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Savage Moons - Backgrounds of the Vara

 
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Utgardloki
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 11:15 pm    Post subject: Savage Moons - Backgrounds of the Vara Reply with quote

I'm working on seven backgrounds for a fantasy setting, and going further in the concept of background than is justified by the Delux rulebook. I would appreciate feedback on whether I'm making any big mistakes, forgetting something important, or setting up something that could be a problem later on.

I am sticking to the concept that your background is your starting point, not your path. For example, a player could create a character like Rincewind if she'd like.

For two reasons, I have gone to Google Translate to come up with names for the backgrounds using scandinavian languages, although with a little bit of mutation in some cases (for example, Kijeltring instead of Kjeltring for rogues. The second reason is to add a bit of quasi-scandinavian-style flavor to the setting. The first reason is because in some cases (specifically the Krigar and the Vaidmen) using English names brought in some unwanted baggage.

The seven backgrounds in the setting (and their English translations) are Hantverkar (craftsman), Kaupmadur (trader), Kijeltring (scoundrel), Krigar (warrior), Skald (bard), Tofralaeknir (shaman), and Vaidmen (hunter).

The PC's background determines her starting skills, and the PC gets one or two edges from her background, in addition to the other edges she has. The background skills and edges are as follows:

Handverkar (craftsman)
Healing 1D4, Notice 1D6, Fighting 1D4, Survival 1D4, Craft (<choose one>) 1D4, fourteen additional skill points. The Mr. Fix It edge.

Kaupmadur (trader)
Healing 1D4, Knowledge (Regional) 1D6, Notice 1D6, Persuasion 1D6, Fighting 1D6, Stealth 1D4, Gossip 1D6, Survival 1D8, Handle Animal 1D6, three additional skill points. The Brawny edge.

Kijeltring (scoundrel)
Gambling 1D4, Notice 1D4, Persuasion 1D4, Fighting 1D4, Stealth 1D8, Gossip 1D6, Survival 1D6, Taunt 1D4, Throw 1D4, Bluff 1D4, six additional skill points. The Assassin edge.

Krigar (warrior)
Boating 1D4, Intimidation 1D6, Fighting 1D8, Survival 1D6, Swimming 1D4, Taunt 1D6, Archery 1D4, Eight additional skill points. The Trademark Weapon edge.

Skald (bard)
Healing 1D4, Notice 1D4, Persuasion 1D4, Knowledge (general) 1D6, Fighting 1D5, Gossip 1D4, Survival 1D4, Taunt 1D8, Singing 1D8, six additional skill points. The Command edge.

Tofralaeknir (shaman)
Healing 1D6, Survival 1D6, Spirit Rune 1D4, (<pick a>) Rune 1D4, Knowledge (Spirit Realm) 1D4, ten additional skill points. Two spells.

Vaidmen (hunter)
Climbing 1D4, Healing 1D6, Notice 1D8, Archery 1D6, Fighting 1D6, Stealth 1D6, Survival 1D8, Swimming 1D4, Tracking 1D6, three additional skill points. The Woodsman edge.

(Okay, I guess you can't be Rincewind, since Rincewind only knows one spell.)

A couple notes:

1) I am intending to bring in a magic system similar to Runequest, thus the use of Rune skills. There is no Arcane Background edge, but each spell counts as an edge, and anybody can take spells and the Rune skills needed to cast them.

2) There are no bars preventing PCs from taking any skill or edge, providing that they meet the prerequisites.
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steelbrok
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 2:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

High space does something similar for character backgrounds
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ValhallaGH
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 7:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why do you have so many useless skills? Craft <choose one>, Gossip, Bluff, Singing, Archery? When will anyone roll these? What are they good for?
For some reason all Krigar are fully qualified for the Strong-Willed edge. There are zero fat Kaupmadur in the setting (can't have Brawny and Obese, and they already have Brawny); I guess all that walking turns them into Mr. Olympia.

I'm curious why you chose Arcane Background (Superpowers) as the only AB in the setting. Not a criticism, just curious.


Overall, this is an incredible (and sometimes illogical) increase in PC power. My favorite fantasy PC in years would take the Krigar background, get 17 skill points and Trademark Weapon for free, spend 8 more skill points to get Fighting d12, Persuasion d6, and Notice d4, all on top of her Brawny edge (human) and her d12 Strength + d10 Vigor (5 attribute points + 4 hindrance points).
Now she's on d12+1 to hit, qualified for Strong Willed, and does d12+d8 (battle axe), with Parry 9 (medium shield), and Toughness 10 (1) (leather armor).
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Utgardloki
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ValhallaGH wrote:
Why do you have so many useless skills? Craft <choose one>, Gossip, Bluff, Singing, Archery? When will anyone roll these? What are they good for?
For some reason all Krigar are fully qualified for the Strong-Willed edge. There are zero fat Kaupmadur in the setting (can't have Brawny and Obese, and they already have Brawny); I guess all that walking turns them into Mr. Olympia.

I'm curious why you chose Arcane Background (Superpowers) as the only AB in the setting. Not a criticism, just curious.


Overall, this is an incredible (and sometimes illogical) increase in PC power. My favorite fantasy PC in years would take the Krigar background, get 17 skill points and Trademark Weapon for free, spend 8 more skill points to get Fighting d12, Persuasion d6, and Notice d4, all on top of her Brawny edge (human) and her d12 Strength + d10 Vigor (5 attribute points + 4 hindrance points).
Now she's on d12+1 to hit, qualified for Strong Willed, and does d12+d8 (battle axe), with Parry 9 (medium shield), and Toughness 10 (1) (leather armor).


Archery is essentially Shooting with a Bow. Name change to be more fitting with the setting, especially since to me there is a big difference between using a bow and using a gun, which the PCs in this setting don't have access to.

Maybe I'm getting some of the names different from what they are in the book. Craft is useful if you want to make things, which is what a Hantverker does.

Gossip is useful for getting and spreading news and rumors. You can use Gossip to find out things that are going on that are important, or use it to let people know things you want them to know, whether true facts or false.

Bluff is essentially lying. Singing is entertainment, but it can also open doors.

I was not looking at the Strong-Willed edge, so if all the Krigar qualify, well, that's just a coincidence. I made these lists by thinking what these people would be doing and what skills they would need.

I don't think there are going to be very many obese people in this setting, but an obese Kaupmadur wouldn't get very far -- they have to carry their goods across difficult mountain trails, so I guess, yes, all that exercise -- they can be big boned, but they can't be obese.

I'm not sure what you mean by the AB (Superpowers) being the only arcane background. It might be another one of those coincidences since I've decided that a system like they use in Runequest makes the most sense.

Another way to do magic is to use Eldritch Song, which is very difficult to qualify for if you don't have the Skald background, but anybody who qualifies can do that. Since not all Skalds get Eldritch Song, I didn't include it in the post.

A third way to do magic is to use Fey Magic, but I don't know how a PC can get a hold of that power.

I've been contemplating whether to add a fourth form of magic -- Karma. Karma would be something that you earn by role playing an alignment.

I'm not sure how you calculated that Krigar get 17 free points. These skills are instead of getting fifteen points. Fifteen seems like a kind of arbitrary number to me, but I'm thinking instead of getting fifteen points to spend on skills, you _only_ get what is listed. So a Krigar gets the skills listed and eight additional points, but this replaces what it says in the book instead of supplementing it.

So really what it is is that I've spent a number of the points to be sure you have a character that can fit the role, and you can spend what's left. This actually gets you five extra points, because if you add it all up, you'll find that each background has about 20 points worth of skills, except the Tofralaeknir who gets an extra edge and therefore only gets 18 points worth of skills.

So this PC you mention would not get the 17 skill points to spend on improving skills, only the eight. I think you could make a pretty good warrior though, more powerful than a starting character made by the book.
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Utgardloki
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 11:00 pm    Post subject: A note about my approach to skills and edges. Reply with quote

A note about my approach to skills and edges: I'm somewhat of a "name your own" skill or edge. If it makes sense to me (like Archery for a hunter), then I'll go with an Archery skill, even if it is a lot like or overlaps the Shooting skill in the book.

I did go through the skills in the book, but sometimes I thought a different skill name made more sense, such as Craft instead of Repair, Archery instead of Shooting, Gossip instead of Streetwise (not many streets in the mountains).

I hope this doesn't throw too many people. I didn't give any of the backgrounds the Throwing skill.
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ValhallaGH
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So Archery = Shooting, Craft = Repair*, Gossip = Streetwise, Bluff = 50% of Persuasion.

*For some reason you have a dozen types of Repair skill. Not sure what the point of that is.
Utgardloki wrote:
I don't think there are going to be very many obese people in this setting, but an obese Kaupmadur wouldn't get very far -- they have to carry their goods across difficult mountain trails, so I guess, yes, all that exercise -- they can be big boned, but they can't be obese.

It's just another way you're limiting character choices and concepts. There cannot be a fat merchant in this culture, the same way there cannot be a pregnant man. That's ... wildly arbitrary and completely counter to both history and player expectations, so you'll get some reactions for it.

Quote:
I'm not sure what you mean by the AB (Superpowers) being the only arcane background.

Read the mechanics for Arcane Background (Superpowers). Compare them to your proposed system. As described, they are the same.

Quote:
I'm not sure how you calculated that Krigar get 17 free points.

I assumed a d4 in Agility, Smarts, and Spirit, then spent points as if I was doing normal character creation. This gave me an effective total of 25 skill points, since all those d6's and d8's were already assigned.

Quote:
more powerful than a starting character made by the book.

Yes, yes they are. That was my point - they're more powerful, but oddly limited. If someone wants to play something that your limits don't allow them to then they are screwed; not because a fat merchant is inappropriate to a pseudo-scandinavian setting, but because you've arbitrarily decided that they cannot be played.

Quote:
I'm somewhat of a "name your own" skill or edge.

There's nothing wrong with re-naming things. There can be wrong things with changing mechanics.
Players only have a limited supply of resources - if you may them take Archery, Crossbows, Slings, and Blowguns instead of a single Shooting skill then you're imposing very harsh limits on what they can do with any kind of ability; options like the Skill Specialization setting rule are usually a better choice than inventing a raft of skills. There are groups that like that sort of thing (and if your group is one of these then carry on) but those groups are very, very rare.
Most players want characters that can participate in all scenes, something the Savage Worlds rules allow pretty well. Mucking with that can remove the fun for the players and ruin the campaign, no matter how "immersive" it might be.

Good luck.
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Kythkyn
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those all seem essentially like classes to me. That observation aside, most of them really seem superfluous considering the game's mechanics, and I wonder if your players would choose to play a "craftsman" for example.

Minor caveat: What is the point of adding in an <i> between the <k> and <j> in <kjeltring>? The naming conventions seem really... tacked on I suppose is a good way to put it. If you can't pronounce it, you probably shouldn't add it in for the sake of "flavour". But that's just my thought on the matter.
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Utgardloki
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2012 9:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ValhallaGH wrote:
So Archery = Shooting, Craft = Repair*, Gossip = Streetwise, Bluff = 50% of Persuasion.

*For some reason you have a dozen types of Repair skill. Not sure what the point of that is.
Utgardloki wrote:
I don't think there are going to be very many obese people in this setting, but an obese Kaupmadur wouldn't get very far -- they have to carry their goods across difficult mountain trails, so I guess, yes, all that exercise -- they can be big boned, but they can't be obese.

It's just another way you're limiting character choices and concepts. There cannot be a fat merchant in this culture, the same way there cannot be a pregnant man. That's ... wildly arbitrary and completely counter to both history and player expectations, so you'll get some reactions for it.



Okay, I see where you're coming from, and I wasn't in top form when I made my first reply last night.

I'm a bit of a Savage Worlds heretic, but I'm a reasonable guy. If a player has her heart set on playing an obese Kaupmadur, I can either waive the rule that forbids both Obese and Brawny, or else allow the play to trade Brawny for something else. The player should be warned, however, that a Kaupmadur in this setting has to go up and down mountains, lift loads of merchandise, and climb trees when necessary to get away from bears. If your PC can't do this, her credentials may be called into question.

But if that's what the player wants, I'm willing to abide, as long as I determine that it is not going to be disruptive for the campaign. A guy with the Kills Shamans on Sight hindrance isn't going to last very long in a party that has three shamans in it, so I'd disallow that. I also reserve the right to disallow the Major Attitude Problem hindrance,

I do expect to raise some eyebrows from time to time -- keeps people on their toes and communicates that this is not necessarily your great great great great great grandfather's Scandinavia.
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Utgardloki
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2012 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kythkyn wrote:
Those all seem essentially like classes to me. That observation aside, most of them really seem superfluous considering the game's mechanics, and I wonder if your players would choose to play a "craftsman" for example.

Minor caveat: What is the point of adding in an <i> between the <k> and <j> in <kjeltring>? The naming conventions seem really... tacked on I suppose is a good way to put it. If you can't pronounce it, you probably shouldn't add it in for the sake of "flavour". But that's just my thought on the matter.


1. It doesn't matter to me whether or not anybody playes a Hantverkar, although I know some people who would. I thought about what sorts of characters would be needed for the Vara villages, and came up with seven roles. Some of these roles are going to be filled solely with NPCs, and that's fine with me.

This isn't like D&D, where the mythology says you need one member of each of four class groups to succeed. I've run many D&D games with no clerics and no thieves, and they did just fine. So it's up to the players whether or not they have a Hantverkar in the party.

2. I put the 'i' in "kijeltring" just because it looked better to me. I have no problem saying "kjeltring", but I figured the Vara would probably pronounce it "kijeltring".

Chalk it up to a great big coincidence that so many of their terms resemble Scandinavian words.
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Kythkyn
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2012 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are exactly right, this is not D&D. So why are you forcing a class system on the game? Because that is exactly what it seems like. That, and unnecessary work. Do you really need stats for your shop keeper? I should hope not, unless your players routinely attack said NPCs. I am just curious why you don't just allow your players to simply make the characters they want to make, instead of pigeon holing them into class roles in a system that doesn't have classes.

Instead of adding more to the system unnecessarily, you should allow the system to run as it does, with all the fat trimmed. That way you can take the time you woud be spending to make umteen unused "classes" and direct those creative juices toward the story, the adventures and the world itself.

Aside: I still don't get the point in adding the <i>, but it's your game so I'll let it go.
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ValhallaGH
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2012 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Utgardloki wrote:
The player should be warned, however, that a Kaupmadur in this setting has to go up and down mountains, lift loads of merchandise, and climb trees when necessary to get away from bears. If your PC can't do this, her credentials may be called into question.

So, don't take the Anemic hindrance, have a good Strength score, and some ranks in the Climbing and Survival skills*. Nothing about Obese messes with that. Wink
Of course, the Obese-Brawny merchant with d12 Vigor has a naked, Novice toughness of 10. I know from experience that a natural toughness of 10 is very powerful. Mr. Green
*Neither skill comes with the class, but both are apparently mandatory parts of their role - a lot more than the wholly fictional handle animal skill.


I get the sense that you're changing mechanics for the sake of changing mechanics. Generally, that's a frustrating waste of time. Players don't normally read more than 1 page of setting rules (up to 5 pages if they're playing a wizard), not even for official settings, so changes should be kept to a minimum.
Adding "new" skills that are old skills with new names wastes that one page. Adding classes has a similar effect. Keeping changes to a minimum lets you spend that one page of reading on setting flavor - the stuff that will actually matter once the role playing starts.

My advice; take it for what it's worth.
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Utgardloki
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2012 9:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess I won't spend a lot of time trying to convince the skeptics that this is worthwhile. I think this is actually helping me a lot because I find Savage Worlds to be sort of a blank slate, and so coming up with all this has gotten me to develope my setting, so that's probably a good thing.

I don't intend to make this a class-based system. There's no metaphysical tag that distinguishes one background from another, so any PC with the right abilities to do the job of another background can pass for a member of that background.

I also do not intend to restrict anybody. If a player wants to make a character from scratch, he's welcome to. I'll figure out how many advances to give the player to even the odds.
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Kythkyn
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2012 8:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Utgardloki wrote:
I guess I won't spend a lot of time trying to convince the skeptics that this is worthwhile.

I don't think you are trying to convince us of anything. What we were trying to do was give you constructive criticism.
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SavageGamerGirl
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2012 4:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you want a little more differentiation in the skills, you might want to look at the Skill Specialties optional rule. It lets you vary the effectiveness of certain skills based on how they're used.
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Utgardloki
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2012 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I gave the handout to a player today to see if he can make PCs from it. He doesn't have the Savage Worlds rulebook, but he does have the Runequest rulebook. I think I can bring the Runequest spells and runes over pretty easily as needed, so I told him to just use that.

Soon I'll find out if it works.
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ValhallaGH
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2012 10:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Utgardloki wrote:
coming up with all this has gotten me to develope my setting, so that's probably a good thing.

Indeed it is.


I guess I just don't understand why you felt the need to hard-wire backgrounds into character creation. Since I'm confused about what the goal was, I am having trouble helping you achieve it - including saying "good job, you did it".
I guess I'm also wondering why you don't make more use of the Professional edges. Examples follow:

Hantverkar (Professional)
Requirements: Novice, Knowledge (one craft) d6+, Spirit d6+
Benefit: You are a skilled craftsman, a maker of things. You might be a blacksmith, carpenter, jeweler, tanner, cooper, wheelwright, or so forth. This provides some status (+2 charisma when dealing with townsmen), a regular income of $50 a month, and +2 to all non-combat Trait checks related to your craft.

Kaupmadur (Professional)
Requirements: Novice, Strength d6+, Persuasion d6+, Survival d8+
Benefit: You are a merchant, a trader. You carry goods from town to town and sell them for a living. This gives you a +2 to all non-combat Persuasion and Streetwise skills. Additionally, you can use Persuasion as a Test of Wills versus Smarts.

Skald (Professional)
Requirements: Novice, Smarts d6+, Spirit d6+, Taunt d6+, Persuasion d6+
Benefit: Professional story-tellers and poets, skalds are respected for their ability to tell a good story and preserve a man's memory for centuries. They get +2 Charisma and have a non-interference status - if the skald isn't interfering in the situation then no human can harm him. If the skald draws a weapon or casts a spell then he gives up his immunity.
Obviously, monsters don't respect skaldic immunity.

Tofraleiknir (Professional)
Requirements: Spirit d6+, Healing d6+, at least 2 rune skills
Benefit: You are a trained shaman, skilled in rune craft. Each raise on a rune-casting roll reduces the power point cost by 1, to a minimum of 0.*
*Use an appropriate benefit for the RuneQuest-inspired mechanics. The goal is to provide a benefit akin to the Wizard edge.

Vaidmen (Professional)
See Woodsman.

Kijeltring (scoundrel) - Professional thieves should take the Thief edge, while professional murderers and cut-throats should take the Assassin edge.
Krigar (warrior) - Professional warriors abound, and are as varied in their styles as the many combat edges. They're lumped together, no matter how dissimilar the individuals are.


That's my suggestion for incorporating your archetypes into your setting. Sometimes a "racial package" is the way to go, but more often a couple of professional edges can give you everything you're looking for.
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Utgardloki
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2012 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, ValhallaGH. Your suggestions are certainly a lot more in the regular SW line than mine were.

My intent was to be advisory, not compulsory. The idea was to give an idea of what I think could be an effective character for a given role, and to communicate what the common roles were in the society.
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ValhallaGH
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2012 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Utgardloki wrote:
My intent was to be advisory, not compulsory. The idea was to give an idea of what I think could be an effective character for a given role, and to communicate what the common roles were in the society.

For that goal, professional edges (both the ones you add and the ones you delete) are excellent. They say a lot about the setting, the kinds of people that are in it, and what's important for those archetypes (key traits, things they're amazing at, etc.).

Good luck, and I'm glad I could help some.
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