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Character Background Episode 3

By : Chris Willhelm
Involving player backgrounds. This seems to be a big topic online. Pretty much everywhere you go for GMing advice, there is at least one article about the subject. So, I figured I would go over how I have done it in the past, and what I have learned since starting this blog.

Past

In the past, I have been a game store style GM. I would make a world and say "join if you would like." After getting players who showed up every week, for a while, I would start working their background in. This style worked well enough for me when I actually ran a game at the store. Since having a group that plays regularly, this play style is kind of limiting. I feel like my story-line is separate, from what the characters are interested in. It creates a dichotomy between personal story and GM Story.

 Oddly enough, I notice that in certain settings I ran differently. In Star Wars, I am almost always character heavy through out my story, if I had one prepared for the sake of their story. I cant really even explain it, but I guess its more media influenced. I feel like fantasy characters are almost wrapped up, in the story, where as sci-fi is more character centered. You see that most common in TV shows. In movies for example:
Star Wars is about the characters and their personal interactions with the Empire
Lord of the Rings is an epic. The characters are part of it and they have value but the ring needed to be destroyed by someone. It could have been anyone at all.
I think its more because of these iconic stories. that I have always done that in the past. I have always been ok with this formula. even though I knew my players often gravitated to my sci-fi campaigns. Not to say either way is lesser. Its just a preference.

Another thing I have noticed is I have not been much for completion. In the sense that my players have always had an ending, but it has never really been as memorable as some of the middle parts. I cant really think of a time, where my players thought of my end boss as more than a big guy with lots of hit points.

Something else I did, in the past, was plan a big epic story arc, at least 12 sessions a story arc. Every play session was a direct pick up from the last session.

Currently

Since tooling around and listening to other GMs and writers, I have kind of changed my mind on this. Firstly, I have come to the conclusion that I get GM fatigue faster than my players get player fatigue. I think its because I have always done long story arcs, that were not directly focused on continuation. I have almost always done mini-campaigns. I get my fatigue when I feel like the PC's are not accomplishing much, which in reality is my fault. They had almost no influence on the world, unless they started to siege other cities and take slaves.

So, this time I took a very different approach. I let the players make the world. The world being a continuation, of a world that they almost destroyed with previous characters. Their new characters have no direct connection to the last set, but its a neat concept to play out. Let the players fix the world they destroyed. I am also going into this with a different event style of story writing. Instead of doing long continuing story arc, that I hope is just building and building up, I am going to focus in on smaller stories, like a serial. The larger story will be there because of the supported smaller stories.

How does the back story work in? So, I linked a forum in the background tools post about hash-tagging peoples background and adding those hash-tags, to my plot points. My goal is to make every session hit at least one character's background, and if possible more. I thought this was so simple, yet a great way that works for me. The goal to finding a way to incorporate backgrounds is finding what works for you. I am not going to tell you that you should do it my way. I am going to refer you back to the internet. There are so many good opinions out there.

The big thing to remember is don't write your story for you. Write it for them. That's where the backgrounds become so important.

Character Background Episode 2

By : Chris Willhelm


One of my favorite elements, from Savage Worlds, is the adventure generators that most every campaign setting comes with. One of my favorites happens to be Beast and Barbarians. Probably because that is the one I am most familiar with. I got to thinking about that, and thought how about a background generator with inspiration from that. Make it like a mini game for players and GM's alike. I hope to put a few options with this idea, kind of similar to the MACS stuff from Shaintar. And just like suggested in the rules for MACS, this can be used in conjunction with an adventure. Maybe a fortune teller tells the adventurers about a NPC they will meet, giving them clues to the greater plot involving said NPC. Can also be used to introduce new PCs on the fly.

Character Background Spread

Draw four cards from the deck. Place them one next to the other in the order they are drawn. The cards will help to shape your background and personality. The suits will give you a personality, while the values will determine the background events. This will provide a basic background frame work.

Personality

For anyone that has never taken a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, you should probably give it a go before continuing. Though most people probably have done one of these tests before. and may need a refresher so feel free to do a little reading and look at the 16 personality types (different site that presents the types in an easier to read format).

In the test, you are measured in four categories with two possible options, i.e. four card draw. Naturally no one is exclusively one of the two possible options, all the time, but this can be used as a guide to the general behavior and personality of your character.

The categories are abbreviated for ease of use:
Extraversion(E)/Introversion(I)
Sensing(S)/iNtuition(N)
Thinking (T)/Feeling(F)
Judging(J)/Perception(P)

First Card's Suit - Attitudes

The first card's suit will determine the first letter, in your characters personality type.

Red Cards(Hearts/Diamond) - Extraversion(E). Actions speak louder than words. You are driven by actions. For the most part, you act first then later take time to reflect on what information you have gleaned from the experience. You prefer to keep the hits coming and time with others, in between, to effectively recharge. Life is a great teacher, but you would rather move quickly through your lessons to get the most, out of it.

Black Cards(Clubs/Spades) - Introversion(I). Reason before action, You think about what you do, before doing it. This can lead to a more fruitful experience. When you need to recharge, you often seek solace in personal activities, avoiding the distracting business of others. Life is meant to teach deep lessons, so you take your time to carefully think about what you have learned, in your experience, and apply that to your future ones.

Joker - Wild, character owners choice

Second Card's Suit - Judging Functions

The second card's suit will determine the second letter, in your characters personality type.

Red Cards(Hearts/Diamond) - Sensing(S). Concrete evidence is needed to sway the masses. You want to find that evidence. It leads your actions. Hunches are for the uneducated. Details and facts are all the support that any action needs. The devil is in the details.

Black Cards(Clubs/Spades) - iNtuition(N) "Evidence" and "hard" numbers can be shown in entirely factual ways, that may seem to prove one point, but in reality it is how those details are presented. You abstract information, to it's base level, and trust the theoretical more than the "factual." You are more interested in the possibilities from that data. Understanding how the data is formed will lead you to the truth.

Joker - Wild, character owners choice

Third Card's Suit - Percieving Functions

The third card's suit will determine the third letter, in your characters personality type.

Red Cards(Hearts/Diamond) - Thinking(T) You make your decision most often, with a detached logical stand point. You measure your decisions to determine the best course, of action, using reason, logic, and consistent rules. 

Black Cards(Clubs/Spades) - Feeling(F) You make your decisions most often with your heart. You always look at it from the other point of view, before making any rash or callous decisions. Often weighing the situation, to best fit the needs ,of the many, of the few.

Joker - Wild, character owners choice

Fourth Card's Suit - Lifestyle

The third card's suit will determine the third letter in your characters personality type.

Red Cards(Hearts/Diamond) - Judging(J) You have matters settled. You are content to show others what you believe in. You tend to show the world more of your preferred judging function (Second Card's Suit).

Black Cards(Clubs/Spades) - Perception(P) You like to keep decisions open and available. You prefer to show the world your preferred perceiving function (Third Card's Suit)

Joker - Wild, character owners choice

Background

With personality defined, remember to check up on your definition for the character's personality type for guidance. The next step is to put together a basic background for the character. For this phase, keep in mind that in Savage Worlds a suit of clubs is always a complication, and a joker is always a boon.  For this character background build, I would use the elements that come up, as clubs, as defining points, to illuminate why a character has the hindrances they have on their sheet.  Use jokers as a great event leading to jumping points for edges. It is recommended as a reward, for pulling a joker, that a player be allowed to use the "Born a Hero" rule from SWD page 94. With each topic, write down at least one to two sentences, explaining how the character feels about it or even a basic description of the topic.

First Card's Value - Origins

Origins is used to show how your character was brought up. Seed ideas:
  • Immediate Family, alive or dead and what effect they had on the character
  • Extended family and family-like friends
  • Location, what type of place you grew up in
  • Childhood events 

Deuce -Born into Bondage, you were born into a society, where you were a slave. You may have been born from another class, but ultimately your fate is still the same. This is not just the typical form of bondage, this can also include being part of sex trade, human trafficking, and even such strange events as being adopted by a drug dealer to push his product.

3-4 -  Vagabond/gypsy, you were always on the move as a child. You may have mixed feelings about the places you went, but you always remember the people you met there. For place of origin, you may think of no place in particular as "home," but perhaps you had an ancestral home.

5-7 - Poor/Lower class, you grew up with little but a roof over your head, and enough food to remind you that you were hungry. Things that others take for granted are seen as valuable to you. Warmth and a light at night are considered great victories, where you grew up. You learned how to make it work, because if you had not your old life would have chewed you up.

8-9Middle Class, you had a pretty normal life growing up, with normal friends and normal neighbors. Was that really such a good thing? You are more prone to take things at face value, and believe that hard work pays off. And hey if you got a club, maybe you had a creepy neighbor with a secret...

10Upper Middle Class, you grew up better than most, always having something a step better than your peers. In a modern game, you might have been that kid in high school, who got a brand new sports car as soon as he got his driver's license. Money was never really a thing for you, or at least it wasn't until you stopped going to school and started working.

JackUpper Class, you grew up privileged. Special schools, instructors and tutors, what ever was needed to insure you future success. With this came stages of rebellious tendencies, but who cares. You had enough money to make your problems go away, so long as it wasn't that bad.

Queen - The Elite, you were born into the 1%. You are used to attention, and for the most part you and your family deserve it. But like most children of the 1% you will be one of two options, either you care about the family business or you go off the wall and have daddy try to clean up your mess. You could have been a model child or arrested, the odds are about 50/50.

King - Lost legacy, your family was once kings and rulers of their domain, but that age has passed. You will fall into any of the categories below, for how you were raised, but even to this day your name has power. In some games, this may be limited to a specific group of people. If your family were once great magi, your name would garner you respect, at the Tower of Magi, or at least an audience.

Ace - Left to Die, you have no idea of who you could have been. You were left to die as a child. You may have been adopted or simply raised yourself. Either way, you have learned that survival is key and the person you can trust most is yourself.

JokerWeird, Something about your childhood does not make sense. Well it might to you, but it sure isn't normal. This could range from being brought up by aliens, to being a sacrifice to a blood god that did not work out. You may remember the events but to you it was normal. Its only weird to those you tell the story to.

Second Card's Value - Virtue/Vice

Virtue is a positive quality, that your character shows. If you draw a club, you may take the vice associated with the virtue instead. A vice can be linked to a character's hindrances. GM's, who want to take it up a notch, may use the Vices Rules from the Horror Companion. The other option is to take the virtue to an extreme, where it would be detrimental to the character. For example, the virtue of patience. You can twist that to match the hindrance Death Wish, but make the character fully believe they cannot die until that moment they are destined for.

Deuce - Temperance, you have self control regard pleasures. You control your needs to indulge in excess, and restrain some of your more base instincts.
Vice: Indulgence, you willingly give into your pleasure of choice, whether its the dink or the opposite sex. You don't care as long as you get it when you want it.

3-4 - Humility, you have a modest opinion of yourself. You have a clear understanding of your self-worth and understand how you fit into the greater picture of things.
Vice: Hubris/Arrogant, you know your value is greater than others. You feel entitled to certain benefits and status because of who you are.

5-7 - Courage, you are willing to do the right thing, and face any challenge that might stand in your way. Courage can some times be a double edged sword. Be sure not to become overconfident.
Vice: Cowardice, you are a coward. When the chips are down you will do anything to keep yourself safe, even sacrificing your "friends"

8-9 - Patience, you know that good things come to those who wait. You are not as aggressive as a Courageous person can be. You meet your challenge face to face in a calm manor. People may describe you as stoic.
Vice: Vengeful, others agitate you quickly. You are prone to acting rashly and giving into aggression. 

10 - Tolerance, you believe that all people are entitled to their own beliefs and ways of doing things. It is not your place to judge them.
Vice: Bias, you believe that all others should believe and do as you. You will go out of your way to make up excuses why others are wrong and you are right. You favor certain things and those things are the only things worth preferring. Some might describe you as prejudice or stubborn, depending on how much you show your feelings to them.

Jack - Honesty, in all things you remain honest. You work in earnest and people find it easy to trust you.
Vice: Mendacity, you are prone to lying. Not just to get what you want but even on things that don't matter, in the grand scheme of things. You may even take pleasure in the act of tricking people and think you are smart than others. You almost never find guilt in the lies you have told and the reactions they have(if of coarse you acknowledge them).

Queen - Detachment, you have learned that things are only that. By not placing emphasis on things and people, you have allowed your mind to be open to more options in life.
Vice: Attachment, you need something in your life. What ever that is, it is deeper than just indulging. You have become so attached that you do not function with out it. If the attachment is to a person, you might be called a stalker if people found out.

King - Benevolence, you are known for your kind nature. You often will go out of your way to improve the mood and well being of others. Be sure not to forget yourself though.
Vice: Selfishness, you are concerned more with yourself than with others. You will only help others if it benefits you in some way, even if that person does not see how it does.

Ace - Meticulous, you are very well prepared for any situation. You have plans with back up plans, back up plans for the back up plans, and in worst case scenario you have escape plans. Friends might call you overly cautious, but you have kept them out of trouble more times than you can count.
Vice: Reckless, you jump head long into things. Thinking about outcomes only wastes time. You have a "what doesn't kill me make me strong," look at life.

Joker - Double Edged Sword, Pick one virtue and one vice for the character. You cannot pick the vice associated with your virtue.

Third Card's Value - Major Event

Major events in life shape who we are. This is the same for RPG characters. Each event is open ended, again make your clubs count. The questions are there to encourage writing, but do not need to be answered in your background. It may come up as part of the game's natural progression. Talk to your GM, if you would like to cover the topic more in play, and there is a chance what you think you know is true may not always be correct.

Deuce - Inheritance, something of value has been passed down to you. The value may be more sentimental than material. 

3-4 - War, you learned of war and it has changed you. This can be anything from feuding families who spilled blood to World War III.

5-7 - Dark Secret, you learned of an unspeakable secret. This could be related to a person, place, or even be magical in  nature.

8-9 - Love, love changes everything they say. For you, this could not be more true. Perhaps that person made you better. Perhaps they made you worse. Love is a tricky thing, and it does not always have to be romantic in nature.

10 - Travel, you went somewhere that opened your mind to new experiences. How did you get there and what did you learn?

Jack - Crime, you committed a crime or assisted in one. You may not have been aware at the time, but the events of the crime have weighed on you. Were you caught? You may be wanted still, or have served your time.

Queen - Taken, you or someone you were close to was taken, perhaps for reasons you don't fully understand. It has changed the person who was taken. If it was a friend of family member what effect did it have on you?

King - Service, at one point or another you were in service to another. This could be anything from a high school job to service to a king.

Ace -  Death, someone very close to you died in a tragic or sudden way. Or alternatively you almost died yourself. Who brought you back, and why?

Joker - Mentor, you had a mentor growing up, who shared his wealth of knowledge and experience with you. You may not have been aware as to what his intentions for you were, but he will always be someone you remember. Is he still alive, if so where?

Fourth Card's Value - Mystery

Every character should have a reason for going out into the world. Mysteries function as that. Sure everyone wants to get rich and meet an awesome person, to be with forever, but that's boring. Mysteries add depth to the character. Mysteries may change elements you have already written down, embrace it.

Deuce - The Occult, something unnatural pulls at you. It pushes you to learn more about the world around you. Perhaps you were a sacrifice for an evil cult, as a child, and you need to learn more about why you were chosen. Why your parents would allow it. Or perhaps you hear the whispers of something truly great beyond human understanding. Perhaps you were chosen to go on this mission by such a being that hides it's true self from you. Who commands you?

3-4 - Vision, you have had a vision showing something that you must find. Its meaning is fleeting and abstract. You quest to find your answers. This may have been a one time occurrence, or perhaps it haunts your dreams. This one is best sorted out with the GM.

5-7 - Mistaken Identity, someone has either taken your identity and you are in a mess because of it, or you were mistaken for someone else and in a mess because of it. The person who set you up probably knows what they are doing and has a good reason for it, but what does that mean for you?

8-9 - Missing, something or someone is missing. You are searching for them, why? Or alternatively why is that thing so important?

10 - Stranger, you are a stranger in a strange land. The very nature of your mystery is the journey itself. You are a bit of an explorer going to new places. You must learn to adapt, and with each lesson it pushes you forward.

Jack - Destiny, you have no say in what you do, or at least it seems that way sometimes. People call you the chosen one, or some other equally ridiculous name, and all your trying to do is be normal. But their hope in you gets the better of you and pushes you in to action. Deep inside your heart you have always wondered what you were chosen for, prophecies are never really that clear.

Queen - Escape, you are running away from something. You may not show it, but you adventure to get away from something and it may be following you.

King - Mysterious Employer, you have been paid to be here. At one time, you didn't care what the job was or who was hiring you until this employer. Your latest boss does not show him/herself, always sending letters, emails, or liaisons for communication between the two of you. You have even questioned the liaisons, they have no idea either. Who ever the employer is, this is big.

Ace - Big Bad, you are some how connected to the big bad of the story. His name might be familiar to you, or you could be his second cousin's niece's brother-twice-removed's grand baby. You are driven not only to bring him down but to find out what made him that way. Could you end up the same way? Is the big bad really all that wrong?

Joker - Connection, one of your compatriots is connected to your mystery. Pick another mystery and get with the GM. GM's are encouraged to set the details, of the connection up, and hide that from the players for them to discover, during the game. It is sometimes better if the connected character has unintentionally been involved with the mystery.

Character Background Episode 1

By : Chris Willhelm

Meet Freefall (aka Trent Thompson)
Character backgrounds have always been in role-playing games, to some extent. For the most part, it is at the GM's discretion, as to how much background is needed.  The major difference between a video game character and a role-playing game character is most often the background. The background tells us who that person is, and why they act the way they do. In an open world setting, these are very important things to know, so that you can play toward your non-statistical strengths.

The start of this series is going to be short, mainly tools to help. With any luck you will find it as useful as the Character Creation Saga episodes. Aside from books, movies, and game setting books there are lot of online tools as well.

Some basic all around tools and articles:
Ash's Guide to RPG Personality and Background

  • A bit longer one to use, but very inclusive, focused mainly on personality and how to then build a background from said personality. I think someone in the Google plus community, for savage worlds fans, is actually looking to create a click and generate version, of this for ease of use.
  • Fairly generic questions, that a fully fleshed out character should be able to answer. Some of these will actually help put the polish, on your background.
  • There are five linked articles, in this post, each with another idea on character creation and background.
  • A quick and easy method that hits the highlights, without dragging it out
  • Scroll for a bit to get to it... Kind of an in-between one, this one is short but breaks down social classes focused on personality, which is a good jumping point for background.
  • I like the first response post. Using hash-tags since everyone is now forced by social media, to conform to the standard. Everyone already knows how to use them. Plus, if you have pre-planned adventures, and someone doesn't show, you have other options based on attendance.
Other helpful tools more specific:
  • My almost exclusive name generator
Google Image Search
  • Not even kidding, great source of inspiration
  • also not going to link that...
  • Works with names from 20000 Names if you want to mix it up
  • Character images just like the one used for this article
Random Pathfinder Background generator (works for any fantasy setting really)
  • You can also see the full list of options on the site rather than using the generator.
RPG Character Generator
  • On android market place, also a premiere version. One click backgrounds



Character Generation Saga Episode 4

By : Chris Willhelm
Meet Sundered Wind, Student of the Thirteen Storm's Way

So, for this weeks write up, I am going to be talking about mystic martial arts and over the top kung fu movie action. Now, with this said I have some experience in Taekwondo, but that is not what I am shooting for. I want something really fuax Kung Fu at best, so please don't get in to the nitty-gritty on this one. It's supposed to be fun mystical warrior stuff.

So, just like what I have talked about in the previous Savage Write-ups, about Character Creation, and trappings. It's all in how you present your concept. The rules can be used to match your concept. But for this one, I think Deadlands Reloaded actually does a great job, so that's where I would start talking to my GM about this concept. For the background edge, I would use Arcane Background (Chi Mastery) as the source of power. The guys on the Deadlands developing team did a great job, with this one, I think. Basically it is similar to a Superpowers background, but with some minor differences. Of course, this concept does not really fit Deadlands but it doesn't need to. Ideally, to match the crazy over the top action, I want maybe I would save this concept for a game with no power points (using the same backlash for superpowers). Say my GM bought off on it and said lets go for it. I would make up my powers, as if I came from a school of martial arts. Powers should be easy enough, by now, but even when you watch a martial arts movie you see them using fighting techniques, that would not qualify under the Chi Mastery background. So how do we accomplish this? Trappings used in a different way than normal. Now don't be cornered into think this will only work with a martial character, it can be done with any character really.

So, the first thing I do is break out my handy combat survival guide from Pinnacle (see the tools if you need a copy). The best part of bad kung fu movies is that the guys, in them, have ridiculous names for attacks, stances, techniques, and anything else you can think of. So, I want to kung fu up my survival guide. Here are some examples. The best part about this is it will encourage me to think about other tactics, as I have given them trappings and put thought in to that part of my character:

  • Grim Tiger's Tornado(Gang up)
  • Thirteen Storm's Lightning(Agility Trick)
  • Thirteen Storm's Wind(Smarts Trick)
  • Dance of Fallen Trees(Taunting)
  • Fear Hold of the Tornado(Intimidate)
  • Thirteen Storm's First Strike(Wild Attack)
  • Eye of Hurricane(Aiming)
  • Rain of Vengeance(Switching to Ranged Attack)
  • Thirteen Storm's Rending Strike(Called Shot)
  • Thirteen Storm's Second Strike(Wild Attack)
Those are just the quick lists, going down the chart for this character. I would create a notes entry with my sheet with move names. Plus. the best part about this is if the GM gets on board with this crazy kung fu movie idea. he can create other schools and masters so that I can learn new moves. With my current school, the Thirteen Storm's Way, my Chi powers are likely to have trappings to reflect stormy weather. Meaning. I have reason to take up another master's teachings. so that I can learn earth powers and inspired moves. Plus. take a look at tricks. Sure, the survival guide says 'throw sand' but that's not the only option. When you think of a new way, to use one of these tactics, you can call it something else, and keep it in your notes. Next time you use it you know what to call it. Adding another layer on your character. My original concept is a sword saint type character. That means I can learn new styles, with new weapons, and new schools, opening up my character's options for tactics. 

Another thing that might be fun to play with, for this concept, is Skill Specialization, but limit it to only one fighting style, as your primary style. The one you started with, so in this case I would have Fighting(Thirteen Storm's Way) fighting done in this style, would get the benefit, but lets say I learn other schools. I can not specialize in them, because they are not the thing I developed the most time to. If in game I spend massive amounts of time, that the GM finds adequate, maybe I can change it to another style. I would also consider talking to the GM about adding to an edge later, that allows me to create my own style, inspired from Superior Kung Fu. Say after some time, my character has invested in mixing his Thirteen Storm's Way with Snap Dragon Style and Nu Phan Hammer. He can develop a new form called Thirteen Dragon's Hammer, which will become his new specialization. With Superior Kung Fu, I can pick any of the mentioned benefits and just change the school name to match. If it most closely resembles Tan Tui, go with it. If nothing matches, talk to your GM. He probably already has an idea for you, by now. This would also be a good time to talk to your GM, about making new powers or spending time in meditation, to develop new trappings to some of your old powers, to match your newly created school. This also means you have a tradition, to pass on to students or to call a curse, and keep to yourself as much as possible(perhaps a crafty GM would make an NPC observe and learn from our hero. That is if another player is not already doing the same). You could make a whole game, based on these mystical martial arts students, on their Warrior's Journey. Even make a setting, where this is common place. Something I may actually write up for myself and my readers.

Have a Purpose

By : Chris Willhelm

Have a purpose. This goes for every character and thing at the table. This can be looked at, in a couple major categories.

People

This is something that I know I have struggled with, in the past. Sometimes your cool NPC really doesn't work with the story, so you make the square NPC(or PC for that matter) fit in the round campaign whole. This only leads to a weird fit. If you have a more strict GM they will not let this fly, for their PC's at least, but then some will make the same error on their own with NPC's.

I find that the more memorable NPC's I make are ones that I have a plan for. Players remember and turn to them, when the time comes to get them involved, and even better they turn to the PC's. The biggest set back I have noticed, when running, is when I have to wing a NPC off the top of my head. My players know that if the NPC has a single syllable first name and no last name (usually a very plain name to top that) he is not of importance. Unfortunately, this has conditioned me that when my players start wandering off the rails and I need an NPC that person will more than likely be named Paul, or what ever first comes to mind. Even if I want the NPC to be important the players wont think of him as much, because I have conditioned them as well. This in turns waters down the story and causes players to step back from the story. People also go into society. Don't be arbitrary about the societies you build. Think about why they are the way they are, maybe a bit of local history in there. Your players will ask.

To help stop this I have a couple ideas for you guys. For NPC's get Masks: 1000 Memorable NPC's for any Roleplaying Game. Great tool, even if you don't find anyone you like. It will make you start thinking of ideas for NPC's that are different, than you would normally on your own. Something I learned from painting, is to be a thief. Always be on the lookout for ideas. Take them and change them to fit your needs if they need it, if not use them. The gaming community is big and has plenty of thinkers out there, doing things that will blow you away. The best thing I can say about societies is learn a bit about cartography if you can. Land can really drive how a society evolves.

Props

Savage Worlds especially is prop driven. If you have ever been to a game, that had props in it. You know the difference it can make, for the story. The more themed things you have, the more unique your game feels even if its just a run of the mill Hellfrost game. Cards, bennies, tokens, maps, handouts, music, websites, and so much more can add more depth, to your game. Fair warning on websites, players need to contribute or else the tool will not be what you want out of it (take Obsidian Portal for example, love the site but I never see it get used as much as I would like). Another thing that I encourage from my players is notes. This may not seem like much, but notes help keep the player engaged. Say its not Jim's turn and the party is split. While he waits his turn, he can review his notes to discover something about the plot, he maybe over looking. If you are a particularly cool GM, maybe you would want to make some sort of notebooks for your players, as a gift for them playing in the game, or just simply offer a bonus to players, who personalize their game notebook, to match the campaign. I knew a guy in the Navy, that during a game set in a zombie apocalypse, where players played themselves, he only used a little green pocket notebook ("pocket brain"). Conveniently the same kind we had in the real world, all over the boat, so at the start of the game he told the GM. He brought one of them, with him, when our characters left the base looking for other survivors and shelter. He only took notes in that one book, and by the time we were done with the campaign it was like he had his own copy of the Zombie Survival Guide. The notes were scribbled everywhere, in anything he could find, to write with when his pen in real life died. The GM actually brought him a pencil, and told him he found it in an abandoned car. One of the coolest props I have seen from a player ever. Something I always do for games done, in person at the table (as most of my games are online now) is look at pages and pages of mini's to find the perfect one, and paint it myself to be my character. Because of that attachment, I find myself enjoying playing the character more.

Settings

By all means, play any setting that your table loves, but make sure that it is cohesive. Nothing brings you out of the game experience, like something completely off the wall, in a bad way. Not to say that your tribal world shouldn't have super advanced tech, buried in the desert to the south, but it should have a reason to be there. Random Hippo-men with laser guns might be weird, if they only show up once, with no reason, and never come back again. Though, to be honest, your players might enjoy fighting off Hippo-men. I guess this goes back to my problem, with truly random encounters. They don't make sense. The Hippo-men should have a reason for attacking, even if they only have animal intellect. Maybe your people have moved into their traditional breeding grounds and are deemed a threat. Make plots mean something and your players will put more into their characters.

In the end, make everything count. People take their time to play your game for a reason. Thank them with a good, well prepared, game. This week is short. Saturday I have one more Savage Write-up on Character creation. This time with the some inspiration from games like Street Fighter and other mystic powered martial arts type stuff.

Character Generation Saga Episode 3

By : Chris Willhelm
Meet Parker

Parker is a friend of Clare's. They live in a not so far future. The world has fallen to more base instincts, and all out war has broken out. With war came advances, in technology, so some of his gear has a familiar yet foreign look, when seeing his picture. In this new age of atomic fallout, people are able to manipulate machines into doing things that some might consider magic. While Clare practices her nano-tech, to achieve this means, Parker has taken to worship. Parker has become the embodiment of his new god Umnus. If you listen to Parker's sermons, Umnus is the god "strength through perseverance." He is not a kind god, who gifts his clergy, with healing powers, to simply pray away their problems. Parker is not a heal bot by any stretch. Parker shows his god through his acts, encouraging his fellow adventurers to overcome their challenges and providing help where he can, with out resorting to a magical "fix it" option. Parker empowers his companions for the challenges, they face in this new world. Because of his beliefs, Parker is a bit strange, but we will get to that in a bit.  Now that we understand the basics of what it means, to make a character, lets look at Parker and his trappings.

Parker, Holy Man of Umnus

Parker is a Miracle worker so the Arcane Background (Miracles) make sense to me. As such, I talk to my GM to come up with his religious tenets.

Umnus, God of Strength through Perseverance
Portfolio: Self-perfection, Knowledge, Community
Minor Sins:
  • Willing giving up at a mundane task
  • Taking short cuts
  • Cheating in any form
  • Not learning a lesson from a failed task
  • Exposure of skin, this can lead to faith in the holy man rather than Umnus.

Major Sins:
  • Weakness in adversity, cowardice 
  • Receiving unnatural healing
  • Failing to provide assistance to those in need

Mortal Sins:
  • Giving up when death is the cost of failure
  • Practicing healing magic
  • Allowing those weaker to become dependent on you
This gives my GM a lot to play with and some of it is a bit subjective, while others are set in stone. I want Parker to have more to him than just his faith, so look in to the hindrances. Because of his faith I think Arrogant(Major) sounds perfect. I want him to think his personality is justified in the eyes of his god, and that by being the best he is showing the glory of Umnus. Another one that standouts to me is Anemic(Minor) He has to have a reason for turning to faith, in such a harsh god. Perhaps his sickness is that. Another good option is Aillin'(minor) from Deadlands reloaded, a personal favorite of mine. I would probably talk to the GM and see if he is okay with it, because I love the idea of the character with limited time left, and having him with a strong faith, in a god like Umnus is kind of an amusing thought. As a player I know he will die, but as a character he believes that if he works hard enough he can persevere. What an interesting dynamic. This leads me to think Delusions(minor) would be good. It's a bit different than the read for the hindrance, but my GM agrees that his faith in his actions, to his god, can make him survive is a bit delusional. My GM has decided that in this game we will start as Seasoned Rank. After building up his sheet, like normal, I then look into powers and think Blast sounds good, because I want at least one offensive spell. I already know I will be taking Raise/Lower Trait and other more support focused spells.

Challenge of Umnus(Blast)
Rank: Seasoned
Power Points: 2–6
Range: 24/48/96
Duration: Instant
Trappings: Focus (a Mace must be thrown, the intersection it hits will be the center of the Burst Template. This does not destroy the mace), Prayer/command ("I command you to rise to the Challenge of Umnus"), Fly Weapons (the spell create weapons of light that fly into the burst template)
Blast is an area effect power that can put down many opponents at once. The caster first picks where he wants to center the blast, then makes the appropriate skill roll. Normal ranged attack modifiers apply.
The area of effect is a Medium Burst Template. If the roll is failed, the blast deviates as a launched projectile. Targets within the blast suffer 2d6 damage. Blast counts as a Heavy Weapon.
►►Additional Effects: For double the Power Points, the blast does 3d6 damage, or the size is increased to a Large Burst Template. For triple the points, it does both.

Side Note: I am late

Sorry guys for posting late this week, the radiator in my car went out so pretty much all of Saturday was spent fixing that. Will be back to normal posting schedule for next weekend and Tuesdays as always. Though I may have to push back the publish time on Tuesdays to be 9 pm Central Time instead of 8 pm, as I have recently received a promotion and new schedule at work.

Camping for Bennies

By : Chris Willhelm

The camp site, just another place to get harassed by random Orcs. It might just be me, but I hate random encounters. I want a better reason than, "they attacked you because they are orcs, and I rolled it on the chart." Beyond that, I want the campsite to be a place where RP can actually happen, rather than a means to an end like refreshing spells. In the vain, started by Telecanter's Receding Rules and The Signe of the Frothing Mug, I give you some suggestions on how to make the campsite more important to the characters. I am not going to go into great detail about this stuff. I recommend reading Telecanter's blog for the longer version. Campsites can be used in many different settings, so don't feel restricted to fantasy adventure. It can just as easily function in post apocalypse, scifi, or even modern game.

Food & Drink

Campsites are a great way to work around using rations. Hunting can supplement your supplies. You should take some time to think of game, in the area. This too can be a "random" encounter but its less forced. Players can make Tracking Roll to find game in the area, and begin the hunt. This can lead to players getting in over their heads, sometimes. Maybe, while tracking a deer they stumble across an angry bear. Now you can throw in a chase, if the players do not immediately try to take it down. Fishing is also an option, if the area has water near by. And if you are in a post apocalypse, maybe your just scavenging for Twinkies in a dead city. This can lead to cooking. If you want to roll it I would suggest Common Knowledge, because people cook generally what they grew up with. This can lead to some interesting RP, as characters from different places try foods from other regions. They may think the food is weird or even bad. 

If you want to add a mechanical reason to help motivate players how about this, with fresh food provided players may add +1 to a Trait Roll for the next day.

Music/Stories (Interludes)

This is more related to fantasy adventures, but again that can go for anything. I would treat this as an Interlude. Nothing in the book says an interlude has to be story, explicitly. Beyond that, music has always been a form of storytelling. For the players, I would make them give an interlude, like normal, from the book, but say at the beginning that they want to tell the interlude as a song. I would even give a player an extra benny, if they actually had a story written up, in song format for the table. Think back to, in the hobbit, when the Dwarves sang in Bilbo's house. The words to that song are a story, and that is an interlude friend. Keep in mind, though, this should not be the only time an interlude can be done. One of the best ideas for an interlude I have heard was in the middle of Mass Combat. Basically, they used it as an inspiring speech for the troops, giving the inspiration boost and gain a benny for the interlude.

Gear

Pretty strait forward here. In the real world, weapons and armor require maintenance. You could use a system like Telacaster's gear rating. I would modify his simplified rule system, by saying that weapons have three conditions: sound, damaged, and ruined. You give weapons a rating from 1-5 to show the craftsmanship that went into making it. 1 for mastercrafts, 3 for standard items, and 5 for ruined. If a player gets snake eyes, on his trait dice, to attack the weapon becomes damaged. Damaged weapons go down a rank. With this system it would make the item less effective. So, say you go to a master sword maker and get a +1 Katana and like a good GM he names it something cool like Sekisetsu (Snowfall). Well, Sekisetsu has been with me for some time and I finally rolled a 1 on my dice. Dropping the quality from 1 to 2, no change yet, but if I get down to a 3 I treat it like a normal weapon. At 4 the trait rolls with that weapon would get a -1, at 5 a  you get a -2 penalty to trait rolls with the weapon. Any damage, further, to the weapon would destroy it. In the case of armor, I would just use the normal Breaking Things rules. I would also use the Breaking Things rules, if you have characters trying to destroy weapons, but maybe raise the toughness of items with higher quality, to show the higher craftsmanship. As for repair costs, for weapon maintenance I would make it simple, half the price of the weapon if it was new. Magic weapons may need to be returned to their makers for repair beyond rating 3. This means having good relations with the weapon-smith actually has merit. Of course, nothing is stopping a player from becoming a smith, but it will make them that much more important. With the right tool, they may be the groups weapon-smith. The search for rare materials can even be used as an adventure.

The Hearth

This is actually my favorite part of the whole thing, the idea of a hearth magic steeped in tradition. This spawned from a previous post he wrote:
"A cleric, or anyone versed in the Old Ways, can take a stone weighing a half-stone or more from the night's fire.  By incorporating it into the next night's fire ring they make that fire a hearth.  Each night of doing so makes the hearth magic stronger.  Undead and shape changers can not enter the light of a true hearth. 
Half-stone is ~7 pounds which is one of my simple encumbrance slots.  I'm not interested in the bookkeeping part now.  Maybe just, using the hearth a second time on gives the protection, but skipping a use in a fire will mean you have to break the stone in again.  Particularly old stones taken from ruins or abandoned cottages might function as magic items that give extra bonuses."
I would also like to mention the bit added by Josh Graboff:
"Furthermore, Osvean priests (who are priests of the hearth) may bless each campfire to provide a CoP Evil 50' if they cast a bless spell on it when it is built. The Circle of Protection vanishes once the fire goes out for any reason." 
For Savage Worlds I would make it something like:
Those who have the Arcane Background(Miracles) may take a stone weighing, a half-stone or more from the night's fire. By incorporating it into the next night's fire ring, they make that fire a hearth. Each night of doing so makes the hearth magic stronger.  Casting Hearth Blessing when the fire ring is complete:
Hearth Blessing (Heavily modified Barrier with influences from Protection) Rank: Novice
Power Points: 2
Range: Touch
Duration: Special(Until the fire goes out)
Trappings: Material (Hearth Stone weighing a half-stone pr more), Completion (Create a fire ring), Prayers, Gesture, Invisible, and Intangible  This power create an aura around the campsite, starting with a small burst template. For every new fire ring created with a Hearth Stone from the previous nights fire you may increase the burst template used until reaching the Large Burst Template. Those within the template receive a +1 to Notice, Vigor rolls for Natural Healing and Fear Checks. With a raise this increases the bonus to +2. If the fire goes out for any reason the spell's effects end. If camp is not made every night you must start over with a small burst template.
A supernatural creature that wants to directly enter the burst template must first win an opposed test of its Spirit versus the caster’s arcane skill roll for the Hearth Blessing spell.
This makes protecting your fire all that more important. It gives you protection and light. Players will want to make camp to get these minor bonuses.

In General

Keep in mind, you should also consider bonuses and penalties for the quality of the campsite, making finding a good campsite its own little adventure.








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