Nov 09 2012

Personal Deflector Shields in Savage Worlds

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So I’ve been working on an idea for a Borderlands-ish game for Savage Worlds— SF semi-apocalyptic setting, lots of crazy OTT stuff, largely tongue-in-cheek, hordes of badguys that the goodguys take out in a spray of bullets, that sort of thing. And hero durability is an important aspect of this… SW is not a system of attrition, like Pathfinder. It’s a game in which you are often fine, fine, fine, dead. So taking a cue from the game that inspired it, this homebrew of mine is looking to use personal deflector shields.

My first idea was to have a system where shields gave you a certain number of “free soaks,” negating a number of wounds as you took them. A weak shield would give you one, a great shield would give you three or four. The problem is, this felt a little too much like just putting hit points back into the game, which sorta negates the whole point of the “up, down, or off the table” structure of Savage Worlds.

A new idea have had since and like better is giving shields a rating that subtracts from incoming damage, from d4 to d12+x, just like an attribute. An average shield probably has a value of d8 or d10. Every time you take a hit, your shield’s rating goes down by a step, until it’s finally depleted after d4 and needs to recharge.

So imagine for a moment you have a d10 shield and a Toughness of 6. Someone pulls out a submachine gun and shoots you, hitting twice and rolling 2d8 each time to get totals of 9 and 10. The first hit is against your full d10 shield, so you roll and get a 6. The first hit’s damage becomes (9-6=) 3, well under your Toughness of 6, so the bullet bounces off your shield, reducing its rating to d8. The second hit, you roll your shield’s new rating of d8 and get a 3. The second hit’s damage becomes (10-3=) 7, which overcomes your Toughness of 6 and you become shaken, while your shield’s rating drops to d6.

The effect of this: well you can see in the example above that without the shield, you would have been shaken and had two wounds (shaken on the 9, wounded twice on the 10 because it got a raise over your Toughness), while with the shields, you end up just shaken. The nice thing about shields being a die rating is that you don’t really need to “track” it, just have the right size die handy. The reduction in die size with each hit both simulates the way deflector shields traditionally “go down,” as well as adding some tension to the fight. (“My shields are all the way down to d4! Run for cover!”)

The big question is, how do your shields recover? I’m thinking maybe they go up by +1 step at the beginning of your turn (up to their maximum), or fully recharge if you draw a joker for initiative.

The other question is, how do you handle allies, particularly large groups of them? I’m thinking that they probably have a “group shield value” that drops by one the first time that group is hit on a turn but only the first time. The same way allies’ ammunition levels simply drop a step after every fight, all allies in a group have the same effective rating as an aggregate of all the wild shots that have flown around in the combat. (But since large groups of allies are often being shot at by large groups of opponents, having the rating go down with every hit would deplete the shield immediately on the first turn.)

Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions? Keep in mind that the system needs to be “Fast! Furious! and Fun!” and has to scale quickly in large combats. I’d be interested to hear what other savages out there might have to say!

-The Gneech

Oct 26 2012

For #GhostbustersFriday — Custom Ghostbusters Gaming Minis

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The figures are done! After a few sessions of the Savage World of Ghostbusters using the closest minis I had on hand, I decided I had to have proper GB minis. I took a long look at Carmen’s Fun Painty Time set of Ghostbusters minis, and while I don’t have Carmen’s sculpting chops, I am pretty pleased with the final result. For those interested in the process, I figured I’d write up some details here. You can click through any of the pics to see larger versions.

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Oct 12 2012

Reload Mechanics

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So I’m working on a Borderlands-esque game for Savage Worlds, and one of the things I’m poking around with is the gunnerriffic nature of it all. SW definitely loves its hardware and the intricacies of counting ammo, keeping track of how much 9mm you have versus how much .45, and so on.

I, on the other hand, am a bit less enamored of gun porn. Most of the time I handwave things like reloading or weapon cooldowns if they’re a factor at all– in my old Star Hero campaign I simply gave energy weapons batteries that could hold 50 shots at a time so that running out of ammo was never really an issue. The most “reloading” we’ve done in the group yet is the Ghostbusters having to spend a turn to “vent the pack” as one of the possible negative effects of Rolling a Ghost.

Now in the Borderlands computer games, reloading and running out of ammo is very important, and “magazine size” is one of the most important stats any given weapon can have. And certainly in a realistic military setting, it’s absolutely vital– after all, if running out of ammo wasn’t an issue, why wouldn’t everyone just pick up a machine gun and “spray’n’pray” all the time?

In the case of the setting I’m working on, I’m also looking at different types of ammo adding elemental or other effects– corrosive ammo to wear down the target’s armor, for instance, or bursting ammo that does an extra wound but only if it penetrates, things like that. In a case like that, tracking the ammo is pretty much required, at least for PCs. And it’s not really fair to give everyone the same “out of ammo if you roll a 1 on your attack” mechanic, because by doing so you effectively give somebody with a six-shooter the same amount of ammo as somebody going full autofire three times per turn. (And for that matter, you give somebody with Shooting d4 a 25% chance of running out of ammo every turn while someone with Shooting d8 only has a 13% chance.)

So, I think I’m going to have to just suck it up and go with counting ammo in this setting. It’s not that big a deal, I guess: 1 ammo per shot, 2 for doubletap, 3 ammo per burst, and (ROF^2) for full auto isn’t so hard to remember. It just seems weird and clunky, in a game that eschews hit points as being more trouble than they’re worth, to be counting the number of bullets in each gun. On the other hand, I can totally see players high-fiving each other when the boss they’ve been getting pounded by suddenly goes, “Oh crap, out of ammo!”

Next up: Vehicles. Why You Always So Difficult???

-The Gneech

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Sep 28 2012

Gung-Ho Gaming: Why Can’t I Make It Work?

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There is a certain style of RPG that I really enjoy when I can pull it off… but it’s very hard to pull off. For lack of a better term, I call it “Gung Ho.” It’s not a genre in and of itself, but it is a definite style: if you see Abraham Lincoln riding a bear and carrying a machine gun in each hand? That’s Gung Ho gaming.

Gamma World is sorta the archetypal (and one of if not the oldest) Gung Ho RPGs out there, and the recent 4E-ruleset reboot actually worked fairly well as far as it went. Unfortunately, once we finished the initial scenario, I just couldn’t stay interested. I thought for sure that I would, and bought all the expansions… but it didn’t happen.

There have been plenty of other attempts in our group to start and sustain Gung Ho games: Teenagers From Outer Space appears periodically in our repertoire, and my own Furry Battle Academy! was definitely in this vein. But in both cases, while the individual sessions have usually been quite fun, the campaigns have just failed to launch.

Some of it is probably sheer exhaustion. Gung Ho gaming seems to require a massive caffeine/sugar rush to get the ball rolling, and once it’s rolling, you have to keep momentum or you end up needing to start all over again. Some of it is also probably just the mix of players… as weird and creative a bunch as they are, their personalities tend to range from “rather reserved” to “painfully shy,” whereas Gung Ho gaming requires the willingness to be loud and quite often to make an idiot of yourself.

My most successful “Gung Ho” game so far has got to be the Ghostbusters game, but it’s only a bit Gung Ho. In fact, aside from the occasional silly NPC name and the tendency to do a lot of collateral damage with the proton packs, it’s hardly Gung Ho at all. Just… eccentric. Sure, they’ve battled animated modern art, been chased around the streets of D.C. by an enormous ancient Hittite dog-god, and accidentally teleported to Saturn [1] once or twice, but it’s not like they carry around guns that shoot chainsaws or anything.

[1] Actually an alternate dimension. They just call it Saturn, a la Beetlejuice.

The reason this is on my mind is because I was pondering the possibilities of a Borderlands RPG. With its over-the-top badassery and snarky sense of humor, I could easily see Borderlands being a fun beer-and-pretzels setting for a game, and the story arc of Borderlands 2 is for all intents and purposes a “Plot Point Campaign” straight out of Savage Worlds. It’s a natural fit.

And yet… I don’t think I can do it. For some reason, I just don’t seem to be able to come up with enough ideas in the Gung Ho mode. If handed an existing scenario, I can probably take it and make it work (as I did with the Gamma World starter scenario), but coming up with new ones is like voodoo to me. My brain keeps trying to make things make sense. (“Wait… this dude has shotguns grafted onto his forearms instead of hands? How does he reload? For that matter, how does he tie his shoes?”) That kind of thinking is the kiss of death for Gung Ho, but unfortunately it’s often how I come up with my scenario ideas. By thinking about the antagonists and giving them goals that make sense, I can figure out what they will do, how, and why, as well as what they might do when their plans go south (as of course, they will once the players show up).

Of course, it’s not like we need another game anyway. Two Pathfinder games (one of which has only had one session) and Ghostbusters keep our plate pretty full as it is. But whenever I find a new setting or genre that I like, my thoughts on it must eventually turn to gaming. It’s just in my blood, I guess!

-The Gneech

Sep 12 2012

Everybody Can Relax, I Got the Car

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One wrinkle about switching to Savage Worlds for my Ghostbusters campaign is that SW assumes the presence of miniatures, whereas the old UHM system wouldn’t know what to do with ’em if you had ’em.

Of course, there aren’t any readily-available Ghostbusters miniatures; the closest thing would be print-your-own “cardboard heroes” types found on the web. But not about let something like that stop me, I pulled out some of my various oddball moderns from the “Wall o’ Minis” that approximated the group “in their civvies,” as it were. On top of that, I went online and found a 2010 Hot Wheels “ECTO-1,” so here’s the team as it stands (click-through for larger photo):


Thing is, Obsessive Gamer that I am, I know I can do better than this. To that end, I’ve taken a leaf from Carmen’s Fun Painty Time and am hacking together my own proper GB figs. (If you’re interested in GB or minis, I highly recommend you follow the link and check out the related posts– the author goes into a pretty detailed step-by-step on the process they followed.)

So today I ordered the Heresy “Inspectors” as well as some gun bits and “Communication Packs” from Secret Weapon; these will eventually become proper “in uniform” Ghostbuster miniatures for the game.

In order to make the figs a little more readily identifiable at the table, I’ll probably take a cue from The Real Ghostbusters and put the different characters into different uniforms. Goth boss Lola has already been established in the game to be wearing a black jumpsuit (“only until I can find something darker”), with ironic bright pink trim and Hello Kitty motifs. I was figuring that Bruno could have an aggressive (or possibly inmate-ish) orange, Charley could have a classic Ghostbuster gray, and Ivan might go for scientific white, hazmat yellow, or possibly “Dr. Clayton Forrester” green.

Unfortunately, the Heresy stuff is coming from the UK and may take some time to get here! On the other hand, the way life seems to conspire to keep us from playing, we might still only have a session or two before the figs are ready. XD

Expect progress pics as progress is made!

-The Gneech

PS: Yes, that is a miniature of Velma. And yes, I do have the rest of the Scooby Gang. And the van.

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Sep 06 2012

Who Ya Gonna Call?

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So I’ve been putting a great deal of thought and work into my Ghostbusters campaign, which may or may not have a new player in the form of QuillyPen (who is tentatively interested but suffers from Schedule Conflict Syndrome at the moment). I was pondering what sort of character he might bring; not knowing his playstyle, it’s anybody’s guess really. But I also noticed that our current group has a pretty close type-to-type mapping of the Boys In Gray from the movies:

  • Lola, Laurie’s Creepy Goth Chick and the boss of the franchise, has Charisma and talky skills and is the one the rest turn to for direction– i.e., she’s the Venkman.
  • Ivan, Josh’s twitchy Russian mad scientist is easy: he’s the Egon.
  • Charley, Jamie’s parapsychology-oriented grad student, mixes supernatural and occult knowledge with youthful enthusiasm and a distinct lack of self-preservation skills. In other words, he’s Ray.
  • Bruno, Lee’s brawny goon, is just there to blast ghosts and collect a check, making him obviously Winston.

Their personalities aren’t the same as the movie characters (well, except Charley), but storywise they fill the same roles. I could take an episode of The Real Ghostbusters or an issue from the (excellent) IDW comic, and plug in our team with a minimum of fuss. (Actually, I already have stolen bits from Ghostbusters: The Video Game thanks to this ease-of-mapping.) The neatest thing is that this wasn’t planned at all (and in fact, Laurie said, “Really? I’m Venkman?”), it just grew organically out of the game.

On the other hand, this leads to the question of “Well, what’s missing?” I rather doubt anyone wants to play Slimer. ;) Janine does occasionally strap on a proton pack and bust spooks (at least in the spinoff media), and this campaign does have a framework in place for the receptionist (who is the “temp of the week” in the game) to make an interesting guest star. But is there some compelling long-term role that could be played on this team that we just don’t have yet?

There’s a weird thing I’ve noticed about running Ghostbusters: usually when I create a campaign, I immediately have an idea for a character I’d really like to play in such a game. “Star Wars? Neat, I’ve always wanted to play X!” “Tolkienesque High Fantasy? Oh awesome, I’d love to play Y!” “Call of Cthulhu? Awww, yeah, I can bring out character Z!” Ghostbusters is just about the only game I can think of where this isn’t true. What character would I play in a Ghostbusters game? Uh… me, I guess. With a proton pack.

(Of course, this isn’t without some precedent: I took Parapsychology in college. Got an A as I recall.)

Ghostbusters is a uniquely contemporary, down-to-earth, everyman sort of a framework. Look at Winston: “He’s here about the job…” “Beautiful, you’re hired.” Anybody can be a Ghostbuster, in a way that’s not really true of most “hero” roles, assuming you can get into the jumpsuit. That’s a very cool thing!

Speaking of very cool things involving me and Ghostbusters, @SeiferA on Twitter did this for me! :D

Gneech and SeiferA by ~SeiferA on deviantART

Dude. ^.^

-The Gneech

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