Play-by-Post/Chat Tips

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As basically all gaming becomes online gaming during the pandemic, it’s important to know all of your options.

While video-conference-based gaming is the current default, I haven’t had much luck with it: if people don’t have great computers, cameras, and internet connections it can cause problems, especially if you game with couples who are trying to share an internet connection and suffering audio bleed from being in the same room. Dropping down to voice loses some of the video complications, but also loses all the body language feedback from your players. Both can have issues with slight audio latency that leads to talking conflicts that you don’t get as much when face-to-face: spotlight time goes to whoever is willing to just bull through someone else trying to talk at the same time.

Many have forgotten the grandparent of both of these styles, from the ancient days of IRC and AOL chats, before ubiquitous webcams and headsets: text-based gaming. This can be playing by post or email or everyone live in a chat room. The main difference is just the synchronicity. Text-based gaming has a few very interesting perks:

  • It self-documents, so you can always have the log to read back later. This can be for entertainment or to review information.
  • GMs that, at the table, feel too pressed for time to give good descriptions, or just forget to do so in the rush of talking, can enjoy license to go very purple with prose.
  • It’s leisurely. Even with live chat games, you often have time waiting for others to type to multi-task. My players, in particular, have expressed gratitude that it lets them game while also cooking, wrangling children, or doing other projects.
  • From the GM’s side, this leisure means it’s often possible to run on-the-fly in a way that would be madness face-to-face. There’s plenty of time to improvise, even for those that aren’t used to doing so, and the players have a much harder time telling when everything is by the seat of your pants.

It, of course, also has downsides:

  • Leisurely is code for slow. Depending on your players’ typing speed and distraction level, it can take two hours to knock out a scene that might have only taken 15 minutes at the table.
  • The format is not always intuitive to those that haven’t tried it before, especially people that are not comfortable writers. It can take a while for people to get into a groove.
  • Despite having the record right there, when you’re typing you’re not reading. People tend to miss what’s already been posted way more than you would expect.
  • All of this can be much worse if you don’t adapt to the format. A tactical-map-heavy, rules-dense, initiative-based play style is very challenging to do well in this format.

If you’re interested in how the medium works, my logs for years of Fading Suns are available. Currently, rather than the action formatting that was popular in the days of yore (double colons around actions), I’m trying a more prose-style notation, but the procedure holds up. The session times in that were usually 2-3 hours, for context of how much you can get done in one sitting. That was also mostly with players very comfortable with the format. Currently, with several players learning it as they go, I get maybe half as much done in the same session period.

I also have several specific tips for the format:

Narrative-Heavy

My number one piece of advice is to use a narrative-heavy system, or just eyeball the system you have for purposes of narration. You do not have time to request rolls for everything, particularly if the system requires multiple rolls to resolve a single result. When a player tries to do something, then you tell them what to roll, then they roll and calculate success, then you resolve the results, you’ve at least doubled the number of text exchanges you need, and that can take a long time in text.

Instead, consider the Technoir mindset: the PCs always succeed unless acted upon by a serious, opposing force. And when so acted upon, you can just eyeball relative competency, and suggest that a mechanically superior opponent means that the PC needs to come up with a winning strategy, not just get a lucky roll.

By all means, throw in narrated drawbacks if you think that success against the environment shouldn’t be easy given the PC’s skill level. And if they’re awful at something, you can just narrate that it’s not possible (or that they fail in an amusing way). This isn’t about making the players unstoppable, just removing the obstacles that slow down play.

In general, you’re looking to see if it makes sense to remove the randomizers in order to speed play. You can still use them when you want tension (but be prepared for things to slow way down). And if you’re really unsure about what should happen, you can roll physical dice “behind the screen” to resolve it. But it’s still almost always faster for you to do that than to wait for the player to realize you’ve called for a roll and to make it. Get straight from the player wanting to do something to you describing the result.

Have the Sheets Handy

As an aside, relevant to narrating and rolling behind the screen, keep the PC sheets handy. Just have them open in another browser tab. Unlike at the table when you’ve got a billion books and opponent stat blocks taking up your visual space, it’s much easier to keep the PC stats handy when you’re playing on a computer. It saves so much time for you to just look up what skills the PC has that are relevant to what you’re trying than to ask them to tell you their total in chat.

No Initiative

Largely related to the narrative aspect, but distinct, is that you should do your damnedest to avoid initiative order. You think people check out when you go around the table for initiative? It’s so much worse when you’re not sure if the person everyone else is waiting for has wandered off to do something else, totally unaware they’re holding up the game.

Try to set things up as parallel as possible, where everyone can do something if someone doesn’t respond for a minute. This can be legitimately running separate scenes that aren’t clearly linked in time to everything else going on (so the fast typists can do as much as they want while the slower ones are off on their own scene). Generally, though, it’s just that everything is very open and that you assume that people that are posting less frequently are doing something useful that just isn’t being clearly described. “Botting” idle PCs by incorporating the actions you assume they take in your GM posts is much more acceptable than face-to-face.

Mostly, just do everything in your power to avoid situations where you’re waiting on one player to say something before anyone else can advance the scene.

Always Have a Ninja

Corollary to keeping one player from hanging the scene: be prepared to prevent all the players from hanging the scene. This can be especially prevalent when the PCs have gotten off to a safe location where they’re planning or trying to investigate something at their own pace. If you don’t have an active participant in the scene (whether that be an NPC or just a dynamic situation), you can get stuck where the players are stumped as to what to do next, but there aren’t any obvious things that you can add in-play to unstick them from the problem or at least convince them to move on if they’re stumped.

The obvious solution is the Raymond Chandler standby: have a guy with a gun kick in the door (or a bunch of ninjas). This can feel punitive, but maybe the players will keep things moving if they know all you have is a hammer to try to unstick them.

While GMPCs are generally not the best idea, they can be really useful in this format to give you a mouthpiece in any scene. As always with important NPCs, you should avoid having them just take charge or have the players assume they will always have the answers. Instead, the character can usually have middling to bad ideas, but just having someone to pipe up and go, “So it seems like what you’re saying is…” can be enough to break the deadlock, or at least get them to continue talking rather than sitting, sullenly waiting for someone else to post.

Finally, you can aggressively scene frame. If a scene peters out, just describe the next one. This is hard if the players are stuck on how to resolve something and wouldn’t move on without it being resolved, so it’s not my favorite option. But if you can just move them on, do it.

Consider Artifice Exposure

Sometimes, you just have to explain, out of character, what you’re doing. Text loses the nuance you would get from body language and tone of voice. Often you think you’ve described something perfectly, and if the players successfully tag your prose with their own, you’re going to wind up with just the most beautiful piece of writing for posterity.

But while you’re sitting there, unwilling to type anything else because you ended your post on what you think is the perfect feeder line for the player to say something awesome, the players might be sitting there completely baffled by what they’re supposed to be doing. You may need to just throw up an OOC line where you’re like, “Okay, in case this is not clear, the options I see here are X, Y, and Z; you can do one of those, or do something creative I didn’t think of.”

I’m guilty of this a lot.

Examine Your Clarity

As part an parcel of exposing the artifice, consider your clarity in general. As noted, even with the text record indelibly floating above the chat, people can miss an awful lot. It’s very hard to keep track of several posts that come in at once from other players, particularly when you’re typing up your own masterful piece of dialogue. I pretty regularly see players repeating actions or asking questions that were covered only a line or two above. You can even miss things for quite a while, before someone finally notices a discrepancy (in this log, two PCs executed the same villain in two very different manners).

This can be very challenging if you’re trying to run split scenes. In this session, even very clearly noting in chat which characters I was focusing on, players were still getting confused whether I was describing something that they could interact with or something happening on the other side of the zone. Be explicit and repetitive in your descriptions about who can interact with something when the party is split. You can always rearrange the logs later to make the soup of player responses make a little more sense.

Ultimately, always consider that you can basically have a similar problem to peer-to-peer multiplayer video game disagreements. In P2P shooters, one player is the host computer that has the “real” record of all the actions that happened, and if the other computers lag, they can think they’re accomplishing something only to suddenly be confused when it didn’t happen (e.g., shooting a guy that their computer said was in line of fire but the host computer thought had moved). As the GM of a text game, you’re the “host computer” and your vision of what’s going on is the authoritative one. But through various issues with clarity or noticing what’s going on, you can “desync” from the players’ vision of what’s going on.

If the players are doing something that doesn’t make sense for your view of what’s going on (even if it just seems like it’s suboptimal, like they’re ignoring an obvious thing they can interact with) it falls to you to make sure they’re not punished due to the disconnect. If you think they’re missing something, ask them OOC if it’s deliberate before you narrate them failing. You’re never as clear as you hope, and it’s important to make sure everyone has a good time.

D&D 5e, A Few More Warlock Invocations

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Last time, I left out the Hexblade, and I also left out my own Pact of the Blood. So here are a few more invocations.

Speaker for the Murder

Prerequisite: Hexblade patron and Beast Speech

Crows, ravens, and other corvids are always positively inclined to you (and anyone that attempts to use a spell or other command to order an individual or swarm of them to attack you must beat you in a contested Charisma check to have them attack). When you are outside in terrain where they live, there will always be at least one corvid keeping an eye on you, whom you can question with Beast Speech. By spending Inspiration, you guarantee that there was a corvid observing any situation where it makes sense, who you can quickly get in touch with through the avian network to question about what they observed (though the birds still may not have perfect memory or good understanding of what was observed).

When your pact magic slot reaches 3rd level, you gain conjure animals as a bonus Warlock spell, but it can only be used to summon ravens, crows, or other corvids.

Shadow Walker

Prerequisite: Hexblade patron and One with Shadows or Shroud of Shadow

When you are invisible and in an area of dim light or darkness, you can cast misty step on yourself at will, without spending a spell slot. You must emerge in another area of dim light or darkness.

War Magic

Prerequisite: Hexblade patron and Pact of the Blade feature

As the Eldritch Knight (Fighter) feature of the same name, whenever you use your action to cast a cantrip, you can make one attack with your pact weapon as a bonus action.

Curse Leash

Prerequisite: Hexblade patron and Pact of the Chain feature

You gain advantage on any saving throws or charisma checks against cursed or sentient items. You may cast remove curse on yourself at will, without expending a spell slot.

Book of Swords

Prerequisite: Hexblade patron and Pact of the Tome feature

Your book of shadows contains extensive documentation on magical weapons. You may cast identify at will, without expending a spell slot or material component. When your pact magic slot reaches 5th level, you may cast legend lore at will, without expending a spell slot or material component. Both of these spells may only target weapons or the context of weapons (e.g., you might use legend lore to learn of how a previous wielder of a weapon you possess used it).

And Your Children’s Children

Prerequisite: Archfey patron and Pact of the Blood feature

When your pact magic slot reaches 3rd level, you gain bestow curse as a bonus Warlock spell. If you cast a spell with a duration of Permanent or Until Dispelled that affects a target, and the target fails to save against the spell, you may cause that spell to also apply to all of the target’s descendants (each must save individually if they are currently alive, and any newborns automatically fail the save). You may use your Mystic Arcanum to cast any of your Warlock spells that gains increased duration from using a higher slot (e.g., you can use your Mystic Arcanum (9th level) to cast bestow curse as a 9th level slot instead of your normal Mystic Arcanum spell for that level).

Signed in Blood

Prerequisite: Fiend patron and Pact of the Blood feature

When you make a contract that you and a subject both sign in blood, you can cast geas on the subject at will, without expending a spell slot, but you are also subject to the geas (to fulfill your responsibilities in the contract). The instructions for the geas must be the terms of the contract, the casting time of the spell can be lowered to 1 action if at least a minute was spent writing and signing the contract, and the spell can only be ended by you ripping up the contract. You can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.

The Innsmouth Look

Prerequisite: Great Old One patron and Pact of the Blood feature

You have a particular look about you that inclines the denizens of darkness to believe that you are one of them. You gain advantage on Charisma checks against aberrations and other followers of the Great Old One. You gain advantage on Charisma (Deception) checks against any targets to convince them that you are evil, criminal, willing to betray your allies, or similar topics. Additionally, you can cast water breathing on yourself at will, without expending a spell slot or material components.

Holy Grail

Prerequisite: Celestial patron and Pact of the Blood feature

You may expend one or more hit dice as an action to bleed into a container and transmute your blood into a Potion of Healing. It is a standard potion for one hit die, a greater potion for two hit dice, a superior potion for three hit dice, and a supreme potion for four hit dice. The potion only remains viable for one hour after creation.

After creating such a potion, you may cast one or more other spells that affect a target (with a range greater than Self) into the created potion, their duration begins when the potion is imbibed, the target is the subject that imbibes the potion, and the subject has disadvantage on saving throws against the spell, if any.

The GM’s option, the vessel used to create this potion may have residual effects as a form of enchantment.

Scion of the Raven Queen

Prerequisite: Hexblade patron and Pact of the Blood feature

All spells (including cantrips) of the necromancy school are added to the warlock spell list for you. Additionally, you gain toll the dead as a bonus cantrip, and any invocations you have that apply to eldritch blast also apply to toll the dead.

D&D 5e, Additional Warlock Invocations

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I was talking with some friends about how my deeply held belief is that Warlock invocations are primarily to be used for shenanigans, rather than taking the ones with an obvious and simple combat application. This got me thinking about it, and I came up with some extra ones. Sadly, I could not figure out how to make all the additions awesome utility fun.

Some of these probably also need a level restriction, but I’m mostly assuming those are harder to make use of at low level anyway so it may be fine.

Changeling

Prerequisite: Archfey patron and one of Mask of Many Faces or Master of Myriad Forms

Onlookers have disadvantage on checks to see through your disguises (magical or mundane). Dispel magic attempts against you do not automatically remove disguise self or alter self, but must instead roll as if targeting a spell higher than the slot level of dispel magic, and this roll has disadvantage. You gain advantage on Charisma (Deception) rolls to pretend to be someone you are disguised as.

Glamour Weaving

Prerequisite: Archfey patron and Misty Visions

You gain the ability to concentrate on an additional spell, as long as that spell is of the Illusion school.

Gossamer Blade

Prerequisite: Archfey patron and Pact of the Blade feature

Your pact weapon is partly ephemeral, spun of solidified glamour. You may expend a pact magic slot as a bonus action. Until you cancel the effect as a free action on your turn, or until you take a short or long rest, your attacks with your pact weapon glide easily through armor and rend the mind and soul.

While this effect is active, your pact weapon deals psychic damage instead of its normal damage type, and instead of making an attack roll, targets of your attacks must make a Dexterity saving throw against your spell save DC (taking your weapon damage on a failed saving throw and half damage if successful). Targets must still be within reach of your melee attacks.

Additionally, while in this state, your pact weapon can cleave through illusions. If the creature that is the target of your attacks is under the effects of an illusion spell, or if you use an action to strike an illusion that is not anchored on a creature, apply the effects of casting dispel magic against any illusion effects present (at the level of your pact magic slot); this does not expend an additional pact magic slot or require you to be able to cast dispel magic. Rather than simply ending, an illusion dispelled in this way generally responds as if it was physically destroyed by the attack.

Oathkeeper

Prerequisite: Archfey patron and Pact of the Chain feature

When you make a deal with a willing subject (not magically compelled or under physical duress), you can cast geas on the subject at will, without expending a spell slot. The instructions for the geas must be the terms of the deal, and the casting time of the spell can be lowered to 1 action if at least a minute was spent working out the deal. You can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.

Book of Names

Prerequisite: Archfey patron and Pact of the Tome feature

Your Book of Shadows includes pages for signatures. If you can get a willing subject (not magically compelled or under physical duress) to sign their full name in the book, you have power over that individual. You have advantage on spell attacks against the subject, and the subject has disadvantage on saving throws against your spells and other magical effects. You may choose to willingly strike out a name, losing power over the subject.

Brand of Shared Sight

Prerequisite: Fiend patron and one of Devil’s Sight or Witch Sight

As an action, you may press your thumb to the brow of a willing subject and deal 2 fire damage, marking the subject with a small sigil that represents your patron. Whenever you are in a position where you can see the subject, the subject can share any forms of enhanced vision you possess (e.g., darkvision, Devil’s Sight, truesight, Witch Sight, etc.). You may maintain this effect on as many subjects as you desire, but it ends whenever the subject has maximum hit points (i.e., has healed the damage from the brand).

Blood Protection

Prerequisite: Fiend patron and Fiendish Vigor

Whenever your temporary hit points are reduced to 0, you gain resistance to the damage type that removed your last temporary hit point. This does not apply to the attack that removed the temporary hit points, but does apply to subsequent attacks. This resistance ends when you take a short rest, are restored to maximum hit points, or have a new set of temporary hit points removed by a different damage type (that becomes your new resistance).

Hellfire Blade

Prerequisite: Fiend patron and Pact of the Blade feature

As a bonus action, you can cause your pact weapon to switch from a physical object to coruscating flame. While in this form, the weapon deals fire damage instead of its normal type (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing). You can change back to a physical weapon as an additional bonus action.

Soulbinder

Prerequisite: Fiend patron and Pact of the Chain feature

You may write a contract for a subject’s soul that must be signed in blood by you and the subject (who must not be magically compelled or under physical duress). If you successfully upheld your responsibilities in the contract, when the subject dies, the contract is immediately imbued with their soul, which you can free, use, or trade as you wish. Creating a contract automatically fails if the subject does not have a soul, or if the soul is already spoken for in another contract.

Shadow Ledger

Prerequisite: Fiend patron and Pact of the Tome feature

Your Book of Shadows includes pages for accounting of debts. Any debts you owe or are owed automatically appear in these pages (and this can inform you of verbal agreements or agreements made by proxies of which you were not aware). Additionally, you may store wealth in an extradimensional space associated with the book. The inside back cover of the book includes a pocket that opens into a Bag of Holding which can only store coins, gems, or art objects.

Psychic Driving

Prerequisite: Great Old One patron and Gaze of Two Minds

You may use a bonus action to maintain Gaze of Two Minds instead of an action (but you are still blinded and deafened to your own surroundings). Whenever you are using Gaze of Two Minds, you can treat the subject as your familiar, communicating with them telepathically and allowing them to deliver spells with a range of touch if they are within 100 feet of you.

Additionally, while you are maintaining Gaze of Two Minds or have a thrall from the Create Thrall ability, if you have more than twice the hit dice of the subject and are within 100 feet, you may attempt to possess them. You may force a contested Charisma check with the subject as your action. Once you have succeeded on three of these checks, you and the subject swap bodies. Treat both of you as possessing the other’s body as per the magic jar spell (and you no longer need to spend actions to maintain Gaze of Two Minds). Treat the spell as cast at a level of your highest pact magic or mystic arcanum slot if either of you is subjected to dispel magic. If the effect is dispelled, or you voluntarily end it as a free action, you both return to your original bodies. If either body is currently dead, the effect cannot be dispelled or voluntarily ended (i.e., the living body is permanent possessed by the wrong mind).

Impossible Sight

Prerequisite: Great Old One patron and one of Eyes of the Rune Keeper, Eldritch Sight, or Visions of Distant Realms

You can cast see invisibility at will, without expending a spell slot or material components. Additionally, you may use an action to roll Intelligence (Investigation) contested by the target’s Charisma (Deception) to determine if a target you can see is charmed or possessed.

Abhorrent Weapon

Prerequisite: Great Old One patron and Pact of the Blade feature

Your pact weapon is somehow wrong for this plane of existence, made of strange (possibly living) materials or impossible angles. Sane individuals have trouble focusing on it, making it hard to defend against your attacks. Spend a pact magic slot to gain advantage on all attack rolls with your pact weapon. This ends when you regain your pact magic slots. At the GM’s option, this may not work against targets that are mad or mindless (particularly aberrations, constructs, oozes, plants, and undead).

Subconscious Whispers

Prerequisite: Great Old One patron and Pact of the Chain feature

You can cast command at will as a 1st-level spell, without expending a spell slot. You must be in telepathic communication with the target of the spell.

Necronomicon

Prerequisite: Great Old One patron and Pact of the Tome feature

Your Book of Shadows is protected by a glyph of warding containing the confusion spell, which is triggered by anyone not devoted to the Great Old One attempting to read the book, uses your spell save DC, and resets automatically whenever it is triggered or dispelled. Additionally, when you gain your 5th level pact magic slot, you automatically learn contact other plane as a bonus Warlock spell and have advantage on the Intelligence saving throw involved in that spell.

Divine Protection

Prerequisite: Celestial patron and Armor of Shadows

You can cast sanctuary and shield of faith without expending a spell slot or material components.

Angel’s Wings

Prerequisite: Celestial patron and Ascendant Step

You can cast fly on yourself at will, without expending a spell slot or material components.

Angelic Weapons

Prerequisite: Celestial patron and Pact of the Blade feature

As a bonus action, you can cause your pact weapon to switch from a physical object to brilliant light. While in this form, the weapon deals radiant damage instead of its normal type (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing). You can change back to a physical weapon as an additional bonus action.

Steed of the Faithful

Prerequisite: Celestial patron and Pact of the Chain feature

You can cast find steed at will without expending a spell slot. The steed replaces your familiar, and vice versa.

Holy Book

Prerequisite: Celestial patron and Pact of the Tome feature

You can cast ceremony at will from your Book of Shadows without expending a spell slot or material components.

Additionally, planar ally, conjure celestial, holy aura, and gate are added to the Warlock spell list for you as options for your mystic arcana.

Setting Up a DC Fictional City

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One of the things that’s most distinctive between the Marvel and DC comics universes is that Marvel mostly uses real-world cities, particularly New York City, while DC tends to invent their own. Gotham is basically New York City in all ways that count. Metropolis is probably Chicago, since it’s usually not that far from Kansas. Star City is almost certainly Seattle and Central City is pretty much St. Louis. There’s some argument about exactly which city some of them are modeled on (with the argument that Metropolis is NYC in the day and Gotham is NYC at night), but, superficially, it’s unclear why not just use a fictionalized version of the real city to make it easy to map the events onto knowledge of the real world.

Meanwhile, I’ve always been much more of a Marvel reader, so when I was working on a licensed supers video game and we were talking to one of our licensing reps, I didn’t get why he was so adamant about suggesting things like making sure someone mentions Big Belly Burger if they’re going to be talking about food. I hadn’t actually been aware that DC had its own whole consistent, cross-comic infrastructure of invented businesses, other than the obvious ones like Lexcorp and Wayne Enterprises.

As I work on my own campaign set in the DC-verse, it’s suddenly apparent why all these things are such a good idea (and as true for the comics as for RPGs). Even a fictionalized version of New York City is going to be full of preconceptions. People that know a lot about the city will wonder why things were wrong, or resources were not used that would have helped with the current situation. Just think about every time a TV show or movie has been set in your home town and you’re completely baffled by how they’ve screwed up the geography. But Gotham isn’t anyone’s actual hometown. If Batman can get from the opera house to the stock market in a few panels of roof jumping, nobody can insist that it’s impossible since they’re nearly five miles apart, even as the bat flies. In Gotham, they may not be.

More important for a publishing company that can get sued for libel than for your own game, but still a consideration if you want to post your stuff online or eventually release it as a setting book: completely replacing places, companies, and people with analogues gives you a lot more freedom to use them however you need to for your work. McDonalds’ lawyers might have something to say about a storyline where a villain has been putting addictive substances in the special sauce, but O’Shaughnessy’s doesn’t have corporate representation. There’s still probably a legal curtain where it’s too obvious who or what you’re referencing, but it’s a lot easier to get away with than when you’re absolutely using real world names.

For your game, my suggestions include:

  • Figure out what the most notable things are about the city you’re converting, and convert those first. When your players are like, “we should go to X location,” it’s good to have already come up with an analogue than having to scramble and decide on the fly whether that’s different in your fictional city.
  • This is also a good time to take a page from the Fate Dresden Files game and give those location Faces, people that represent them. This can be a way into fictionalizing notable people for the real city that you want to use. Rather than just having a list of city notables, tie them into the locations that they own or influence. This gives them context and a potential location to find them if the players want to deal.
  • Think of how each location can have a plot hook into the kind of campaign you’re running. Your players are more likely to be interested in doing something with the information you’ve presented if there’s a rumor of something they can accomplish there.
  • Don’t be afraid to drastically change something to show how your city isn’t a 1:1 rename of the real world city. The goal is to keep the players from being totally complacent about geography and resources: this is your city, and things exist as they’re useful for your game, not because the players know it’s available in the real world. For example, DC seems to always add a docks area for smuggling crime, even for conversions of land-locked cities.

For example, the city of Terminus is definitely not Atlanta (it’s totally Atlanta):

The (Assault and) Battery

A few years back, the Terminus Warchanters were about to get a new baseball stadium in an inconvenient part of town, wrung from taxpayer expenses and designed to further destroy traffic at the north end of the city. A group of villains that were in town at the time decided to do something about it, and managed to completely disintegrate the nearly-finished structure. The Warchanters are still playing at the still-relatively-new Cash Field downtown. Not being able to get the money to do anything with the now-gaping-hole in the earth, but with several other buildings and parking garages near completion and still intact, the area became a fairly low-key entertainment venue around a large artificial pond. The uneasy origins and government embarrassment have, however, made it slightly dangerous rather than the theme park it was designed to be. It currently exists in an uneasy detente between upscale entertainment venue and criminal hangout, with just enough of a police presence to keep it from completely sliding into a haven of villainy.

The Big Chik ‘N’

National chicken restaurant brand Chik ‘N’ Go has its origin in one of the Terminus’ suburbs. The Catie family still privately owns the restaurant, which has a profoundly religious bent to its hours of operation and philanthropy. This has made the restaurant and its owning family the enemy of many progressives, particularly those that feel marginalized by its attitudes. Having bought out the franchise that erected the giant chicken-decorated building in northern Terminus, they use the easily-identifiable landmark as their flagship store. Many a rogue has tried to bring the place down, if only for the easily-scored notoriety, but somehow the family has enough savvy to fend off such attacks. Some worry they’re playing the long game, which includes planting addictive chemicals in their secret brining recipes.

CCN Center

The Cash family is Terminus old money, but managed to eclipse most of the other families with antebellum roots by investing heavily in media in the latter half of the 20th century, led by current family patriarch Cedric “Ced” Cash and his Hollywood-royalty bride Jen. Cash Communications is one of the dominant cable and internet providers in the region, and the family owns both the Terminus Broadcasting System and Cash Cable News cable channels. In the recent days of 24-hour-news, CCN has become the crown jewel of the family’s holdings, becoming the place most centrists get their news. Ced and Jen have several grown children that have various roles in the business, and his extremely elderly and wealthy mother still sometimes shows up to high society functions.

Crystal Plaza

Crystal Cola has been the dominant soft drink in the world for over a century, and it got its start right in Terminus. Currently the Sampson family profits most from the brand in their role as Terminus nobility, with their patriarch the international corporation’s CEO. They’d long had a museum to the history of the brand in the crime-ridden Underground Terminus, and a few years ago picked up digs and funded a much more elaborate tourist trap next to the Olympic park, the other end of the plaza anchored by a large aquarium that is a frequent villainous target for fish-based schemes (and the local rogues are tired of Aquaman being the most frequent JLA member associated with the city).

High’s Depot Stadium

One of the most popular big-box stores in the nation is headquartered in Terminus, and two of their founders, Aurelius High and August Null, have made their families rich off of the business and stayed local. The High family are noted philanthropists, supporting a diverse series of causes including various Jewish foundations and their own art museum. The Null family are more interested in extreme capitalism, and are known for their ownership of the Terminus Steelwings football team, which currently plays out of the stadium funded by the company he founded.

The Pentacle

Looming near the middle of town, this too-trendy artsy neighborhood has grown up around an ill-advised five-way arrangement of streets. In addition to the traffic implications, complicating drives from all over the area, the mystic consequences are also poorly understood. Once a haven for a particularly off-putting wizard “hero,” Zachary Carstairs, who allowed the culture to grow up around his below-ground sanctum, he eventually went mad with power and had to be put down by a surprising teamup of the local crimefighters and rogues. Since then, the mystical hasn’t really flourished in Terminus, and the area has become increasingly touristy, but the core of mystic alignment theoretically still buzzes in the area, waiting for someone else to make a bid.

The Snarl

Another nationally-famous traffic pattern, this junction of interstates and major surface streets has long contributed heavily to the infamously poor Terminus commute. There’s a running bounty of respect and cash that’s been accumulating for decades to go to the rogue who can manage to smash it so thoroughly that the city has to start from scratch and maybe replace it with something less horrifying. Don Moreland, who also had a mysterious hand in one of the avenues that runs through the Pentacle, is the DoT official responsible for the traffic pattern, and even in his advanced age wields influence to keep it from being replaced. They say that his family has a long and poorly understood stranglehold on the city’s infrastructure planning.

Stagcrest Neighborhood

Terminus’ most infamous party zone, this area features most of the bars and clubs most popular with the celebrity set, including globally-known performers that live full time in the city. Because the city’s celebrities have long been focused on hip hop (with a recent influx of film), the area is famous for violent shootings as performers escalate their “beefs.” Rogues know they’ve reached a certain level of notoriety when they’re invited to go clubbing with rappers who want to associate with them for the street cred, or film stars that want to up their bad boy/girl personas for the tabloids by being seen with a villain in public.

Wolfheart-Holbrook International Airport

One of the busiest in the world, Terminus’ airport is a centerpoint of all kinds of smuggling, with most savvy rogues figuring out a way to get some leverage on the operation. Lambda Airlines owns a whole terminal, and uses the city as their international hub. The Dean family currently profits most from the airline business, with their patriarch the brand’s CEO. While the MARTHA (Metro Area Rail Transit and Helicopter Authority) subways don’t reach as many places in the area as most would like, they do conveniently start at the airport, making it easy for travelers willing to brave the trains to get to most of Terminus. The odd addition of helicopter-transit to the agency’s remit is a historical legacy of a brief villainous fad to abuse private helicopters in the 70s, resulting in the city moving them to public control.

Rogues: Making a Villainous Character

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This is an exercise I put together for coming up with a street-level supervillain PC, on par with the Gotham rogues for power level. After outputting the character summaries, you can then use those as a guide for building the character in your system of choice.

Character Creation

  • What is your gimmick/theme? Start thinking about your brand as a villain, and how it will inform your skill choices below.
  • Skills:
    • What is your primary skillset? Suggestions include: Intellectual/Scientist, Ninja/Martial Artist, Brute/Wrestler, Thief/Catburglar, Con Artist/Actor, Daredevil/Provocateur, Ex-Police/Lawyer, Soldier/Mercenary, Industrialist/Mobster.
    • Pick two narrowly defined skills from within your primary skillset (e.g., a particular academia, science, weapon, style, type of criminal skill, role, etc.). Write them down for later.
    • What is your “power”? This can be either a low-level meta power or a particular physical or mental competency that is a maximum or slightly-beyond-human norm. If the latter, it should be directly relevant to your primary skillset (e.g., Acrobat works for Ninja, Thief, or Daredevil but not for Intellectual or Brute).
    • What is your hobby? This should be something useful that you devote a lot of time to, but not directly relevant to your primary skillset.
    • What is your primary social interaction method? Examples include charming, sexy, scary, witty, psychiatrist, threatening, cool, terse, etc.
  • Take the six skills you defined above (skillset, sub-skill 1, sub-skill 2, power, hobby, and social) and rank them from best to worst. If your sub-skills are worse than your skillset, they represent particular weaknesses in your technique, and if they’re higher, they’re areas in which you excel. Your second-lowest skill will be something that you’re barely trained in, and your lowest skill will be something in which you’re amusingly incompetent.
  • Why are you stuck in a life of crime instead of using your skills for honest work? This is often a mental illness (like most of Batman’s rogues), but could be something else you can use that would keep you from going straight without a huge reason.
  • What’s your main weakness that the “heroes” have used to defeat you in the past? This can be the same reason you’re stuck in a life of crime.
  • Optional, but could have story perks: Pick an established DC character that you have a personal connection to (e.g., villain you used to hench for and know how to use their gadgets, hero you have some level of foil-rivalry with such that your relationship is frenemies, etc.).
  • Come up with a name (real and costumed) and a rough description of your costume.
  • Rank the following criminal motivations for how they matter to you personally, from most important to least:
    • Wealth: Just in it for the life of luxury
    • Competence: Reputation for accomplishing what was intended
    • Fear: Reputation for causing death and pain
    • Notoriety: Reputation among civilians for being a villain
    • Honor: Reputation for keeping one’s word and avoiding universal taboos (like harming children)
    • Respect: Reputation among other criminals/villains

Example Rogues

Thomas West

A local threat that peaked a few decades ago, the Dieselpunk was all about vehicle-based mayhem. A tatted-up rocker with a penchant for leather and goggles, most of his crimes involved elaborate cars and trains that he’d built himself into essentially tanks (but do NOT call him Thomas the Tank Engine, he hates that). It was unclear at the time why such a competent individual didn’t leverage his skills as a mechanic or driver for legitimate means, but he admits that it was mostly being brought up by criminals and having too-deeply embraced the anarcho-socialist mentality of his preferred music scene. Unfortunately, basing all your crimes on large vehicles that need roads or tracks makes it easy for more mobile crimefighters to head you off (especially in Terminus rush hour), so the Dieselpunk was successful less often than hoped, and spent a lot of years in jail.

After his last long stint in the pen, he finally did what most aging anarchists do and embraced wealth and the respect of his peers, going more or less legit. He wound up inheriting a gentrifying old train depot from former local villain King Plow, and opened the Terminus West nightclub and concert venue. He still affects a cleaned-up punk vibe and keeps painfully thin, so despite going gray he maintains an aura of cool that serves him well as a rock venue owner. The complex also has an unadvertised underground lounge that admits local criminals, and features numerous escape tunnels in case of crimefighter raids. This serves as one of the primary networking spots for local rogues, and the only real drawback is that Mr. West (“Call me Tommy”) will often show off the latest jams he’s been working on (he always was more enthusiastic than competent as a musician). He’s generally willing to give advice and help on mechanical engineering to the good tippers at his lounge.

Skills: Driving, Mechanic (Power), Vehicle Daredevil, Cool, Piloting, Music
Aspirations: Wealth, Respect, Notoriety, Competence, Honor, Fear

Companion Cube

Terminus villains have an answer to the Bat-family’s Oracle in the mysterious hacker Companion Cube. Believed to be a protege of the Calculator, the almost-certainly-a-she presents to her clients as simply an icon of a cube with a heart on it taken from a relatively-recent video game and a digitally-masked voice. Excellent in most computer-based disciplines (though with a slight problem managing to pilot drones effectively when she “comes along” on a job), she especially excels at handling security systems (and keeping an eye out for incoming crimefighters). Most of the local rogues with any kind of computer expertise assume she must be a low-level technopath to accomplish some of the things she manages. She clearly wants to make her social persona a terse, no-nonsense type, but she frequently gets excited or too-comfortable with her clients and talks way too much. This is how everyone found out about her deep investment in cosplay, and there’s a running game at the Terminus West lounge to try to figure out which of the heavily-costumed groupies is Companion Cube in her latest disguise. She has a sideline producing costumes for many of the city’s villains (and possibly some of the heroes).

She seems to largely be turned to a life of crime out of disgust at trying to live the straight life. Many suspect that she must have hit the glass ceiling for female programmers, and bounced off of it hard and angrily. However, since she mostly oversees jobs for the cred, trying to be a L33T H4X0R, her biggest weakness is that she’s probably still holding on to her day job, and isn’t available a lot of the time. Crimefighters with money have managed to sideline her in the past by various attempts to investigate local technology firms, which gets her to slow down her nighttime activities for a while to not look suspicious.

Skills: Security, Hacker, Cosplay, Drones, Technopath, Terse
Aspirations: Respect, Competence, Honor, Wealth, Fear, Notoriety

Trailblazer

Perhaps the quirkiest rogue in Terminus is Frank Torres, the Trailblazer. A fairly-powerful meta with super-strength and invulnerability, he isn’t particularly fast or agile, and is too heavy to be easily transported by most consumer vehicles. So he is an avowed pedestrian and explorer, and has an unparalleled on-the-ground understanding of Terminus’ map (he’s an enthusiastic geocacher). The mountain of a man doesn’t bother with a costume very often, because he’s over seven-feet tall and thick enough to compensate for the square-cube law, so he doesn’t exactly blend, but he sometimes goes with an ironic British explorer motif complete with pith helmet, khakis, and mustache (he can grow an excellent mustache). Surprisingly quick-witted for those that expect your typical dumb brute, he unfortunately isn’t that great of a hand-to-hand fighter and is absolutely terrible at situational awareness (most rogues want their brutes to pay attention to where the crimefighters are, and not accidentally take out load-bearing walls).

The quirkiness of Trailblazer is that he’s not really a criminal. He will sometimes sign onto jobs to get a paycheck (the man has to eat a ridiculous number of calories), but his real claim to crime is that his pet peeve is people that cut off pedestrian access. He has hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage from stomping cars blocking crosswalks and construction vehicles that park on the sidewalk, because he’s walking here. Because of the magnitude of his powers, there aren’t many crimefighters in town that can do much about one of his sprees, and they’re largely at a loss about what to try. He mostly goes to jail when Superman happens to be in town anyway.

Skills: Unstoppable, Geocaching, Brute, Witty, Fighting, Situational Awareness
Aspirations: Notoriety, Wealth, Honor, Fear, Competence, Respect

Rogues: What Villains Want

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I watched the new Harley Quinn cartoon at about the same time recently that I finally got around to reading the now-venerable Cat Tales fanfic. Meanwhile, I am Pagliacci is an excellent ongoing fanfic that started up recently. All of that got me thinking about why there aren’t more games that focus on the villain side of things, rather than the heroes.

One of my assertions about gaming is that Superheroes and Horror are the hardest genres to run, by virtue of their protagonists generally being entirely reactive. The classic mode of tabletop games is the self-directed D&D adventuring party, and even modern module-based fantasy games generally give the PCs a lot of control over the timing of what they attempt. Running a dungeon is much more akin to committing a crime than foiling one. Similarly, Shadowrun, from a mile-high perspective, is a very similar play cadence to D&D, concerned with getting into the stronghold and acquiring the rewards from the most defended central point.

Meanwhile, games with PCs that are superheroes tend to have a much harder time not making everything a total railroad. Batman is on Joker’s timetable, most of the time. So why not just play Joker?

This post is mostly my brainstorming on the kinds of rewards and jobs that villainous PCs can pursue. With enough time and production value, the GM could make up essentially quest cards with various crime opportunities that are are upcoming, and allow research to plan the job and find out more of the particulars.

Villains Want

  • Wealth: Cash money
  • Leverage: Information or resources that can be used to extract things from others (usually through blackmail)
  • Favors: Pending payback for undertakings previously done on behalf of others
  • Brand: Success at forwarding a personal theme
  • Competence: Reputation for accomplishing what was intended
  • Fear: Reputation for causing death and pain
  • Notoriety: Reputation among civilians for being a villain
  • Honor: Reputation for keeping one’s word and avoiding universal taboos (like harming children)
  • Respect: Reputation among other criminals/villains

Potential Crimes/Undertakings Have

  • Payoff: Value of the score itself (Wealth, Leverage, or resources that can be used for a further undertaking)
  • Danger: Base danger to the villain on attempting it (from on-site defenders)
  • Emergency: Speed of response from law enforcement/super heroes
  • Collateral: Risk of harm to bystanders or unrelated infrastructure (potential loss of Honor, but increase of Fear)
  • Branding: Being on theme for one or more villains

Example Undertakings

  • Rob a bank/museum (night): High Payoff, usually moderate Danger, potentially reduced Emergency depending on how it’s handled, low Collateral
  • Rob a bank/museum (daylight): As night, except higher Emergency and very high Collateral; increased chance of gaining Notoriety and potentially lowered security measures (because things aren’t locked up for the night)
  • Rob a secure facility: Usually high Payoff and Danger, variable Emergency depending on whether the facility is legit and calls for help, usually low Collateral
  • Rob a vehicle in transit: High Payoff and often lower difficulty and Danger than robbing a building, potentially high Collateral and Emergency depending on where the vehicle is attacked
  • Rob a party: High Payoff (often easier to rob socialites wearing jewelry than hit safes), usually low Danger depending on the party, but very high chance of Collateral and Emergency in most cases
  • Break out another criminal: Low Payoff except in Favors, high Danger and Emergency, usually low Collateral; good way to increase Respect
  • Extortion: Variable Payoff depending on the target, usually low Danger but high Emergency (or vice versa if it’s the kind of person that won’t go to the law), low Collateral but good way to increase Fear
  • Kidnapping: High Payoff but extremely high Emergency and Collateral; this can go very wrong if all the variables aren’t accounted for
  • Hostages (People): This differs from Kidnapping in that the hostages are usually taken in a particular location; extremely high Emergency and Collateral, and this is rarely successful except as a delaying tactic for some other plan, as people don’t like to pay for this; can be a way to increase Honor or Fear
  • Hostages (Infrastructure): This usually involves using explosives or similar to threaten to destroy an important inanimate object/structure; often safer than taking people as hostages, as governments will often pay for this, oddly; Collateral may be lower depending on what’s rigged to blow
  • Destroy Infrastructure: Sometimes the plan is simply to destroy infrastructure for some other ongoing purpose; there’s usually no immediate Payoff (unless as part of some kind of real estate or stock shorting scheme in which case this is probably Insider Trading), high Collateral and Emergency, and various reputations can increase drastically
  • Trafficking: Gain ownership in the distribution tree for illegal goods (drugs, weapons, prostitutes, etc.); this is usually a high recurring Payoff but involves a lot of Danger to set up (or a series of other undertakings) and an ongoing chance of Emergency as the law and heroes try to break up the business
  • Smuggling: High Payoff, low Danger, variable Emergency, low Collateral; unless the smuggling is very high profile, this is often a pretty safe crime to do to build money, but doesn’t involve a lot of reputation increases because of that
  • Suborn Institution: Use blackmail, mind control, disguise, etc. to control a person or otherwise infiltrate an organization; this can have a very high Payoff, and other things are highly variable based on what’s being suborned and what methods are used
  • Assassination: Potentially high Payoff if contracted, and usually commensurately high Danger and Emergency but low Collateral in most cases; good chance of raising different reputations depending on the target
  • Insider Trading: Do a crime that will inflate the value of something already possessed; high Payoff and variable other risks depending on what’s being done
  • Crusade: Do something that only has value in forwarding a personal agenda; high Branding but low Payoff, with variable amounts of other risks

Savage Worlds Rules Summary

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I put this together for my players in the Scion game. It’s a summary of the rules for the 2019 Explorer’s Edition update of the Savage Worlds rules.

Basics

Skill checks:

  • To make a check, roll the skill die plus a wild die (usually d6) and keep the highest result. Both dice explode (“Ace”).
  • If you do not have a skill, you roll a d4 plus the wild die and subtract 2 from the highest result.
  • The difficulty is 4 unless noted otherwise.
  • Every +4 on the margin of success is a Raise and has a special effect (e.g., rolling an 8 against the standard difficulty is one Raise and rolling a 12 is two).

The basic attributes define soft caps for skills but are not added to skill rolls. Instead, attributes are used for:

  • Agility is used to resist physical Tests.
  • Smarts is used to resist Taunt and generate Power ranges.
  • Spirit is used to resist Intimidate and remove Shaken.
  • Strength defines encumbrance and adds to melee damage rolls.
  • Vigor controls Toughness and is used to recover from Incapacitation (and Wounds with a Benny).
  • Pace determines movement speed.
  • Parry is the target number of melee attacks against you when you are armed.
  • Toughness is the difficulty of a damage roll against you (it usually includes armor as well).

Bennies:

  • A Benny is the game’s equivalent of a drama/hero/fate point.
  • Most players start each session with three and can be awarded more for story goals and whenever any PC draws a Joker in combat.
  • You can spend a Benny to:
    • Reroll of any trait test (reroll all dice) that isn’t a critical failure. You can spend multiple and keep the best result. You can also spend Bennies to reroll damage rolls.
    • Recover more quickly from Shaken or to try to soak Wounds.
    • Draw a new action card after everyone has drawn (i.e., after you’ve seen when you’ll go).
    • Immediately regain 5 Power Points.
    • Narratively edit the story.

Combat

  • Rounds are six seconds.
  • Initiative is “rolled” every round by drawing from a deck of cards and acting in order Ace to Deuce. If you draw a Joker you can go at any time, and also gain +2 to all trait and damage rolls for your action.
  • You can perform multiple actions in a round (you get a free move on top of your action). These actions must be different things or at least involve different wielded weapons (e.g., you can’t attack twice with the same weapon). You take a -2 to all actions for each extra action you perform.
  • Attacks:
    • Melee: Roll Fighting vs. a difficulty of the target’s Parry.
    • Ranged: Roll Shooting or Throwing (at a -2 penalty for each extra range increment beyond short) against difficulty 4 (may be further modified by cover, concealment, or attacking armed targets point blank).
  • Damage:
    • Every Raise on the attack roll adds +1d6 damage.
    • You don’t roll a wild die for damage, but the dice do Ace.
    • All damage dice are added together.
    • The damage total is compared to the target’s Toughness/Armor total.
    • If the roll is a success, the target is Shaken. If the target was already Shaken, he takes a Wound. Each Raise also deals a Wound.
  • Shaken and Wounds:
    • Shaken characters can only take free actions (such as moving) and attempt to remove Shaken.
    • On your turn, you must make a Spirit roll to remove Shaken. You may spend a Benny at any time to remove Shaken.
    • When you are about to receive one or more Wounds, you can spend a Benny to attempt to Soak the damage. Roll Vigor: each success and Raise reduces the Wounds taken by 1.
    • Wounds apply penalties to Pace and all trait tests (-1 for each Wound).
    • A character with four Wounds is Incapacitated and must roll Vigor to avoid dying.

Situational Rules

  • Aim: Take a round aiming (no movement either) to get +2 to next round’s ranged attack (or ignore up to 4 points of penalties from range, cover, called shot, scale, or speed).
  • AoE: Any AoE attack rolls one attack roll but separate damage against all affected.
  • Bound and Entangled: Entangled characters are unable to move and Distracted. Bound characters are also Vulnerable. See page 98 for rules on breaking free.
  • Breaking Things: Items have a Hardness rating. Damage must equal or exceed the Hardness to break that item with an attack. You can use these rules to break shields and cover.
  • Called Shot: Get around Armor by taking a penalty to hit unarmored locations (Limb -2, Hands/Head -4, Armor joint -6) or similarly hit a small target. Head shots deal +4 damage. Hand shots count as a Disarm.
  • Cover and Obstacles: If target is covered, attack rolls suffer -2 (light), -4 (medium), -6 (heavy), or -8 (near total). Your attacks might punch through certain types of Cover as if they were armor.
  • Defend: A defense as your action (no multi-actions) increases Parry by +4. You can move but not run.
  • Disarm: Make a called shot at -2 or -4. The defender must beat the damage with a Strength test if it hits the item. If the defender is hit instead, he must roll Strength at -2 or -4 plus Wound penalties if the attack shakes or wounds him.
  • Distracted and Vulnerable: Both states last until the end of your next turn. Distracted makes you take a -2 penalty to all trait rolls. Vulnerable grants opponents +2 to attack you.
  • Drop, The: If you are unaware of an opponent, she gets +4 to attack and damage against you for one action (this does not stack with Vulnerable). If you are Shaken or worse, make a Vigor roll (-2 if hit in the head) or drop unconscious.
  • Evasion: Some slow attacks may be evaded if you succeed at an Agility roll (with a -2 penalty).
  • Fatigue: Certain effects apply Fatigue rather than damage. You become Fatigued, then Exhausted, then Incapacitated. Each level of Fatigue applies -1 to all trait rolls.
  • Finishing Move: You can automatically kill a helpless target with a lethal weapon as an action.
  • Firing Into Melee: Use the innocent bystander rules.
  • Ganging Up: Each ally adjacent to and attacking a target past the first gives +1 to all allies for the attack. Each adjacent ally of the target cancels a point of this bonus.
  • Grappling: Make an Athletics roll against the target’s Athletics to Entangle the target (Bound on a Raise). See page 101 for additional rules.
  • Illumination: Attack rolls suffer -2 in dim light, -4 in darkness (and targets can’t be attacked more than 10” away), and -6 in pitch darkness/target is invisible.
  • Improvised Weapons: Take -2 to attack rolls, and deal Str+d4 for light objects, +d6 for medium, and +d8 for heavy.
  • Innocent Bystanders: If you miss with a ranged attack and roll 1s on both dice, you hit a random victim adjacent to or otherwise in the line of fire of the original target. Shotguns and automatic weapons may have an easier time hitting bystanders (see page 102).
  • Nonlethal Damage: You can do nonlethal damage with fists or blunt melee weapons (-1 to attack for edged melee weapons using the flat). A target Incapacitated by nonlethal damage is knocked out for 1d6 hours instead of being in danger of dying.
  • Prone: Gain medium cover against ranged attacks from 3” or further away, but -2 Parry and Fighting rolls in melee. Standing uses 2” of movement.
  • Push: Make an opposed Strength or Athletics test. On a success, push the target 1”, or 2” on a Raise. Running, Shields, and Size affect this (see page 104).
  • Ranged Weapons in Melee: You cannot use long guns in melee. The TN is the target’s Parry instead of the normal 4. If you try to attack a non-adjacent target while opponents are threatening you in melee, you immediately become Vulnerable.
  • Recoil: Automatic weapons can impose a -2 penalty when taking multiple shots.
  • Reloading: Arrows and sling stones can be reloaded once per turn as a free action. Bolts, clips, magazines, or single bullets require an action to reload. Some specific weapons reload even more slowly. You must roll Agility (at a -2 penalty) to reload successfully when running.
  • Shotguns: Shotguns are weird. See page 105 for shotgun attack rules.
  • Size and Scale: It’s easier to hit proportionately larger targets and harder to hit proportionately smaller ones. Creatures have scale from -6 to +6 (humans are 0). See page 106.
  • Stunned: If you are stunned by a power or stun weapon, you’re Distracted, Prone, can’t move or take actions, don’t count towards Gang Up, and are subject to the Drop. Make a Vigor roll at the start of your turn to remove Stunned (but you become Distracted and Vulnerable without a Raise).
  • Support: Make a relevant skill roll to assist. Add +1 to the target’s roll for a success, or +2 for a Raise. Support bonuses are usually limited to +4.
  • Suppressive Fire: See page 107.
  • Surprise: Ambushers are automatically on Hold (can go whenever they want in the first round), but draw cards to check for Jokers. Roll Notice to be dealt in on the first round. Otherwise, you can’t act the first round of combat.
  • Test: Roll Athletics or Fighting opposed by Agility, Taunt opposed by Smarts, or Intimidate opposed by Spirit. On a success, the target is your choice of Distracted or Vulnerable. On a Raise, the target is also Shaken (or other situational effects, like being tripped prone). Modifiers may apply, and repetitive tests may have less effect over time.
  • Touch Attack: Simply attempting to touch the target (e.g., for a Power) adds +2 to your Fighting.
  • Two Weapons: Without edges, a second melee weapon adds +1 to your Fighting rolls against opponents with one or fewer weapons and no shield (does not help against creatures with natural weapons).
  • Unarmed Defender: If you aren’t armed, melee attackers gain +2 to their Fighting rolls to hit you.
  • Wild Attack: Add +2 to your attack and damage for the action, but you become Vulnerable.
  • Withdraw from Melee: All non-Shaken enemies get a free attack (but you could Defend).

Savage Scion, Part 3

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Purviews

Legendary characters often develop one or more Purviews as their legends grow. Each Purview grants a Boon and permissions for one or more Powers. Additionally, using Legend for narrative effect is more powerful when you have a Purview thematically linked to what you are attempting.

You may have up to your Legend total in Purviews. However, Purviews are unlocked based on your deeds, and it’s possible that your Legend will grow larger than your number of Purviews. If you have more Legend than Purviews, you may spend the excess to purchase generic boons (Birthrights) from your Pantheon (Creatures, Followers, Guides, and Relics).

Universal Purviews

Artistry

  • Boon: You can place a message into your art. Anyone you intend to understand it, upon experiencing the art, gets the message, transcending language barriers.
  • Power Permissions: Illusion, Light/Darkness, Sound/Silence

Beasts

  • Boon: Natural animals will never harm you if you do not attack them, unless compelled by someone with equal or greater Legend than your own. Imbue one Legend into an animal to speak with it.
  • Power Permissions: Beast Friend, Darksight, Shape Change

Beauty

  • Boon: You may imbue a point of Legend to alter a target’s beauty up or down one position in the scale: Impossibly Ugly, Ugly (Major) hindrance, Ugly (Minor) hindrance, Normal beauty, Attractive edge, Very Attractive edge, Impossibly Attractive. You can alter your own appearance in this way. Targets at either end of the scale will inspire violence in almost anyone that sees them undisguised (either from disgust or possessiveness). This change persists until the Legend is no longer imbued. You may spend Legend to make the change permanent.
  • Power Permissions: Blind, Confusion, Disguise

Chaos

  • Boon: You are never harmed by area effects or disasters that don’t target you specifically. You’re ignored by explosions and burst fire, overlooked by reigns of terror, never suffer accidents or acts of nature if there’s any chance you’ll go unscathed, and don’t even get wet in the rain.
  • Power Permissions: Confusion, Deflection, Havoc

Darkness

  • Boon: You can watch the dreams of any target that you can see. Imbue a point of Legend to craft a dream for someone you know well enough to provide a unique description. You can pass a message in this dream, and attempt to use social skills to persuade or terrify the target.
  • Power Permissions: Darksight, Light/Darkness, Slumber

Death

  • Boon: You can see and communicate with the dead and undead (even if normally unintelligent or incomprehensible) and you can perceive entrances to the underworld. Unless you attack them, the dead and undead will never attack you unless specifically compelled by their master.
  • Power Permissions: Banish, Divination, Zombie

Deception

  • Boon: All Notice or other investigation rolls against you (to track you, tell if you’re lying, penetrate your disguises, etc.) must get a Raise to be truly successful. A normal success imparts whatever false information you want your pursuers to know.
  • Power Permissions: Illusion, Invisibility, Mind Wipe

Earth

  • Boon: When you are standing on the ground (including the bottom floor of a building), you gain +2 armor and cannot be forcibly moved from your position by anyone with Legend equal to or lower than yours.
  • Power Permissions: Barrier, Burrow, Elemental Manipulation (Earth only)

Epic Agility

  • Boon: You may run indefinitely outside of combat (as if you had infinite Vigor). You may imbue a point of Legend to add +2 to all your rolls in any kind of Chase.
  • Power Permissions: Bolt (physical thrown object), Sloth/Speed, Wall Walker

Epic Strength

  • Boon: Triple your encumbrance limits and add +4 to all results when Breaking Things, Grappling, and Pushing. Imbue a point of Legend into yourself to ignore limits that would cause you to automatically fail when exerting your strength against larger targets.
  • Power Permissions: Burst (physical smash), Havoc (cone only), Smite

Epic Vigor

  • Boon: You are immune to poison and disease unless inflicted from a source with a higher Legend than your own. You can spend a point of Momentum as a Bennie to recover from Shaken and for Soak Rolls.
  • Power Permissions: Environmental Protection, Protection, Relief

Fertility

  • Boon: Imbue one or more points of Legend into a piece of land or a family (points based on size and whether its is supernatural) to bless or blight its fertility. If blessed, the plants and beasts on the land/members of the family resist disease and poisons (gaining +2 to tests, if required), never have complications with producing offspring, and grow hale and healthy. If blighted, nothing can grow on the land/the family members all become infertile. This lasts while the Legend is imbued, or for a century if the points are spent. A blessing can reverse a blight and vice versa.
  • Power Permissions: Entangle, Healing, Relief

Fire

  • Boon: You (and your worn/held possessions) are immune to fire damage, can breathe through smoke inhalation, and are not inconvenienced by temperature extremes (even in the hottest or coldest parts of the world).
  • Power Permissions: Blast, Damage Field, Elemental Manipulation (Fire only)

Forge

  • Boon: Imbue one or more points of Legend into an item you have crafted to make it a relic (power based on number of points imbued). Spend the points to make the relic permanent. Imbue a point of Legend for a duration of a crafting project to make that item one step better than normal items of its kind (and you may carry this imbued point directly into the item once it is completed to make in a relic, as described above).
  • Power Permissions: Barrier, Protection, Smite

Fortune

  • Boon: You can detect the fate bindings of anyone you interact with (and recognize the other half of connected bindings if you later meet them). Imbue one Legend to pull on one of your fate bindings or a binding of another who stays within close proximity of you. If the binding is another character, that character will be drawn to your proximity as quickly as is possible to have it seem coincidental. If that binding is a situation that the subject is known for, that situation will happen again as soon as it seems like a reasonable coincidence.
  • Power Permissions: Boost/Lower Trait, Deflection, Divination

Frost

  • Boon: You never suffer movement complications from walking over water in any state (you have perfect purchase on ice, and can flash-freeze water and even clouds long enough to support you). Imbue a point of Legend into an encounter to move the Reaction one step toward Neutral (cooling both hatred and love). While this point is imbued, the situation can be further modified toward Neutral, but not toward either extreme end.
  • Power Permissions: Bolt (ice), Environmental Protection, Sloth/Speed

Health

  • Boon: When you successfully heal a subject, gain Momentum. You are immune to poison and disease.
  • Power Permissions: Healing, Relief, Resurrection

Journeys

  • Boon: You always know exact directions, and the direction and distance toward the closest mythic landmark. While at a mythic landmark, you learn the direction and distance to the nearest three other such landmarks, and can mark one as your new heading. You can sense nearby gates and Axis Mundi and where they go. Imbue a point of Legend into a journey and you, your companions, and your vehicle ignore minor terrain difficulties and gain +2 to overcome significant obstacles while you maintain the imbuement (or until you complete the journey).
  • Power Permissions: Banish, Sloth/Speed, Teleport

Moon

  • Boon: You can automatically sense when a subject in your immediate proximity is a shapeshifter, and imbue one Legend and engage in a contested Spirit challenge to force it to change into the form you desire. When you are under the sky, gain a +1 to all rolls if the moon is more full than a crescent and +2 to all rolls if it is within two days of being full.
  • Power Permissions: Disguise, Invisibility, Light/Darkness

Order

  • Boon: You can automatically tell whether an action you consider or witness would be legal or illegal based on the laws of the location where you are. Mortal law enforcement officers are physically incapable of taking action against you if you have broken no laws, even if they are corrupt or misguided (imbue a point of Legend to have this protection extend to an ally you know is in danger from the law). If you imbue one point of Legend into a criminal, conversely, mortal law enforcement gains +2 to all rolls involving bringing that target to justice (from investigation, to pursuit, to the courtroom).
  • Power Permissions: Banish, Boost/Lower Trait, Mind Reading

Passion

  • Boon: Imbue a point of Legend into a subject you can see (or to whom you have a sympathetic connection) to create a strong emotion of your choice in that subject (you can also define the object of the emotion). The target can try to act rationally, but gains a -2 to all rolls that are not in line with fulfilling the emotion. This requires additional imbued Legend equal to the target’s Legend total for legendary targets. Spend a point of Legend to transform a long-lasting emotion (e.g., love or hate), if consummated, into a permanent, natural feeling.
  • Power Permissions: Empathy, Relief, Warrior’s Gift

Prosperity

  • Boon: Anyone you bribe/gift with an appropriate offering automatically starts one step of Reaction better disposed to you. Imbue a point of Legend into an object to make it extremely attractive to all potential owners: it will sell or auction for slightly more than the highest possible amount anyone would expect based on its appraised qualities.
  • Power Permissions: Boost/Lower Trait, Divination, Object Reading

Sky

  • Boon: You have perfect knowledge of the nearby weather for at least a day in advance, and never suffer any kind of complications from weather. Imbue one Legend to make your voice carry like thunder.
  • Power Permissions: Bolt (lightning), Elemental Manipulation (Air only), Fly

Stars

  • Boon: You can see by starlight as if it were bright sunlight. Imbue a point of Legend into a subject of which you are aware (you know them, have a good description, or they are the subject of a prophecy of which you’re aware). Designate that you want them to come to you, or to a location of your choice. Signs and portents will lead them unerringly toward the point you have chosen, and you can always tell whether they’ve begun their journey and how far along the trip they are.
  • Power Permissions: Divination, Farsight, Teleport

Sun

  • Boon: You can choose to glow with the light of the sun, dispelling darkness and damaging those harmed by such energy. Imbue Legend to overcome even mythically-powered darkness. Opponents that need to see have +2 difficulty to all attacks against you while you glow with the sun’s light. Imbue one Legend (whether or not you are glowing) to inspire all that can see you with hope: they automatically ignore mortal negative emotions, and gain +4 to resist supernatural effects that create these emotions (e.g., Fear).
  • Power Permissions: Blind, Mind Reading, Resurrection

War

  • Boon: Roll a second Wild Die for your Battle and Morale rolls when you lead a mass combat. Imbue one or more points of Legend to grant an equivalent number of Force Tokens to a mass combat you can see (must add to your side if you are participating, but you can choose either side if you are only observing). These points remain imbued until the battle is decided.
  • Power Permissions: Mind Link, Summon Ally, Warrior’s Gift

Water

  • Boon: Water acts as you desire within your close proximity: it will miss you if you do not want to be splashed/rained on, stays calm or moves out of the way when you need it to, and can push you at your full movement speed in a boat or when swimming. Imbue one Legend to calm or roil all the water within around a hundred yards of you (and you can selectively help allies and hinder foes you can see).
  • Power Permissions: Elemental Manipulation (Water only), Environmental Protection, Healing

Wild

  • Boon: When in the wilderness, you ignore plant-based travel difficulties, hazards, and obstacles. You gain +2 to Survival and Stealth rolls in the wilderness. Imbue a point of Legend into an area to enhance the wild nature of all mortals within: they take a -2 penalty to rolls involving reason and technology (including using firearms) but gain a +2 to Athletics, Fighting, Intimidation, Survival, and rolls to recover from Shaken.
  • Power Permissions: Beast Friend, Damage Field (thorns or pests), Entangle

Pantheon Purviews

Aesir (Wyrd)

  • Boon: You gain one Momentum whenever you encounter narrative difficulties that mirror your fate, or willingly take an action that advances your doom. Imbue one Legend into a subject for whom you can perform a seidr reading to bring fate to bear as a blessing or a curse. As a blessing, the subject gains +2 to rolls that advance the fate you’ve outlined. As a curse, the subject takes a -2 penalty to rolls that attempt to resist the fate you’ve outlined.
  • Power Permissions: Arcane Protection, Detect/Conceal Arcana, Divination

Netjer (Heku)

  • Boon: If you know a target’s true name, roll an additional Wild Die for all attempts to investigate or otherwise gain information about that target, as well as to Power uses upon the target. For mortals, the true name is usually the full given name, but may be much more obscure and require work to uncover for Legendary beings or mortals who understand the occult.
  • Power Permissions: Drain Power Points, Resurrection, Zombie

Teotl (Nextlahualli)

  • Boon: You gain a point of Momentum whenever you complete a Sacrifice to regain Legend, whenever you take a Wound, and whenever you deal a Wound to a target with a slashing weapon. Any session in which you have made a Sacrifice to regain Legend, you also do not need to eat, drink, or breathe for the remainder of the session.
  • Power Permissions: Drain Power Points, Fear, Zombie

Theoi (Metamorphosis)

  • Boon: Trivial characters automatically fail to see through any of your Power-based or mundane disguises, and all other characters suffer a -2 penalty to penetrate either type of disguise. Your Disguise Power can alter you to a different humanoid (or near-humanoid) species. The Range of Shape Change changes to Smarts for you (instead of Self). You can imbue a point of Legend into a use of the Disguise, Growth/Shrink, or Shape Change to make the Duration last while you keep the point imbued. If the subject is deserving, spend a point of Legend to make the change permanent.
  • Power Permissions: Disguise, Growth/Shrink, Shape Change

Tuatha (Geasa)

  • Boon: You can willingly take on one or more geasa, and gain Momentum every time a geis inconveniences you to follow. If you break a geis, it ends and all your Legend is spent (ending any you have imbued). Mortals that break a geis instead will soon be thrust into a deadly situation by fate. Spend one Legend (plus one for every point of the target’s Legend) to lay a geis upon another character.
  • Power Permissions: Divination, Puppet, Warrior’s Gift

Other Pantheons

Deva (Yoga), Kami (Yaoyorozu-No-Kamigami), Loa and Orisha (Cheval/Gun), Manitou (Dodaem), and Shen (Tianming): TBD

Generic Boons (Birthrights)

Creatures, Followers, and Guides

For one Boon, you may take the Followers or Sidekick Legendary Edge.

As a follower, this will represent mortal heroic companions, likely either drawn from devotees of your pantheon or who you have personally inspired due to your actions or the mythic role you represent.

As a creature, you obtain one or more mythic beasts of similar power level to the appropriate type of follower. These beasts will often have powers that you can’t get from mortal followers, but will be harder to fully deploy in mortal society or even to communicate with the way you could with humans.

As a guide, the creature or individual is typically significantly more powerful than the standard options, but sees its role as giving you guidance rather than direct aid. It is usually available, but will only step in with more than advice when you are in grave danger. It can provide valuable advice and training when you are planning your actions or trying to learn a new trait. Guides are an excellent way to justify developing Purviews not possessed by your divine parent (and, in fact, the Guide boon my be replaced by the Purview once its job is done).

Relics

Relics are typically built as Arcane Devices as per page 153. Unlike normal Arcane Devices, they use the wielder’s Focus skill to activate, and the wielder’s traits for any other derived details (such as Smarts for range). Also unlike normal devices, they have a refreshing pool of Power Points. Relics typically have 10 Power Points per boon invested in them, and recharge to full at sunrise each day (unless some other cycle time is more appropriate to the item). Relics typically will not have more than one power they can manifest per boon invested in them.

Relics, particularly powerful ones, are often tagged with a Purview. Like Guides, if you gain mastery of the Relic you can take its Purview as one of your own (and might even replace the boon spent for the Relic to buy the Purview, discarding the Relic as no longer necessary for you).

Relics may also have fantasy-style enhancements as described here and here. This will typically lower the available Power Points for its powers.

Savage Scion, Part 2

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Legend, Callings, Purviews, and Powers

Scions and other mythic individuals develop a Legend rating as their deeds and renown grow. Legend is unlocked independently from character Advances through story rewards.

All individuals with a Legend rating have up to three Callings, which represent particular aspects of the character’s mythic personality. Each Calling grants a few thematic knacks, as well as permission to buy related Powers.

Legendary individuals of Hero or greater status develop Purviews, which indicate their portfolio of divine associations. Each Purview grants innate boons, as well as permission to buy other related Powers.

All individuals with an Arcane Background, including Scions, can take Powers from the Savage Worlds roleplaying game (starting on page 147). For Scions, the available powers for purchase are based on Callings and Purviews. All characters with Arcane Background (Gifted) start with a single such Power, and may take the New Powers edge to add more from the available options.

Legend

Legend is rated from 0-12. All characters with a Legend rating are also Wild Cards, and roll a wild die for tests.

  • 0: Some characters have no Legend yet, but are Wild Cards with the capacity to grow stronger. They use a d6 wild die.
  • 1-4: At this rating, the character is considered a Hero, and uses a d6 wild die. Heroes may live longer lives, but will die normally to violence and eventually expire to age if they have not become Demigods.
  • 5-8: After gaining this level of Legend, the character is a Demigod, no longer ages, and is extremely difficult to kill for good. Demigods use a d8 wild die.
  • 9-12: Successful Demigods may eventually become full Gods. Gods use a d10 wild die.

Levels of Legend can be imbued into effects, becoming temporarily unavailable. Some Purview boons and most immortal knacks require Legend to be imbued in this way, and any Legendary character may imbue Legend on an ad hoc basis to overwhelm the mortal world with mythic logic (i.e., narrative editing to cause something awesome to happen).

Particularly potent use of Legend may cause the point to be spent, rather than imbued, requiring the character to accept fatebindings or make sacrifices to free up the point of Legend.

For every Legend rating, the character gains a Legendary title based on the keywords within that character’s Callings. A character’s uses of Legend are more potent when drawing upon a title. See Scion: Hero for a list of keywords for each Calling.

Callings

Each Calling grants the listed knacks, as well as grants permission to buy the listed Powers. Each Calling also lists Edges that are recommended for characters with that Calling.

Creator

  • Heroic Knack: You may jury rig items in combat, creating impossible contraptions and repairs that would normally take hours or days and an entire workshop. The created item lasts one round, plus one for each raise.
  • Immortal Knack: Imbue a point of Legend to perceive and communicate via wireless signals for one scene. Imbue one or more Legend points to halve the time a creative project should take (quarter for 2, eighth for 3, and so on).
  • Power Permissions: Arcane Protection, Barrier, Detect/Conceal Arcana, Illusion
  • Suggested Edges: Brawny, Filthy Rich, Trademark Weapon, Artificer, McGyver, Mr. Fix It, Scavenger

Guardian

  • Heroic Knack: When you stand guard over a person, place, or thing, you do not need to eat or sleep while your vigil persists (the target must remain within your sight and/or immediate reach). You cannot be surprised by threats upon the target of your vigil. You may spend Momentum to force attacks against the subject of your vigil to target you instead.
  • Immortal Knack: Imbue a point of Legend into the subject of your vigil. So long as you leave that point imbued, you may spend Momentum to instantly appear at that subject’s side when it is threatened (and this resumes your vigil). If you use a Power to protect yourself, that Power automatically extends to the subject of your imbued subject when you are maintaining a vigil.
  • Power Permissions: Arcane Protection, Deflection, Environmental Protection, Protection
  • Suggested Edges: Arcane Resistance, Brave, Quick, Block, Hard to Kill, Iron Jaw, Nerves of Steel, Hold the Line!, Concentration, Bolster, Common Bond, Danger Sense

Healer

  • Heroic Knack: Your Healing skill rolls take one minute instead of ten, and the Golden Hour is extended to two hours when you’re healing a subject (either with the skill or with the Power). You may make a Healing skill roll to remove the Shaken condition from an ally you can touch.
  • Immortal Knack: Imbue a point of Legend to revive a deceased target that died within the last three minutes (you must then attempt to repair the injuries that killed the target). When you recover from an illness or poison, imbue a point of Legend to generate a cure/antidote from your blood.
  • Power Permissions: Boost/Lower Trait, Empathy, Healing, Relief
  • Suggested Edges: Fast Healer, Extraction, Soul Drain, Bolster, Common Bond, Reliable, Healer

Hunter

  • Heroic Knack: Spend a point of Momentum to designate a target as your quarry. You may only have one quarry at a time. You gain +2 to all rolls to track, chase, and sneak up on your target. If you miss your target with an attack, generate an additional point of Momentum.
  • Immortal Knack: Imbue one or more points of Legend to bind your quarry. While you maintain that target as a quarry (and keep the Legend imbued), the target cannot escape you without imbuing a greater number of points of Legend into the escape. You gain an innate sense of the quarry’s direction from you and fate conspires to provide you with clues to pursue (even across dimensions).
  • Power Permissions: Darksight, Entangle, Farsight, Fear
  • Suggested Edges: Fleet-Footed, Dead Shot, Giant Killer, Killer Instinct, Assassin, Woodsman

Judge

  • Heroic Knack: Spend a point of Momentum to designate an individual or a room (or similar limited area) as your case. You may only have one case at a time. You gain +2 to all Smarts-based skills and tests to gather information about the case or resist being manipulated/tricked by the case.
  • Immortal Knack: Imbue a point of Legend to bind an oath or a sentence. While you maintain that imbued Legend, the subjects gain +1 to all rolls directly related to trying to fulfill the oath/sentence, but suffer a level of Fatigue for deliberately violating it.
  • Power Permissions: Banish, Detect/Conceal Arcana, Dispel, Empathy
  • Suggested Edges: Alertness, Calculating, Command, Investigator

Leader

  • Heroic Knack: Spend a point of Momentum to gain the attention of everyone within line of sight when you enter a room or when a crisis happens. You may immediately make a Battle, Intimidation, or Persuasion roll to get the crowd to do what you want. Treat this as a Persuasion roll against the Reaction table, with the reaction range varying based on the situation (e.g., when a titan beast attacks a room, Hostile is total panic while Helpful is everyone staying calm and organizing to fight it). Unlike a normal reaction roll, you can apply more than two raises to the result.
  • Immortal Knack: Imbue a point of Legend into a named follower or an entire group that you’ve made Helpful with your heroic knack. While that point is imbued, all subjects that can see you automatically succeed at any challenges that you succeed at which affect the entire group (e.g., resisting fear/toxins/environmental effects, sneaking, overcoming an obstacle, etc.). This does not apply to attacks.
  • Power Permissions: Boost/Lower Trait, Fear, Puppet, Speak Language
  • Suggested Edges: Brave, Charismatic, Fame, all Leadership edges, Bolster, Work the Room

Liminal

  • Heroic Knack: Spend a point of Momentum to shroud yourself in privacy for a scene and gain the following benefits: Most people* will assume you’re an unimportant bystander until you take a hostile or dramatic action, and not pay attention to you. Mundane means cannot be used to surveil you (e.g., recordings fail, circumstances interfere with bugs and lip-reading, etc.). Anyone who didn’t interact with you can barely remember or describe you, and those that did have +2 difficulty to investigate or track you from the scene. * Guards may be an exception, as is anyone in a space where only a specific list of known people are supposed to have access.
  • Immortal Knack: Imbue a point of Legend to skip the intervening space for one round’s movement (i.e., teleport up to your speed to a location you can see or could otherwise reach by running with one move). If you recover the imbued Legend before the end of the scene, you cannot use this knack again or spend Momentum until the end of the scene.
  • Power Permissions: Darksight, Disguise, Environmental Protection, Speak Language
  • Suggested Edges: Fleet-Footed, Quick, Dodge, Extraction, Free Runner, Ace, Danger Sense

Lover

  • Heroic Knack: As long as you are not taking hostile actions, enemies must spend Momentum to attack you instead of one of your allies in the scene (but may include you in group attacks). You are not limited to only two shifts on the Reaction chart when making Persuasion rolls. When you touch an individual, spend a point of Momentum to learn which other character in the scene (if any) they love the most and/or are most attracted to.
  • Immortal Knack: Imbue a point of Legend into an individual or a crowd. While that Legend is imbued, you become an object of adoration for the target or group. All of your qualities to which the subjects are attracted are magnified and all of your flaws are ignored. Targets of equal or lower Legend have +4 difficulty to Notice anything about you you don’t want them to, and you gain +2 to Performance, Persuasion, and Taunt rolls against the target. If you imbue a crowd, all rolls must target the entire group to receive the bonus.
  • Power Permissions: Beast Friend, Empathy, Mind Reading, Puppet
  • Suggested Edges: Attractive, Charismatic, Fame, Fervor, Inspire, all Social edges

Sage

  • Heroic Knack: Your Research rolls take 1/10 the time they would take anyone else without this knack. You may spend a point of Momentum to activate an eidetic memory for one round: you burn the scene into your mind (including up to a few seconds on either side of the expenditure, to fully remember a short but complex phrase or pattern), or can perfectly memorize a page or two of information you’ve only glanced at. You will subsequently be able to fully recall any details.
  • Immortal Knack: Imbue one or more points of Legend into a language or code. While the Legend is imbued, you speak the language flawlessly as if you were a native, or may effortlessly break the code (unless it was created by a Sage with more Legend than the number of points you imbued). Conversely, you may imbue one Legend for a week of effort to create a code or language that may only be comprehended by those you teach (or Sages able to imbue as much Legend as your Legend total).
  • Power Permissions: Detect/Conceal Arcana, Divination, Object Reading, Speak Language
  • Suggested Edges: Calculating, Level Headed, Tactician, Concentration, Jack-of-all-Trades, Scholar

Trickster

  • Heroic Knack: Opponents raise all difficulties to trick you, lie to you, or steal from you by +2. When you are caught in a trick, lie, or theft, you may spend a point of Momentum to confuse, distract, or redirect the discovery. Make a Performance roll: success gives you a round to escape, and each raise gives you an additional round of head start. If the situation makes it plausible to pass the blame to someone else, you may get off scott free if your patsy looks guilty enough.
  • Immortal Knack: Imbue a point of Legend into a simulacrum of yourself that can act independently on your agenda while the point of Legend is imbued. Each of you knows what the other knows, and the doppelganger can use all your traits (you are functionally in multiple places at once). All your difficulties for Smarts skills and tests are increased by +2 for each doppelganger you have active (it’s hard to split your attention effectively). Your doppleganger instantly turns to smoke if it is Shaken or takes a Wound. Spend a point of Legend the first time you are Shaken or take a Wound in a scene to retroactively reveal that you were a doppelganger, and you are actually safe somewhere outside of the scene (works best if you seem to die in an explosion).
  • Power Permissions: Blind, Confusion, Detect/Conceal Arcana, Disguise
  • Suggested Edges: Charismatic, Extraction, Hard to Kill, Acrobat, Thief, Humiliate, Retort, Streetwise

Warrior

  • Heroic Knack: You may spend one hour of workout, meditation, or practice to reallocate any or all the Combat edges you’ve chosen and spend them to buy different Combat edges. You must still meet all Requirements for the edges you pick. If desired, you may leave edges unspent after a workout, and then spend a point of Momentum to instantly fill one of those gaps, even if it is not your turn.
  • Immortal Knack: Imbue one or more points of Legend into a battle. Raise your Parry and Toughness by the number of points imbued for the duration of the battle. This also has mythic ramifications: the more points spent, the more epic the fight becomes, and the more attention it may draw from other powers.
  • Power Permissions: Deflection, Sloth/Speed, Smite, Warrior’s Gift
  • Suggested Edges: Ambidextrous, Berserk, Brawny, Brute, all Combat edges, Soldier, Champion

Savage Scion, Part 1

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After nine sessions of running Scion 2e, my group decided that we weren’t happy with the system. In particular, the Storyteller/Storypath d10 dice pool system becomes much more swingy when dice must roll 8-10 to succeed and all 10s explode. While in principle this results in an average of three dice to one success, in practice it’s very common to see players with only a few dice get more successes than players with many dice.

From the GM’s side, this exacerbated an issue with the floatiness of antagonist design: eventually I just got in the habit of grabbing some dice to represent a monster, because in the time they’d be on camera, the differences in size of their dice pools made virtually no perceivable difference. A creature with a 4-5 die attack might wind up being a bigger threat than one with 8-10, just due to dice luck.

So I converted the system to Savage Worlds.

I also used the process to simplify some of the powers systems (both because Savage Worlds would rather your powers weren’t too fiddly, and also because I was having a hard time keeping them all in my head at once). This conversion does assume you have access to the Scion books, since I’m only referencing setting details as they’re necessary to attach to rules; context will likely be missing if you don’t have it from Scion.

I’ve only run a couple of sessions in the system so far, so I can’t really speak to whether it’s significantly better, but I have high hopes.

Setting Rules

As per the rules starting on page 136, Scion uses the following setting rules:

  • Fanatics: Minions may automatically take a hit for a Wild Card, when appropriate.
  • Heroes Never Die: Wild Cards aren’t in danger of dying from critical failures when incapacitated, or from Bleeding Out.
  • More Skill Points: Character gain more skill points to buy more modern skills.
  • Multiple Languages: All PCs have the Linguist edge which grants additional bonus Language skills (starting at d6) equal to half the character’s Smarts die.
  • Unarmored Hero: If a Wild Card is not wearing any armor, that character gains +2 to Soak rolls.

Momentum

Momentum is a shared group resource that represents the tides of fortune for the party. The group starts each session with one point of Momentum per member of the group, and the pool cannot exceed two points per member of the group (e.g., it ranges from 0-10 for a five-member party).

Momentum can be spent in the following ways:

  • Certain Knacks and Boons require Momentum to activate.
  • Spend a point of Momentum to draw an additional Initiative card at the beginning of the round (keep the best card rather than acting twice); unlike Bennies, you must spend Momentum before seeing the card or cards you drew.
  • Spend three points of Momentum to recharge one of your spent Bennies.
  • Spend one or more points of Momentum for minor narrative editing about how the tide of action turns in the party’s favor.

All Momentum expenditures must be with the agreement of the whole party.

You can regain Momentum in the following ways:

  • Whenever the GM spends Momentum for hostile NPCs, the party gains an equivalent amount of Momentum (and the GM cannot spend Momentum when the party’s pool is at maximum).
  • Certain Knacks and Boons specify ways that Momentum can be restored.
  • Whenever a PC fails a roll, the party gains a point of Momentum.
  • The GM may choose to award one or more points of Momentum as consolation for abrupt narrative shifts that are not in the party’s favor.

Character Creation

Before undergoing standard character creation, scion characters pick Origin, Role, and Pantheon to gain additional traits. These bonus traits count as nine Advances for the purpose of determining Rank (i.e., all scion PCs start as Veterans), which can allow additional Edge choices during normal character generation. The attribute increase for Novice and Seasoned ranks are considered spent.

After choosing these traits, undergo normal character creation. Remember that you need to set attributes equal or greater than the linked skills or they cost double.

After finishing normal character creation, pick Callings and powers as described later.

Scion Paths

Origin

Gain the Rich background edge (you may later take the Poverty hindrance if you do not want to be wealthy) and consider where your high standard of living comes from. Additionally, increase the Attribute listed with your origin (in italics) by +1 step, and gain two skill points to spend on the listed skills for your origin.

  • Adventurer: Vigor; Athletics, Piloting, Shooting, Survival
  • Chosen: Spirit; Focus, Occult, Research, Stealth
  • Created: Vigor; Focus, Occult, Performance, Persuasion
  • Life of Privilege: Smarts; Academics, Performance, Persuasion, Taunt
  • Military Brat: Strength; Battle, Common Knowledge, Science, Shooting
  • Potemkin World: Smarts; Boating, Notice, Occult, Survival
  • Street Rat: Agility; Gambling, Stealth, Taunt, Thievery
  • Suburbia: Spirit; Common Knowledge, Driving, Electronics, Performance
  • Survivalist: Vigor; Repair, Riding, Stealth, Survival
  • Terra Incognita: Agility; Athletics, Occult, Riding, Survival
  • War-Torn: Strength; Fighting, Intimidation, Notice, Survival

Role

Gain the Connections social edge and define the connections. Additionally gain four skill points to spend on the listed skills for your role.

  • Charismatic Leader: Academics, Battle, Performance, Persuasion
  • Combat Specialist: Athletics, Fighting, Repair, Shooting
  • Con Artist: Notice, Performance, Persuasion, Thievery
  • Detective: Hacking, Notice, Research, Shooting
  • Medical Practitioner: Common Knowledge, Driving, Healing, Science
  • Pilot: Boating, Driving, Notice, Piloting
  • Sneak: Gambling, Hacking, Stealth, Thievery
  • Technology Expert: Common Knowledge, Electronics, Repair, Science

Pantheon

Gain the Arcane Background (Gifted) edge (this adds the Focus (Spirit) skill to your available skills, grants a single starting power, and gives you 15 power points). Additionally, increase the Attribute listed with your pantheon (in italics) by +1 step, and gain two skill points to spend on the listed skills for your pantheon.

  • Aesir: Strength; Gambling, Occult, Performance, Taunt
  • Deva: Agility; Hacking, Research, Repair, Survival
  • Kami: Agility; Boating, Electronics, Focus, Piloting
  • Manitou: Spirit; Battle, Healing, Intimidation, Riding
  • Netjer: Smarts; Academics, Focus, Research, Thievery
  • Orisha: Spirit; Healing, Intimidation, Science, Thievery
  • Shen: Smarts; Academics, Battle, Driving, Gambling
  • Teotl: Vigor; Fighting, Intimidation, Piloting, Taunt
  • Theoi: Vigor; Academics, Boating, Fighting, Healing
  • Tuatha: Strength; Fighting, Intimidation, Riding, Taunt

Basic Creation

Summary

This is a summary of the basic character creation. Also see page 55 of the book for these steps:

  1. Your race is Human. This allows you to choose an additional edge.
  2. You may choose up to four points of Hindrances (Major are worth 2, Minor are worth 1). You may use these points to gain additional attributes, edges, or skill points (2 for an attribute or edge, 1 for a skill increase).
  3. Each Attribute (Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength, Vigor) starts at d4. Spend 5 points to increase Attributes by one step each (in addition to upgrades from your paths and hindrance choices). You cannot raise an Attribute above d12 (4 points spent).
  4. Your Athletics, Common Knowledge, Notice, Persuasion, and Stealth Skills all start at d4. All other Skills start at no value. Skills have a governing attribute (see below), and cost double to raise over that attribute. Use your path skill points to raise the linked Skills, then spend 15 more skill points (per setting rule). It costs 1 skill point to buy a Skill at d4, and then one for each step up from d4. Like attributes, Skills cannot exceed d12.
  5. Derived Statistics: Set your Pace to 6” unless changed by edges or hindrances. Set your Parry to 2 + half your Fighting skill die (e.g., +2 for d4). Set your Toughness to 2 + half your Vigor attribute die, and it may also increase when wearing armor.
  6. Don’t forget to buy Edges with your Human bonus and remaining Hindrance points.

Skill List

  • Academics (Smarts): Knowledge of liberal arts, social sciences, literature, history, etc.
  • *Athletics (Agility): Overall athletic coordination and ability. Climbing, jumping, balancing, wrestling, skiing, swimming, throwing, or catching.
  • Battle (Smarts): Strategy, tactics, and understanding military operations. A key skill in Mass Battles.
  • Boating (Agility): Ability to sail or pilot a boat, ship, or other watercraft.
  • *Common Knowledge (Smarts): General knowledge of a character’s world.
  • Driving (Agility): The ability to control, steer, and operate ground vehicles.
  • Electronics (Smarts): The use of electronic devices and systems.
  • Faith (Spirit): The arcane skill for Arcane Background (Miracles).
  • Fighting (Agility): Skill in armed and unarmed combat.
  • Focus (Spirit): The arcane skill for Arcane Background (Gifted).
  • Gambling (Smarts): Skill and familiarity with games of chance.
  • Hacking (Smarts): Coding, programming, and breaking into computer systems.
  • Healing (Smarts): The ability to treat and heal Wounds and diseases, and decipher forensic evidence.
  • Intimidation (Spirit): A character’s ability to threaten others into doing what she wants.
  • **Language (Smarts): Knowledge and fluency in a particular language.
  • *Notice (Smarts): General awareness and perception.
  • Occult (Smarts): Knowledge of supernatural events, creatures, history, and ways.
  • Performance (Spirit): Singing, dancing, acting, or other forms of public expression.
  • *Persuasion (Spirit): The ability to convince others to do what you want.
  • Piloting (Agility): Skill with maneuvering vehicles that operate in three dimensions, such as airplanes, helicopters, spaceships, etc.
  • Psionics (Smarts): The arcane skill for Arcane Background (Psionics).
  • Repair (Smarts): The ability to fix mechanical and electrical gadgets.
  • Research (Smarts): Finding written information from various sources.
  • Riding (Agility): A character’s skill in mounting, controlling, and riding a tamed beast.
  • Science (Smarts): Knowledge of scientific fields such as biology, chemistry, geology, engineering, etc.
  • Shooting (Agility): Precision with any type of ranged weapon.
  • Spellcasting (Smarts): The arcane skill for Arcane Background (Magic).
  • *Stealth (Agility): The ability to sneak and hide.
  • Survival (Smarts): How to find food, water, or shelter, and tracking.
  • Taunt (Smarts): Insulting or belittling another. Almost always done as a Test (page 108).
  • Thievery (Agility): Sleight of hand, pickpocketing, lockpicking, and other typically shady feats.
  • Weird Science (Smarts): The arcane skill for Arcane Background (Weird Science).

* These skills start at d4

** Language skills are purchased individually for each language known (but you get bonus languages at d6 equal to half your Smarts die to start, per the setting rule).

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