Saturday, January 25, 2014

[Savage Worlds] Alternate Hindrances


I'm a big fan of Savage Worlds and am more than willing to mix it up with the rules a bit.

I picked up a little indie game called The Shadow of Yesterday by Clinton R. Nixon a long time ago and, while I've never played it, I've looked it over.

The Shadow of Yesterday uses a technique called Keys that allow players to reward themselves for doing things they want to do during play.


Clinton also used Keys in another game called Sweet 20 and published it under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, allowing anyone who follows the same license to use and modify the rules.

So that's what I'm going to do, modify it for Savage Worlds.

A common refrain I've heard is that Savage Worlds Hindrances have the same problem as other point-based systems (like GURPS Disadvantages)–what is to make the player play the Hindrances during the game that they've chosen at character generation? 

What if, instead of these standard but bland Hindrances, the player instead choses something that rewards him with immediate in-game rewards for behaving a certain way?

Exit Hindrances. Enter Keys. 

Keys are the motivations, problems, connections, duties, and loyalties that pull on your character. To the player, they're highly important because they generate Bennies. Creating new Keys may be easier than new Abilities or Secrets–they follow very simple rules.


A Key must involve a motivation, problem, connection, duty, or loyalty.


Keys come in two types:


A. Motivations. When the motivation is fulfilled in play, gain a Bennie. When the motivation is fulfilled against good odds, gain three Bennies.


B. Everything else. When the Key comes up in play, gain a Bennie. When the Key presents a minor problem, gain two Bennies. When it presents a major problem, gain five Bennies.


C. All Keys have a Buyoff, which is a reversal from the Key by the character. All Buyoffs give the character 10 Bennies. This Buyoff occurs only when you, the player, wants it to happen: you can lose a battle with the Key of Bloodlust and still keep the Key. If you want your character to undergo a change in her personality, though, adding to the story, you can take this Buyoff by fulfilling it. If you do take the Buyoff, you can never take this Key again. When a Buyoff is taken, the player has to choose another Key to replace it.


It is up to the GM to determine whether one Key is equivalent to one Major and two Minor Hindrances, limiting each PC to one Key. Or one Key is equivalent to one Major or two Minor Hindrances, thereby allowing each PC to choose two Keys.

As always, see the pre-made Keys to get a feel for creating your own.


1. Key of Bloodlust: Your character enjoys overpowering others in combat. Gain 1 Bennie every time your character defeats someone in battle. Gain 3 Bennies for defeating someone equal to or more powerful than your character (equal or higher combat skill.) Buyoff: Be defeated in battle.


2. Key of ConscienceYour character has a soft spot for those weaker than their opponents. Gain 1 Bennie every time your character helps someone who cannot help themselves. Gain 2 Bennies every time your character defends someone with might who is in danger and cannot save themselves. Gain 5 Bennies every time your character takes someone in an unfortunate situation and changes their life to where they can help themselves. Buyoff: Ignore a request for help.

3. Key of the CowardYour character avoids combat like the plague. Gain 1 Bennie every time your character avoids a potentially dangerous situation. Gain 3 Bennies every time your character stops a combat using other means besides violence. Buyoff: Leap into combat with no hesitation.

4. Key of FaithYour character has a strong religious belief that guides her. Gain 1 Bennie every time she defends her faith to others. Gain 2 Bennies whenever this character converts someone to her faith. Gain 5 Bennies whenever this character defends her faith even though it brings her great harm. Buyoff: Your character renounces her beliefs.

5. Key of FraternityYour character has someone she is sworn to, a friend who is more important than anyone else. Gain 1 Bennie every time this character is present in a scene with your character (maximum 3 per adventure). Gain 2 Bennies whenever your character has to make a decision that is influenced by them. Gain 5 Bennies every time your character defends them by putting herself at risk. Buyoff: Sever the relationship with this person.

6. Key of Glittering GoldYour character loves wealth. Gain 1 Bennie every time you make a deal that favors you in wealth. Gain 3 Bennies every time you double your wealth. Buyoff: Give away everything you own except what you can carry lightly.

7. Key of the GuardianYour character has a ward, someone who depends on her for security and protection. Gain 1 Bennie every time this character is present in a scene with your character. Gain 2 Bennies whenever your character has to make a decision that is influenced by them. Gain 5 Bennies every time your character rescues them from harm. Buyoff: Sever the relationship with this person.

8. Key of the ImpostorSometimes your entire life is a lie. You gain 1 Bennie whenever you pass yourself off as someone/something you're not. You gain 2 Bennies whenever you convince others in spite of serious skepticism. You gain 5 Bennies whenever your story survives a deliberate, focused, "Hey everybody, look!" attempt to reveal your identity. Buyoff: Confess your imposture to those duped.

9. Key of the MasochistYour character thrives on personal pain and suffering. Gain 1 Bennie every time she is bloodied (at half HPs) and 3 Bennies every time she is broken (at 1 HP). Buyoff: Flee a source of physical or psychic damage.

10. Key of the MissionYour character has a personal mission that she must complete. Gain 1 Bennie every time she takes action to complete this mission (2 Bennies if this action is successful.) Gain 5 Bennies every time she takes action that completes a major part of this mission. Buyoff: Abandon this mission.

11. Key of the OutcastYour character has lost fellowship or membership in an organization - which could just be a culture, or a specific cross-cultural group. This separation defines your character as much as membership in the organization defines its members. Gain 1 Bennie every time her status with this organization comes up. Gain 2 Bennies every time her disassociation brings her harm. Gain 5 Bennies every time the separation brings your character great pain and suffering. Buyoff: Regain membership in the organization.

12. Key of Renown"You must be the worst assassin I've ever heard of." "But you have heard of me." You gain 1 Bennie whenever you see to it that your name and deeds are known, by bragging about them or making sure there are witnesses. You gain 2 Bennies whenever you put yourself at risk to do something unnecessary or foolish that will add to your reputation. You gain 5 Bennies whenever you risk your life to take credit for your actions (bragging that you were the one who killed the Duke's son, for example.). Buyoff: Give someone else credit for an action that would increase your renown.

13. Key of PowerYou don't even care what you do with it, you just want it. You gain 1 Bennie whenever you earn a boon from someone important, earn a slight gain in prestige, or make a rival look bad. You gain 3 Bennies whenever you ruin, kill, or otherwise eliminate a rival, and improve your own position because of it. Buyoff: Relinquish your power and position.


14. Key of VengeanceYour character has a hatred for a particular organization, person, or even species or culture. Gain 1 Bennie every time your character hurts a member of that group or a lackey of that person. Gain 2 Bennies every time your character strikes a minor blow at that group or person (killing a member of the organization or one of the person's lackeys, disrupting their life, destroying their property). Gain 5 Bennies every time your character strikes a major blow at that group or person. Buyoff: Let your enemy go.

15. Key of the VowYour character has a vow of personal behavior that she has sworn not to break. This could be a dietary restriction, a requirement to pray at sunbreak every morning, or something else like that. Gain 1 Bennie for every adventure in which your character does not break this vow. Gain 2 Bennies every time your character does not break this vow even though it causes her minor harm or inconvenience. Gain 5 Bennies every time your character does not break this vow even though it causes her great harm. Buyoff: Break this vow.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Enjoy Your Turkey Day!

I'm spending the day with family (or in Ankara, whichever is more likely).

Have a happy Turkey day! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

[Resources] The Tyranny of Distance


The Tyranny of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australian History (1966) by Geoffry Blainey, explored how the vast distance between Great Britain and Australia shaped Australia's past, present and future, and cultural identity and attitudes.

When I first heard of this book a few years ago, I immediately became interested. However, my local library does not have this book available so I'll have see if I can get it from inter-library loan.

The book has piqued my interested because many science fiction stories posit a vast, star-spanning empire that has FTL ships and huge navies to protect it's colonies, very similar to the wooden ships of England's Royal Navy. Yet many of these stories also posit an ever-present enforcement when the sheer vastness of space requires the empire's ships to traverse these great distances to these far-flung colonies. It's no surprise that many stories explore issues related to rebellion and unrest.

A favorite set of novels of mine is the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons. I think that these books do a good job of dealing with the distances by expressing them in "time-debt." Sure, the books have jump gates (or the equivalent) but even with them, distances take months and even years to travel, creating a relativistic time-debt.

I used to think that Traveller's Jump 1 spaceships were annoying, jumping one hex at a time, travelling for a week to get to each location, refuel there then do it again, from system to system. But it should have been a bit more than that, more far flung.

It's something to think about when, instead of getting there days later, you get there years and decades later. What changes will occur while your gone, in both your origin and in your destination?

After all, space travel is not simply driving down the street to the store a half-mile away to get milk........

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

[Resources] Copyright


I'm not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV. But I write stuff. 

And sometimes that stuff is really good, so I have found it necessary to protect my work. If you feel the same, so should you.

A few years ago I found this very simple website called The Copyright Authority

It's got a brief flowchart on copyright and some links to music copyright and choosing a lawyer.

Another resource is the Creative Commons website. It allows you to choose what you want to do with your art, whether to share it freely or to clamp down on what others can use it for.

For Asshat Paladins, I've chosen the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, which requires anyone who uses my content to attribute me as the original author (Attribution), disallows using my content for financial gain (Non Commercial) and requires they use the same license (Share Alike).

While it may only be as good as I can afford to defend it, it's at least a start. At least until the copyright zombie apocalypse!

Monday, November 25, 2013

[Resources] Fourth Street Live!


Fourth Street Live! is a "350,000-square-foot entertainment and retail complex" located in Louisville, Kentucky. I've never been there but I listened to the old Rolemonkey's podcast and they mentioned it quite a bit in several games (one a supers game and another in passing for a Changeling: The Dreaming game).

It opened in 2004 in an effort to revitalize a previous mall (which opened in the 80s as a revitalization of an older mall). Quite frankly, you can learn more about it from other websites, including wikipedia.

So it doesn't matter that it's in Kentucky and that I've never been there. What matters is that malls are great places for adventure, even malls you've never visited. Malls are all over the United States and some are really neat looking while many are not very cool, holdouts from earlier architectural eras.

But the possibilities of malls are great: from a place to loot during a zombie game to a place to fight in a supers game to places to hang out in a high school teen comedy game, the mall has it all (and a food court for eating that Shawarma after the fight.

While fully operational malls are great for games, let's not forget that some malls are not very successful and spend years languishing in obscurity. A website called DeadMalls.com has many of these malls listed by state with some historical information that may be helpful to your games.

Whether alive or dead, malls are excellent places to explore.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

[Resources] Glossary of Fun


Words are great. I love learning new words and learning what they mean.

I found A Glossary of Fun online a few years ago on the old Amagi Games site (here's the new one, where it's called The Manyfold Glossary).

Two of my favorite are:

"FIERO is the feeling of TRIUMPH, of winning, of defeating a challenge, or overcoming adversity. People looking for that feeling are on the lookout for adversity – and they tend to want adversity where they can be partisan for their characters and the GM is actually playing against them a bit. If it's not a real challenge, with real dangers, then there's no payoff for a fiero-chaser. If you've ever died again, and again, in a computer game, and then finally manage to succeed, and felt a rush where you could stand on your chair and scream? That's fiero."

and

"NACHES is the enjoyment of seeing someone that you have taught, or are responsible for, go on to do well with that knowledge. If there's a player at your table who is always happy to teach the others about how things work, chances are they like their naches. Many GMs, unsurprisingly, get a lot of good naches and enjoy it. Some players can get this same kind of enjoyment from seeing a student or smaller ally of their character do well."

Read through them and see which are your favorite.

Perhaps you'll learn something about your gaming style, too.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

[Resources] Magic Words


Everyone knows a few magic words, the most common of which is probably Abracadabra. Wikipedia has a list of some of the greatest and worst.

They range from Persian words like Ajji Majji la Tarajji and staples of stage magicians like Hocus Pocus and Jantar Mantar Jadu Mantar. Don't recognize that last one? That's popular in India.

There are also a bunch of silly ones like Bippity, Boppity, Boo (from Disney's Cinderella's Fairy Godmother) to the Amazing Mumford's Alla Peanut Butter Sandwiches.

Whatever the magic words used, whether it was Walla Walla Washington or Sim Sim Sala Bim, all the nonsense phrases had some sort of effect, if only to make us laugh.

I'm sure you can find more magic words than those listed on Wikipedia. Perhaps you'll find some that would work great in your game.



Friday, November 22, 2013

[Resources] Twilight 2000 Wiki NPCs


As a fan of post-apocalyptic gaming, Twilight 2000 was one of my defining RPGs in the early 1980s. I played 1st edition for years and used the system for other post-apoxy games, like The Morrow Project. I avoided 2nd edition, mainly because I didn't like the system.

One of my favorite parts of running T2K was the NPC motivation system, a simple way to develop NPCs using a deck of cards. This was a very cool feature, one that I've mentioned before on this blog. Each suit focuses on a different core issue: violence (Clubs), Wealth (Diamonds), Fellowship (Hearts) and Power (Spades). The value of the card determines the strength of the motivation: 2-4 (low), 5-7 (medium) and 8-10 (high), with the face cards and Aces as special cards. For example, Clubs range from Murderer (Jack) to Stubborn to Brute to War Leader (Ace).

I recently found a Twilight 2000 Wiki with a list of 35 NPCs. Many of the NPCs include these simple card motivations and that makes them useful for any modern game.

Check out the wiki and the NPCs. They might prove useful for your game.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

[Resources} Baiji


The Baiji, nicknamed the Goddess of the Yangtze, is a critically endangered freshwater dolphin native to the Yangtze River in China. Considered by some biologists as functionally extinct, the last captive Baiji died in 2002 and the last reported sighting was 2007.

The Baiji declined due to pollution, over-hunting and collisions with ships, among other factors. Baiji fossils that have been found have been dated to 25 million years ago and have been traced to the Yangtze 20 million years ago.

The Baiji is linked to an ancient Chinese story about a princess who was drowned for refusing to go through with a loveless marriage. She was reborn as a Baiji and is a symbol of prosperity and peace.

The Baiji would be an excellent addition to an Imperial Chinese game, either as a source of a quest or a transformed court poet in need of rescue.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

[Resources] Pedro Cabral

File:Pedro alvares cabral 01.png
Pedro Cabral (c. 1467 - c. 1520) was the Portuguese explorer who discovered Brazil on April 22, 1500. He was born into a noble family (with a family coat of arms of two purple goats on a field of silver) and a family story that their ancestor was Caranus, the first king of Macedonia, who was himself a descendant of Hercules.

As a young nobleman, he learned to fight and campaigned in North Africa for his king and country. Reputed to have been vain and overly concerned with his position and honor, he was also known for courtesy, a generous and prudent nature, was well-educated and tolerant to his enemies.

Appointed commander-in-chief of a fleet of 13 ships by the King of Portugal in 1500, he landed on the coast of Brazil in April with only the loss of one ship on the voyage to the New World. Cabral's men erected a large wooden cross to celebrate Portugal's claim to the land and one of his ships was sent back to inform the King of the discovery.

The fleet continued sailing along the coast of Brazil then crossed the Atlantic to Africa in May but a storm sank four ships, with a loss of nearly 400 men, one ship became lost and the remaining six regrouped. Although damaged, the fleet made repairs along the east coast of Africa before reaching Calcutta in September.

Cabral's stay in Calcutta was less than ideal. Fifty of his men were killed in a confrontation in the streets and Cabral seized 10 Arab merchant ships, killing 600 crewmen, looting the ships and then burning them as a reprisal.

The Portuguese fleet sailed to Kochi, a city beholden to Calcutta and forged an alliance with it's king, exploiting the king's desire for independence from Calcutta. Cabral filled his ships' holds with spices and sailed for Africa.

Along the way, they lost another ship, burning it where it ran aground with the loss of the cargo. At Mozambique, the fastest ship was sent ahead to the King, one was sent on another errand, while a third became lost.

Cabral's remaining two ships met up with another Portuguese fleet (and found the lost ship from the Atlantic crossing with only seven men left alive). Part of that fleet sailed to Brazil with Amerigo Vespucci (the navigator credited with naming the Americas) while Cabral sailed for home.

Five of the original 13 came home with full holds, two returned empty and six were lost. All told, the profit from the voyage more than made up for the cost, making Cabral (and the Crown) wealthy.

Cabral was chosen for a new voyage but was replaced with a rival nobleman and he lost favor with the King. He married a rich woman in 1503, had four children and remained estranged from the royal court. He was knighted in 1518 and he died two years later.

Pedro Cabral would be an excellent NPC in any exploration game set around 1500, either as a patron or an enemy (especially in India).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

[Resources] The Gill

The Gill is a unit of measure equivalent to one-quarter of a pint–5 imperial fluid ounces for an imperial gill or 4 U.S. fluid ounces for a U.S. gill.

I remember seeing this unit for a variety of brandies and liqueurs on the menu of The Inn of the Welcome Wench when I played AD&D module T1: The Village of Hommlet.  

I don't think I ever had a character order a gill of anything in Hommlet but I learned plenty of new words when I was a kid just starting out playing D&D. It was one of the leading factors in improving my vocabulary and prompted me to read more and more fantasy and science fiction. 

The gill is probably appropriate in a fantasy game due to D&D tradition but feel free to shake it up.


Monday, November 18, 2013

[Resources] Apollonius of Tyana

Apollonius of Tyana was a philosopher and miracle-worker from the 1st Century, often considered a contemporary of Jesus.

He was born into wealth and traveled throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East, from Spain to Rome and Greece through to modern-day Iran and India.

One of his philosophical writings that has survived is called On Sacrifices, which posits that god eschews prayers and worship, and is only interested in interacting with humans by intellect, known as nous.

Historical facts about Apollonius, much like Jesus, are severely lacking, leading one historian to state "the most that can be said ... is that Apollonius appears to have been a wandering ascetic/philosopher/wonderworker of a type common to the eastern part of the early empire."

His miraculous powers included ESP and prophesy. In fact, on September 18, 96 CE, he foretold the death of Roman Emperor Domitian that very day and it came to pass. Apollonius was more than 800 miles away at the time. After his death, Apollonius appeared to Palmyrene Emperor Aurelian in 272 CE in a vision following the emperor's capture of Tyana. Aurelian spared the city destruction.

A biography titled The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, comprising eight books, was written by Philostratus and completed around 220 CE. It included a lot of information on his travels, teachings and powers but many scholars consider it pure fiction of the time.

The medieval church cast Apollonius as an enemy of the Church and a magician who consorted with demons and Satan to overthrow Christianity. From the 17th century, anti-Church writers, promoting a Reason-based non-denominational religion, would often compare Apollonius to Jesus in order to attack Christianity.

Since many of Apollonius' writings are lost to antiquity, finding one of his mystical tomes (or racing to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands) would be an excellent adventure.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

[Resources] House of Cards


One of the standards of American Television is it's tendency to poach T.V. shows from other countries, often the United Kingdom.

Before the House of Cards (U.S. series, 2013), there was the U.K. version (1990). While I haven't seen the U.S. show (I have it added to my Netflix queue), the British show is going to be very hard to beat.

Francis Urquhart (played with distinction and style by the late Ian Richardson) is the Conservative Party's Chief Whip, a thoroughly amoral character that is an excellent template for villainy. Urquhart spends the miniseries wheeling and dealing all the way into 10 Downing Street to become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

No deal is too low for Francis–he gleefully blackmails other politicians, leaks sensitive information to the press, manipulates a young journalist into an illicit affair, murders one of his drug-addicted underlings with delight, remove rivals to the PM's office and ..., well, I don't want to give all of his crimes away.

But he's so likeable! He frequently breaks the fourth wall by talking directly to the audience in a tongue-in-cheek manner and has his own, unique catch-phrase "You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment" that he uses with aplomb.

Much like the character of Harry Lime that I wrote about in 2011, Francis Urquhart is another amoral archetype that a GM would be crazy to omit from their NPC toolbox.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

[Resources] Japanese Castles


At one time, Japan had nearly 5,000 castles but now there are only around 100 left in the country.

Made with stone and more wood than European castles, many were destroyed during the Warring States period, known as the Sengoku period, between 1467 and 1603. Some, due to their important strategic locations, were rebuilt.

Japanese castles went through innovations over the centuries, with many made when firearms were introduced to Japan. While large cannon were expensive and rare, matchlock arquebuses were more common. Castles developed more man-made, rather than natural, fortifications by building upon large stone foundations with wooden fortifications above.

These castles were focused on ranged attacks with matchlock guns. Additionally, the layout of the castle became more complex, creating a series of baileys and courtyards that allowed defenders to attack and defeat those who breached the walls.

One of my favorite websites on Japanese castles is the Go Japan Go Japanese Castles page. It has a lot of history, maps and details.