Setting Rule: Anguish

Setting Rule: Anguish (New Hazard)

Tests of Will

...To make a test of wills, the character makes an opposed roll against his chosen target. The defender uses Smarts to resist Taunt, and Spirit to resist Intimidate.

A success means the attacker gets a +2 bonus to his next action against the defender during this combat. A raise on the roll gives the attacker the bonus and makes the defender Shaken as well. This can be a great setup for an attack, a trick, or even a second test of wills if the first one didn’t get a Shaken result.
[Savage Worlds Deluxe, pp. 75-76]


In some Savage Settings, words cut as deep as steel. It may be scheming courtiers in Heian-Kyo or catty debutantes at Almack's, but they'll use Intimidate and Taunt* to defeat their foes as decisively as any swordsmen by inflicting Anguish on their opponents.

Anguish is a Hazard -- a source of Fatigue, just like Bumps and Bruises, Hunger, and Thirst. In non-combat scenes, successive Shaken results in tests of will inflict Fatigue on the target, as the emotional stress and mental anguish eventually result in Incapacitation.
  • Recovery: Fatigue levels from Anguish are recovered immediately in the next scene. Individual Game Masters may wish to require the player to run an Interlude or otherwise soliloquize as their Wild Card comes to terms with the source of their Anguish.
  • Incapacitation Effects: How a character Incapacitated by Anguish reacts will vary dramatically depending on the setting. A Regency gentlewoman may literally faint, overcome with emotion. A Baroque period courtier may retreat from Versailles to plot vengeance from his or her country estates. A Tokugawa era samurai may challenge his opponent to a duel -- or even lose his cool entirely and draw his sword in the Shogun's presence! In any event, the character Incapacitated has "lost" that social encounter and must leave the scene.
Example: Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are having a tiff. Darcy taunts Elizabeth about her prejudice towards him based on their first meeting; he scores a raise and she is Shaken. Elizabeth, being a healthy young woman accustomed to long walks in the countryside, scores a raise on her Vigor roll and is both unshaken and able to act normally. Darcy would need to score another Shaken result against her in order to inflict Anguish upon her.

Elizabeth taunts Darcy about his overweening pride; she scores a raise and he is Shaken. Darcy fails his Vigor roll on the following turn. Elizabeth scores another raise (getting to use her +2 bonus from her successful Test of Will in the previous round) and now the Anguish of this argument has Darcy Fatigued. If Darcy is Incapacitated in the following rounds, he will be forced to confess his love for Elizabeth and then immediately flee the scene.

Anguish can be combined with Social Combat as characters interject personal attacks in order to weaken their opponents' arguments. Doing so imposes a multi-action penalty, though the result may be worth it if the opponent misses an entire round of the argument (or two, or three) trying to recover from Anguish.

In settings that track social status -- such as Iron Dynasty and Pirates of the Spanish Main -- being publicly incapacitated by Anguish results in loss of Fame or Reputation. It can be recovered through dueling or humiliating the opponent in a test of will on another occasion.

Dreadful Anguish

In some settings, such as Regency England and Heian Japan, Anguish can be particularly deadly. The GM may require a character Incapacitated by Dreadful Anguish to make a Vigor roll before the next scene. Success indicates the Wild Card is fine; a failure indicates the character has contracted a Short-Term Debilitating disease; a critical failure means the disease is Minor Debilitating Long-Term Chronic. (See "Disease" on page 87 of Savage Worlds Deluxe.)

Dreadful Anguish can also be combined with Dramatic Tasks. A character may write a spiteful letter as a Dramatic Task, taking five "actions" to write the letter and requiring a minimum of five successes in the skill or skills used to compose the letter (there is no reason the writer could not switch back and forth between Intimidate and Taunt). If the writer fails to reach five successes, he or she gives up the attempt in frustration, unable to find the right way to express him or herself. Action cards are drawn as usual; club cards represent an attack of writer's block while jokers grant a burst of inspiration. The scores for each "action" should be recorded; they are what the defender will roll against when he or she reads the letter. Incapacitation resulting from an anguishing letter forces the same Vigor roll against disease as Anguish gained from a face-to-face encounter.

*And Persuasion if the setting has an Edge like Pirates of the Spanish Main's "Seducer."


  1. I've been trying to figure out a Savage Worlds "social combat" mechanic for years, but I've never found one I liked. They all (including earlier attempts by myself) included new Attributes and other complications that made the game less Fast! Furious! Fun!

    I've had this one brewing in my head for a few weeks, but I have to thank Chris Rutkowsky and his game _Honor + Intrigue_ for lighting a fire under my butt and inspiring me to finish this up. I haven't finished reading H+I yet, but expect a full review soon.

    Yes, I know I could have included this in the body of the entry, but I didn't want to. Also I confess that I'm working on Regency and Heian settings.


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