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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Savages + Intrigue

So...  Before last night's Pirates of the Spanish Main game, I floated the idea of dumping the Savage Worlds Skills and switching to Honor + Intrigue Careers.  Response was enthusiastic, so we made the switch and had some of the highest-participation, most-fun gaming the group has had.  So here's how Savages + Intrigue works:
  • The basic mechanic of "roll Trait and Wild Die and keep the best" changes to "roll Attribute and Career or Combat Skill and keep the best."  It's always bugged me that Attributes and Skills have such a limited relationship in Savage Worlds, and I miss the mix-and-match options of Storyteller and Unisystem (if you're rigging sails, it's an Agility + Pirate roll while if you're navigating it's now Smarts + Pirate).  This probably messes up the math a bit, but not so much that I'm going to notice.  
  • Attributes (Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength, and Vigor) are unchanged from Savage Worlds.  I'd love to switch to the more flavorful Honor + Intrigue Qualities (Might, Daring, Savvy, and Flair) but that would involve more conversion than I want to bother with.
  • Starting characters get eight points to spread among four Careers, with d4 being the lowest score allowed in any career.  As in Honor + Intrigue, having any rank whatsoever in a Career makes a PC proficient in all the skills of that Career.  Once per combat scene, a player can request to add a Career Bonus to a roll, at which times the player rolls Attribute + Combat Skill (or Damage Die) + Career.
  • Starting characters get six points to spread among the three Combat Skills: Fighting, Shooting, and Throwing.  You do not need to allocate a minimum d4 to any Combat Skill.  I suppose I could just minimize things to Melee and Ranged, but not yet.
  • Humans get a free starting Edge, as usual.  Edges and Hindrances work as usual.  I fancy I can adjudicate Skill requirements for Edges on the fly; Rope Monkey, for instance, requires Agility d8+ and Climbing d10+, so in this system it would require Sailor/Pirate at d10+.
  • Gear works as usual for Savage Worlds.
  • Because of the limited "skill list," advancing any Career or Combat Skill cost one Advance per die type, just as if a player were increasing a Skill equal to or higher than the linked Attribute in standard Savage Worlds.  This is subject to review through playtesting. 
I'm still debating how to best handle Extras.  I think they probably roll the worse of their Attribute or Career.  It doesn't matter much; I can keep using all the Savage Worlds NPC stats the way they are and it will hardly impact the PCs' interaction with them.

Pirates of the Spanish Main doesn't allow for PC magic-users, but if it did I'd allow a Career like Alchemist or Magician to function as a general Knowledge Skill for that Arcane Background and the Arcane Skill used for success on Powers.  A character still has to have the Arcane Background Edge to be a true practitioner and not just some nutcase who believes in psychic hotlines.

We didn't rebuild the PotSM characters from scratch, so I know the approach will probably need some tweaking whenever we start our next campaign.  I let everybody keep their existing ranks in Attributes and Combat Skills and then they got two Careers at d6 and two at d8 to reflect their Advances (nobody really had any Skills above d8 or below d6 anyway).  I think I'll  have to start imposing more circumstantial modifiers to balance the disparity in Careers in different circumstances (a Pirate's going to know how to forage for food, but an Explorer is going to be overall better at survival skills), but that should be a snap.

In any case, Savages + Intrigue worked really well last night.  Everybody had a ball and really felt like their characters could contribute to practically every scene.  That's a huge improvement.  Maybe I'll finally get to run some good naval battles in the near future.

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