Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Converting D&D Weapon Enchantments

Converting magic weapons from D&D to Savage Worlds is a subject that's been raised on a number of occasions, particularly by people who are interested in adapting various campaign settings and Adventure Paths.

I've discussed my ideas for weapon conversions in general terms in the past, however my upcoming Vancian magic system needs something more concrete (particularly for the artificers), so I decided it was time to flesh out some actual guidelines.

Standard Enchantments

Most magic weapons in D&D have a simple fixed bonus in the range +1 to +5, which is applied to both attack and damage rolls. However Savage Worlds is far less granular, and even +1 to attack and damage is a very potent bonus, so here is the approach I recommend.

+1 Weapon: +1 damage on a raise.
+2 Weapon: +1 damage.
+3 Weapon: +1 to attack rolls.
+4 Weapon: +1 to attack rolls and +1 damage on a raise.
+5 Weapon: +1 to attack rolls and +1 damage.

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

Special Enchantments

The following are some proposed conversions of the special weapon abilities used in D&D. The goal is to retain the general flavour of the original ability, while significantly toning down the mechanical benefits to match those described earlier. These also reference certain monstrous abilities (such as alignment-based abilities for supernatural creatures) which I use in my monster conversions - if you don't use those monstrous abilities, you can just base it on GM's discretion (which is how "good" and "evil" are normally defined in the core rules for the purposes of Edges such as Champion and Holy/Unholy Warrior).

Anarchic (+2): This weapon has been infused with the power of chaos. It counts as Chaotic for the purposes of Physical Resistance, and also inflicts +2 damage to creatures with the Lawful ability.

Axiomatic (+2): This weapon has been infused with the power of law. It counts as Lawful for the purposes of Physical Resistance, and also inflicts +2 damage to creatures with the Chaotic ability.

Bane (+1): This weapon is designed to kill a specific type of foe, such as humans, elves, dragons, etc, chosen when the weapon was forged. It inflicts +2 damage to creatures of the chosen type.

Brilliant Energy (+4): The striking part of this weapon has been transformed into intense light, causing it to illuminate an area the size of a Large Burst Template when drawn. This weapon ignores armour, as well as Parry bonuses from shields and weapons, but can only harm living matter; it inflicts no damage to undead, constructs, or inanimate objects.

Dancing (+4): As a normal action you can release this weapon from your hand, causing it to float beside you and fight your enemies. This is resolved as if you had a free attack at -2 each round; this must be a normal attack. You can grasp the weapon in your hand again as a free action, deactivating its Dancing power. You can only activate one Dancing weapon at any one time, and if you draw Clubs for initiative while the weapon is already active, it will automatically return to your hand at the end of your turn.

Defending (+1): The wielder of this melee weapon can use the Defend maneuver as a normal action if they wish, allowing them to perform other actions on the same turn (with the standard multiaction penalty).

Disruption (+2): This weapon inflicts +2 damage to undead, and if they are incapacitated by the attack they are automatically destroyed.

Distance (+1): This ranged weapon has its base range increased by +1/+2/+4 (missile weapons that use Shooting typically have their base range doubled, or tripled if they require both hands to use, see Savage Armoury for details).

Flaming (+1): This weapon bursts into flames on command as a free action. While flaming, the weapon illuminates an area the size of a Medium Burst Template, and any flammable targets struck by the weapon must roll to see if they catch fire. The damage caused by this weapon can be treated as either physical or fire, whichever is most effective against a particular foe.

Flaming Burst (+2): This weapon works like a Flaming weapon, except that when it hits with a raise it also explodes with flame, inflicting +d10 fire damage instead of the normal +d6 damage (the bonus die is always fire damage).

Frost (+1): This weapon becomes coated in frost on command as a free action. While frosty, the weapon gains AP 1. The damage caused by this weapon can be treated as either physical or cold, whichever is most effective against a particular foe.

Ghost Touch (+1): This weapon is capable of harming both ethereal and non-ethereal creatures. It can also be picked up and wielded by ethereal creatures.

Holy (+2): This weapon has been infused with holy power. It counts as Holy for the purposes of Physical Resistance, and also inflicts +2 damage to creatures with the Evil ability.

Icy Burst (+2): This weapon works like a Frost weapon, except that when it hits with a raise it also explodes with frost, inflicting +d10 cold damage instead of the normal +d6 damage (the bonus die is always cold damage).

Keen (+1): This piercing or slashing weapon is particularly sharp. If it hits with two or more raises, it inflicts a further +d4 damage (on top of the standard +d6 damage for a single raise).

Ki Focus (+1): This weapon channels the wielder's ki. If the wielder has the Adept Edge, and uses it to gain AP 2 until their next action, the AP applies to attacks made with this weapon in addition to unarmed attacks.

Merciful (+1): This weapon can be used to inflict nonlethal damage without incurring a penalty to the attack roll.

Mighty Cleaving (+1): If the wielder of this weapon has the Cleaving Blow Edge, they can now use it twice per round, although not on the same foe.

Returning (+1): This throwing weapon can be summoned back your hand as a action, as long as it's within its maximum range. This is the same as readying a weapon, meaning that if you have Quick Draw you can summon the weapon back to your hand as a free action.

Seeking (+1): This ranged weapon can ignore up to 1 point of attack penalty from cover or concealment (but not both at the same time).

Shock (+1): This weapon becomes wreathed in electricity on command as a free action. While electrified, the weapon illuminates an area the size of a Small Burst Template, and gains AP 1 against metal armour. The damage caused by this weapon can be treated as either physical or electricity, whichever is most effective against a particular foe.

Shocking Burst (+2): This weapon works like a Shock weapon, except that when it hits with a raise it also explodes with lightning, inflicting +d10 electricity damage instead of the normal +d6 damage (the bonus die is always electricity damage).

Speed (+3): This weapon allows you to make an additional attack when using it to perform an attack action. When you use this ability, roll an extra Fighting die with your attack roll, and apply a -1 penalty to all of your attacks for the turn.

Spell Storing (+1): This weapon can store a single Novice or Seasoned spell, which must be cast into it; the caster cannot recover their Power Points until the spell is discharged. Whenever you strike a foe with a raise, you may choose to discharge the spell as a free action instead of adding the standard +d6 damage for a raise. The arcane skill roll for the spell is made when the spell is discharged, not when it is placed into the weapon; if the roll results in Backlash, apply it to the wielder rather than the spellcaster.

Thundering (+1): Whenever this weapon hits with a raise, it releases a thundering roar, inflicting +d10 sonic damage instead of the normal +d6 damage. This sound can be heard from quite a long distance away. Creatures incapacitated by this damage always suffer deafness instead of rolling for a random injury.

Throwing (+1): This melee weapon can now be thrown with a range of 3/6/12.

Unholy (+2): This weapon has been infused with unholy power. It counts as Unholy for the purposes of Physical Resistance, and also inflicts +2 damage to creatures with the Good ability.

Vicious (+1): This melee weapon inflicts +2 damage, but it also inflicts half as much damage to the wielder (rounded down) as it does to the victim - e.g., if you hit someone for 15 damage, you also suffer 7 damage yourself.

Vorpal (+5): This exceedingly sharp weapon inflicts +d6 damage die for every raise on the attack roll (rather than just the first raise). If you incapacitate a foe with a vorpal weapon, they are automatically decapitated.

Wounding (+2): This weapon causes particular horrible wounds; Soak rolls against damage inflicted by this weapon suffer a -2 penalty. Creatures who don't suffer additional damage from Called Shots (such as undead and constructs) are not affected by this weapon.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Immortality and the Price of Death

Savage Insider volume 3 issue 1 includes another article of mine: Back from the Dead. The article discusses various different solutions for designing characters who cheat death, based on the following observations about the rules  in Savage Worlds Deluxe:

1. The "Character Creation" chapter stresses that you should play a character you enjoy.

2. The "Background Details" section encourages players to make up their own history and background.

3. The "Replacement Characters" rule states that "When a character dies, his new hero begins play with one less Advance than his last."

So by a strict interpretation of the rules, it's perfectly legal to recreate the same character (with one fewer Advance) every time they die, and simply explain in your background history that your character is immortal.  At the very least, it'll save you the effort of explaining how a new PC joins the group in the middle of the wilderness!

While many GMs might refuse to allow such a character concept, that's not really the point of the article. The point is that we can now assign a specific price to death in Savage Worlds: Death costs one advance.

Once we know that, we can extrapolate, and that's what I do throughout the rest of the article. Resurrection can now be handled with standard Powers and rules, immortality can be covered by applying trappings to existing Edges and Hindrances, immortal(ish) races such as Time Lords and the Goa'uld can now be easily balanced against other races, and so on. I finish up the article with a new Edge (Immortal) and three new Hindrances (Curse of Eternity, Dark Appetite, and Phylactery).

Further Thoughts
"You, Kallor Eiderann Tes'thesula, shall know mortal life unending. Mortal, in the ravages of age, in the pain of wounds and the anguish of despair. In dreams brought to ruin. In love withered. In the shadow of Death's spectre, ever a threat to end what you will not relinquish. Kallor Eiderann Tes'thesula, you shall never ascend. Kallor Eiderann Tes'thesula, each time you rise, you shall then fall. All that you achieve shall turn to dust in your hands. As you have wilfully done here, so it shall be in turn visited upon all that you do. Three voices curse you. It is done."
-- Memories of Ice (Malazan Book Of The Fallen 3)
The Harder to Kill Edge gives you a 50% chance of avoiding death, which (when applied to an "immortal" character concept) would mean that death now costs you only half an advance on average. A GM who wanted to explore the concept of unkillable characters (without applying it to everyone as a setting rule) could even take the Edge a step further...

Impossible to Kill
Requirements: Legendary, Harder to Kill
  You can no longer be killed, although you can still be beaten, incapacitated, captured, and even dismembered. You no longer suffer permanent injuries, they always go away when all of your wounds have healed.

Of course "unkillable" is not the same as "invulnerable"; a cocky PC who crosses the wrong people could still be put out of action, waiting out eternity at the bottom of a lake in a pair of concrete boots.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Granular Advancement

By the RAW, characters in Savage Worlds earn 1-3 experience points per session, although in practice it usually works out at 2-3 for most groups - and as 5 experience points grant an Advance, some GMs find it easier to simply award everyone half an Advance per session. This means that PCs can improve something every two sessions.

Some GMs dislike characters advancing every two sessions, and instead prefer to double the number of experience points earned, so that PCs gain one Advance every session. The obvious drawback of awarding double experience points is that the PCs advance at twice the recommended speed, and can rapidly outpace the challenges in a campaign designed for characters using the normal advancement rules.

One Advance can be used to raise an attribute, buy an Edge, buy a new skill at d4, raise a skill above its linked attribute, or raise two skills below their linked attribute. But if PCs can raise two skills below their linked attribute for one Advance, why not let them raise one skill below its linked attribute for half an Advance?

You can still rule that characters cannot raise the same skill twice in succession if you wish to retain the "raise two different skills" limitation, but allowing PCs to spend half an Advance at a time means there is the possibility for improvement every gaming session.

But that's just skills. Can the same concept be extended to attributes and Edges as well?

Odd Traits

There have been several discussions in the past about the pros and cons of extending trait progression using d14, d16, d18, d20, d22 and d24, instead of applying fixed bonuses after d12. But what about inserting additional die steps in between the existing trait progression dice?

Introducing a d5, d7, d9 and d11 would allow characters to raise their attributes in smaller increments, for example a PC could increase their Strength from d6 to d7 for half an Advance, then increase it again to d8 with their next half Advance if they wished.

The same approach could be used for skills: if you had Agility d7 then increasing Fighting from d6 to d7 would cost quarter of an Advance, while increasing it from d7 to d8 would cost half an Advance.

Note that Derived Statistics are already rounded down (e.g., Vigor d12+1 gives Toughness 8 rather than 9), so increasing Vigor or Fighting to an odd die step would not be exploitable in that respect.

Minor Edges

In Savage Abilities I introduced the idea of Minor Edges - Savage Worlds already splits Hindrances into Minor and Major, after all, so why not do the same for Edges?

Some Edges provide +2 bonuses which could be halved, for example a Minor version of Attractive might just give +1 Charisma, while a Minor version of Alertness might give +1 to Notice rolls.

Another option is to make an Edge more specialised, for example a Minor version of Alertness could grant its +2 bonus to one specific sense rather than all senses, while a Minor version of Beast Bond might apply to one specific animal rather than every animal under your control.

Other Edges provide multiple benefits which could be divided up, for example Beast Master might be split into Animal Empathy (animals don't attack you) and Animal Companion (you have a loyal animal companion), while Strong Willed might have its Intimidation and Taunt bonuses separated into two Minor Edges.

Particularly weak Edges such as Bruiser or Combat Reflexes could also be downgraded to Minor Edges, at the GM's discretion.


Characters can purchase a new skill at d4 for a full Advance, which effectively negates the -2 penalty for being unskilled. By extension, it should be possible for someone to become partially skilled (going from d4-2 to d4-1) for half an Advance, representing a character who is still learning the ropes but is no longer completely clueless.


Although this proposal has additional benefits (such as increasing character diversity by allowing smaller investments in specialised abilities), one of the main advantages is that PCs can advance in a more granular fashion. They can potentially gain or improve an ability every session, but overall they still progress at the same speed as the official rules.

From a terminology perspective it might be easier to refer to an Advance as a "Major Advance" and half an Advance as a "Minor Advance". PCs would then earn a Minor Advance each session, with two Minor Advances being worth a Major Advance. A Major Advance could be spent as described in the core rules, while each Minor Advance could be used for any or all of the following (at the GM's discretion):

  • Gain a new Minor Edge, or increase a Minor Edge to a Major Edge (if two versions are available).
  • Increase one skill that is equal or above its linked attribute by a minor increment (e.g., d6 to d7, or d7 to d8).
  • Increase two skills that are both below their linked attribute by a minor increment.
  • Increase one skill that is below its linked attribute by a major increment (e.g., d6 to d8).
  • Learn a new skill at d4-1 (semi-skilled), or increase it from d4-1 to d4.
  • Increase one attribute by a minor increment (this option can only be used twice per rank).

GMs using the "Spell Trappings" guidelines from Savage Spellbook might also allow characters to gain a single new trapping for a power they've already purchased with a Minor Advance. For example a character who had previously purchased New Power (with a Major Advance) to take Blast with the "Fireball" trapping could spend a Minor Advance to take "Ice Storm" as a second trapping for their Blast power.

Similarly, when using the "Skill Specialization" setting rule from SWD, one additional specialisation would cost a Minor Advance.