Thursday, December 19, 2013

We Need a Montage! Training as a Dramatic Task


My lazy, lazy math skills tell me there are about 16 Advances possible for a Savage Worlds character between Novice and Legendary.  A lazy, lazy count tells me there are something like 35+ Combat Edges and 50+ Arcane Background powers available in Savage Worlds Deluxe alone.  Going strictly by the rules as written (including the purchasing of the New Power Edge), there is no way in heck for a Savage Worlds character to master more than one fighting style or become a versatile spellcaster – especially if the character wants to actually improve any of their Attributes or Skills.

This is fine is most cases.  Most Savage Worlds gamers aren’t running duets predicated upon cinematic levels of character competence.  In most games, the presence of multiple players is going to give the party as a whole a broad degree of competence; in fact, specialized roles help keep players feeling their individual contributions matter. 

(Also, the Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion sneaks into its treasure tables “tomes” – books from which spellcasters can learn powers with a Smarts roll and 1d6 hours study – thereby increasing spellcasting versatility.)

Sometimes, though, even normal party-based games reach a point where the need for immediate, dramatic character advancement outstrips the accumulation of experience points.  Luke Skywalker sure seemed to learn an awful light of lightsaber fighting techniques in between crashing on Dagobah and reaching Bespin.  How many martial arts films have revolved around learning a key maneuver just in time?  How many teen romances have revolved around learning to ski overnight?

You need a montage!

New Setting Rule:

Training Montage

A training montage is a Dramatic Task made to increase a Skill rating or learn a new Edge or power.  GMs even more generous than me may allow montages to increase Attributes as well. 

As with standard Dramatic Tasks, a training montage takes five actions; whether these actions take an hour, day, week, or even month each depends on what best fits the drama.  Over the course of those five actions, the character must net a number of successes equal to the rank of the Edge/power or the dice rank of the Attribute/Skill.  Note that all five actions must be played, even if the character has already accumulated enough successes; this increases the chance of failure (especially at lower ranks), thus discouraging the casual abuse of the system.

Like normal, the Trait rolled will be that most directly tied to the task at hand (the Attribute or Skill itself if that’s what you’re training for, Fighting or Shooting for related Combat Edges, the arcane skill for powers, etc.).  Most training montages should be rolled at a -2 penalty like normal Dramatic Tasks, with another -2 penalty on the roll when you draw a Club.  The GM may determine on a case-by-case basis whether the trainer’s advice and encouragement allows for a Cooperative Roll or not.  

Example:

Humiliated in a duel by the cruel Marquis de Carabas (fastest blade in the Eastmark!), young rakashan duelist Tomas returns to his master to resume the training he abandoned in haste.  Master Sylvester reluctantly teaches his prodigal student Improved Level Headed by having him chase chickens around the yard and pluck hummingbirds from the air. 

Improved Level Headed is a Seasoned Edge so it will require two successes during the training montage.  Improved Level Headed – through its prerequisite Level Headed – is actually linked to Smarts (still not Tomas’ best quality) so that’s the Trait Tomas’ player must roll. 

On the first action, Tomas draws the Queen of Hearts and the 10 of Diamonds (he already has Level Headed and so draws two cards).  He rolls his Smarts of d6 and aces for a total of 9 – two successes!  Unfortunately for the cocky cat-man, his training has just begun.  Over the next three actions, he nets no more successes.  “Chickenth are nothing, boyo!  Can you catch a hawk on the wing?” yowls Master Sylvester (he is not contributing to a Cooperative Roll).  On the last action, Tomas draws the 2 of Clubs – merde! a -2 penalty to the roll! – and… a Joker!  Hooray!  He handily scores another success (which isn’t technically necessary but at least means he doesn’t lose any successes) and then once again abandons his master to challenge the marquis once more. 

Meanwhile, his fellow players have spent the last five weeks of in-game time (and five minutes of actual game play) spending the money they made betting against Tomas in the original duel.

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