Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Strolling Through Savage Worlds (Part 2): Traits and Character Creation
"Great heroes are more than a collection of statistics and numbers, but in a game system this is certainly where they begin."
- Shane Lacy Hensley, Savage Worlds Deluxe
In Savage Worlds, characters are mostly defined by Traits. Traits cover both innate ability (Attributes) and a character's training and expertise (Skills). The Attributes in Savage Worlds are very similar to the six standard ability scores in D&D: Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength, and Vigor map clearly to Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Strength, and Constitution--only Charisma, that perennial dump stat, is left out of the spread.
The standard list of Skills in Savage Worlds includes: Boating, Climbing, Driving, Fighting, Gambling, Healing, Intimidation, Investigation, Knowledge (with specialties), Lockpicking, Notice, Persuasion, Piloting, Repair, Riding, Shooting, Stealth, Streetwise, Survival, Swimming, Taunt, Throwing, and Tracking. I tend to think that most gamers have an ideal skill list in mind; Savage Worlds selection of skills may or may not fit it. In Savage Worlds, Skills are meant to be fairly broad. For example, your Fighting skill handles all melee combat rolls. Similarly, Shooting covers everything from bows to automatic rifles. For me, the skill list is pretty good. In a perfect world, Climbing and Swimming would be combined into Athletics. It's also a bit odd that Gambling is a Skill--how often does this come up in most games?
Traits in Savage Worlds are rated in terms of the dice you roll when using that Trait, from d4 to d12--with a d6 being human average. One thing that throws some people off is that Attributes and Skills are directly linked in terms of what you roll to do things in game; for example, if you have a d8 Agility and a d4 Stealth, you're going to roll that d4 to see if you can sneak down a hallway without being noticed. However, that isn't to say that Attributes and Skills aren't inter-related in Savage Worlds. Attributes act as "caps" for the Skills they are related for; advancing a Skill beyond the Attribute that governs it costs more points than advancing a Skill that is lower than its associated Attribute. I like this; it makes sense to me that it takes more effort to improve a skill beyond your natural aptitude for it, and that natural aptitude doesn't equal or trump training. While you wouldn't ever want a clumsy surgeon, I'd rather have someone with experience in heart surgery do a bypass instead of the most agile juggler in the world, you know?
Reason #7687624 why I'm not really in the 'old-school demographic': Outside of 1e Warhammer FRP, I don't really like random-roll character generation. For me, letting the dice dictate what my character is all about got old sometime in the 90s. I think this is true for a lot of people; there's a reason why most modern games (outside of the ones that aren't going for a "retro" feel) eschew random roll character generation. Randomly generated characters are a rarity in console and computer games for the same reason--people like to customize their characters to fit their preferences. Also, I tend to roll horribly when making a character.
That said, I'm picky in this regard because I also don't like overly-complicated or fiddly character creation. I want to be able to customize, but I also want to be able to make a character quickly.
Character creation in Savage Worlds works like this:
Your Attributes all start at d4, and you have five "points" to increase them with. Each point spent on an Attribute increases it a dice size; if you spend two points on your Strength, your Strength is a d8.
Your Skills all start at...nothing, but you have 15 points to spend on them. Each point spent nets you a dice size in that skill. Spend three points on Healing, for example, and now you've got a Healing skill of d8. Just be mindful of the cap set by the Attribute that governs each particular skill (as I discussed here); you can raise a Skill above the Attribute it is linked to, but it will cost double. For example, if you have an Agility of d6 but want to have a Fighting skill of d8 it will cost you four points--two points gets you to Fighting d6, but two more points are required to raise that skill above the cap set by the d6 in Agility.
There are also four Derived Attributes: Charisma (which acts as a bonus or penalty to social actions), Pace (movement speed), Parry (how difficult it is to hit you in melee), and Toughness (how difficult it is to hurt you in combat).