Savage Angels, Conversion Rules

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I’ve been running the No Soul Left Behind campaign for Better Angels for several months now. While the campaign is great and the setting of the core RPG is awesome, we couldn’t really wrap our heads around using the trait system effectively. I’ll probably get around to doing a system review one of these days, but the upshot is that the translation of abstract vices and virtues into concrete rolls to accomplish something never gelled, and my players finally asked me to convert to a system with a more traditional trait system.

I wound up choosing Savage Worlds, for a few reasons: it seems pretty resilient to hacking, I already have the Super Powers Companion for a game that never wound up happening, and it’s pretty easy to grok (plus one of the players already has a lot of Deadlands experience and was one of my review playtesters when I originally tried Savage Worlds).

My goal was to keep the central struggle of Better Angels, which is that the more powerful you become, the closer you are to getting dragged to hell. So the main change to Savage Worlds supers proper is the bolting on of a translation of Better Angels‘ vices and how they relate to powers, sinning, and damnation. This conversion also takes a lot of inspiration from Smallville, insofar as the vice you pick to roll is based on your agenda for the conflict.

The below assumes familiarity with Better Angels and Savage Worlds (and its Super Powers Companion).

Vices

Your wild die (a d6 in standard Savage Worlds) is replaced by a die for whatever vice is your primary motivation for the conflict/scene (e.g., if you have Greed d8, Espionage d10, and Breaking and Entering d6, you’d roll d8+d6 if you’re trying to break into a building to steal something but d10+d6 if you’re trying to break into a building to get information).

  • Greed: Your motivation in the conflict is to gain something for yourself (typically of permanent value): this is generally something that you feel will be useful to you, particularly in the long term (short-term gains may actually be another motivation). If no other value seems appropriate, Greed can also be used for crime- and economics-related challenges.
  • Espionage (with elements of Gluttony): Your motivation in the conflict is to sate your physical needs (anything that makes you feel good physically, including getting into a fight not because you’re angry, but just because you enjoy the thrill) or to discover something secret. If no other value seems appropriate, Espionage can also be used for academics- and perception-related challenges.
  • Cruelty (with elements of Wrath): Your motivation in the conflict is anger: you are pissed off in general and that’s driving your behavior or you specifically hate the opponent. If no other value seems appropriate, Cruelty can also be used for violence-related challenges.
  • Cowardice (with elements of Sloth): Your motivation in the conflict is to not be involved in the conflict: you have no other agenda beyond not submitting to the opponent’s agenda or not being bothered in the first place. If no other value seems appropriate, Cowardice can also be used for athletics-related challenges.
  • Corruption (with elements of Lust): Your motivation in the conflict is to sate your psychological needs: generally this is an urge to be loved or otherwise appreciated, but it may involve going after something that will make you feel good emotionally in the short term. If no other value seems appropriate, Corruption can also be used for seduction- and impression-related challenges.
  • Deceit (with elements of Envy): Your motivation in the conflict is to try to exceed the qualities of someone you feel is better then you, to spite someone who has something you don’t have, or to pull one over on a sucker. If no other value seems appropriate, Deceit can also be used for stealth- and deception-related challenges.
  • Pride (Special, See Below): Your motivation in the conflict is to prove your superiority over someone else and prove that you’re the better person (or villain); since this could theoretically apply to almost anything for prideful characters, any other appropriate value should be considered as motivation first before pure pride is the dominant value. If no other value seems appropriate, Pride can also be used for diplomacy- and leadership-related challenges.

Raising Vices

In any scene in which you used a vice (or a power keyed to a vice) and your demon is active, the rating of your vice can go up by one die step. You must have both used the vice and accomplished one of the following things (as argued by the Screwtape):

  • Greed: Stole something you didn’t need (double bump for something priceless you didn’t even want)
  • Espionage: Gloated in victory or consumed something bigger than your head (double bump for totally suborning someone with illicit knowledge or consuming something so big you shouldn’t be able to do so)
  • Cruelty: Killed or permanently maimed a person/lovable animal or destroyed something of real value (double bump for a massacre or mass property damage)
  • Cowardice: Humiliated someone or sat by idly while something awful happened that you could have easily stopped (double bump for killing someone with a death trap or permanently maiming someone through torture)
  • Corruption: Made someone your minion or seduced someone that should know better (double bump for getting lots of minions all at once or completely suborning a hero’s ally through your charm and wiles)
  • Deceit: Betrayed and mocked someone that trusted you or seriously hurt someone because you were jealous of them (double bump for killing an ally or ruining someone out of jealousy)
  • Pride: Claimed that you were invincible and proved to your enemies that you were right; also special:
    • Whenever a vice would be raised over d12, it resets to d8 and your Pride goes up by one die step. (If you get a double bump while at d12, your Pride goes up by one die step and your vice resets to d10.)
    • If your Pride would exceed d12, this begins the process of dragging you to hell (it goeth before a fall… needless to say, don’t claim you’re invincible unless you’re planning to job it and get beaten).

Repenting

In order to lower a vice, you must forego a wild die for the whole scene (rather than using a vice-based wild die), succeed on at least one test where the outcome matters, and accomplish something opposed to the vice you want to lower:

  • Greed: Help someone with no expected gain or give away something of high value to yourself
  • Espionage: Learn something new and important through above-board means or deny yourself something physical you really want but you know is bad for you
  • Cruelty: Demonstrate mercy when it would be much safer and more expedient not to or protect someone at actual risk to yourself
  • Cowardice: Lose a conflict that costs you substantially (rather than running away) or go out of your way to accomplish something the right way when there was a much easier way to do it wrong
  • Corruption: Admit that you did something wrong and work to make up for it or deny yourself something emotional you really want but you know is bad for you
  • Deceit: Tell a truth that is injurious to you or your interests or help out someone you hate at cost to yourself because you know your hatred is irrational

In order to lower Pride by one step:

  • You must lower a vice below d4 (it resets to d8).
  • You must simultaneously humiliate yourself in a lasting way that will have huge consequences for your reputation.
  • If Pride would go below d4, instead reduce another vice by one step (the dominant vice still resets to d8).
  • If all of your vices are d4, you can attempt Exorcism.

Skills

The normal Savage Worlds skills are replaced with:

  • Pretending to Be What You Ain’t (Acting/Deception)*
  • Playing Sports and Shit (Athletics)
  • Hacking, Cracking, and Social Media (Computers)
  • Grand Theft Auto (Driving/Piloting/Boating)
  • The Old Ultraviolence (Fighting)
  • Taking Slugs Out of Your Buddy (Healing)
  • Scaring the Hell out of Someone (Intimidation)*
  • Digging up Dirt, Looking for Clues (Investigation/Tracking)
  • That Shit You Learned in School (Knowledge)**
  • Breaking and Entering (Lockpicking/Security)
  • Good Looking Out (Notice)
  • Getting People to Do What You Want (Persuasion)*
  • Making Shit and Fixing It (Repair/Crafts)
  • Downrange Violence (Shooting/Throwing)
  • Lurking, Prowling, and Generally Skulking (Stealth)
  • Being Down With the Street (Streetwise/Gambling)*
  • Camping and Outdoorsy Shit (Survival/Riding)
  • Being a Mean Girl (Taunt)*

* Uses Charisma bonus
** Not required to be bought as individual skills (unlike normal Savage Worlds)

Powers and Aspects

Powers and Aspects are rebuilt using the rules from the Super Powers Companion as a guideline. In general:

  • Powers scale in effect pegged to the associated vice die (roughly equal to the value of the die; e.g., at a d6, it’s got 6 power points worth of effect, and at d12 it’s got 12 points worth of effect).
  • Aspects scale in effect pegged the higher of the two associated vice dice (roughly equal to twice the value of the die; e.g., Darkness-Shrouded was Devious, so it’s now pegged to Corruption + Deceit, and if your Deceit is d10, it’s got 20 points worth of effect).
  • I’ll give you little summary blocks to show where the power is at at each rating.

For how they work:

  • You can always use powers, but if you use them your demon is active and raising the associated vice is on the table for the scene (even if you didn’t roll that sin’s die at all).
  • To turn on an aspect, roll the dice for the two vices associated with the aspect:
    • If the demon is activating it, on a failure it doesn’t turn on (and you step down the higher of the two vices), on a success it turns on (and you step down the higher of the two vices), and on a raise it turns on (without having to step down the value of the vice).
    • If the mortal is activating it, on a failure it doesn’t turn on (and you step up the lower of the two vices), on a success it turns on (and you step up the lower of the two vices), and on a raise it turns on (without having to step up the value of the vice).

Example Power, That Hideous Strength (Cruelty):

  • d4: Super Strength (p. 43) +2
  • d6: Super Strength (p. 43) +2, Attack, Melee (p. 22) rank 1
  • d8: Super Strength (p. 43) +3, Attack, Melee (p. 22) rank 1
  • d10: Super Strength (p. 43) +3, Attack, Melee (p. 22) rank 1 (Stackable upgrade)
  • d12: Super Strength (p. 43) +4, Attack, Melee (p. 22) rank 1 (Stackable upgrade)

(For example, if your Cruelty is currently rated d8, you have the Super Strength power from page 43 of the SPC at +3 steps, and the Attack, Melee power from page 22 at the first rank.)

Other Demonic Abilities

  • Sinful Perfection: Step down the vice the player is rolling before the roll is made, but add +4 to the roll’s result.
  • Demonic Endurance: Death is not usually on the table for a hellbinder when Incapacitated. If there’s an easy way for you to escape, when Incapacitated you escape (possibly in a no-body, no-kill kind of way). If your opponents have you in a situation where that’s impossible, they’ll find themselves compelled to arrest/capture you rather than killing you. You’re only in danger of dying past Incapacitated when dark magic is on the table in the hands of someone at the end of her rope (i.e., usually, only other hellbinders can actually kill you, or a mortal that’s been pushed way too far).
  • Devilish Creativity: Use the system in the book and replace the virtue costs with Resource units. You can break one big money unit from crimes into 4 Resources. You also accumulate 1 Resource each per scenario to represent your legitimate income. When you want to make a device/improve the lair, spend Resources equal to the book’s costs (in Generosity and Knowledge) and step up a meaningfully related Vice by one. Boom, you have the device.

Advantages

Secrets and surprises from Better Angels work as special-use Bennies: you can expend them to reroll a test for which they’re specifically relevant.

Character Conversion

  • Make characters normally for Savage Worlds. You don’t have to take an arcane background to get your powers (as per SPC). Edges that don’t make sense may be off the table (most of the supernatural ones, anything that makes you rich, etc.).
  • Award Savage Worlds XP based on how far you are into the campaign.
  • Convert your current Generosity to spare Resources, and your various vice ratings to the new vice rating (1 dot is a d4 up to 5 dots is a d12; if you’ve zeroed out a vice, it’s at an X and no powers associated with it function).

Better Angels Rules Summary

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Better Angels is a One Roll Engine game where the PCs are conflicted supervillains: conflicted because the source of their powers is a possessing demon gleefully trying to get them to sin so it can drag them bodily to hell. It’s a way to justify classic four-color supervillain shenanigans. Of course you put the hero in a death trap and then leave the room rather than just shooting him, and make sure you commit crimes with high property damage in front of the cameras rather than quietly in the dead of night: it appeases the demon with your grandstanding without actually killing anybody.

I’m running this soon as well, so here’s the rules summary I put together for my players’ reference.

Basic Rules

Dice

Characters take actions by assembling a pool of d10s. Roll all dice and look for matches. In a matched set, the number of dice in the set is the Width and the number on the dice is the Height. For example, four 6s is a set with width 4, height 6, or 4×6.

The width of the set is the most important element, and indicates speed and power. Wider sets go first if timing is important, and have a greater effect.

The height of the set indicates quality, and is often used only to break ties or for miscellaneous rules effects. In many cases, a 3×5 is better than a 2×10.

Some powers grant Master Dice, which allow you to add a die of any value after rolling (essentially widening any set you rolled).

Contested actions use the defender’s set to remove dice from the aggressor’s set. A set must have an equal or greater height to cancel dice (e.g., 3×5 cannot cancel a 2×6). In combat or other fast-paced situation, a set must also have equal or greater width (or the attacker just goes too fast to be stopped).

You can make a Called Shot by dropping one die and setting another die to a fixed number before rolling, hoping to roll more of the same number as on the fixed die.

You can take Multiple Actions by dropping one die per extra action and hoping to get multiple sets.

If timing matters, players declare actions in order of Cunning (using Knowledge to break ties).

Extra Time, Weapons/Tools, Surprise, and Secrets can grant Advantage of up to +3. Advantage can be added as extra dice for your pool before rolling, or saved to increase the width of a rolled set (and you can split it between uses if you have multiple points of Advantage). The amounts of advantage are:

  • Extra Time: 2x as long (+1); 3x as long (+2)
  • Weapon/Tool: Small and concealable (+1); serious and noticeable (+2); really big and/or nasty (+3)
  • Intellectual Surprise: Circumstantial evidence (+1); conclusive evidence (+2); damning evidence (+3)
  • Surprise Attack: Cunning Greed/target’s Cunning Espionage; both get sets (+1); ambusher set 2x vs no set (+2); ambusher set 3x/no set (+3)
  • Secret: Minor secret (+1); Secret worth effort to conceal/deny (+2); Life-endingly horrible secret (+3)

Strategies and Tactics

Instead of attributes and abilities, characters assemble their dice pools based on Strategies (bolded green) and Tactics (italicized purple). These are personal virtues and sins that can and will frequently fluctuate in play due to damage. Permanent character abilities are limited to Specialties and demonic aspects and powers. In the examples, the sin is on the left, the virtue on the right:

Cunning/PatientGreed/GenerosityEspionage/Knowledge

These are generally used for mental conflicts. Running out of Patient makes you go berserk.

  • Patient Generosity: Making long-term investments
  • Patient Greed: Long cons, forgery, hacking, cracking
  • Cunning Generosity: Buying illegal goods, bribery, conspicuous spending
  • Cunning Greed: Petty larceny, lockpicking, hotwiring, shoplifting
  • Patient Knowledge: Research, knowing things
  • Patient Espionage: Investigating, casing, bugging communications, staking out
  • Cunning Knowledge: Defusing bombs, jury-rigging, quiz games
  • Cunning Espionage: Spotting ambushes, noticing opportunities, other quick perceptions

Sly/OpenCruelty/CourageCowardice/Endurance

These are generally used for physical conflicts. Running out of Open kills mortals (and isn’t ideal for hellbinders).

  • Open Courage: Making a melee attack against superior* foes or overwhelming numbers
  • Open Cruelty: Making a melee attack against equal or inferior foes
  • Sly Courage: Making a ranged attack against superior* foes or overwhelming numbers
  • Sly Cruelty: Making a ranged against equal/inferior foes, making any kind of attack from ambush
  • Open Endurance: Chasing, endurance athletics, bracing a door/wall, pinning a target in combat
  • Open Cowardice: Kicking down a door, outrunning someone, blocking an attack
  • Sly Endurance: Tailing, juggling/tightrope walking, disarming someone in combat
  • Sly Cowardice: Climbing, escaping from pins/bonds, passing an object, dodging in combat

* For hellbinders, foes only count as superior when they’re supernatural but the binder’s demon isn’t currently invoked

Devious/InsightfulCorruption/NurtureDeceit/Honesty

These are generally used for social conflicts. Running out of Insightful removes your base defense against manipulation.

  • Insightful Nurture: Understanding someone’s better nature, resisting temptation/seduction
  • Insightful Corruption: Understanding someone’s weaknesses, temptations, and urges
  • Devious Nurture: Persuading (to do something good), inspiring
  • Devious Corruption: Seducing, cajoling, bewildering
  • Insightful Honesty: Defending against attacks on the truth, riposting against manipulation to sense what was true
  • Insightful Deceit: Resisting appeals to better nature, riposting against manipulation to sense motivations
  • Devious Honesty: Gaining Advantage from a difficult truth
  • Devious Deceit: Gaining Advantage from a believable lie

Damaging Strategies and Tactics

Conflict generally has an intention to reduce a targeted tactic or strategy. You pick a particular tactic to target (which is usually limited by the type of tactic you’re using), and do damage based on the result:

  • Width 2-3: Slide a dot of the tactic into its opposite tactic. If it’s already empty, slide a dot of the parent strategy into its opposite strategy.
  • Width 4: Remove a dot from the tactic. If it’s already empty, remove a dot of the parent strategy.
  • Width 5: Remove a dot of the parent strategy, even if there are still dots in the tactic.

Aspects and Powers

Aspects

Aspects are remnants of the possessing demon’s diabolical heritage strong enough to affect the body of the host. The player of the mortal will pick one and the player of the demon will pick the other.

They’re powerful but costly to activate. The demon half always controls activation, there must be at least one point in the aspect’s governing Strategy for it to work, and there are two ways to turn them on:

  • The mortal requests it, the demon agrees, and the mortal slides a point off a Virtuous Strategy in payment.
  • The demon makes it happen without request, rolls the aspect’s governing Strategy (no Tactic), and turns on the aspect for free if this roll gets a set. If there is no set, the aspect still turns on, but the demon must slide a point from the governing Strategy.

The available aspects are:

  • An Utmost Foulness* (Cunning): Turns you into an amorphous (and flexible) blob of nastiness
  • Aqua-Form* (Sly): Turns you into living water
  • Carapace (Sly): Grants armor that reduces attack Height
  • Cloven Hooves (Cunning): Lets you forge demonic pacts with mortals to give them a bonus and you a Tactic upgrade whenever they use it
  • Darkness-Shrouded (Devious): Swathes the area around you in inky darkness only your allies can see through
  • Flame-Wreathed (Devious): Covers you in fire that deals damage to melee attackers and improves your own attacks
  • Ghost Form (Cunning): Grants intangibility that you can selectively turn on and off
  • Giant (Sly): Makes you big and super strong
  • Glory* (Devious): Makes you incredibly beautiful/terrifying
  • Hell’s Engine* (Sly): Replaces a body part with a hellish contraption (chooser picks the contraption, non-chooser picks the body part)
  • Horned (Sly): Gives you an intimidating natural weapon
  • Invisible (Devious): Lets you turn invisible and get a surprise bonus on attacks
  • Legion* (Cunning): Creates unpowered doppelgangers of you
  • Non-Euclidean* (Devious): Turns you into a cloud of concepts, allowing shifts in which Tactics get targeted by attacks
  • Wings (Cunning): Lets you fly and also temporarily sacrifice the wings to negate an attack

Powers

Powers don’t necessarily have a permanent physical structure, and they’re under the total control of the mortal. However, activating them counts as invoking the demon (allowing it to start paying attention and talking for the rest of the scene). The player of the mortal will pick one and the player of the demon will pick one.

Powers typically have a (fixed dice pool) to activate them. The available powers are:

  • Alchemy (Greed): Turns items (or body parts) temporarily into gold (Cunning Greed), and grants a Master Die to use Generosity for bribery (if Greed is not less than Generosity)
  • Animal Control (Deceit): As Body Control, but affects animals
  • Animal Form (Espionage): Lets you turn into the form of a (usually terrifying) animal, with more powers the higher your espionage (Cunning Espionage)
  • Armor (Cowardice): Grants you a defense that reduces the Width of physical attacks (Open Cowardice)
  • Arrogance (Cowardice): Provides a passive social defense based on your Cowardice
  • Babel Babble* (Corruption): Lets you start a spiel of jargon that attacks listeners’ Knowledge or Nurture (Cunning Corruption)
  • Banish (Cowardice): Lets you send something (including a touched target’s body part) somewhere else within line of sight and thirty feet (Sly Cowardice), and grants a set of dedicated items you can send up to thirty miles away
  • Body Control (Deceit): Turns human targets into your puppets that you can give orders to (Devious Deceit)
  • Clairvoyance (Espionage): Lets you see up to miles away (Patient Espionage)
  • Crime-Time* (Greed): Gives you a minute pause in which you can move and everything else is frozen but invulnerable (Cunning Greed)
  • Dark Ritual* (Knowledge): Satisfies your demon to grant advantage for the rest of the scene (Devious Knowledge)
  • Dead Ringer (Deceit): Lets you copy the appearance of another person you’ve spent time with (Insightful Deceit)
  • Dominator Strike (Cruelty): Gives you a customizable ranged attack (Sly Cruelty)
  • False Memories* (Deceit): Implants a false memory into a touched target (Patient Deceit)
  • Hanging Curse* (Corruption): Curses a target with a ban that will damage a Virtuous Strategy if violated (Patient Corruption)
  • Impossible Beauty (Corruption): Gives you advantage to social rolls to influence people (Devious Corruption); could be artistic skill rather than physical beauty
  • Ineffable Defense (Espionage): Reduces advantage granted by surprises or secrets used against you based on your Espionage
  • Oracle* (Knowledge): Allows you to question the GM about the future or possible actions (Devious Knowledge)
  • Psychic Objects (Greed): Lets you create useful objects with size and complexity based on your Greed (Cunning Greed)
  • Regeneration* (Cowardice): Recovers damage or shifts to your Open and Sly suffered during a scene (Open Cowardice)
  • Retrocognition* (Espionage): Lets you see what happened in a location previously (Patient Espionage)
  • Soulless Materialism* (Generosity): Animates objects to fight for you (Cunning Generosity)
  • Summon (Greed): Lets you summon visible objects within thirty feet to you, including target body parts (Cunning Greed), and grants a set of dedicated items you can summon to you from up to thirty miles away
  • Telekinesis (Deceit): Allows you to move objects/people within line of sight and range based on Deceit (Insightful Deceit)
  • Teleport Self (Corruption): Transports you somewhere else within a few miles based on Corruption (Insightful Corruption)
  • Terror (Cruelty): Drains Courage at range (Devious Cruelty)
  • That Hideous Strength (Cruelty): Gives a melee weapon bonus and lets you perform feats of strength based on your Cruelty
  • The Evil Eye* (Cruelty): Allows you to apply a curse at range that reduces target’s dice for several scenes (Cunning Cruelty)
  • Wither (Corruption): Shrivels, wilts, corrodes, etc. a touched/grappled object/person (Devious Corruption)

Innate Abilities

The player of the demon controls access to several other innate abilities common to all demons:

  • Devilish Creativity: All hellbinders can make infernally cunning devices (often disguised as scientific inventions, but possibly just obviously magic items). These use a customizable system that costs points from Virtuous Tactics to create the item.
  • Appreciating the Numinous: The demon can recognize other hosts of angels or demons (special campaign rule: only when both possessing spirits are invoked).
  • Spying: If the demon’s primary Sinister Strategy is higher than its opposite, the demon can perceive all the time. If it’s not, the demon perceives only when invoked. The demon cannot talk to the mortal, even if it can perceive all the time, unless invoked by being given permission to speak or the mortal activates a power.
  • Sinful Perfection: The demon can turn one die in the mortal’s pool into a Master Die for a particular roll by sliding the related Sinister Tactic for that roll into the Virtuous Tactic (e.g., if the player is rolling Courage or Cruelty, slide a point of Cruelty).

* from the No Soul Left Behind campaign book