Friday, June 15, 2018

Starpunk Update



For those that have been following my blog, I have been working on a sci-fi setting called Starpunk. It's kind of like Daring Tales of the Space Lanes but with an actual setting (and I'm leaning more toward a comedic bent). One of the biggest hurdles has been generating starships because the Sci-Fi Companion generator never sat right with me, and I have worked on a lot of Starship generator ideas. Here's what I have discovered:

a) I shouldn't need a starship generator ruleset. The point of the game is to play, not munchkin the ruleset to see what cool combo can be built.
b) The more complicated the starship builds get, the easier it is to introduce overpowered ships and weapons.
c) The more complicated the system, the less F!F!F! it got.

Well I finally have something worked out, at least for capital scale ships. It borrows concepts from a variety of sources but also required me to change my thinking process.

In every rpg that involves large starships, they have always treated them the same way as they treated smaller vessels: listing each individual weapon and its damage. If you ended up with two capital ships fighting each other, then you were expected to roll for each gun to hit, roll damage for each hit, etc. This takes too long, but thankfully it is rarely ever used since the players don't command these type of vessels in an rpg. What GMs should be concerned about is what affect all of those guns have on our hero's stock light freighter.

Here's my solution:
Don't sweat the details. Worry about the overall effect.

Capital ships have three weapon entries: Port Batteries, Starboard Batteries, and CIDS (Close In Defense Systems).

CIDS are what capital ships would use against small craft. It's treated as a single weapon, but with a RoF. The bigger the ship, the bigger its RoF (rated 2-4). A capital ship can make a single CIDS attack against each enemy fighter or missile per round.

If I do want to run two capital ships duking it out, the the Capital ships fire their batteries at each other. Each battery is considered a single attack roll. A starship can only attack with one side Battery per target unless they draw a face Card, and Ace, or a Joker for their action card. If they do, then the ship has maneuvered in a way to bring both side Batteries to fire on a single target.

Of course, if I'm going to involve more capital ships and fighters, then I would just bring out the Mass combat rules.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Curbing the Lethality

Savage Worlds is brutal. Any character, regardless of rank, can be one-shotted by a novice or extra. Dice explode, death happens. For some people, this is a feature. The players should be thinking twice before jumping into a toe-to-toe fight.

But there is also the common complaint from people used to attrition based games like d&d that combat is too quick. They don’t like the idea that their wild cards can drop like flies. I have one such friend. He loves Savage Worlds with this one exception. His rationality is that he wants heroes and villains to have time to switch tactics when they start to get hammered. I offered up this as a setting rule:

BEAT HIM DOWN
No character (Wild Card or Extra) can deal more than 1 wound in a single attack. If the attacker’s damage roll would have caused two or more wounds (>target’s toughness +8) then the attacker receives a benny. Bennies cannot be spent on soak rolls.

This guarantees that it takes at least 4 successful attacks to down a wild card. However with only dealing one wound, soaking would only kill the Fast!. The ruling doesn’t affect the ease of dropping extras. It also keeps players from hoarding bennies for soak rolls.

So far he has liked the new rule.

All that said, I prefer the unpredictability of Savage Worlds combat as written. It’s faster and more dramatic when you know you can be dropped in a single attack. I think that D&D and later videogames have reinforced the idea of long drawn out slugfests as the norm. It takes a reshaping of expectations to enjoy SW combat. Oddly, you need to set your expectations toward realism a bit more.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Modeling the light side and dark side of the force in Savage Worlds

Yup, I'm back. I finally found something to say.

I was listening to the Savage GMs Hangout Podcast episode "Everything I need to know about GMing I learned from Star Wars". It's crude, but cool and worth checking out. They were talking about how to model the Light and Dark side of the Force and the legacy of "Dark Side Points" from West End Games. Jarrod begins describing a very complicated system he had designed for his Star Wars Companion that ultimately drove down the path of Dark Side Points and complicated mechanics and yadda yadda yadda...before he trailed off.

Then it hit me, the best way to model the Dark and Light side. It comes from the Revenge of the Sith and all it takes is two new Hindrances.



Palpatine: "The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way, including their quest for greater power."

Anakin: "The Sith rely on their passion for their strength. They think inwards, only about themselves."

Palpatine: "And the Jedi don't?"

Anakin: "The Jedi are selfless, they only care about others."

New Hindrance: Selfless

The hero thinks about the welfare of others before his own. Even when he is starving, he'll split his last loaf of bread and given another the larger share.

New Hindrance: Selfish

The hero(?) acts in his own best interests, and has no qualms about abandoning others when it suits him.




So if you chose to make a Jedi character, you would have to take the Selfless hindrance. However, if your actions warrant it, the gm can switch that Hindrance to Selfish and your path down the Dark Side begins.

What's the mechanical benefit? Well they are Hindrances. The more they affect you in game, the more Bennies...ahem... Force Points you will receive. Bennies are a manifestation of the Living Force, and you don't have to be a Jedi or Sith to benefit from a bit of luck. 

Wait, what if I'm a Selfish character without AB (The Force)? Are you saying that I'm still using the Force even though I can't shoot lightning out of my hands?

Yup. And if you want to see a character that was consumed by the Dark Side but wasn't a Force Wielder, just look up Bib Fortuna.

Plus, there is this quote:

Luke: "Is the Dark Side stronger?"

Yoda: "No. Quicker, easier, more seductive."

Believe me, it is so much easier to play a selfish character than a selfless one. And that is the draw of the Dark Side.

As for how that affects Force Powers, it doesn't. If you are strong in the Force, you can use it to manifest abilities (AB (The Force)). All that separates a Jedi from a Sith is where they can draw that extra bit of luck from.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Making a World Map for any Fantasy Game the Lazy Way

I have started a D&D 5E campaign with a new local group. Afterward I figured I can ease them in to other games like Savage Worlds.

Interesting note, there isn't exactly a world map or digest for D&D's setting "The Forgotten Realms" the way there is for Pathfinder's "Inner Sea", and I would really like to make my own world for them to explore instead of something they could just read about on the internet.

But of course, I hate putting a lot of work into a world knowing that my players may only see a small chunk. Or making a new world for the same fantasy setting, etc. So I made a compromise. I am only ever going to make one fantasy world for D&D (and maybe even port it over to Savage Worlds). 

Well, lets start with the world map and I will explain as I go. I went over to Donjon and used their World Fractal Mapper. You could draw the coastlines by hand if you want. Then I blew it up to 15" x 30".

Note that this is just the land masses. I wanted a lot of islands and continents for my world to explore.

Then I chopped off a segment (7.5" x 10") and printed it out.

This is where my Party will start. I won't draw towns or geological features until they come up in game. My party started in a Village and had to cross a mountain range in their first adventure so I will mark the village and draw the range they had to cross on the printout. I'll just keep creating adventures where the party wants to go and fill in the map afterwards, that way there is no wasted prep! When this region is done, I will transfer my sketches onto the main world map.

Why keep track at all? In case I or the party wants to revisit a location they had been to before, like their home village, or a haunted keep they couldn't tackle the first time.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Flash Gordon: a Review


Well, I finally got around to buying it and reading it over. And I thought, "I haven't posted in a while. How about a review?" So here goes.

Art & Style

  • The cover is glorious, the formatting is top notch, and any spelling mistakes have flown below my radar.
  • The book is littered with snippets of the original comic serial. They don't draw comics like that anymore...sigh.

Races and Gear

  • Not much to say here. The vehicles appear to be based on the vehicle construction rules from the Sci-Fi Companion (minus any leftover mods for further modification), and the race construction rules are from the Sci-Fi Companion as well.
  • Acid guns, and atom guns, and rust guns, and bent ray guns, and heat guns, and ice guns, and ray guns...oh my!

New Rules

  • As I understand, this is a preview of what we can expect in the upcoming Savage Worlds Black Edition. I like the skill changes, although I didn't have a problem with the skill list in SWDEX. Also I had incorporated Performance as a house rule skill long ago and this is the same.
  • The new 'States' are okay, but again, I didn't have an issue in understanding or role playing these in previous editions.
  • As for Creative Combat, well I hope it's just a setting rule for Flash Gordon. I like Savage Worlds for its flexibility and simplicity. I don't really want another table to roll on.
  • The Wound Cap was something I was already doing in a house rule with the caveat that Heavy Damage could exceed the Wound Cap.
  • I do like the idea of Power Modifiers (adding difficulty to the casting roll for upgrades like Heavy damage, longer duration, and other effects), but it has caused players to spend more time figuring out what they will do on their turn and I have had to place more than a few players on Hold while they figured it out.

Verdict

There is a "hefty heapin' helpin'" of information on the world of Mongo. However, if your looking for an adaptation of the 80's movie, it isn't here. What you are getting is the original, and good on Pinnacle for that. It's not like the movie had much background to work with.

Will I play Flash Gordon in the future? It's doubtful but that isn't because I think Pinnacle pushed a shoddy product or because my players aren't interested in retro sci-fi. It is because I have Slipstream. You see the problem with Flash Gordon is Flash Gordon. You take part in a world that already has its number one hero. It's harder for my players to feel invested in saving a world while staying in the shadow of the main protagonist. Whereas with Slipstream, there is no Flash to save it, and my players know that they will have to step up and shoulder the problems of the Slipstream alone.

  • So if you are a die-hard fan or would like to learn more about Flash, it's worth buying.
  • If you are interested in running retro sci-fi, and can't get a hold of a copy of Slipstream, it's worth buying.
  • But if you have Slipstream, I recommend staying with that if only for the fact that it can be your universe instead of Flash's.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Review of New Core Rules by The GM's Table!

Here's one player's analysis of things in Flash Gordon that may also appear in the upcoming Savage Worlds Black. I must say, I am liking a lot of the changes. A few, I had already done in my own home games. Give it a watch!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017