Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Strolling Through Savage Worlds (Part 3): Archetypes and Races


Last time we took a look at the basic building blocks of characters in Savage Worlds. But what do you do when you just don't have time to make a new character before play starts? Say you've got a friend in town who is joining your weekly game for a single session--do you leave the rest of the group twiddling their thumbs while you walk the new guy through character creation? The Savage Worlds Deluxe book gives you the option of having the new player simply pick out an Archetype--a (mostly) pre-built character designed around a solid, recognizable trope such as "Martial Artist," "Face," or "Rogue." I think this is a great inclusion that splits the difference between the customization of a "build" system and the ease-of-play of a "class-based" system. However, I do have a minor qualm here. The Archetypes that are presented here are only mostly built; Hindrances and Gear still need to be picked, and in many cases some Skill points are left unassigned. I think fully building these Archetypes would have added even more to their utility for people who just want to jump right in and play.

Savage Worlds also has options for non-human characters. The usual suspects (Dwarves, Elves, Halflings--err, "Half-Folk") are all presented with their mechanical benefits and drawbacks. Disappointingly, Half-Orcs are presented here are the product of rape: "Rarely is such a mating willingly accepted, so the character's "family tree" is likely more than a little troublesome to him or her" (21). Some tired ideas never die, I guess. There are also some more exotic choices as well; Atlanteans, Avions (bird-people), Raskashans (cat-people), etc. are also presented.

Best of all: if you've got a race in mind for your setting that isn't covered, the Deluxe book also includes a system for making a new race. 

Let's take a look at how this works in practice. Say we're going to be playing in Solomon Kane game, which is normally an all-human setting, but one of my players wants to create a girl assassin with a clockwork heart. Being the permissive sort that I am, I'm down because it sounds like a cool concept. Now, we could just hand-wave the "clockwork heart" as a bit of background fluff, but instead we're going to make it have some heft. All races get a free "+2 Ability" to start with. Since our clockwork girl is part mechanical, the Construct ability seems like the obvious choice. We'd also like her to have a bit of added durability and stamina due to her clockwork nature, so we're also going to choose that she starts with a d6 Vigor. Since that d6 Vigor is another "+2 Ability" we need to balance it out with a "-2 Ability." Perhaps the clockwork experimentation that has made her has robbed her of a bit of her humanity; having Spirit require two points per step to raise during character creation fits the bill nicely. And there we have it, a new "race" made on the fly with a minimum of fuss.

8 comments:

  1. There ought to be plus-and-minus packages premade like your clockwork idea. The referee could make a handful and populate the common places with creatures that use these premade packages. It would be like a race-as-class deal and enforce tone and flavor.

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    1. There are. The game includes 10 of them: Android, Atlantean, Avian, Dwarf, Elf, Half-Elf, Half-Folk, Half-Orcs, Rakashans and Saurians (and Humans, of course, for 11).

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    2. I'm not sure what you're saying here. There are premade races available in the book, as Tommy mentioned (and I detailed in the post). They aren't really race-as-class analogs though since you'd still need to go through the character generation process of determining Attributes and Skills. SW isn't D&D, you know?

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  2. One of the endearing things with me and Savage Worlds is the race creation. I've converted Star Wars aliens, fantasy creatures, and lobster supers all without really breaking a sweat. A sweet spot between mechanical crunch and fluff.

    I fixed the Half-Orc issue by instead changing the nature of half-orcs. They are no longer the half-breeds and thus subject to controversy. Instead I renamed half-orcs to "vale" or "valley orcs". This sub-species of orc is, as the name suggests, an orc that has its roots in the valleys rather than the badlands or mountainous region. Access to crops has allowed the vale orcs to settle down, engage in trade, and generally live in peace. On one hand this is good for stability, on the other this civilizing influence has bred out the more barbaric traits. They don't quite have the size or strength as their cousins on the mountains because of the effects of civilization.

    Is it necessarily realistic? Probably not, but by making them a group of orcs rather than some product of orc-on-human sexual congress it also removes a quality unnecessary for a game.

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    1. Right, the half-orc thing is an easy fix I just scratch my head as to why the default fluff is the way it is.

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    2. Like you said, old ways. And I suspect the old ways were like that because a certain writer of D&D wanted humanocentric flavor both mechanically and via flavor text. You wanna play a half-orc? Fine, but your restricted in classes and your also the product of rape! Now hold your head and shame and let stand back while the human gets the glory.

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  3. I like your example as it is close to something we'd do in a game. So it pretty-much behooves a GM to build a few of thee Archetypes ahead of time, that seems fair enough. I might have to try this out later, maybe over the weekend. You make it look a lot easier than I thought it was back when I first looked into this system, so thanks!

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    1. I don't even think you have to do it ahead of time, necessarily. It's a pretty quick process...if someone has an idea they want to pursue that's cool, we can probably get it done in five minutes, easily.

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