Thursday, 17 December 2015

Sanguine Solstice: One Sheet

Twas the night before Yuletide, and outside the village,
The goblins crept closer, eager to pillage.
The gate guards stood idle with nary a care,
Blind to the danger that soon would be there...

I've produced a lot of fan supplements over the last few years, but I've never released any adventures, so I thought I'd try my hand at writing a One Sheet for the Christmas season. For those not familiar with them, One Sheets are bare bones adventures, typically around 1000-1500 words, that are printed on both sides of a single sheet of paper.

In Sanguine Solstice, the players are goblin gang leaders, attempting to overrun a human village. The adventure is split into five scenes, each of which is designed to showcase a different feature of Savage Worlds: Interludes, Dramatic Tasks, trait checks, large combat encounters, and Chases.

You can download it here: Sanguine Solstice

I had originally planned to release some archetypes to go with the adventure, but they proved to be a lot more work than expected, and I don't think I can finish them before Christmas. However you could easily use the characters (and goblin race) I wrote for We Be Savage Goblins for now.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Setting Book Design (Part 2): Section Breakdown and Word Count

In my previous blog post I gave a page breakdown of the different sections in ETU, Lankhmar, and the new Rippers setting books, and included some averages in the summary. After some further thought, I've come up with a set of guidelines for myself - these are primarily for me, as I find it easier to have some clear goals to aim for, but I figured other people might find them of interest as well (or perhaps you disagree with my guidelines, and could give me some better suggestions)?

These are definitely not intended as hard rules, even for myself, and I will adjust or discard them later if they prove confining, but I needed something to get the ball rolling. So without further ado:

1. Introduction (aim for 1,500-4,000 words)
  • Overview of the Setting: Keep it tight and evocative, and try to make the first few hundred words an elevator pitch for the setting.

2. Chapter One: Character Creation (aim for 4,000-6,000 words)
  • Process: Describe the character creation process (within the limits of the Pinnacle licence), including anything that differs from the core rules.
  • Archetypes: List around 5-15 character archetypes, with roughly 50-200 words of description for each.
  • Races: List the races, with roughly 50-200 words of description for each (not including ability descriptions).
  • Hindrances: 5-10 new Hindrances geared towards capturing the flavour of the setting.
  • Edges: 20-30 new Edges geared towards capturing the flavour of the setting.
  • Arcane Backgrounds: List which Arcane Backgrounds are available, and describe their usage and available powers.

3. Chapter Two: Equipment (aim for 1,000-4,000 words)
  • Currency: What sort of coins or other forms of currency are used in the setting.
  • Adventuring Gear: List of prices and weight.
  • Weapons: List of prices, weight, and mechanics.
  • Armour: List of prices, weight, and mechanics.
  • Special: List any special items that are used in the setting.
  • Descriptions: For any listed items that aren't self-explanatory.

4. Chapter Three: Setting Rules (aim for 1,000-4,000 words)
  • Setting Rules: Aim for 3-5 new rules that help capture and evoke the flavour of the setting.

5. Chapter Four: Magic (size of this chapter depends entirely on the setting, anything from 0 to 10,000 words)
  • Religions: List the different gods, along with aspects, powers, duties and sins (as per the FC).
  • Powers: List any new powers.
  • Other: Provide any further information or rules related to magic.

6. Chapter Five: Setting Information (aim for 15,000-25,000 words)
  • History and Geography: Fluff about the setting, split into sections and subsections as appropriate (a typical subsection should ideally be around 100-300 words).

7. Chapter Six: GM's section (special)
  • Special: Move anything here from the other chapters (particularly Setting Information) that should be kept secret from the players.

8. Chapter Seven: Adventures (aim for 3,000-6,000 words)
  • Savage Tales: Include at least 2-3 short adventures (each around 1,000-1,500 words, the same as a One Sheet)
  • Adventure Seeds: Brief outlines for further adventures (each perhaps 50-100 words).
  • Adventure Generator: System for randomly generating new adventures (typically 500-3000 words)

9. Chapter Eight: Bestiary (aim for 5,000-10,000 words)
  • Major NPCs: List of the major NPCs in the setting. Each should have a description (40-60 words) and some background information (200-300 words), as well as a statblock.
  • NPC archetypes: List any common NPC archetypes (town guard, wandering minstrel, insane cultist, etc), along with some descriptive text (perhaps 50-200 words).
  • Monsters: List any monsters specific to the setting, along with some descriptive text (perhaps 100-300 words).

The total document should be around 45,000-50,000 words, which after layout and artwork should be around 90-100 pages.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Setting Book Design: Sections and Page Count

My latest freelance project involves writing a Savage Worlds companion for a new system-neutral setting. However I wasn't sure how best to organise the material, so I had look at a few of the newer Pinnacle settings to see how the experts handle it, and to get a rough idea of how big each section should be.

Setting Breakdown

The following is an approximate breakdown of the various sections in ETU, Lankhmar, and the new Rippers:

East Texas University
  • Introduction: 4 pages
  • Character creation: 11 pages (11 Hindrances, 24 Edges)
  • Equipment: 6 pages
  • Setting rules: 4 pages (4 rules)
  • Setting information: 21 pages
  • Magic: 13 pages (moved to GM section in this particular setting)
  • Adventure generators: 13 pages
  • Bestiary: 19 pages

Lankhmar
  • Introduction: 3 pages
  • Character creation: 13 pages (6 Hindrances, 28 Edges)
  • Equipment: 5 pages
  • Setting rules: 3 pages (7 rules)
  • Magic: 13 pages
  • Setting information: 28 pages
  • Magic items: 2 pages
  • Adventure seeds: 10 pages
  • Bestiary: 15 pages

Rippers Player Guide
  • Introduction: 7 pages
  • Character creation: 10 pages (8 Hindrances, 30 Edges)
  • Equipment: 9 pages
  • Setting rules: 12 pages (4 rules)
  • Rippertech (Magic equivalent): 12 pages
  • Setting information: 42 pages

Summary

If we were to take the average of the above figures, we'd end up with the following:
  • Introduction: 5 pages
  • Character creation: 11 pages (8 Hindrances, 27 Edges)
  • Equipment: 7 pages
  • Setting rules: 6 pages (5 rules)
  • Magic: 13 pages
  • Setting information: 30 pages (a third of the book)

Then add another 20 pages at the end for anything else specific to the setting, such as magic items, random generators, a bestiary, etc. This could also include adventure seeds, but not a full campaign (that would be a separate book).

After taking into account layout and artwork, there tends to be an average of around 500 words per page. So if you're aiming for 30 pages of setting information, you should probably be looking at a ballpark figure of around 15,000 words of background fluff.

Of course there are many other ways to lay out a setting book, you certainly don't have to do it the same way as Pinnacle (Melior Via put the setting information at the beginning of their books, for example, and I very much like that style as well). But if you're not sure where to get started with your new setting, I think you could do a lot worse than using the above figures as a rough guideline.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Importance of Attributes

On several occasions now, I've seen people suggest that it's not worth raising attributes in Savage Worlds. This usually seems to be because the individual comes from another game system where the attribute is rolled alongside the skill (such as WoD, Cortex, etc). However just because you don't roll Agility alongside your Fighting die, or Smarts alongside your Notice check, it certainly doesn't mean that the attributes aren't useful. They're just used differently.

Many settings introduce new rules and abilities that tie in with certain attributes, so I'm just going to focus on the core rule book for now. In Savage Worlds Deluxe, the various attributes provide the following benefits:

Agility:
  • Linked to most of the physical skills, including all the combat skills.
  • Unlocks some of the best combat-oriented Edges (like First Strike, Two-Fisted, and Acrobat).
  • Used for readying (drawing) and reloading weapons.
  • Used for evading area-effect attacks.
  • Used to avoid being hit by a vehicle.
  • Used for interrupting other characters mid-action.
  • Can be used for escaping or maintaining a grapple (choice of Agility or Strength).
  • Can be used to escape from the Entangle power (choice of Agility or Strength).
  • Used for performing and resisting Agility tricks.
  • Used by the Chase rules when moving on foot.
  • Used to survive long falls into water.
  • Used to jump from moving vehicles and eject from wrecked aircraft.
  • Used to resist the Blind, Burst, and Entangle powers.
  • Used to avoid the breath attack of drakes and dragons, the blast attacks of elementals, etc.

Smarts:
  • Linked to most of the mental skills, including most of the arcane skills required for spellcasting.
  • Used for Common Knowledge rolls (the catch-all mental skill).
  • Unlocks several really nice Edges (like Level Headed, Mentalist, and Wizard).
  • Used to resist Taunt-based tests of will.
  • Used for performing and resisting Smarts tricks.
  • Used for avoiding airborne diseases (by holding your breath before the air enters your lungs).
  • Determines how many languages you speak when using the Multiple Languages rule.
  • Used for maintaining your powers when wounded or Shaken.
  • Determines the range for the Banish, Barrier, Beast Friend, Boost/Lower Trait, Burrow, Confusion, Dispel, Drain Power Points, Elemental Manipulation, Entangle, Fear, Growth/Shrink, Havoc, Light/Obscure, Mind Reading, Puppet, Slow, Slumber, Summon Ally, Telekinesis and Zombie powers.
  • Used to resist the Confusion and Mind Reading powers.
  • Used for teleporting to a location you can't see.

Spirit:
  • Linked to the Intimidation and Persuasion skills, as well as the Faith arcane skill used by priestly spellcasters.
  • Unlocks some really nice Edges (like Elan, Champion, Beast Master, and Healer).
  • Used to gain Power Points using the Soul Drain Edge.
  • Used to recover from Shaken.
  • Used to resist Suppressive Fire.
  • Used to resist Intimidation-based tests of will.
  • Used to resist Fear checks.
  • Used for Morale checks.
  • Used to resist Brainburn.
  • Used to resist the Banish, Boost/Lower Trait, Divination, Growth/Shrink, Puppet, Slow and Slumber and Telekinesis powers.
  • Determines the strength and damage of the Telekinesis power.
  • Used to keep a vampire at bay with a holy symbol.

Strength:
  • Linked to the Climbing skill, and also determines climbing speed.
  • Unlocks some strong melee Edges (like Sweep and Brawler).
  • Restricts which weapons you can use effectively (both melee and ranged).
  • Determines melee damage.
  • Determines how much you can carry (good weapons and armour are heavy).
  • Used for jumping.
  • Used to resist being disarmed.
  • Can be used for escaping or maintaining a grapple (choice of Agility or Strength).
  • Can be used to escape from the Entangle power (choice of Agility or Strength).
  • Used for performing and resisting the Push maneuver.
  • Used to resist the Havoc and Pummel powers
  • Used to resist being moved by the Telekinesis power.
  • Used to escape a (literal) bear hug, or a constricting snake.
  • Used to resist the push and whirlwind monstrous abilities of an air elemental.

Vigor:
  • Determines Toughness.
  • Used for Soak rolls.
  • Unlocks some defensively useful Edges (like Champion, Nerves of Steel, and Liquid Courage).
  • Used to survive incapacitation and Bleeding Out.
  • Used for natural healing rolls.
  • Used to resist Fatigue from failed Fear/Nausea checks.
  • Used to survive a heart attack from a failed Fear check.
  • Used to resist poison and disease.
  • Determines how long it takes to recover from a disease.
  • Used to resist Bumps and Bruises, heat, cold, drowning, smoke inhalation, radiation, hunger, thirst, and lack of sleep.
  • Determines how many rounds you can hold your breath, and how fast you die after drowning.
  • Used to resist the Stun power, and the Corrosion, Fatigue and Spasms power trappings.
  • Used to resist the infection, paralysis, poison and stun monstrous abilities.


Friday, 13 November 2015

Primordial Horrors teaser: Creeping Dread

I'm still playing around with cover designs!
Illustration inside the circle by Bruno Balixa.
I released Savage Undead for Halloween 2013, and had originally planned to release a Savage Demons supplement for Halloween 2014 - but I was strapped for time, so I just created a random demon generator instead. Codex Infernus was also announced shortly before Halloween 2014, and I didn't want to step on their toes, so I ended up shelving my ideas and working on something else.

For Halloween this year I thought about putting a different spin on my old ideas, replacing the demonic theme with a Lovecraftian one, and renaming the supplement "Primordial Horrors" (not my first choice, but I needed a name that wasn't already taken). However the project became a lot bigger than I'd originally intended, and I also found myself investing a lot of time into experimenting with the layout and presentation. Rather than rush it for Halloween, I decided I'd rather wait and do the job properly.

But as today is Friday 13th, I thought it might be fun to post a teaser - my Creeping Dread setting rule. Thanks go to Mathew and Todd for helping me test it!

Design Overview

Savage Worlds includes simple Fear rules in the core book, and there are a number of variations such as the sanity point system in the Horror Companion, the "mental wound" mechanic in Realms of Cthulhu, the Reason and Delirium setting rule in The Thin Blue Line, and so on. However these are all linear systems on a single sliding scale, while for my particular setting I really wanted something that reflected the different types of fear people can face, along with the different psychological responses that fear can provoke, including desensitization at the expense of humanity.

The key concepts of Creeping Dread are therefore:
  • Intended to feel like an expanded version of the SWD Fear rules (thus it still includes Nausea, Terror, Jaded, etc).
  • Splits fear into four categories, each of which are tracked separately.
  • Incorporates the four psychological responses to fear without removing player agency.
  • Simulates humanity (through Regret and Jaded levels), and the loss of humanity as a way to insulate ones sanity.
  • Differentiates battlefield desensitization from other types of fear.
Thus you could have an emergency physician who is desensitized to blood and gore, an occult investigator who is desensitized to supernatural monsters, a violent street thug who is desensitized to committing murder, and a war veteran who is desensitized to the battlefield. But their desensitization wouldn't help them against other categories of fear.

It should be noted that the inspiration for responses comes from Unknown Armies (which I've admittedly never played, but which I've heard good things about), while the idea for using a slash or cross to differentiate between Distress and Jaded levels comes from World of Darkness (where it's used to indicate lethal versus nonlethal damage).

Creeping Dread

Fear checks in Savage Worlds are normally categorized as either Nausea or Terror. The Creeping Dread setting rule adds two more categories, Regret and Trauma, with each category defined as follows:
  1. Nausea: Caused by a macabre scene or object, those who fail Fear (Nausea) checks often faint or throw up. Roll Fear (Nausea) for things like discovering the bloody aftermath of a dark ritual, or reading a grimoire of black magic, and apply a penalty if the ritual is exceptionally gruesome, or if the grimoire is particularly horrific.
  2. Terror: Caused by terrifying supernatural activity or creatures, those who fail Fear (Terror) checks often run away screaming. Roll Fear (Terror) if you witness the effects of a haunting or other paranormal activity, or if you see a monster, and apply a penalty if the haunting or monster is particularly frightening.
  3. Regret: Caused by the individual’s own decisions, those who fail Fear (Regret) checks often feel terrible guilt, and start to doubt their own actions. Roll Fear (Regret) if you kill a human foe in the heat of battle, or accidently kill an innocent bystander, or intentionally cause serious injury to yourself or a loved one. Apply a penalty when your actions are more severe, or cause extensive pain and suffering.
  4. Trauma: Caused by witnessing terrible tragedies or brutal acts of violence beyond the individual’s ability to control, those who fail Fear (Trauma) checks often react with denial or go into shock. Roll Fear (Trauma) if you find yourself in the middle of a deadly pitched battle, or when you witness a particularly gruesome or violent death, and apply penalties as the scale and intensity of the violence increases.
Most Fear checks are resolved as unmodified Spirit rolls, but penalties of -1 or -2 may be appropriate for particularly severe situations, with penalties of -3 and -4 reserved for the most horrific scenes and the most depraved of acts.

As a general rule, characters shouldn't need to make more than one Fear check per session for each particular “thing”; if you come across a horrifying crime scene, or see a terrifying monster, you only need to roll for it once. If you encounter more of the same type of crime scene or monster, you shouldn't need to roll again unless they raise the ante in some way.

The Brave Edge and the Yellow Hindrance apply to all Fear checks except Regret.

Responding to Fear

Each character has three Distress levels for each Fear category, but unlike wounds and Fatigue levels, Distress levels do not give a penalty to trait rolls. They should be tracked on the character sheet as follows:


If you fail a Fear check, you suffer one Distress level in the appropriate category, which you should indicate by drawing a single diagonal line through the first empty box. You must then choose one of the following four responses:
  1. Fight: You become angry and aggressive, facing the source of your fear head-on. This could be in the form of a physical assault, or you might shout and argue, lashing out verbally at those around you. If the response involves combat and the foe is within range, make an immediate free attack with a +2 modifier to attack and Strength-based damage rolls, then apply a level of Fatigue afterwards.
  2. Flight: You attempt to flee from the source of the fear. This can involve literally running away, or you might find somewhere to hide, or perhaps you just try to avoid any further confrontation. If the response occurs during a combat situation, take an immediate movement and running action, and then become Shaken afterwards, suffering a level of Fatigue if you were already Shaken.
  3. Freeze: You stand frozen like a deer in the headlights. Perhaps you scream, or vomit, or faint, or curl up and play dead, or maybe you just stand there quivering in your shoes. You might even withdraw into yourself, refusing to speak of what you saw. If the response occurs in combat, you become Shaken if not already.
  4. Appease: You submit to the source of the fear, or attempt to defuse the situation. Perhaps you fall to your knees and beg for mercy, or try to appease a monster with a sacrifice. Maybe you suffer an uncontrollable bout of paradoxical laughter, or coweringly agree with whatever is asked of you. If the response occurs during combat, you become Shaken if not already.
Players should choose whichever response they feel is most appropriate to their character, depending on the current situation; someone with the Arrogant Hindrance may well choose to attack a foe who scared them, while someone with Yellow would probably run or surrender, but there can always be exceptions. If the player responds in a particularly appropriate fashion, the GM should consider awarding them a benny.

The character must continue acting in a manner appropriate to their response until they next draw a Joker or Hearts for initiative (if they have Level Headed, their calm demeanor allows them to keep a Hearts card even if it's not their highest card), or they may spend a benny at the beginning of their turn to break free immediately. Fatigue caused by Fight or Flight typically lasts only a few minutes.

Becoming Jaded

If you succeed a Fear check with a raise on the roll, you may add a Jaded level to the appropriate category if you wish. This is done by drawing a cross through the first uncrossed box; if the box already contains a diagonal line indicating a Distress level, upgrade it to a Jaded level by turning the line into a cross. This means you always have at least as many Distress levels as you have Jaded levels (a cross represents both).

Whenever you're required to make a Fear check, and your Jaded level exceeds the Fear check penalty, you automatically succeed unless the source of fear is particularly unusual (GM’s discretion) or caused by a derangement. Furthermore, you always add your Jaded level to Fear checks of the appropriate category.

For example, if you had two levels of Jaded for Nausea, you would add +2 to all Fear (Nausea) checks. You would also automatically succeed any Fear (Nausea) checks made at +0 or -1, unless they were caused by a derangement or the GM ruled that they were particularly unusual (but even then you would still add your +2 Jaded bonus to the roll).

Derangements

If you fail a Fear check and have no more empty Distress boxes, or if the modified result of your Fear check is 1 or lower, you suffer a derangement instead of a Distress level. Make a Spirit roll: on a success you suffer a random temporary derangement, while each raise allows you to roll an additional time on the Derangement Table and choose which result you keep; on a failure you suffer a permanent derangement, while on a result of 1 or lower you also suffer a severe reaction such as heart failure or an aneurysm rupture (treated as if you were incapacitated by lethal damage, except instead of Bleeding Out, failure on the Vigor roll causes you to enter a long-term coma or stupor).

Derangement Table (roll d20)
  1. Amnesia: You're unable to remember the event, or perhaps just certain parts of it.
  2. Angst: You suffer from deep anxiety and dread, usually related to the horrors you have witnessed.
  3. Apathy: You suffer from emotional numbness, and a lack of interest and motivation in life.
  4. Delusional: Your mind has developed a defensive delusion to help cope with the horrors you've seen.
  5. Denial: You blind yourself to the event, or minimize its importance.
  6. Distress: You have intense reactions to memories of the event, include nausea, sweating, and feelings of intense distress. You suffer a -1 penalty to future Fear checks of the appropriate category.
  7. Flashbacks: You suffer from flashbacks, during which the horrors of the past feel real. Whenever you roll a critical failure, you become Shaken and must make a Fear (Terror) check.
  8. Guilt: You suffer from shame, guilt and/or self-hatred as a result of your response to the event. You suffer a -2 penalty to Spirit rolls when attempting to recover from Regret.
  9. Habit: You’ve developed a habit of some sort. Perhaps you have a nervous tic or twitch, or maybe you have frequent animated conversions with yourself. Alternatively, the horrors you’ve witnessed may have turned you to drink, drugs, or some other form of addiction. Choose a Habit Hindrance (Minor or Major).
  10. Hallucinations: You experience vivid hallucinations, making it difficult to tell what is real and what is not. At least once per session, the GM should make up something and describe it to you as if it were real.
  11. Infirm: You suffer from organ weakness as a result of the stress caused by the event. Gain the Anemic Hindrance.
  12. Isolation: You try your best to avoid things that bring back memories or feelings associated with the event.
  13. Mood Swings: You suffer frequent mood swings, ranging from deep sadness to uncontrollable anger. Gain the Mean Hindrance.
  14. Nervous: You are very excitable and easily startled, and unexpected noises and events provoke a strong response from you. Whenever you are surprised or ambushed, you must make a Fear (Terror) check.
  15. Nightmares: You suffer from frequent and terrible nightmares related to the horrors you've witnessed. Whenever you try to sleep, draw a card; if you draw Clubs, you failed to get any sleep.
  16. Panic Disorder: You suffer from panic attacks. Whenever you draw a deuce, you have to choose a response as if you’d just failed a Fear check.
  17. Phobia: You suffer from a phobia related in some way to the event. Gain a Phobia (Minor) Hindrance.
  18. Repetition: You unconsciously repeat traumatic life patterns, such as putting yourself in danger, or making bad relationship decisions.
  19. Sociopath: You become impulsive, violent, and unfeeling. Gain the Remorseless (Major) Hindrance.
  20. Trust Issues: You have difficulty trusting people and building relationships.
If you roll the same derangement twice, increase the intensity of the reaction, but record both derangements separately for recovery purposes. Not all derangements apply a mechanical penalty, but they all have some sort of impact on the sufferer, and the GM should try to incorporate them into adventures.

Recovery

While receiving professional psychological help, make a Spirit roll every 5 days, applying your Jaded level as a penalty to the roll: on a success you may remove a Distress level, or convert a Jaded level into a Distress level; on a raise you may remove a Distress or Jaded level, or convert a temporary derangement into a Jaded level. A critical failure is resolved as if you’d just failed a Fear check in the category you were hoping to cure.

Example

While exploring an abandoned laboratory, Dwayne encounters a zombie. He makes a Fear (Terror) roll and fails, so he marks off a Distress level for Terror, and chooses to trigger a Fight response: he attacks the zombie in an adrenaline-fueled rage! As he continues to explore the laboratory, he encounters more zombies, but he doesn't need to make any further Fear (Terror) checks for them this session.

Later he enters a room where an experiment is taking place, and witnesses someone being torn apart by a pack of zombies, blood spraying everywhere. He makes a Fear (Nausea) roll and gets a raise, so he marks off an immediate Jaded level in Nausea.

Later he encounters several savaged and partially-devoured corpses, which would normally require a Fear (Nausea) roll. However Dwayne is already Jaded against Nausea, so he automatically succeeds.

However when he eventually spots a hideous ghoul feeding upon the corpses, Dwayne is required to make a Fear (Terror) roll, as it's something he hasn't encountered before. He fails again, and adds another Distress level, and this time chooses to freeze in place as he watches the ghoul chewing away, oblivious to his presence. After recovering his wits, Dwayne carefully retreats from the room without attracting attention.

Later still, Dwayne joins up with his ally Joe, and they find themselves being chased by a vast horde of zombies. This is a new threat, and a particularly scary one, so they both make Fear (Terror) checks at -2. Joe manages to roll a 3, which is reduced to 1 by the -2 penalty; his sanity takes a hit, and he’s forced to make a Spirit roll: critical failure! Joe clutches his chest and collapses to the floor, while Dwayne succeeds with a raise, converting one of his Distress levels into a Jaded level.

But leaving his friend behind to be eaten requires a Fear (Regret) roll. Dwayne rolls snake eyes, but then succeeds on his follow-up Spirit roll, so he suffers a temporary derangement. He rolls on the Derangement Table and gets a 9 – Habit. Dwayne feels terrible about leaving his friend behind, vividly recalling the sound of rending flesh and snapping bones as the zombies caught him. He tries to drown his guilt in hard liquor, searching for absolution at the bottom of a bottle.

After much counselling, Dwayne is able to come to terms with his actions, realizing that he had no choice – if he’d stopped for Joe, they would both have died. He gets a raise on his recovery roll, and converts the Habit into a Jaded level.

Dwayne no longer needs to make Fear checks for Nausea, Terror or Regret, unless they are particularly unusual, or incur a penalty to the roll – and even if he does have to roll, he receives a +1 bonus.

However nothing that Dwayne has ever witnessed has prepared him for war, to deal with the helplessness of battle, and the overwhelming intensity of a military bombardment.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Guild of Shadows released

The Guild of Shadows setting has finally been released to Kickstarter backers, and is now also available on DriveThruRPG. In a blog post earlier this year I mentioned that I'd edited and expanded the mechanics, but I've done further work since then, and in thanks for my contributions I've been credited as a co-author.

The final product contains 11 new Hindrances and 20 new Edges, as well as additional gear, and rules for disguises, minions, and poison. The disguise rules were based on a concept I originally proposed in an earlier blog post, the minion rules allow players to create and customise their own gang members, and the detailed poison rules allow players to design their own poisons by selecting different forms of delivery, onset time, and effect. There's also a simple adventure generator.

Guild of Shadows is set in the city of Kurstwahl, which can be used as a standalone setting, or slotted into an established fantasy setting. But even if you don't want to use Kurstwahl, the book could easily be used as a sort of "Rogues Companion" for people wanting to play thieves or assassins.

The adventures also do a good job of capturing the feel of the genre, tending to detail locations rather than events. For example Kurstwahl’s Eleven describes a location where the players have to execute a heist, paying particular attention to the various defences in place, but it's left entirely up to the players how they complete their mission.

Rogues Hall of Fame: Lost Villains

A side project I worked on was the Rogues Hall of Fame - it was a stretch goal that wasn't quite reached, but SPQR Games wanted to offer it to the backers anyway.

I was provided with a list of ten names for inclusion, but I had some additional ideas of my own, and also wanted to incorporate further suggestions from Kickstarter backers. In the end I wrote up stat blocks for thirty characters, although three of them (Cardinal Richelieu, Grendel, and Morgan Le Fay) were rejected due to being more "villain" than "rogue".

Rather than lose those three characters to the annals of time, I've turned them into an unofficial final page for the Rogues Hall of Fame, which you can download here.

Royce Melborn

The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan is one of my favourite series of fantasy novels, so I thought it would be fun to stat up Royce Melborn using the new Edges and Hindrances from Guild of Shadows. I couldn't include him in the Hall of Fame for legal reasons, but I think I can probably get away with including him on my blog.

Royce grew up as a thief on the streets of Ratibor, eventually joining the Black Diamonds, where he became one of their top assassins. He was later betrayed and sent to Manzant Prison, receiving a brand on his left shoulder as a permanent reminder of his time there. After being rescued from the prison, Royce joined up with Hadrian Blackwater, forming the partnership called Riyria (meaning "two" in elven).

The following stats are for Royce as a Novice starting character, when he was still a youngster living on the streets:

❄ Royce Melborn
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d4, Fighting d6, Healing d4, Intimidation d4, Knowledge (Poison) d4, Lockpicking d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Riding d4, Stealth d8, Streetwise d6, Survival d4, Throwing d6, Tracking d4
Charisma: –; Pace: 6; Parry: 5; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Dark Past (Major), Lone Wolf (Minor), Vengeful (Minor)
Edges: Alertness, Artful Dodger, Night Eyes

Here's an older and much more experienced Royce, with 20 advances under his belt:

❄ Royce Melborn
Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d6, Fighting d10, Healing d4, Intimidation d8, Knowledge (Poison) d8, Lockpicking d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Riding d4, Stealth d8, Streetwise d6, Survival d4, Throwing d8, Tracking d4
Charisma: –; Pace: 6; Parry: 8; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Dark Past (Major), Branded (Minor), Lone Wolf (Minor), Vengeful (Minor)
Edges: Acrobat, Alertness, Artful Dodger, Fearsome Reputation, Improved Level Headed, Precision Bladework, Marksman, Master Assassin, Mobile Defense, Night Eyes, Quick, Quick Draw, Thief

Monday, 26 October 2015

Presentation in Savage Worlds Supplements

I released my first Savage Worlds fan licensed PDF back in March 2012, and I've produced a dozen more since then. My process typically goes something like this:

  1. Scribble down lots of notes (usually in Notepad), adding more over time.
  2. Once there are sufficient notes, start organising them into sections.
  3. Once there are several fairly-complete sections, copy and paste everything into Microsoft Word.
  4. Clean up the formatting and fine-tune the content.
  5. Create the layout (front cover, index, columns, artwork).
  6. Proof-read, proof-read, proof-read.
  7. Export the document as a PDF, announce it on the forum/blog/etc.
  8. Collect feedback, fix problems I missed, re-release the PDF with a new version number.

This approach works for me, and I feel that the presentation of my supplements has improved over the last few years, but there's still a lot of room for improvement. A couple of weeks ago I finally decided it was time to step up my game, and a recent post from Manuel Sambs inspired me to share my experiences in the hope that others might find it useful. 

Obviously the professionals already know what they're doing, and have far more experience with layout and trade dress than I do, but very few people seem willing to share their knowledge and experience. There have been a few general tips on reddit, which I appreciated, but nothing really detailed that goes into all the different things you need to consider.

So without further ado, allow me to share my first fumbling steps...

Content is King

It goes without saying that before you work on the layout, you need the content. The remainder of this post assumes that you've already written your content and had it proof-read (perhaps you've even released it as a simple fan licence supplement), but now you'd like to make it look more attractive.

Of course you could contact an existing licencee and try to reach an agreement with them, perhaps they'll handle the layout for you in return for a cut of the profit. Or you could pay a third party design company to do the layout for you, and contact Pinnacle about becoming an official licencee so that you can recoup your costs.

But what if no official licencees are interested in your product, or you can't reach an agreement you're comfortable with? What if you don't want to pay too much in advance when you're not sure if Pinnacle will even agree to give you a commercial licence? What if you've no intention of going commercial at all, and simply want to make your supplements look nicer?

Layout Design

Pinnacle recommend creating document layouts in InDesign or Quark, but both tools are expensive. However there is a similar tool called Scribus - it is perhaps not as intuitive or user-friendly as InDesign or Quark, but it is still very powerful, and more importantly it's free (open source).

I downloaded Scribus and had a play around with it, and it proved to be far less scary than I'd expected. It's nice being able to define layers (instead of creating a separate printer-friendly PDF for each supplement), but there are also many other benefits - styles, master pages, frames, bookmarks, and so on. I've been teaching myself on a need-to-know basis rather than using tutorials, but it's already become clear to me that I won't ever be exporting PDF supplements from Microsoft Word again.

Font Selection

There are a lot of good, free fonts out there, and there are even websites like Font Squirrel that are dedicated to offering such fonts. As there are often usage restrictions on certain fonts, it's well worth hunting around for some that can be used freely, particularly if you're potentially considering going commercial in the future.

After a little research I came to the conclusion that most people seem to prefer a 10, 11 or 12 point sans-serif font for the body text of roleplaying supplements, so I decided to go for 10 point Open Sans.

The Pinnacle Style Template defines four headers (chapter, major section, major topic, and minor topic) in addition to the body text, and these are where the fancier fonts come in. If you look at a PDF's document properties you can see which fonts it uses - for example Accursed uses East Anglia (which is free for commercial use), while Shaintar and Lankhmar use Windlass (which works out at $110 per supplement for an embedding license).

For my latest supplement I'm considering going with Cenobyte for the chapter headings; it's not the easiest font to read, but I think it's very evocative of the style I'm aiming to capture, and I will be using it very sparsely.

Cover and Interior Background

A nice cover and interior background design can make a huge difference to the presentation of your supplement, giving it a much more professional look, and it's not going to break the bank. DriveThruRPG has loads of them available, Lord Zsezse Works alone has produced numerous $5 template packs (including the one used by Winter Eternal).

An alternative I prefer is to use a full-page illustration for the front cover, and a background design for the interior pages. However some covers include space for an illustration, so you can also combine the two concepts if you prefer.

You can even design your cover by combining different pieces of artwork. Heroes of Terra uses a free Storn Cook illustration on a background illustration by Bruno Balixa, and there are quite a few other illustrations that have a separate foreground and background, allowing them to be mixed and matched with other artwork.

One thing to look for is the page size. Some of the covers and interiors are US letter size, while others are A4, and you'll need to resize and crop them if they're the wrong size and proportion. Personally I use US letter (8.5" x 11"), as I find it the most convenient for printing, but Pinnacle are moving away from letter and digest (6" x 9") in favour of a graphic novel size (typically 6.79" x 10.37").

Title and Logo

"Stay Savage!" by Cool Text.
Once you've chosen your front cover, you'll need a pretty title for your supplement. You could hire an artist to draw it for you, but there are also websites such as Cool Text that can produce some very nice - and possibly rather familiar - results.

The logo may require a bit more work, particularly if you want something unique (I think it's best not to use stock art for the logo). For my latest supplement I merged two public domain photographs (a CD with a nice lighting effect, and a metal surface texture) and adjusted the colour and tone in Photoshop to create a pale gold that contrasted nicely with the background, then I placed a public domain clipart pentagram over the top and cut out the background, using another (dark stone) texture for the inside. Finally, I wrote runes around the outside of the pentagram using a Wizard Janji font. I'm certainly no artist, but I think the result is passable, and more importantly I can be certain that nobody else will use the exact same logo on their own roleplaying supplements.

Artwork

Many Savage Worlds products have used the excellent artwork of Storn Cook, and in the past he also released a lot of his work under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic License. As a result, I was able to use it in my fan supplements, as long as I remained compatible with the licence.

However there is also a lot of free stock artwork available online. Some of it is available on clipart sites, but DriveThruRPG has an excellent selection; some of it is even free, while the remainder is usually available at a very reasonable price, and can even be used in commercial products.

If you want to commission custom artwork then the price will be higher, and even that won't guarantee exclusive rights. But if you just want some decent artwork to fill out your supplement, and don't mind if other people use it in their own products as well, even Storn's artwork can be licensed at a competitive price (including some pieces that have been used in official Savage Worlds publications).

Example

I had been hoping to complete my latest supplement for Halloween, but time has run short, and I'd rather do the job properly than rush it. However I thought I'd give a quick teaser of the front cover and the introduction page, as an example of the layout style I'm going for.






















The front cover illustration is by Bruno Balixa, the "Primordial Horrors" font was created using Cool Text and recoloured using Photoshop, and I created the pentagram from public domain clipart as described earlier. The page interiors were drawn by Mateusz Pohl, and the tentacles illustration is by Gary Dupui (although I rotated it, set the background to transparent, and blurred the edges).

I've also bought a little more artwork, but not much; I've decided to only spend money that I've earned from freelance writing on other Savage Worlds products!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Character Analysis Tool

I've been doing an awful lot of work on statblocks lately, both writing up new characters and proofreading existing ones. It gets pretty mind-numbing after a while, particularly when there are dozens to go through, and that's when mistakes start to slip in.

So I've put together a tool to do the grunt work for me - it gives an overview of the attribute and skill points, and flags up any potential problems.

This is particularly useful when adding up the points for starting characters and pregens, but it can also be used for monsters (it's very common for people to make mistakes with calculating Toughness and Parry for example).

You can access it here: Character Analysis

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Musings about Necromancers, Drakonheim, and Slottable Settings

I like necromancers. I've always thought they were one of the cooler mage concepts (with serious anti-hero potential), and I love the idea of all those icky minions. I enjoyed reading Brian Lumley's Necroscope series, and Gail Z. Martin's Chronicles of the Necromancer, and of course I adored Bauchelain and Korbal Broach in Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen. When I played Warhammer Fantasy Battle long ago, I usually used necromancer-lead undead armies (and I was gutted when the 3rd edition rules quadrupled the point cost for the rank and file undead), and in computer games I usually play a necromancer when available.

Sadly most roleplaying settings that include rules for necromancers define them exclusively as bad guys. In Shaintar, for example, necromancers are only available as NPCs. Even in the Eberron setting, where the nation of Karrnath used undead soldiers to defend its borders during the Last War, necromancy is viewed as evil.

However while some forms of necromancy could certainly be classified as evil (particularly in relation to draining, binding or corrupting souls), skeletons and zombies are typically portrayed as mindless and soulless - if you ignore the icky aspect, they're not really any different than robots.

Raising the Dead for a Living

One of the first adventures I ever ran for my current group started out rather clich├ęd - the PCs were passing through a settlement that was being terrorised by a local necromancer. The villagers spun a tale of murder and dark magic, of abductions and grave robbing, and begged the PCs to deal with the threat...

The truth was somewhat different. The necromancer was using animated skeletons to perform manual labour on nearby land that he'd purchased from the local lord. He hadn't killed or abducted anyone, but he'd paid several of the villagers a tidy sum in advance for the right to use their corpses after they died, and the contract was legally binding. The villagers were more than happy to take the money while they were alive, but had a change of heart when it came to upholding their end of the bargain, and many of them didn't want to hand over the dead bodies of their relatives. They figured a party of gullible and violent adventurers would be the perfect solution to their dilemma.

Thrown into the mix was an exceptionally stupid NPC paladin (I was poking fun at the D&D dump stat stereotype), who was already in the area attempting to deal with the undead "menace", and decided to join forces with the party. This lead to the following memorable exchange as the group scouted out the necromancer's base:

Paladin: Let's attack the base! Full-frontal assault! CHARGE!

PC: Wait! It's a fortified building with archers on the walls and heavily barred gates, you'd need a battering ram to get in there...

Paladin: Ah, tactician eh? I like the way you think!

The paladin later died while trying to single-handedly batter down the gates with an improvised ram, but his catchphrase lived on, and for a long time afterwards any blatantly obvious suggestions would be met with "Tactician eh?" 

The PCs never did kill the necromancer. He didn't drive them off with undead or dark magic, but with legal threats.

The memory of that adventure came flooding back when I read Drakonheim. In the original Drakonheim adventures, a cabal of necromancers are raising an undead army to defend their city from a hobgoblin invasion. The full setting takes place in the aftermath, with necromancers now working openly with the support of the mayor. The setting even has an overzealous paladin who keeps breaking the law by attacking the undead!

Drakonheim: City of Bones

Created by +Matthew Hanson (author of the Broken Earth and Kronocalypse settings for Savage Worlds), Drakonheim is a system-neutral setting, although it expands on a trilogy of earlier adventures that he wrote for D&D Next. As a result, Drakonheim still maintains a bit of a D&D vibe, with the assumption of common D&D races, classes/archetypes, monsters and spells.

Of course this is ideal for me, as it fits perfectly with the magic system in Savage Vancian Magic, and with my Monster Finder bestiary. It would therefore take relatively little effort to convert the original three adventures, and because the Drakonheim setting book is pure fluff, it wouldn't need any conversion at all.

For those who prefer to stick with official sources, the Horror Companion would make a good source of Edges and powers for the Gray Society (the organisation of necromancers who defended Drakonheim), and the Fantasy Companion bestiary should cover most of the monsters.

Slottable Settings

Because the setting focuses on a single city, Drakonheim could also be inserted into established settings - much like Kurstwahl, the city from Guild of Shadows (and as both have pseudo-Germanic names and dark themes, I could very easily imagine using both cities in the same fantasy world).

I'm actually a very big fan of this slottable-setting approach, with detailed cities that can be dropped into existing campaigns as needed, fleshing out places that the PCs are visiting. I own far more settings than I could ever realistically run as full campaigns, but slottable locations can simply be blended into my current campaign as new places to explore.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Archetypes based on D&D Classes


Last month I completed the Savage Vancian Magic fan supplement, which is designed to capture the flavour of the D&D magic system in a way that still feels and plays like Savage Worlds - or as I like to think of it, Savage Vancian Magic is to D&D settings as the Super Powers Companion is to superhero settings.

In this blog post I'd like to show how Savage Vancian Magic can be used to help design character archetypes that are based thematically on the D&D base classes.

My current campaign (Savage War of the Burning Sky) includes a similar set of archetypes. One player just wanted to play a wizard, so she picked the wizard archetype and used it as written. Another player wanted to create an aggressive warrior, so he picked the barbarian archetype and swapped a few things around. The third player wasn't interested in the archetypes at all, so she ignored them and created a rather unique acrobatic carpenter with a fondness for brawling. Everyone was able to invest as much (or as little) effort as they wished into character creation, and they all ended up with the characters they wanted.

Classes as Archetypes

I'm not personally a fan of classes, as I find them confining, and I certainly wouldn't want to add classes to Savage Worlds. However I find archetypes an excellent compromise - they provide a quick and easy way to create new characters that fit the setting, without limiting players who want to build less orthodox characters.

D&D settings are obviously designed with the D&D game system in mind, which means they usually include the same selection of common classes. When converting such settings to Savage Worlds, it can therefore be beneficial to offer archetypes that reflect the base classes:

Barbarian
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d4, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Climbing d4, Evading d6, Fighting d6, Healing d4, Intimidation d4, Notice d4, Riding d4, Shooting d4, Survival d4, Swimming d4, Throwing d6, Tracking d4
Charisma: –; Pace: 8; Parry: 6 (1); Toughness: 7 (1)
Hindrances: One Major, Illiterate, one additional Minor
Edges: Berserk, Fleet-Footed
Gear: Battle axe (Str+d8), target shield (+1 Parry), throwing axe (Str+d6; range 3/6/12), thick furs (+1)

Bard
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d4
Skills: Climbing d4, Evading d4, Fighting d4, Knowledge (Bardic Lore) d6, Lockpicking d4, Notice d4, Persuasion d6, Riding d4, Shooting d4, Spellsinging d6, Stealth d4, Streetwise d4
Charisma: +2; Pace: 6; Parry: 6 (2); Toughness: 5 (1)
Hindrances: One Major, two Minor
Edges: Charismatic, Novice Spellsinger
Gear: Rapier (Str+d4; +1 Parry), buckler (+1 Parry), bow (2d6; range 12/24/48), padded vest (+1)

Cleric
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Evading d4, Faith d8, Fighting d4, Healing d6, Knowledge (Planes) d4, Knowledge (Religion) d6, Notice d4, Persuasion d6, Riding d4, Throwing d4
Charisma: –; Pace: 6; Parry: 5 (1); Toughness: 7 (2)
Hindrances: One Major, two Minor
Edges: Novice Cleric, Turn Undead
Gear: Warhammer (Str+d6), target shield (+1 Parry), sling, chainmail vest (+2)

Druid
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Skills: Druidry d8, Evading d4, Fighting d4, Healing d4, Knowledge (Nature) d6, Notice d4, Riding d4, Survival d6, Swimming d4, Throwing d4, Tracking d4
Charisma: –; Pace: 6; Parry: 5 (1); Toughness: 6 (1)
Hindrances: One Major, two Minor
Edges: Beast Master, Novice Druid
Gear: Staff (Str+d4; +1 Parry), sling, hide shirt (+1)

Fighter
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d4, Evading d8, Fighting d8, Intimidation d4, Knowledge (Battle) d4, Notice d4, Riding d4, Shooting d8, Throwing d4
Charisma: –; Pace: 6; Parry: 7 (1); Toughness: 9 (3)
Hindrances: One Major, two Minor
Edges: Brawny
Gear: Longsword (Str+d8), target shield (+1 Parry), dagger (Str+d4; range 3/6/12), bow (2d6; range 12/24/48), breastplate (+3)

Monk
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d6, Evading d8, Fighting d8, Healing d6, Knowledge (Religion) d6, Notice d6, Stealth d4
Charisma: –; Pace: 6; Parry: 6; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: One Major, two Minor
Edges: Martial Artist
Gear: Robes

Paladin
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Evading d8, Fighting d8, Intimidation d6, Knowledge (Religion) d4, Notice d4, Persuasion d4, Riding d6, Shooting d6
Charisma: –; Pace: 6; Parry: 7 (1); Toughness: 7 (2)
Hindrances: One Major, two Minor
Edges: Paladin
Gear: Shortsword (Str+d6), target shield (+1 Parry), chainmail vest (+2)

Ranger
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d4
Skills: Evading d6, Fighting d6, Healing d4, Notice d4, Shooting d6, Stealth d4, Survival d8, Tracking d8
Charisma: –; Pace: 6; Parry: 6 (1); Toughness: 5 (1)
Hindrances: One Major, two Minor
Edges: Woodsman, Ranger Fighting Style
Gear: Shortsword (Str+d6), main gauche* (Str+d4; +1 Parry), bow (2d6; range 12/24/48), leather jerkin (+1)

Rogue
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d4
Skills: Climbing d6, Evading d8, Fighting d6, Lockpicking d6, Notice d4, Repair d4, Stealth d8, Streetwise d4
Charisma: –; Pace: 6; Parry: 7 (1); Toughness: 5 (1)
Hindrances: One Major, two Minor
Edges: Thief, Sneak Attack
Gear: Shortsword (Str+d6), main gauche* (Str+d4; +1 Parry), dagger (Str+d4; range 3/6/12), padded vest (+1)

Sorcerer
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d4
Skills: Evading d4, Fighting d4, Intimidation d8, Notice d4, Persuasion d8, Sorcery d8, Streetwise d6, Throwing d4
Charisma: –; Pace: 6; Parry: 5 (1); Toughness: 4
Hindrances: One Major, two Minor
Edges: Familiar Bond, Novice Sorcerer
Gear: Spear (Str+d6; +1 Parry)

Wizard
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d10, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d4
Skills: Evading d4, Fighting d4, Investigation d6, Knowledge (Arcana) d8, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Throwing d4, Wizardry d10
Charisma: –; Pace: 6; Parry: 5 (1); Toughness: 4
Hindrances: One Major, two Minor
Edges: Familiar Bond, Novice Wizard
Gear: Staff (Str+d4; +1 Parry)

* Use the same stats as a rapier if you're just using the core weapon list.

Note that these archetypes do not include race bonuses. So if you're playing a human, for example, then you would also add another Edge of your choice.

Setting Rules

These archetypes are designed with two setting rules in mind:
  • Evading: In addition to Fighting, Shooting and Throwing, there is also an Evading combat skill. Parry is based on Evading (rather than Fighting), and Evading is also used in place of Agility for avoiding area-effect attacks, diving for cover, etc. The reason for this rule is explained in more detail here, if you don't wish to use it then just let the player reallocate the skill points as they see fit.
  • Magical Training: If you start play with a spellcasting skill, you cannot raise any of your combat skills higher than d4 during character creation.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Expanded Rule: Sleeping Guards

There are no official rules on how to handle sleeping and waking,[Reference] although it's a subject that occasionally comes up during play. The closest we have to an official ruling is the Slumber power, which allows sleeping victims to make an unmodified Notice roll to wake up if they hear a "loud noise". Clint has also suggested that some GMs might choose to allow a Notice roll with a penalty if the sneaking character doesn't achieve a raise on their Stealth roll.[Reference]

When using Stealth to sneak up on someone, foes are classified as either active or inactive guards. A failed Stealth roll allows an inactive guard to make an unmodified Notice roll, and if successful they become an active guard for future rolls. Active guards can opposed the Stealth roll with a Notice roll in order to spot the character.

I therefore propose a third state: Sleeping.

When sneaking up on a sleeping guard, a failed Stealth roll indicates that you've made a noise, and they can make a Notice roll at -2 (the sleeping penalty): On a success they wake up and become inactive guards (they assume they just woke up naturally), while on a raise they wake up and become active guards (they know that a noise woke them up and are therefore more alert).

When taking the Last Step, if you don't achieve a raise on your Stealth roll then a sleeping foe can make an opposed Notice roll at -2 (the sleeping penalty). Of course even if they wake up, they will almost certainly be Prone and (unless they have natural weapons) count as an Unarmed Defender, at least until they've had their first action. Sleeping while on guard duty is a bad idea!

Note that the sleeping penalty should not apply to the Notice roll for Danger Sense. A sleeping character who successfully uses Danger Sense automatically wakes up and acts as if they'd been awake to start with.

New Hindrance

Deep Sleeper (Minor)
  You're a very heavy sleeper, and find it difficult to wake up. The penalty you suffer to Notice rolls while sleeping is increased to -4, and you cannot make opposed Notice rolls against the Last Step. A character with this Hindrance can never take Light Sleeper.

New Edge

Light Sleeper (Background)
Requirements: Novice, Notice d6+
  You sleep very lightly, and are always alert when you wake up. You ignore the -2 penalty to Notice rolls for sleeping. Furthermore if someone attempts to sneak up on you while you're asleep and fails their Stealth roll, a normal success on your Notice roll causes you to wake up and become an active guard, while on a raise you also wake up on Hold.
  When someone uses the Last Step against you, you may always attempt an opposed Notice roll, even if they succeeded with a raise on their Stealth roll. If you win the opposed roll you wake up and spot them, while beating them with a raise means you also wake up on Hold (and can attempt to immediately interrupt them if you wish).