4s, so one motion gets all the dice tumbling in their most randomizing trajectory.
This last bit I'm not going to bullet point, since it's unrelated to the other thoughts.

There are situations where the existance of the d4 is justified. Back in the hatbox days, I designed a game system for a one-shot. The scenario was a success, I ended up running 6 sessions of it, for 4 different play groups. It used d4s, amidst a lot of other dice. In the system, you wanted to always roll low. Each PC had a variety of traits rated at various die types, including a single very narrow specialty that rolled a d4. This was your one best subskill, the thing you were expected to always succeed at. The GM (me) didn't have to worry about weird rolling habits (or cheating) with that d4, because the player was nearly always going to win in that arena anyway. With that mechanical base to support it, the d4 worked perfectly well. It occurs to me, upon reflection, that I could have just made that specialty an auto-win, and left out the d4 entirely, with only minor impact on the way it played. Also, the experience taught me that all gamers are psychologically trained or wired to want to roll high - nothing spells "false hopes" like rolling a "20" and then remembering it's the worst possible result.

Death by Plastic Caltrop? Death To Plastic Caltrop!

Man, do I hate d4's. I stepped on an old untumbled d4 once, and it was bloody murder, but that's not why I hate d4's.
  • I hate them because they don't roll like normal dice.
  • There's a single motion that makes a d6 bounce a couple times, and a d12 or d20 roll across the table. Most of us have that motion as muscle memory, and we do it automatically. (I know one gamer who just can't roll dice, but that's another story). But apply that same motion to a d4, and it just flops onto the table and lays there.
  • As a result, you have to think before you roll them. You either have to really bounce them around in your hollow cupped fists, or throw them high into the air and impart a spin. Anecdotal evidence over the years tells me that most gamers can't parse the motion of rolling d4s at the same moment they are doing math. In a really rules-light game it's no big deal. But if you have to add numbers together, apply modifiers, or choose the highest die, the parts of the brain the get used to do so are not the same as the part of the brain reminds you to roll your d4 differently. Either you roll them the wrong way, or it slows down the process as you transition between dice and math.
  • Rolling them the wrong way results in the same number getting rolled again and again. It's an honest mistake, almost never is it cheating. It's the just the reality of how the d4 fails to tumble if thrown with the wrong motion.
  • That it has only 4 sides compounds that. A d20 that never flips more than one adjacent side wouldn't be a problem, since the "20" is next to the "2", the "8" and the "14". There'd still be plenty of variation from roll to roll.
  • What's more, if someone rolls a "20" on, say, 5 consecutive rolls of a d20, you know the odds are seriously against it, and they know it too. You can suggest they need to shake the dice more, without it sounding like an accusation of cheating. Hell, if you think they are cheating, you can say it to their face, and they'll forgive you for thinking that, 'cause it looked mighty suspicious. But, "4" on 5 consecutive rolls, given all the above factors, doesn't strike most people as all that unlikely. But the chances are actually less than 1/10th of a percent. Most people just don't realize the odds are that extreme. Roll 5d4 a thousand times, and you'll probably get that maximum total (5 fours) just once - assuming the dice are being rolled in a truly random fashion, and d4s rarely are.
So, we have all that related die-rolling trouble, and we compound it with a variety of other minor strikes against the d4.
  • Most games want you to roll high, but these are the smallest / lowest-rolling standard dice. Your own psychology is wired to get excited when you roll high, but again, you can't.
  • Rolled in multiples, d4s create very steep bell curves. Fewer but larger dice create a more gentle curve.
  • d4s come in top-reading and bottom-reading variants which can be disorienting if borrowing or mixing dice.
  • That same variance makes it harder for a GM to casually spotcheck a player's rolls from a distance. As I said on the first list, it's harder to document cheating via d4s since a bunch of 4s doesn't stand out like a bunch of 20s does - so making it harder to surreptitiously read the dice sure doesn't help the situation.
  • Q-workshop accidentally produced some beautiful but defective dice with bottom-reading d4s that escaped quality control since the numbers were so strangely placed. We used to have some at the games store I managed. They looked cool, till you rolled a 4...or was it a 2... well, these twos sides say "4"... but that one says "2". Grrr... I paid $20 for these?!?
  • And yes, they hurt if you step on them.
For all those reasons, I hate d4s. When I'm designing / homebrewing game systems, I avoid d4s if at all possible. When I'm making characters, I avoid any powers or stats that will force me to roll a d4.

Of 7th Sea and Savage Worlds

I loved the 7th Sea RPG. I use past tense, because eventually Igrewfrustrated with it. I love the setting - present tense - it's sorichand flavorful. I hated, and hate, certain mechanics. Not all ofthem. Ilove the concept of drama dice. The hubris idea is alsoincredible. Butcertain other bits fall apart on playing.

The twobiggestproblems with 7th Sea's mechanics are # of actions per playerper turn,and the damage system. A starting group could easily have onecharacterwho acts once per turn, and another PC who acts 5 times perturn. Ifyour buddy is acting twice as often as you, you tend to getbored orenvious or both. If he's making 5 times as many attacks, itgets out ofhand damn quick. The damage system's problem was of one ofcomplexity.Everything else was one die roll, with anall-or-nothingwinner-takes-all motif that meant once you'd counted tothe difficultynumber, you could stop counting. Damage, however,required a variety ofmodifiers, then a roll, then the victim rolls, andyou either subtractand do math and record the math and maybe add thatmath to other math,or you erase what math you'd already done to recorda different type ofnumber. It was a sore thumb demanding attention. Combined, theseproblems magnified each other, as the character who acts5 times perturn might launch 5 attacks, get lucky, and need 5cumulative damageresults and the cascade of math that follows. Whenthat's all finallydone, the GM must wake up the other players. I'mserious. Gilbert fellasleep between combat rounds all the time thanksto my three morepoints of panache.

I've been playing a fairamount of SavageWorlds lately. It seems to be the most popular systemfor Emerald CityGame Feasting. I can't say that I like the SavageWorlds system,though. At first, I thought it was just my distaste ofd4s, especiallywhen they occur in mixed dice pools. Trying to put myfinger on it viaemail to a friend today, I realized what the problemreally was. SavageWorlds has 7th Seas problems.

It doesn't havethem to the sameextent. I'm pretty sure you can't get more than 2attacks per turn(maybe 3 if you're Two-Fisted and have First Strike,not sure if theystack), at least not easily. But, while most characterswill only haveone action per turn, some will get too. It's cheap enoughthat anystarting character can have it, but expensive enough mostwon't. If youtake the two-attack option, you're dedicating yourcharacter to combat.More importantly, it's enough of your resourcesthat the charactercan't really do anything but combat. Which meansyou're bored outsideof combat, so you provoke fights, at which pointthe other players getbored. With fights come damage rolls, which areclunky and burdenedwith more math than anything in the system. Mindyou, the extremesaren't as bad. 2 (maybe 3?) attacks instead of 5, andnot as muchdamage-related record keeping as 7th Sea.

But SavageWorlds islacking something else 7th Sea has: that beautiful, richenvironment.The generic nature of Savage Worlds is in some ways andadvantage, butit's also in some ways unfullfilling. I'm left with theanalysis that'sit's like 7th Sea, with minor improvements in the areasI disliked, butat the cost of completely missing the parts I love.

Update:Iacknowledge that a valid counter-argument could be raised as "butwithSavage Worlds you get to design your own flavorful setting" oreven"what the heck's stopping you from converting 7th Sea's awesomesettingto SW's somewhat less annoying mechanics."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Plasma Shields, Lasers and Pain Rays, Oh My!

Kevin clued me in to a Wired article with links to all sorts of real-world "sci-fi" weapons. Some of these are still in the theoretical stage, but a surprising number are in the testing / experimental stage, and a few are scheduled to be in service by late 2009 or 2010. Some are cool, others are damnably scary. As freaky as this stuff is, it's also really resonates with my geeky side.
Here's a few of my favorites:

  • The Plasma Acoustic Shield System creates a bright wall of lights and shockwaves. Despite the name, it's not a forcefield yet. It intended use is kinda like a flash-bang grenade, but repeatable, at range (100m) and over a wide area. As a layman, I really can't tell whether or not this is actually a first-step towards forcefields.
  • The Pulsed Impulsive Kill Laser is supposedly less deadly than the name implies. It is designed to take down UAVs. It's also designed to detonate reactive armors. Some tank armor is actually explosive plates that blast out against the incoming force of a projectile, and a laser system can detonate it from afar before a more conventional attack follows up.
  • The army is paying $25,000,000 for 5 "Pain Ray Trucks" to be delivered in a little over a year. These are large trucks with a cargo-container on the bed. Inside the container is The Silent Guardian, a sweeping beam microwave transmitter (250m range) that causes intense burning sensations, but no physical wounds. The official story is that you use it to fire warning shots against unidentified vessels, but it strikes me that this system, or it's Active Denial System descendents, will one day be used domestically to break up riots and torture citizens. After all, it's silent, and doesn't leave a mark (provided you don't get hit twice within 15 seconds), so there's nothing disturbing to show on the news.
  • Speaking of warning unidentified vessels, that's the claimed purpose of the Long Range Acoustic Device. It's basically a super-megaphone. At very long ranges, it's good for warning off approaching vessels, vehicles, or mobs. As the target gets closer to you (or vice versa), the decibel level is high enough to cause ear damage and (this part freaks me out) loss of vision. Far from hypothetical, the NYPD actually has a few hummers with LRADs mounted on top, which they used against protesters at the 2004 RNC.
  • There's a number of other proposed Active Denial Systems (aka microwave weapons) currently under development, everything from pain-causing burglar alarms, prisonwide riot suppression systems, and even rifles. Microwave weapons can shoot through windows without breaking them, and the pain effect can pass through cracks in cement walls to affect targets on the other side. Again, the torture potential is pretty scary, especially for anything man-portable, since it causes excrutiating pain, but no lingering physical symptoms.
  • And then, of course, there's Lasers. I knew there was a reason for E997.0. Military lasers are quite versatile because they can deliver non-lethal/lethal/anti-tank (at 100 kilowatts) levels of damage depending on how long an exposure you apply to the target. They have effective ranges of over a mile, and are extremely accurate. And of course, with that kind of range on a silent weapon, you have a recipe for plausable deniability. The Lawrence Livermore labs is currently working on a Laser "Gatling Gun", with multiple garnets for focusing the light beams. I'm sure it will look wicked, and hopefully end up in some kickass movies.
In the interest of full disclosure (and, more importantly, bragging-by-association), my wife did work at LANL imploding metal cylinders via lasers, and I used to judge Magic tournaments with a Air Force Colonel who worked on a battlefield laser project. Not that that means I have any insiders perspective on any of the above, since my wife's work was on a micro-scale in a lab environment, and I didn't want to make John Shannon uncomfortable with unending questions about his line of work.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Munchkin Slutty

From the Scion forums, advice for a new GM...
Grumpert wrote:
My only other advice is this system is not munchkin proof. It's not even muchnkin [sic] resistant. It's more munchkin slutty. Now if you have good players, this is a non issue. They will make who they want to make and play accordingly. If you have bad players, kill them, then run it.

That should be emblazoned on the cover of the first book. I may lay-out a little warning label to that effect, and print it out on a sticker sheet for my copy of Scion: Hero.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Making a game of it

Hopefully, all my "doom and gloom" predictions from yesterday turn out to be completely blown out of proportion. Hopefully, the new President* is elected by the people, with a minimum of hanky-panky and no voter fraud. With any luck, their new administration* will dismantle the fascist machinery erected by the previous one.

That way, I'll be able to write a nice Alternative History game, an RPG about a parallel world where everything went from worse to apocalyptic. As I learned via my Scion campaign, that sort of stuff isn't actually fun to game in if you honestly believe it's currently going on, or even just has a good chance to happen. The lead up to the characters in our Scion campaign dueling Dick Cheney (corrupted Scion of Posiedon who'd struck a bargain with Prometheus) was really uncomfortable on a lot of levels.

*: I hope that new President isn't McCain, and even more I hope the new VP isn't the religious extremist named Palin, but more important is that whoever the majority of Americans actually vote for ends up in office.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Coup occurred on October 1st, 2008

The groundwork for it had been laid years before, ratcheted up incrementally, depriving us of our freedoms, our liberties, and our peace of mind. October 1st was the day that the "President's personal army" set foot upon American Soil. The 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry is an urban-warfare combat unit on active deployment within the US to "protect" us from civil disrest.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Haidtian Alignment System

It seems to me that this Jonathan Haidt speech at TED could result in an interesting RPG alignment system.

Rough draft / concept:
We use Haidt's 5 Foundations of Morality, and the extra category of "Openness to Experience" as something akin to the Virtues of Scion (and Exalted). In short, they are infrequently used to make tests to resist certain types of action, and more frequently used to boost rolls and empower characters to succeed at tasks for which they have some degree of moral inspiration.

So, perhaps we start off by giving each character 1 dot each in Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity, and 1 additional dot to add to either of those two.
Then, you choose whether the character is Liberal or Conservative.
If Liberal, you get 5 more dots to split between Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity, and Openness To Experience.
If Conservative, you get 5 dots to split between Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity.
(I'd love to include Moderates, but am having trouble thinking up a way to do so that doesn't make it mechanically superior or inferior to being liberal or conservative.)
At this point, I'm assuming any given trait can be rated from 0-5 (which is how it works in Scion) because it gives nice simple numbers, small enough to add to dice or use as a dice pool. A different way of handling it might be to do a percentage-based or 1-20 scale, but then you obviously need far more points. I'd have more thoughts on this, no doubt, once I know what style of RPG I'd be using this system in.

In a slightly more complicated version, we would then choose whether the character in question is a Hero or Villain. We'd feature additional traits such as "Self Interest" (and possibly "Sadism", "Greed" or "Appetite") and modify the point allocation to incorporate that, so that characters (of either Political spin) could take dots in these darker "Virtues" instead.

That would, however, start getting more like Scion's system, and I don't want to just rip them off too badly. Honestly, I've found some aspects of Scion's Virtues (and certain Virtues in particular) downright unplayable, so emulation isn't ideal. But I do love the concept of an Alignment system that actually boosts your chances of success when striving for your ideals.

Friday, October 3, 2008

From The Land Of Sky-Blue Waters

Last night at the Wayward, we played in Laura's Toon City Vice game. The group was far smaller than normal (and foot traffic at the Cafe was really low) no doubt thanks to the VP debate (which I kinda wanted to watch, but I'm not sure it's healthy for me to be so invested in politics - I really don't need an ulcer).

Anyhow, about Toon City Vice. The setting was derived from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but it was several decades later. The system was Savage Worlds. There were just 3 PCs. Sarah was playing Casper the Friendly Ghost, John was playing Wile E Coyote, and I played my beloved Hamm's Bear. Here's a few clips for those unfamiliar with the Joe Camel of watered-down beer.

I made him a burned-out has-been, no longer beloved by children and instead just hitting the bottom of the barrel (and keg or can), as he rightly should be. To properly represent his decline, I gave him the hindrances of Major Habit (Hamm's Beer), Obese, and Outsider. We were each allowed one "Toon Edge" a special power that was based on our character's cartoon powers, and a "Toon Hindrance" aka a special weakness. Since he has no powers in the cartoons, I had to stretch a bit. I decided his special power was the ability to find a beer anywhere, and his weakness was his drunken swagger and the trail of empty beer cans that could be used to track him.

Then I bought fairly crappy skills to match the commercials. Boating, knowledge: injuns, things that weren't likely to come up much in Toon City. In any other game, this character would be unplayable. But in the cartoon genre, being effective is far less important than being funny, and that he was.