Saturday, January 31, 2009

[Future Perfect] Gavin Dace, Mercenary Soldier

Gavin Dace was born to a poor family in Coalition space, industrial workers who would be destined to die young due to contamination sickness. The youngest of three brothers, Gavin could see the strain tearing apart his older siblings as they struggled to balance their responsibilities. Although no genius, Gavin is reasonably clever after a fashion, and could see no future for himself in Coalition space. Still in his adolescence, he indentured himself with a small corporate firm moving out of Faction space and joining the Interzone. Showing an aptitude for eye/hand coordination and extreme deftness, he was placed into training for the corporate security forces. Gavin excelled as a sharpshooter and gunner, the latter skill affording him a chance to cross train as a pilot, and later, as an executive driver/bodyguard.

For nearly a decade he was a prized asset among the Corporations of the Interzone. However, when a chance to train with the Imperial Marines in Regency space was presented, Gavin took the opportunity. His already well-honed skills quickly caught the attention of a few well placed individuals, mostly minor nobles and retired military officers who wanted Gavin for an elite mercenary unit known as the Red Star Legion. Gavin agreed to a four year term, and in return the remaining twenty years of his service contract was paid off by his patrons - an act that left more than a few people in the Interzone with some hard feelings toward all the time and expense put forth.

With the Red Star Legion, Gavin Dace proved himself a capable soldier possessed of very high skill and, oddly enough for a mercenary, a strong moral sensibility. However, what Gavin was not was a Commander. Too much the Wild Card, Gavin was better utilized as a lone operative. Though he served occasionally as a field commander, most notably at the Battle of Yusef's Gate, his operations tended to be bloodier and more dangerous than necessary. Indeed, what had been intended as a surgical strike at Yusef's Gate became a wholesale slaughter that nearly destroyed the White Dragon Merchant (Pirate) Clan.

Gavin served the Legion well beyond his agreed upon four-year term, and after a dozen years finally mustered out just before the Regency itself declared the Legion's patrons and any active members to be criminals. It was later revealed that Gavin had discovered several Red Star Legion actions to be illegal, actions that included planned assaults on Kokoran Union outposts and what could have ended up as the assassination of Kokora's delegate to a summit discussing a mutual non-aggression pact within Frontier space. Gavin was himself wounded in the battle that ensued after he turned against his comrades and defended the Kokoran delegate.

Both Kokora and the Regency itself would investigate the occurrance, and both would unearth the same findings. The few remaining founders of the Legion were part of a strange religious cult known as the Church of Bisente, whose apparent goal was to destabilize the Kokoran Union. Gavin was honored by the Kokora for his efforts, and was given a custom Hatamoto-Class Heavy Fighter by the delegate who's life he saved. In the Regency, the Council of Regents themselves admitted that Gavin Dace likely averted a war between Kokoran Union and the Regency Imperium. Indeed, he may very well have helped strengthen their diplomatic ties.

Now, about five years after the end of the Red Star Legion, Gavin Dace is an independent operator usually working within the Regency, Kokora, and the Freespace. He occasionally picks up bounty hunting and bodyguard work, though not enough of either to draw the attentions of any of the trade guilds.

Gavin Dace [WC], Heroic Mercenary Soldier
Race: Human
Gender: Male

Agility d12, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6 (d8), Vigor d8

Derived Stats:
Charisma: 0
Pace: d6+1d6”
Parry: 7
Toughness: 10/14 (Base 6, +4 Armor/+8 Armor vs Energy Weapons)

Fighting d10, Knowledge (Battle) d8, Notice d8, Persuasion d6, Piloting d8, Shooting d12, Stealth d10, Streetwise d6, Survival d6, Zero-G Maneuver d6

Quick, Marksman, Hard to Kill, Nerves of Steel, Steady Hands, Deadshot

Heroic (M), Vow (Mercenary Ethics; m), Quirk (Chainsaw Snoring; m)

Regency +2
Kokora +1
Alliance +0
Coalition +0
Collective +0
Interzone -1
Church of Bisente -1
White Dragon Pirates -2

  • Ragnarök Arms Striker Pulse Pistol (3d6+1 AP2; RoF3; 24 Shots; 12/24/48; Semi-Auto, 3RB)
  • Ragnarök Arms Stormbringer Assault Carbine (3d6+1 AP4 HW; RoF3; 120 Shots; 30/60/120; 3RB, Auto; Targeting Link System w/Laser Tracker [+2 Shooting])
  • Plasma Grenades (6; 3d8 AP2 HW; 5/10/20; MBT)
  • Mono-molecular Knife (Strength+1d6 AP4)
  • Imperial Marine Body Armor [Regency Issue] (Armor +4/+8 versus Energy Weapons; +1 Strength Die; Helmet includes HUD w/ Target Link and Motion Sensors, Encrypted Communications Suite, IR Vision, Anti-Flash System; Hermetically Sealed; Maglock Boots)
  • Translator Array (Translates on the fly between common human tongues)
  • Extra Light and Heavy Power Cells
  • Custom Hatamoto-Class Heavy Fighter
  • Whatever Gear is Necessary for the Job
-[ SUBNET Engaged... ]-

>>[Lyra Bannon, Doctor – Order of Galen]->> White Dragon Pirate Clan? They are still around? I thought they were pretty much wiped out at the Battle of Yusef's Gate.
>>[Ajax Stone, Sergeant - Greyjackets]->> There are a few, mostly on Colony ships that hide out on the fringes of Kokoran space. Got no clue why they dislike Gavin so much, though.
>>[Dax Hellesponte, Historian, Imperial College, New Terra]->> Thats an easy one. During the attack on Yusef's Gate, Who do you think lead the Regency's 2nd Auxilliary Marine Battalion?
>>[Arashi Sinclair, Mercenary Combat Pilot]->> Hells, it was Gavin that shot old Yusef in the face.

-[ SUBNET Disengaged ]-

Thursday, January 29, 2009

So Many Notes But So Little Time

I've been plugging away at the core factions for Future Perfect, with a jumble of notes now amassed on folded scrap pages scattered around my house. I'm hoping to get these shaped up into something coherent pretty soon, especially considering that I have the factions' general reactions to each other already written. Much of the problem is one of formatting and organization. I do not want to add any more complexity by having a lot of details to remember, but I would also like to have a blurb that conveys a solid idea of what each faction is all about.

To that end, I am leaning toward a simple format that includes the bare essentials:

Approximate Age
Planets (with rough population and short description)
Other Population Centers (Space Stations, Asteroid Colonies, etc. with rough population and description)
General Attitudes Toward Outsiders
General Attitudes Toward Citizens
Brief History and Description

I'm hoping this is enough. I'm going to post a very brief list of the Factions, but expect to a full write up for each one in the coming weeks.

Right now, there are six major factions (with two additional general regions that are pretty broad in scope - one is a hodgepodge of independent states and communities that uniformly resists control from any of the Factions, while the other is the frontier of known space, where Factions and allegiances mean very little in the face of day to day survival). The Factions of known space are:

  • The Regency Imperium (formerly The New Terran Empire) - Traditionalists facing an uncertain future.
  • The Alliance of Colonial Nations - A rising power struggling to balance growth with resource consumption.
  • The Collective - A society of linked minds where individual thought risks being lost amidst the jumbled masses.
  • The Coalition of Autonomous States - A failed attempt at freedom where government has been sold piecemeal to criminals and corporations.
  • The Kokoran Union (also known as Kokora) - Strange newcomers with a troubled past that hinders their progress.
  • The Corporate Interzone - Powerful megacorporations who have secured their own autonomy from any central government
  • The Freespace - An uncontrolled wild land devoid of any larger, central authority.
  • The Frontier - The fringes of known space where colonists set their eyes on survival and hopes of a better future.
Anyway, here are some of the Faction emblems. Again, I'll try and have full faction writeups quite soon.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

[House Rules] Skill System Adjustments

We are incorporating a few changes to skills as presented in the core Savage Worlds rule book. Some alterations are being made in the hope of streamlining an already narrow system, while other aspects are being added to better flesh out what is already there.

Removed Skills:

Guts is no longer a skill in the Future Perfect campaign setting. It is our position that everything governed by a Guts skill roll in a non-horror setting can be handled with a simple Spirit roll. Instead, Guts may be taken as an Edge if so desired. Requiring a Spirit of a d6 or higher, the Guts Edge will offer a bonus of +2 to all Spirit rolls involving fear resistance or personal morale.

Altered Skills:

Language skills no longer have die type ratings. They are acquired normally as if purchasing a new skill, but any language skill check is handled with a Smarts roll. They never have to be advanced, requiring only the initial purchase. All characters begin play with their Native Language for free.

Firearms may be split into two distinct skills: Small Arms and Gunnery. The Small Arms skill governs the use of man-portable firearms. The Gunnery skill is used when operating emplaced weapons or large, immobile weapon systems mounted on vehicles. This skill alteration remains pending.

Healing has been changed to Medical, and in addition to the capacities of the Healing skill, it also includes the use of Medical Technologies and the surgical implanting of bio/cybernetic systems.

Lockpicking has been changed to Security. In Future Perfect, it has been changed to a Smarts-based skill, though in settings with less advanced technologies it should remain Agility Based.

New Skills:

Hacking (Smarts) involves the attempted defeat, exploitation, and/or alteration of the security capabilities of a computer system. More than just basic computer use (which is handled with a Smarts roll, or occasionally, Investigation), Hacking allows system intrusion and the non-standard use of a system in both legal and illegal ways.

Performing Arts (Spirit) is used for various performing arts including dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments. This skill may also cover acting if performed within certain formalized settings, but casual acting attempts intended to fool or trick another person should use the Persuasion skill.

Sleight of Hand (Agility) is used in situations where deftness, manual subtlety, and subterfuge are in order. Such tasks as picking pockets and feats of prestidigitation are governed by this skill. In many cases, use of Sleight of Hand may require an opposed roll against another character's Notice skill.

Visual Arts (Spirit) is used when attempting most forms of visual expression from drawing and painting to sculpture and graphic design. In some cases, this skill may also be used for art forgery.

Zero Gravity Maneuvering (Agility) is used when attempting to make physical actions in zero gravity or to control one's movement.

Expanded Skills:

Knowledge (Astrogation): The art of stellar navigation, including how to calculate the complex mathematics behind FTL travel.

Knowledge (Battle): Knowledge of how battles are fought, lost, and won. It addresses tactics as well as history, providing a broad, general knowledge of military systems past and present.

Knowledge (Engineering): Knowledge of how technology is designed, tested, and manufactured. This skill often is used when inventing new technologies or improving upon old ones.

Knowledge (History): The general knowledge of the past, its peoples, places, and important key events.

Knowledge (Life Sciences): The broad knowledge of the various sciences involving living beings, including biology, ecology, genetics, biochemistry, etc.

Knowledge (Physical Sciences): The broad knowledge of the various physical sciences including physics, chemistry, geology, meteorology, astronomy/astrophysics, etc.

Knowledge (Politics): The knowledge of current political personas, events, issues, and tensions.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

[House Rules] Faction Reputations


Characters gain positive and negative reputations among the various factions active in the campaign setting. Reputation values affect non-player character reactions as a direct modifier to reaction rolls, and may also represent how well known a character is to members of the faction.

Reputations may be positive (fame/renown), negative (infamy), or neutral.

  • Loved/Famous [+3]
  • Highly Regarded [+2]
  • Generally Liked and Respected [+1]
  • Neutral [0]
  • Distrusted [-1]
  • Disliked [-2]
  • Hated/Reviled [-3]
Individual Reputation:

If a character’s identity is known and recognized, a reputation modifier is applied to all social skill rolls and NPC reactions that character has with members within the particular faction. At least, it is among those who care. If a character is unknown or unrecognized, then no reputation modifier is applied.

Recognition Checks:

A character may be recognized casually, or even spotted if he is trying to remain discreetly incognito (not using the S. If the GM decides a check is a appropriate, such as if a character is running around out in the open, or is attempting to lay low in the stronghold of an enemy, then a test should be made to see if a character is recognized. A d6 is rolled, and the absolute value of the character’s relevant Reputation modifier is applied. On a success, the character is casually recognized and may or may not be called out directly. On a raise, the character not only is recognized, but is recognized with a correspondingly strong reaction, such as great fanfare or immediate mob hostility. This d6 roll is not open-ended.

Example 1:
Gavin Dace is a well known mercenary soldier who, through repeated engagements, has earned the enmity of many persons in the White Dragon Pirate Clan. He is considered generally disliked (-2) among that faction. Having taken a job to disable a small pirate frigate/clan barge, he is dropped off clandestinely to mix among the general population until he can make his way to the engine core. Though he is sneaking around, and trying to keep his presence and identity a secret, he’s had to interact with a few people in order to pursue his mission. Thus, the GM decides that a recognition check is in order. Rolling a d6+2, he gets a total of 5. Gavin is recognized by someone, but not in a way to elicit a mass response. The GM decides that someone reported his presence to someone with greater authority. About twenty minutes later, Gavin makes a Notice roll and realizes he’s being tailed by a handful of armed fighters who seem to be trying to maneuver him away from the civilian population and toward someplace a little more remote…

However, had the GM gotten a raise on his Recognition test, things could have been worse. In that case, the GM may have decided:

Someone in the crowd calls out, “My god! It’s the Butcher of Barbarossa!” and suddenly all eyes are on Gavin. Indeed, several brutish men level their pulse carbines even as they push through the crowd toward Gavin. A panic ensues, and Gavin has little chance in these hostile waters but to make a run for it…

Group Reputation:

Sometimes, a known group of characters (such as many groups of Player Characters) may find themselves in social dealings with a major faction. Individual reputations here are of limited importance when compared to the total composite picture presented by the group as a whole. Guilt by association with a known enemy may tarnish even the most loved individual.

To determine the reputation of a group, calculate the average reputation of its individuals. Any remainder should be rounded down to the lower value.

Gaining Reputation:

The Game Master should consider giving reputation bonuses when characters have performed a number of beneficial tasks for persons of some social importance. Working for an up and coming politician doing “odd jobs” is likely to earn a positive reputation value among people in that faction. However, no amount of helping Joe the Bookseller is likely to affect character reputations in the slightest.

While there are no hard and fast rules governing precisely when a Game Master should assign additional Reputation points, there are a few key factors to remember. As mentioned previously, working for important people, especially figures of high public profile or social prominence generally has a positive impact. Being successful, really successful, also helps. No one is going to care that some hired mercenaries fought at the battle of Ajax's Star, regardless if they win or lose. However, if those mercenaries executed a plan that that not only won the day, but saved the lives of dozens, maybe even hundreds, of their allied soldiers, people are going to remember. Publicity can make or break a reputation. A good public image, presented to a wide variety of people, can have a definite positive effect on how a character is treated. If even a comparatively minor task is completed successfully while under public scrutiny, the task may earn a character substantially more public esteem than if few, or no, people bore witness to the acts. Lastly, acts of public service, helping people and civic minded organizations, may help establish the notion that a character has good intentions.

In short it all breaks down to considerations of Scale, Scope, Service, and Success. A Game Master should consider:
  • Increasing a reputation to +1 when a character has performed several tasks to benefit the faction and its people.
  • Granting a reputation of +2 when a character has undertaken not only several tasks that benefit a faction, but has done so at great personal inconvenience and with results that may have demonstrable long term effects.
  • A reputation of +3 is extremely rare, granting it only to those characters who have repeatedly and publicly achieved great victories for a faction, and have done so in ways with definite immediate as well as long standing effects.

Losing Reputation:

Just as a character can earn the general esteem of his fellows, so too may he lose it. And in truth, it is probably a lot easier find oneself with a negative reputation. The Game Master should consider lowering a reputation value when a character becomes well known for something negative. Failure, Hostility, Dishonesty are all common traits that will earn a negative reputation.
When character acts openly hostile toward the faction or interests of the faction is also cause for lowering reputation. As with gaining reputation, the scale of the situation should be weighed in consideration. Trashing Joe the Bookseller's shop will probably not have much impact on a character's reputation. However, attacking a space port most definitely will. The intensity of this reaction increases if people and/or property were damaged, killed, or destroyed. A reduction in reputation will also occur over time if a character ignores the faction. Reputations fade, its a terrible, terrible truth. All reputations, if not maintained, will move inexorably toward zero (0). Positive Reputations backslide more quickly, but even negative reputations, given enough time, will fade.

A character should earn:
  • A -1 reputation when proven unreliable or untrustworthy, or has become well known in a negative light for actions taken indirectly against the faction or its interests.
  • A reputation of -2 should be assigned when that character is noted as being dangerous and/or hostile toward the faction both publicly and privately.
  • A reputation of -3 should be assigned when the character is proven a dangerous, public menace, and inimical to the efforts and agendas of the State and its peoples.

Adjusting Reputations – The Enemy of My Enemy and Guilt By Association:

Having a particularly high (+2 or greater) or low (-2 or lower) reputation with one faction may influence the reactions of its allies and enemies. For example, in the Future Perfect setting, the Regency and the Alliance are locked in a rapidly escalating cold war. A character who is highly regarded within the Regency could very well find himself distrusted by the powers that be within the Alliance and thereby handicapped by the biases of the faction. When reaction and recognition rolls are made, apply the modifier listed below. However, if the character is neutral in the region, no extreme effect from a raise is gained.

If this Faction is:
  • Being Conquered/Exterminated by one or more other Factions with whom the character is in high favor [-3 Penalty]
  • Openly Hostile with multiple Factions who hold the character in high favor [-2 Penalty]
  • Openly Hostile with a Faction who holds the character in high favor [-1]
  • Allied with one or more Factions who strongly dislike this character [-1]
  • At odds/contending with multiple Factions who hold this character in high favor [-1]
  • Openly Hostile with one or more Factions who strongly dislikes the character [+1]
  • Allied with one or more factions with whom this character is in high favor [+1]
  • Being Conquered/Exterminated by one or more Factions who strongly dislike this character [+2]
No reaction test may be adjusted to more than +3 or -3 from the reaction adjustments listed above. For example, if a character is already Loved in multiple regions of space, he does not gain the additional +1 modifier.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

[House Rules] Alternate Experience System

Assigning Experience:

Every Skill gains its own set of Improvement Experience (IXP) that may be spent only on improving that skill. General Experience, however, may be spent on anything, provided the GM approves an improvement. General XP may be spent as IXP when a character is improving a Skill.

Skill Experience:

Listed below is how skills gain their individual Improvement Experience Points, assigned at the end of the play session. Unlike General Experience awards which are added together, Skill Experience is assigned singly to each skill.

The Skill was:
  • Used in a common way, but failed [1 IXP]
  • Used in an uncommon way, but failed [2 IXP]
  • Used successfully one or more times [3 IXP]
  • Used successfully in a unique way(s) [4 IXP]
  • Used in a way that had a strong impact on game events [5 IXP]
  • Used multiple times in ways with a strong impact on game events [6 IXP]
  • Used exceptionally well, and changed the course of the game [7 IXP]
  • Used exceptionally well, in a unique way, and changed the course of the game [8 IXP]

Skill Improvement Experience Points are tracked for each skill individually. When a skill's current IXP total meets or exceeds ten times the die rating of the next skill die, the skill improves and the current IXP total for a skill is reset back to zero. If a skill die will exceed or already is higher than a skill's governing Attribute, then it costs twice as many IXP to improve the skill.

General Experience:

The Character:
  • Was active/present in the game [+1 XP]
  • Contributed meaningfully to the game [+1 XP]
  • Had an outstanding contribution to the game [+2 XP]
  • Overcame a major personal obstacle [+3 XP]
  • Met a major personal goal [+3 XP]
The Group:
  • Was successful in their efforts [+1 XP]
  • Succeeded admirably due to skill and ingenuity (not sheer luck) [+1 XP]
  • Overcame a major obstacle [+3 XP]
  • Achieved a significant long-term goal [+3 XP]
  • Completed a minor storyline [+3 XP]
  • Completed a major storyline [+5 XP]
Both Character and Group bonuses add together to total a character's full general experience points for a session. It may be noted that in any given game session, experience earned may fluctuate significantly. Average gains tend to be 4-7 points per session, but may range much higher in those sessions where more dramatic vistas were reached. Character development and advancing the story tend to present more significant bonuses.

Unified Experience Costs:




XP Cost

New Skill (d4)

New Edge



















*In the case of those Edges where there is a demonstrable progression of a single ability (called an Edge Track), the cost of an Edge of superior rank includes those points already spent in earlier, lesser versions of the ability. Edges where there are normal, and then Improved versions tend to be good examples of Edge Tracks.
**For non-humans, consider each improvement value as the basic die before racial modifiers are added. For example, Dwarves, who would gain a +1 Vigor Die and suffer -1 Agility Die (from their maximum), treat Vigor as being one step down the table, and Agility as one step up. So, a Dwarf increasing Vigor from a d8 to a d10 would pay 80 (instead of 100) XP and increasing his Agility from d6 to a d8 would pay 100 XP (instead of 80).

Monday, January 12, 2009

House Rule Musings, Part 3

Finally, having established a rough framework of relative values between skills and edges, and from noted a cost for their acquisition/improvement, we can turn to improving Attributes.

Let’s work with the idea that Edges and Characteristics have similar value. But they also have some differences: Edges have conditional rank requirements and any number of prerequisites; Characteristics have one limitative restriction insofar as they may only be improved ONCE per rank. This tells us that Characteristics should improve MORE slowly than Edges are gained or skills acquired/improved.

If we look to the costs for Edge acquisition as a baseline, we can increase point values accordingly to slow progression. Since Attributes and Edges will be paid for from the same pool of experience (General XP), we can adjust the apparent value to make Edges generally the more appealing purchase. The trick is not to make Attributes prohibitively expensive. And yet, there is also the issue of trying to keep costs relatively standard.

In this case, the law of FFF wins the day. Though attributes probably should cost a little more, it’s not worth having yet another cost progression to track. So Characteristics improve with the same cost increments as Edges, and calculated the same way as skills.

Characteristic Improvement XP Cost = (Next Die Type) x 10

Improving from d4 to d6 Costs 60 XP
Improving from d6 to d8 Costs 80 XP
Improving from d8 to d10 Costs 100 XP
Improving from d10 to d12 Costs 120 XP

And now we have a basic set of values. What remains to do is note how experience is given by the Game Master, and make any minor tweaks to the system before it is set down in its final form.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

House Rule Musings, Part 2 (Edges)

Alright, so if the question becomes a matter of relative value, we need first to identify precisely what values are relative.

Stock Savage Worlds assigns Edges a value equal to that of Characteristics. Improving a Characteristic is the same, roughly, as acquiring a new edge or a new skill, insofar as experience is concerned. Its all very neat and simple, at least as first glace.

However, unlike Characteristics and Skills, Edges do not improve vertically. In stock Savage Worlds, improvement within a vertical progression retains a fixed cost – it costs no more to improve from a d4 to a d6 than it takes to improve a d10 to a d12. Instead, factors external to the progression system impose limits – Characteristics can only be improved once per rank; Skills higher than controlling attributes require the full Advancement to increase. Edges only have rank requirements and prerequisites.

Generally, the acquisition of Edges represents the broadening of a character’s abilities. Like Feats in the d20 system, Edges are what differentiate characters (on paper, at least), especially those who may have similar skills and characteristics. We want Edges to be accessible and affordable. Similarly, we want prerequisites to remain generally in effect, although only Rank will have any impact on cost. Initial discussion yielded a set of rough comparative values:

Basic Edges have a value similar to becoming well trained in a skill (equivalent to improving to a d6). Seasoned Edges have a value similar to becoming very well trained in a skill (equivalent to improving to a d8). Veteran Edges have a value similar to becoming extremely well trained in a skill (equivalent to improving to a d10). Heroic Edges have a value similar to achieving Mastery of a skill (equivalent of improving to a d12). Legendary Edges have twice the cost of Heroic Edges.

However, those costs seemed ridiculously high when considering that, with the IP tracking system, Skills gained experience constantly. Edges would have to be gained through general experience alone. Furthermore, many of the Legendary Edges were just means of improving Characteristics and Skills beyond the normal maximums. The new experience system could easily accommodate such improvements without using Edges; the few remaining Edges really were not worth the steep additional cost, especially when considering the often stringent prerequisites. A new cost breakdown was needed.

Earned general experience should be between half and a third of what any well used skill will gain per session. Using this as a guideline, the next step involved taking the skill improvement experience costs and dividing them by 3 to yield what could be a better result. Assuming a 10x multiple for skill improvement, and calculating total cost of the skill acquisition (not just from, say d6 to d8, but its cost all the way from nothing) yielded the following:

  • Basic Edges: 33 XP (100/3)

  • Seasoned Edges: 60 XP (180/3)

  • Veteran Edges: 93 XP (280/3)

  • Heroic and Legendary Edges: 133 XP (400/3)

Better, but still pretty rough. 3’s, let alone remainders, aren’t helpful for fast play, so we figured rounding the numbers should help. But even at 30-60-90-130 the breakdown was not particularly intuitive. Adjusting the final cost for the Heroic/Legendary group could at least result in costs being multiples of 30, a method much easier to remember. The new working cost values were as follows:

  • Basic Edges: 30 XP

  • Seasoned Edges: 60 XP

  • Veteran Edges: 90 XP

  • Heroic/Legendary Edges: 120 XP

Now we were getting somewhere. The range of point costs is more in line with where we want to be. Edges are not prohibitively expensive, but are not incredibly easy to acquire, either. However, when we looked back at the design progression from the process of brainstorming we recalled a couple of things. First, was noting that new edges cost the same as new skills in stock Savage Worlds. And secondly, keeping that in mind, we realized that perhaps the initial assumption - costs should be calculated reflecting skill advancement from unskilled all the way to its current value - was incorrect. From the costs we'd just derived, higher ranked Edges mirrored the costs of Skill advancement from one tier to the next relatively closely. So, we decided to keep costs closer to that standard -- resulting in less to remember and maintaining the spirit of the "FFF" philosophy.

The final costs for Edges in General experience points is:

  • Basic Edges: 40 XP (same cost as a new Skill; buying d4)

  • Seasoned Edges: 60 XP (Improving to d6)

  • Veteran Edges: 80 XP (Improving to d8)

  • Heroic Edges: 100 XP (Improving to d10)

  • Legendary Edges: 120 XP (Improving to d12)

This method results in generally lower costs, except at the lower ranks. Prerequisites, aside from rank, remain standard. The progression syncs up nicely with the Skill experience system so there is less to learn. Obviously, some edges may need to be modified (or removed) to account for these changes. But otherwise, it works.

Of course, we still need to examine how to improve Characteristics.

Friday, January 09, 2009

House Rule Musings

Recently, I've been considering the types of games and mechanics my playgroup tends to like, and was hoping to apply a few changes to help overcome any reluctance to Savage Worlds on the part of a couple of my player. Here's a start to what I've come up with.

No more ranks. No more advancements every five experience points. My playgroup decided to get rid of them since we never liked them much anyway. You see, we are a picky lot. Picky, and probably a bit spoiled. We’ve been playing a long running HERO system campaign for about six years now, and HERO lets us make what we want, how we want it, with a few very key, core rule dynamics to keep in mind. Have a concept, and BANG! You can make it in HERO system exactly how you want it.

But HERO is by no means flawless. It has some drawbacks – a few are out and out dealbreakers for some folks. It can be slow – too slow – when playing through large combats. The vehicles rules are… well… klunky would be too nice a thing to say. And character creation, especially when building an experienced character, can be time consuming (measured in days, not hours, let alone minutes) and for new players, downright intimidating.

So we decided we wanted a backup system. Not something to replace HERO. No, we’ll be playing HERO for years to come most likely. What we wanted was an alternative, a light system to play when we wanted breaks from HERO or had a taste for something different. About two years ago, that choice settled upon Savage Worlds. We are not alone among the many Savages who’ve come along to find a rules-light alternative to the sheer weight of HERO game-play. But we do seem to be alone in wanting a few very specific alterations to fit our play style.

Firstly, ranks and advancements smack of levels. Some of us dislike – intensely dislike – such relics from older systems. It is bad enough that every computer and console RPG seems to force them down our throats, we don’t want them on the tabletop too. Secondly, characters advance too quickly. In less than a year of weekly play, the average Savage Worlds playgroup is well into “Legendary” in its capabilities. The system as it is written supports short campaigns and “one-shot” adventures exceptionally well. However, it escalates in power too quickly for many longer campaigns.

And recently, we decided that when the Fantasy HERO game ends, we want to switch genres and jump into some Science Fiction. Since the idea of handling dog-fighting starships in HERO makes some of us want to gouge out our eyes, Savage Worlds seemed to be our logical choice, between its simple but solid mechanics, fast action, and seamless integration between tactical and role play. However, the “skimpy” skill system and the aforementioned issues with the experience system made some members of my playgroup hesitate, especially since we figured the Sci-Fi game would become our new, primary game.

Adjusting skills was simple. Add “Sleight of Hand” as a skill – I know some folks say it may be handled using “Stealth”, but I find that notion to be not particularly compelling. Predefine a few Knowledge Skills. Adjust how languages are handled (they no longer have die types – you either have it or do not. Any roll needed is handled by Smarts). And add a handful of edges to round things out. The broad skill “groups” may take some getting used to for a few players, but it does keep things moving fast without sacrificing much of the fun.

The alteration to the experience system was another story. We decided that the experience system itself had to be adjusted from the bottom up – from how experience is given and earned all the way to how it is spent. One common concern with any point-buy system is that experience is earned in a general way and spent on whatever a player wants – despite improving or developing abilities never used or hinted at in actual play. Savage Worlds is not alone in this. Instead, we wanted abilities to improve more organically. If you use a skill, and use it often and well, it will improve. We looked to other systems we have played – most notably R. Talsorian’s Interlock and Chaosium’s Basic Role Play – that have provided a more organic skill advancement system. Of the two, Interlock offered our preferred method. As skills are used or trained in game, they earn improvement points. At certain thresholds of points (generally, 10x the current skill rank), the skill improves. The downside is having to track experience for each skill, and not just in a single pool. None of us considered that to be a problem – it’s only an extra column on the character sheet.

In our Cyberpunk 2020 days playing the Interlock System, skills would often be used in interesting and dramatic ways just to push skill improvement. It may seem silly, but those occasions became some of the most memorable and exciting times in the game. They contributed to the fast, furious fun that is so emblematic of Savage Worlds. We reckoned a mechanic derived from Interlock would work perfectly.

So, we have a framework for skills. What about Characteristics and Edges?

Characteristics improve like skills do in Savage Worlds, so we needed the altered system to keep that essential feel. A couple questions keep popping up:
  • How to address the imbalance between skills and controlling attributes? Agility and Smarts would improve far more often than Strength and Vigor if skill experience can be allocated to characteristic improvement.
  • How does having a characteristic lower than a skill affect that skill’s cost?
  • How slowly should characteristics improve compared to skills? In stock SW, two skills improving is the equivalent of one characteristic increase, unless a skill is rated more highly than the controlling characteristic – at which point they have equal value. We want characteristics to improve slowly enough that they are more difficult to improve than skills, but not so slowly that characters have tons of skills hovering near or surpassing the characteristic continually.

And for Edges? Well, Edges are an interesting case. We decided to retain some of the Rank system as a means of classifying Edges. Unlike HERO where all abilities are built via points of effect, Savage Worlds edges have no metric by which to rate their values individually. Instead, the Rank system allows us a means of assessing relative value. Admittedly, we have to trust the game creators who created the Edges, but the worst that can happen is that two Edges of the same rank are not of similar usefulness. Not a big deal. It is no more a flaw in our mechanic than it is in the stock Savage Worlds system. The only significant question about Edges becomes their relative value compared to other improvable commodities.

Finding answers, though, is somewhat more of a challege...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Science Fiction Setting: Future Perfect

I've been working on the setting for my upcoming Savage Sci-Fi game, outlining factions, major tensions, key players, and significant technologies. From ship designs (I now have about 50 of them), to faction reactions (along the lines of how faction write-ups in White Wolf's World of Darkness games have each faction's reaction to each other summarised in a snappy quote), Life Paths (ala Cyberpunk 2020), and a Character Sheet, I've been plugging away.

The project finally has a name: FUTURE PERFECT

I'm posting a .jpg picture of the working character sheet draft to hint at a few of the setting specific alterations made -- well, some are setting specific, one - IPs or Improvement Points - is included to suit my playgroup, who feels Savage Worlds characters advance in power a little too quickly and inorganically. Tracking IP, borrowed from the Interlock system, allows characters to earn experience in each skill they use. It only adds a little book keeping, but allows characters to improve in those abilities that they actually use. General Experience can be used to improve Attributes and purchase new Edges.

Most notable on the sheet is the inclusion of Faction Reputations. In Future Perfect, reputation is incredibly important, and with so many conflicting and competing factions, a character needs to track his general regard within each of them. Something as simple as Status, from Rippers just is not quite sufficient.

More and more material from Future Perfect is going to be posted on this blog; indeed, I am derailing it to make it more of a design diary for the time being.

Things that are in development include:
  • Faction Based Reputation System
  • Setting Specific Lifepath
  • Universal Vehicle Construction System
  • Alternative Experience System (IP Tracking)
  • Plot Point Adventures
  • New Edges, Hindrances, and Skills
  • Setting Specific Weapons and Gear