Thursday, 30 June 2016

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Goblin Psionicist

Another month, another archetype. Most of my attention has been focused on Drakonheim lately, but now that the Kickstarter has finished I've started getting back to my other projects.

I still plan to finish updating Savage Dragons in the next week or two, but other than that I'm trying to focus on Saga of the Goblin Horde. So here is the seventh archetype: the goblin psionicist!

As usual, you can grab the archetypes from here, and the three One Sheet adventures from here, here and here.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Designing a One Sheet: Step-by-Step Example

Last week I described the eight steps I follow when designing an adventure, so now I'd like to walk through the process and create a One Sheet from scratch, showing each of the stages my adventures go through as they take shape.

For this example I've decided to create a follow-up to my Gray Matter One Sheet, which was the pilot episode in my fictitious Prophecy of Drakonheim Plot Point Campaign.

This episode (which is arguably the second half of the pilot, and not standalone like most of my other One Sheets) is called Broken Crown, and I've chosen to make it fairly "crunchy", to better juxtapose it with the "fluffy" Gray Matter adventure.

As with Gray Matter, Broken Crown assumes you're familiar with the setting, but this time I also borrowed the sewer exploration mechanics from the Heroes of Drakonheim adventure. If you're curious about the Drakonheim setting, I talked about it in more detail here and here; Heroes of Drakonheim (along with the companion) are part of the Savage Drakonheim Kickstarter - at the time of posting, there's only 16 hours left on the Kickstarter, so don't dawdle if you're interested!

If you just want the finished adventure, you can get it here: Broken Crown

Broken Crown

This adventure is a follow up to Gray Matter. The Gray Man was captured or killed in the previous adventure, but now the interested parties wish to discover where he came from - this could be the location he was guarding, or the secret lab where he was created, depending on his established origin. Unfortunately they're not the only faction who have discovered the location, and the heroes will need to compete with some rival agents.

The location contains a number of relics from the past, including an ancient broken crown, which appears to have been cleaved by a sword blow. Later investigation could reveal that the crown was once Ezarion's phylactery, which was sundered by the Band of Four and then lost to the annals of time, however that is a tale for another adventure...

Step 1: Adventure Overview

This overview is copied from the Prophecy of Drakonheim Plot Point Summary:

The heroes are hired to investigate the origins of the Gray Man, and uncover his secrets, but they soon find themselves caught up in a deadly race against other organizations. Who are these mysterious rivals, and can the heroes beat them to the prize?

Step 2: Adventure Breakdown

I split the adventure concept into five sections, with a short sentence for each:

Gray Origin: Give an overview of the mission objective depending on the Gray Man's origin and fate.

Sewer Search: Use the sewer exploration rules described in the Heroes of Drakonheim adventure.

Cavern Combat: A combat encounter in the cave, this environment has some specific effects (slippery floor, etc).

Lost and Found: The heroes discover the hidden location and recover an ancient crown.

Race against Rivals: A Chase through the catacombs against rival agents, as the heroes attempt to escape.

Step 3: Section Scope

I flesh out each of the sections with notes and additional details:

Gray Origin: Give an overview of the mission objective depending on the Gray Man's origin and fate in the previous adventure. Probable locations are a secret lab (Gray Society experiment), tomb or cache (undead guardian), or hideout (disguised opportunist). The location is hidden in the catacombs and accessable from the sewer, and the heroes have only a rough idea of the location.

Sewer Search: The heroes have to explore the sewers to try and find the appropriate entrance into the the catacombs. This can use the sewer exploration rules from the Heroes of Drakonheim adventure, perhaps with a few adjustments. The task cannot fail, but if the players do particularly badly they will be at a disadvantage in the next scene, while if they do particularly well they will receive a corresponding advantage.

Pale Killers: The heroes aren't the only ones in the sewers, and as they enter the catacombs they come face to face with a group of undead assassins. The heroes may be at an advantage or disadvantage, depending on how well they performed in the previous scene. Do these killers work for the Gray Society? Baron Karlos Vasili? Are they connected to the Gray Man in some other way? There's no way to know, because they fight to the death! This battle should include some specific special effects, such as areas of slippery floor, falling stalactites, etc.

Lost and Found: The heroes continue into the catacombs and discover the hidden location. This should require some sort of roll, with failure indicating that they blunder into a trap. The scene description should factor in the different possible locations - lab, tomb, cache, or hideout. Among the treasures, most of which have no real value except to a historian, the heroes discover an ancient broken crown. This seems to have pride of place, has obviously been examined and studied carefully, and cannot be missed. Anyone casting Sense Arcana can feel it has a lingering necromantic taint, although its active power has long since fled.

Race against Rivals: As the heroes leave the catacombs, they encounter several other groups who were presumably hired by rival factions, and there are far too many of them to fight. This turns into a Chase through the sewers, with a specific challenge and complication for each of the 5 rounds.

Step 4: Section Write-Up

I add an introduction and expand the sections into a full adventure:

In the previous adventure, Gray Matter, the heroes were hired to capture the Gray Man. Now their employer wants to hire them for another job, this time to explore the Gray Man's lair, uncover his secrets, and liberate anything of value.

Gray Origin

The specifics of this mission will depend heavily on the outcome of the previous adventure. If the Gray Man was an escaped Gray Society experiment then the hidden location is probably an arcane laboratory, while if he was the guardian of an ancient tomb or cache, the heroes will need to seek out the place he was guarding. On the other hand, if the Gray Man was just a disguised fanatic or smuggler, then the location will probably be a secret hideout.

But regardless of the specifics, the general goal of the adventure remains the same: the heroes must travel through the sewers, enter the catacombs, and recover whatever they find in the hidden location.

If the heroes were able to capture the Gray Man alive in the previous adventure, he will have been questioned physically and magically, and the characters will be privvy to additional details about the route they have to take. This advantage is represented in astract terms; award each player a Benny at the beginning of the adventure. If the Gray Man was killed in the previous adventure, the heroes will only have a rough idea of the location based on vague divinations.

Sewer Search

The sewers of Drakonheim are a danger place, and few have the courage to enter of their own volition, but the heroes must take this route if they wish to find the entrance to the catacombs.

Resolve the search as a Dramatic Task using Tracking, with the standard -2 penalty, except that there is no limit to the number of rounds - the players just keep on searching until they reach five successes. If the heroes draw Clubs, use the Random Encounter for the sewers (detailed in Heroes of Drakonheim); if they fail the roll, they are surprised by the enemy, but they may still continue with the Dramatic Task after resolving the combat.

If none of the heroes have the Tracking skill, they may be able to recruit the aid of Gozzy the Quiet.

Pale Killers

The heroes aren't the only ones in the sewers, and as they finally reach the entrance to the catacombs, they come face to face with a group of undead assassins. If the players required more than five rounds to complete the Dramatic Task in the previous scene, the assassins have time to set an ambush, and heroes are surprised. On the other hand, if the players required fewer than five rounds, it is the assassins who are surprised. If the players required exactly five rounds, neither side has a surprise attack.

It is unclear if these cloaked killers work for a rival faction, perhaps the Gray Society or Baron Karlos Vasili, or whether they are connected to the Gray Man in some other way. While they fight intelligently, they do not speak, and they fight to the death. The Game Master should field 1-3 killers per player, depending on how tough the heroes are.

Whenever one or more characters draw Clubs for initiative, the character with the lowest rank card must roll 1d6 and consult the following table, applying the effects immediately. If more than one character acts on the same initiative card, the result is applied to one of them at random.

1. The character steps on a patch of slimy rock, and must make an Agility roll at -2. On a failure he falls Prone, and cannot stand up again this round.

2. The character stumbles over a stalagmite, and must make a Strength roll at -2 or drop whatever she is holding.

3. A stalactite breaks free from the ceiling directly above the characters head. The character can attempt to dodge with an Agility roll, on a success it hits him in the shoulder rather than the head, while on a raise he's able to avoid it completely. The stalactite inflicts 2d6 damage, with an additional +4 damage if it lands on the character's head.

4. Dirt showers down on the character, dislodged by the sounds of battle, and she must make a Smarts roll to close her eyes and hold her breath. On a failure she is Shaken and suffers a level of Bumps and Bruises Fatigue, while on a success she is only Shaken, and on a raise she suffers no drawbacks.

5. The character feels ghostly hands touching his flesh and hears faint voices whispering in his mind. He must make a Fear check at -2.

6. The character accidently inhales a mouthful of dust from the stale air, and has a coughing fit. She must make a Vigor roll at -2 or become Shaken.

Lost and Found

The passage out of the sewers leads deeper into the catacombs below Drakonheim, and after a short walk the heroes reach a locked and heavily reinforced door. The door seems to be a relatively new addition, no more than a few years old.

Characters can open the door with a successful Lockpicking roll at -2, but on a failure they trigger a magical trap; everyone within a Large Burst Template centered on the door must make a Spirit roll or suffer 3d6 damage (with an Enervation trapping), as the lifeforce is drained from their bodies. It is also possible to force or break the door open, although this takes time, and will automatically trigger the trap. Once the trap has been triggered, it does not reset.

Inside the room the heroes discover a stash of ancient items, treasures of a bygone era that have relatively little value in the modern day. Rusted weapons, decayed artwork, soured wine, and more. However there are also signs of recent habitation - a dusty bed, an ink-stained, and a book shelf lined with arcane texts. Someone lived here until recently. At one side of the desk lies a twisted metal crown studded with gems. The Game Master might allow the players to discover a few other interesting trinkets scattered around, perhaps calling for a Notice roll to see how well they search, but the crown is impossible to miss.

Race against Rivals

Shortly after leaving the catacombs, the heroes run into several other groups who were presumably hired by rival factions. If the players insist on fighting, they will be heavily outnumbered (8-10 foes per player if they insist on standing their ground), so the obvious choice is to flee. The escape through the sewers should be resolved as a standard 5-round Chase, except that the complication (which occurs on Clubs) varies each round, as follows:

Round 1: Thousands of bats hang from the ceiling, and are disturbed as the characters rush past. Complication: Make a Spirit roll or become Shaken.
Round 2: The stench in this area of the sewer is overpowering. Complication: Make a Vigor roll or suffer a level of Fatigue.
Round 3: This part of the sewer splits into a labyrinth of narrow corridors. Complication: Make a Smarts roll or become Shaken.
Round 4: Rubbish and refuse has piled up, and the characters have to fight their way through. Complication: Make a Strength roll or suffer a level of Fatigue.
Round 5: A narrow walkway keeps the characters dry, but several alligators swim through the nearby water. Complication: Make an Agility roll or suffer d10+d6 damage from an alligator bite.

The listed complications replace those in the Chase Complication Table, but the roll still incurs the standard penalty based on the rank of the card (i.e., -4 for a 2 of Clubs, -2 for 3-10 of Clubs, and no penalty for a Jack or better).

Some of the rivals turn on each other, but around half of them (4-5 per player) give chase, believing that the heroes have already looted the Gray Man's lair. Split the foes into a number of groups equal to the number of players, with each group representing a different faction. The enemies can make group rolls for their maneuvering trait rolls, but must attack individually. Although the heroes are greatly outnumbered, there isn't much room to maneuver; only two members of each group can attack each round.

Step 5: Trim and Polish

I'm not going to repeat the whole adventure (you can see the final text in the PDF below), but I did several sweeps through the document, changed the wording in several places, and added a couple of statblocks.

Step 6: Layout and Final Editing

I was able to reuse the Scribus template from Gray Matter, which saved some time, but it still took a while to do the layout and final editing, and I needed to choose some different artwork.

Step 7: Final Checks

I converted the hyphens to n-dashes where necessary, double-checked the layers, made sure all the fonts were embedded, and ran the assassin statblock through my analysis tool.

Step 8: Call a Friend

Normally I'd ask some friends to proofread the adventure, but I skipped this step as I was short on time (so no doubt I've missed something). However the One Sheet is generally quite presentable; it's surprising how much difference a clean layout and a little artwork can make.

The  completed One Sheet, after editing and layout. Click to download.


Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Drakonheim: Character Builder and Archetypes

With a couple of days left to go, the Savage Drakonheim Kickstarter has already tripled its original funding goal, so I decided to put together a web-based character creation tool for it. You can access it here:

As with my other character creation tools, you can start with an archetype or build the character from scratch.


Those who have already backed the Kickstarter may have noticed that the archetypes have a distinctly D&D-style flavor, and those same archetypes are used for the character builder.

Drakonheim started out a few years ago as a trilogy of free playtest adventures for D&D 5e: Rat's in the Sewers, Skeletal Society, and Defense of Drakonheim. Then last year, Matthew Hanson turned Drakonheim into a full setting with his Drakonheim: City of Bones Kickstarter. The setting book is system-neutral, but still maintains a bit of a D&D vibe, with the assumption of common D&D races, classes/archetypes, monsters and spells.

The golden rule for Savage Worlds conversions is to convert the flavor rather than the mechanics, however sometimes the flavor is tied to the mechanics, and such is the case here. Drakonheim: City of Bones dedicates a full page to describing nine of the common character types, each of which corresponds to one of the D&D classes, therefore when I wrote the companion I decided to represent them as SW-style archetypes. This way the companion retains the flavor of the character types described in the setting book, but does so with the same optional archetype concept established in SWD.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Savage Drakonheim Preview 3: Prepare for War

A couple of weeks ago I discussed the sewer goblins preview for the Savage Drakonheim Kickstarter, and a few weeks before that I talked about the necromancy preview. The Savage Drakonheim Kickstarter went live a few days ago, and the third preview has now been released.

This preview gives a sneak peek into the last chapter of the Heroes of Drakonheim adventure, covering the hexcrawl system I designed for the lead up to the final battle against the invading army. The heroes have less than two weeks to prepare before the enemy reaches the city walls, and must decide what they'll do - will they train a militia? Repair the walls? Recruit allies from the lizardfolk or one of the human tribes? Will they sabotage the bridge to slow down the enemy? Attempt to recover some ancient magical weapons from the past? Or perhaps the situation is dire enough to call upon some of the less savory elements of Drakonheim?

There are many options, but not enough time for all of them, so the heroes will have to prioritize, perhaps even splitting up to deal with some of the challenges. Each challenge they overcome gives some sort of advantage in the upcoming battle (which uses the Mass Battle rules), but the heroes will need to plan carefully and move quickly if they hope to tip the odds in their favor!

Once again, the preview is free. If you've backed the Kickstarter, you'll already have access to the full document - but if you're still on the fence, check out this and the other previews and see if it's something you're interested in!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Designing a One Sheet, Savage Tale, or Plot Point Episode

I've previously talked about TV Shows as Plot Point Campaigns, Plot Point Episodes vs Savage Tales vs One Sheets, and even given a Design Overview for a Plot Point Campaign. But after releasing a free One Sheet for Drakonheim last month, Ron Blessing suggested I should also describe my process for writing One Sheets (which are essentially much the same thing as Savage Tales and Plot Point Episodes).

So without further ado, here are my eight steps for creating One Sheets...

Disclaimer: It should go without saying that this is just my personal approach, and others probably do things differently. But this works for me, so perhaps it'll be of use and/or interest to others.

Step 1: Adventure Overview

The first step is to come up with an overview of the adventure. If this is a Plot Point Episode then there should already be an overview in the Plot Point Summary, otherwise I'll have to write it. This doesn't need to be particularly long, a single paragraph of around 40-50 words is fine - I like to think of it as an elevator pitch for my adventure.

If I'm struggling for inspiration, one of the tricks I sometimes use is to browse through the stock art on, find an illustration that catches my fancy, and see if I can think of a way to build an adventure around it. An added benefit of this approach is that when it comes to doing the final layout, I don't have to hunt around for suitable artwork.

Step 2: Adventure Breakdown

The next step is to break the adventure down into different sections, which is conceptually much like breaking a campaign down into a series of Plot Point Episodes, except on a much smaller scale. My usual approach (which can also be seen in my free One Sheets) is to write up a short introduction followed by five titled sections, each of which usually corresponds to a different scene, then I list any NPCs at the end.

Eventually I'll be aiming for around 1200 words, which averages 200 words for the introduction and another 200 words for each of the five sections, although this is only a rough guideline - I usually end up with larger sections and smaller sections, and the final word count might also be a bit higher or lower (although I try very hard to stay within the 1000-1400 word range).

However at this stage I just want to list the five sections, perhaps with a brief sentence for each.

Step 3: Section Scope

Now I go through each of the sections adding detail, although this is in the form of rough notes rather than an actual description.

The easiest way to define the sections is to have them each describe a particular scene or challenge, possibly incorporating a specific game mechanic. For example the opening scene might involve an Interlude as the heroes introduce themselves to each other, an investigation scene might involve a Dramatic Task or Social Conflict (or even just a standard trait roll), a fight scene might be resolved as a regular combat or could use the Quick Combat rules, and so on.

I try to make sure the final scene involves either a combat encounter, a Chase, or a Dramatic Task, otherwise the adventure finale can feel rather anticlimactic. I also try to avoid using each of those three mechanics more than once per adventure, otherwise it can end up feeling a bit repetitive - if the story needs a second fight scene, for example, I prefer to use the Quick Combat rules for one of the fights.

Step 4: Section Write-Up

At this point each section is little more than a few scribbled notes, perhaps two or three sentences at most, but there should be enough of an outline that I know what needs to be done.

So I work my way through each of the sections, fleshing out the scenes and explaining the mechanics. As I mentioned earlier, each section averages around 200 words, but there will often be one or two sections that are bigger and more detailed, and one or more other sections that are smaller and more concise. I generally aim for 300 words for larger sections, and 100 words for the smaller sections, but once again these are only rough guidelines.

Step 5: Trim and Polish

At this point the adventure is pretty much complete from a content perspective, although it'll usually be too big, and will likely contain mistakes. I like to do several sweeps through the document at this stage, trimming it down to around 1200 words while proofreading thoroughly.

Step 6: Layout and Final Editing

Once the content is finished it's time to do the layout. This means copying everything into Scribus, adding the artwork and legal notices, and then doing a final bout of editing. I often rephrase and rearrange things at this stage as well, to make sure the text aligns neatly with the artwork and borders.

Step 7: Final Checks

In theory the adventure is now complete, but there are a number of last minute checks I need to do, such as making sure I'm using n-dash instead of a standard hyphen, verifying that all elements are on the correct layer, double checking that I've embedded all the fonts, running all the NPC statblocks through my analysis tool, and so on.

Step 8: Call a Friend

Although I've already proofread the document myself many times by this point, and double-checked everything I can think of, it's often difficult to spot my own mistakes, so this is the point where I ask some friends to take a look. Mathew Halstead and Manuel Sambs are usually kind enough to give me some valuable feedback, and Marcelo Paschoalin often has great suggestions concerning the presentation. Thanks guys, I appreciate it :)

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Savage Drakonheim Kickstarter

I first discussed Drakonheim on my blog at the end of August last year. Shortly after that I spoke to Matthew Hanson about adding Savage Worlds mechanics for it, and by the end of November I'd completed the first draft of a Savage Worlds companion. We then proceeded to fine-tune the companion in a series of back-and-forth emails, while I got to work on converting the adventures. Other than a final round of proofreading, the only thing needed now is artwork, which will be funded through Kickstarter.

The launch of the Savage Drakonheim Kickstarter was somewhat delayed (to avoid being overshadowed by Pinnacle's Savage Rifts Kickstarter), but last night it went live, and it's already hit its funding goal!

If you like my other work, I think you'll like this. If you're on the fence, why not take a look at the free previews for necromancy and sewer goblins, or download my free One Sheet adventure

Brief Overview of the Setting

While most settings give you information about the overall world, Drakonheim details a single city and the surrounding area. This means you can slot it into other game worlds if you wish - or you can play it as its own medieval urban fantasy setting, with the entire campaign taking place in and around the city.

I've run urban fantasy campaigns before (they're a good way of dealing with players who keep dropping in and out each session, because you can just say their characters are busy elsewhere in the city) - and Drakonheim is a really good fit for that style of campaign, as there's a lot of political machinations going on between the various factions described in the book, so there's always plenty of potential plot hooks.

It's also worth mentioning that most of the characters aren't really "good" or "evil", they just have conflicting motives and a lot of personal ambition. An obvious example would be the Gray Society - the necromancers who used their undead to save the city from an invading army (although their motives were far from altruistic, and their means less than savoury).

Overall I really like the setting, which is why I offered to write the companion for it :)

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Musings about Baked-In Trappings

Many people like designing their own Edges, Hindrances and powers, however the standard suggestion from other savages is to apply trappings to an existing ability when possible, rather than invent a new one. Even the "New Edges & Hindrances" section in the GM chapter of Savage Worlds Deluxe recommends this approach, and in general it's a good guideline to follow.

But there's a flip side of the coin; trappings provide flavor, and many Edges, Hindrances and powers already include a baked-in trapping designed to give a default flavor. This is why it's important to create appropriate abilities when you're designing your own setting - not just by giving them cool mechanics, but also by connecting them thematically to the setting.

If you're running a private game you can often handle the trappings yourself, without needing to explicitly invent any new abilities. But if you're designing a setting for others to use, I believe it is worthwhile creating some appropriate abilities with their own baked-in trappings.

Disclaimer: Of course, trappings can be applied to pretty much anything. You can apply them to skills (e.g., Lockpicking as a "knock" spell), equipment (e.g., treating a bow as a wizard's staff that fires energy bolts), monsters (taking the statblock for a vaguely similar monster and adjusting it on the fly), and so on. However in this post I'm focusing on Hindrances, Edges and powers.


Even if you just look at the core rules, you'll see many Hindrances that only differ in terms of trappings. Outsider, Ugly and Mean all give -2 Charisma; Greedy, Vengeful and Vow all reflect a personal driving goal (with the level of risk determining whether it's a Minor or Major Hindrance); Arrogant, Cautious, Curious and Quirk all represent a distinctive behavior exhibited by the character. These 10 Hindrances could just as easily have been reduced to 3 Hindrances, but the baked-in trappings provide inspiration and useful examples for players.

You'll see the same thing when you look at specific settings. 50 Fathoms has a Branded Hindrance, Lankhmar and Rippers have Jingoistic, Weird Wars Rome has Foreigner, Hellfrost has Black Sheep, Guild of Shadows has Grubby Urchin, Drakonheim has Deathly Visage, and so on. In theory all of those Hindrances could have been treated as trappings for Outsider (which itself could be merged with Ugly and Mean). But turning them into new Hindrances and applying a thematic trapping with appropriate descriptive text helps evoke the flavor that the setting is trying to capture, inspiring the players with ideas for character concepts that better fit the setting.


The same principle applies to Edges, although in this case you need to be particularly careful about stacking bonuses. Attractive and Charismatic could just as easily have been treated as trappings for the same Edge, but by splitting them into separate Edges, players have the option of taking both and adding their bonuses together.

Some settings work around this issue by removing certain Edges. For example the Make it Work Edge in Frost and Fang might initially appear to be a weakened version of McGyver with setting-specific trappings, however the Accursed setting has removed the McGyver Edge, and without that option, Make it Work becomes much more appealing. Another workaround is the "no stacking" feature of Professional Edges, which I used when designing the Stealth-based Professional Edges for Guild of Shadows.


A common complaint from newcomers to Savage Worlds is that the powers are generic, bland and boring. This is almost always based on a misunderstanding of the role and importance of trappings - the powers aren't really intended to be used out of the box, but as templates for designing custom spells. It was this misunderstanding that I attempted to address a few years ago with my Savage Spellbook fan supplement.

Savage Worlds describes trappings as "the heart and soul of the powers system". However much like Edges and Hindrances, many of the powers already have baked-in trappings, and this can often lead to confusion. You'll see some people arguing furiously that the zombie power should only be available to evil spellcasters because it's "necromantic", while in the next breath explaining that bolt is only evil when you apply a necromantic trapping to it. Of course zombie is really just a summoning spell with a baked-in trapping, and trappings can be removed just as easily as they can be added.

But if you strip away all the baked-in trappings from Savage Worlds, the risk is that you can end up with a small number of completely flavorless powers - when I tried this in Savage Abilities I was able to reduce the total number of powers down to just five, from which practically any other power could be created by applying the appropriate modifiers and trappings. This is useful from a design perspective, but not a good way to sell the magic system to players who are already complaining about the powers being too bland.

By contrast, spells in D&D always have baked-in trappings, and there is no concept of changing those trappings (other than in a very limited fashion through Metamagic Feats). This is what leads to huge spell lists, something that many savages hate, although I've experimented with this approach as well.


Overall, most abilities in Savage Worlds seem to strike a balance between flavor and flexibility. Many have baked-in trappings, and this seems to be particularly important for setting-specific Edges and Hindrances, which should help promote and evoke the flavor of the setting.

However there is generally the expectation that abilities can also be customized with trappings, and tailored to the individual player.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Musings about Mini Settings with Expandable Lore

Nathan Carmen on the Official Savage Worlds Facebook Group recently discussed an idea he calls a "Setting Seed": a 10-20 page mini setting covering everything needed to run a campaign, without overloading the reader with too much information. This idea also brought to mind my observations about Fuhgeddaboudit!, which follows a similar sort of principle.

While developing my own setting, the area I'm finding myself struggling with the most is the setting information. I'm fine with mechanics, but I find it difficult to write reams of fluff, and most of the newer Savage Worlds settings I've looked at have around 20-40 pages of setting information. According to my setting guidelines, I'd probably be looking at something in the region of 15,000 - 25,000 words of historical and geographical lore, which would be a slog to write (and probably to read as well, as I don't think my heart would be in it).

However I've noticed that 50 Fathoms (which is still considered by many to be the best Plot Point Campaign for Savage Worlds) only has a 4 page gazetteer covering common public knowledge, with everything else moved into the GM section or the adventures, so that the bulk of the lore is gradually revealed as the players explore the world. This massively reduces the amount of information that needs to be read in advance, for the GM as well as the players.

In Simply Savage: Episode 006 (at around the 24:30 mark) Clint Black described how someone writing a Plot Point Campaign could start with just the Plot Point Episodes and an adventure generator, and then expand the campaign afterwards by releasing a series of One Sheets that serve as Savage Tales.

Combined with the 50 Fathoms approach, where the lore is gradually revealed as the players explore the world, this solution could greatly reduce the size of the initial setting book, as the majority of the setting information could be baked into future One Sheets. I imagine a steady line of One Sheet releases would also be a good way of keeping the setting in the public eye (it certainly seems to work for Accursed).

Friday, 3 June 2016

Savage Undead: Updated fan PDF

As I mentioned back in January, one of my current pet projects is to go back over my older fan supplements and make them look more professional. This is good practice for the new presentation skills I've been working on, and also allows me to experiment with different layout styles, as I want to have a much firmer idea of what I'm trying to achieve before I start tackling the design and layout for Saga of the Goblin Horde.

The new design (click to enlarge)

I released the first version of Savage Undead in October 2013, shortly before Halloween. It was only my sixth fan supplement, but even back then I wasn't particularly happy with the trade dress; I couldn't find a suitable piece of full-page artwork for the cover, so I enlarged an undead figure illustration and placed it on a public domain fog background (which actually looks more like a plain gray background).

The old design (click to enlarge)

With the Drakonheim kickstarter rapidly approaching, and the setting's strong focus on necromancy and undead, now seemed the perfect time to give Savage Undead a facelift. But I didn't want the new changes to be purely cosmetic; as I redesign each supplement, I'd also like to add some extra content (for example, I added five monsters to the revised Savage Frost Giants supplement).

Savage Undead provides guidelines for balancing playable undead, and includes 13 Hindrances, 13 Edges, and 13 archetypes. The new version also includes 13 new powers, bringing the total size of the supplement up to 13 pages.

You can download it from here: Savage Undead

The old version of Savage Undead is still available here, if you're interested in comparing the two.

I'd particularly like to thank Mathew Halstead and Manuel Sambs for their help with proofreading, and Marcelo Paschoalin for his layout suggestions.

Note: The Savage Worlds Drakonheim Companion contains a lot of necromantic Edges and Hindrances, as well as necromantic trappings, but it doesn't include any new powers - so Savage Undead should complement it nicely.

Savage Drakonheim Preview 2: Sewer Goblins

Three weeks ago I talked about the necromancy preview for the upcoming Savage Drakonheim Kickstarter, which you can sign up for here. The second preview has now been released, and this one covers the goblins living in the city sewers, so I thought I'd give it a quick mention.

The preview includes the goblin race, along with two new Racial Edges (Low Blow and Scrounger), which is actually everything you need to play as a goblin. Even if you're on the fence about the Drakonheim setting, you could still use this PDF to add a new PC goblin race to your fantasy games.

There's also a sneak peek (with some spoilers) into part of the first chapter of the Heroes of Drakonheim adventure, along with statblocks for two of the goblin NPCs the players will encounter.

It's free, so why not check it out? If nothing else, it'll give you an extra race you can add to your fantasy campaigns! And if you're interested in keeping an eye on the Drakonheim Kickstarter which launches later this month, don't forget to sign up to the mailing list!

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Late to the party, but I didn't Fuhgeddaboudit!

Just Insert Imagination first entered the Savage Worlds scene with their post apocalyptic Winter Eternal setting, which I backed on Indiegogo, But since then they've been expanding their portfolio with a range of other products, one of which is a mob and road movie sandbox adventure called "Fuhgeddaboudit!", by Eric Lamoureux and MornĂ© Schaap.

However Fuhgeddaboudit! is much more than just an adventure, it's really a mini setting in its own right, and as this is a subject I'm particularly interested in, I decided to take a look at how they've organized their product.

The actual adventure is four pages long, around twice the size of a One Sheet, and includes an introduction, the setting rules, background information, adventure scenes (including a custom Interlude table) and PC secrets, as well as some thematic extras (mobspeak slang, and ideas for jukebox background music), and statblocks for NPCs as well as vehicle stats. There's also a fifth page which lists the full stats for five pregenerated characters.

The download also includes character sheets for the pregenerated characters (and a blank character sheet for creating your own), cards containing character secrets that can be printed and handed out to the players, and three separate battle maps.

There are a few minor issues with the pregenerated characters (Jimmy's Parry doesn't factor in Acrobat, the characters have an additional Hindrance each and get points for it, Paulie isn't strong enough to use his melee weapon, and a couple of the characters haven't used all their advances), but this doesn't really matter for a one-shot adventure.

Overall it's a very cool product, particularly for PWYW, giving the GM everything they need to run a memorable one-shot adventure.

I think this "mini setting" concept could also be a very effective way to test the waters for other new settings, allowing publishers to gauge public interest before investing the time and effort into writing a full setting book.

You can pick up a copy here: Fuhgeddaboudit!