5 Ways to Make Interesting Characters
As I’ve discussed before in my halloween special and fantastical micro-setting posts, I believe that what sets tabletop RPGs apart from other mediums is the absolute freedom to create. Some find this a burden and choose to stick by the book or by well established cliches, and others even look down upon those who would deign to use their imagination. Admittedly nobody likes the “snowflake / edgelord” half-angel / half-demon prince whose very existence places them at the center of the world. But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater! There are plenty of ways to take the cliches and give them a twist, or take the “chosen one” character concepts and turn them on their head. Here are five ways to make interesting characters.
1) Add One Unique Feature
Everyone has one idea in them! So, you’re an elf wizard, but you have a distinctive nervous habit; you tap your fingertips to your nose like the performer Sting or Dr. Cox from Scrubs. You’re the tough half-orc fighter but in your free time you develop con-langs. You’re the halfling bard who ends every verse with “can you dig it!?”. Nervous habits, catch phrases, hobbies, predilections, family heirlooms, or odd trinkets worth little in gold but containing sentimental value are all little things you can do to bring some depth to your character. Just one unique feature can lead to an explosion of character developments!
2) Play Against Type
People think they know what a fighter, wizard, paladin, etc., are supposed to be, but what if they were different? In fact, what if they were opposite? Why can’t a fighter be intelligent and introspective? In many games, this is discouraged, because a fighter would need to put points into their “dump stat,” typically intelligence, in order to perform well on skills which benefit from the intelligence attribute. However, even in such a system, there are outside-the-box ways to make an intelligent fighter that isn’t poorly optimized. This intelligent fighter comes from a small, under-educated village, but his mom was once a scholar in a major kingdom. Although the rest of his village discouraged his learning and even bullied and taunted him, he is nonetheless well-read, introspective, and eloquent. However, he has anxiety and general emotional issues around his education, and when taken to task, his anxiety often gets the better of him (see tip 4). In this way, while on his character sheet he has low intelligence and this will still affect his rolls, in terms of his character, he can be roleplayed as an intelligent and introspective person. Going back to our Sting-like elf wizard, as opposed to the bookish dork, this wizard is a charming magician / rock-star, although he’s also callous and tends to turn people off who get to know him (justifying his low charisma). And what about the lawful stupid paladin? How about our paladin sees the corruption in his church. He believes in the general morals but not the exact letter and idiosyncrasies of the law. He’s the rogue cop of paladins.
3) Play Against Genre Conventions (the exception that proves the rule)
So this one is a bit trickier, and may require that the GM and the rest of the party approve of it in order for it to work. In a typical fantasy setting, often times people resort to the “fellowship” story: A group of strangers or loosely associated individuals with varying backgrounds who come together to go on some quest. Whether this is your campaign or not, there are ways to inject different kinds of genre archetypes into the fold. Perhaps your character wears a masked costume and fashions themselves as a vigilante or superhero, as much Batman or Zorro as Robin Hood. Or maybe your character is an agent of the kingdom, a pulp superspy, or instead is a gritty hardboiled noir detective wrapped up in a plot beyond their imagining. Maybe your eldritch knight gets their strength and magical powers from an alien or extraplanar symbiote, fantasy Venom-style. Again, it’s important to make sure that this concept will work within the world and story that the GM is trying to tell, but this can be a fun way to utilize pre-existing archetypes while also seeming fresh and unique, and can potentially spice up the whole setting.
4) Give yourself a Hindrance (and be true to it)
So I want to be very careful with this one. Hindrances should not be treated as an oddity, or a joke, or used flippantly. Do a little research, learn the logistics of the hindrance, and think about how it can add to the character without being the character. Especially if portraying mental illness, which is often stigmatized, please be respectful. This can be a fighter with a missing hand, a wizard with dyslexia, a bard with performance anxiety, etc. Unlike systems where disadvantages can be gamed to get more abilities and then ignored, in this case, the point is that the hindrance does affect the character and must be addressed. That’s not to say it needs to affect their character sheet. Perhaps the one-handed fighter has trained his whole life this way and is as capable as anyone else, but there is a story around how he lost the hand, or it’s a sensitive topic that enemies or other NPCs can use to provoke him.
5) Turn an unpopular concept on its head
I know I railed on the half-angel / half-demon “edgelord / snowflake” character above, but actually I’m as much railing against the people whose only concept of a unique character is something like this, than the concept itself. I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with this half-breed, but let’s make it actually interesting! Maybe the end result of our half-angel / half-demon is something in the middle, something purely mundane. Everyone is out there looking for some exotic messianic figure, when in fact she’s really more of a Joan Smith the human-iest human. Maybe, rather than being some beautiful angel/succubus-like creature, she’s actually an awkward, twisted, Lovecraftian creature, like a cross between the Chaos God Nurgle of Warhammer 40K and the chimeric cherubs from Kabbalah or the Book of Ezekiel. Perhaps you’re chaotic evil in a party of good, but rather than being a third-tier Joker, you have some incentive to work with the party, and maybe their goodness rubs off on you after a while. Rather than being the petty, rogue rogue (pun intended) who pickpockets the party and stabs everyone, you mastermind heists, leveraging the abilities of the full party like Ocean’s 11 or Leverage (see tip 3).
Whether you stick closely to the traditional fantasy archetypes, or want to play the “exotic” half-angel / half-demon, there are all sorts of ways to put a little spice or twist into it, to make the character, the world, or the campaign more interesting. Regardless of what system you’re playing or what’s on the character sheet, there is usually wiggle room, little nooks and crannies where you can get creative. Even just one unique feature can breathe life into a character. Good luck with your new character concepts, I look forward to hearing your stories!
Max Cantor is a graduate student and data analyst, whose love of all things science fiction, fantasy, and weird has inspired him to build worlds. He writes a blog called Weird & Wonderful Worlds and hopes people will use or be inspired by his ideas!
Picture Reference: https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2016/10/19/19/08/medieval-1753740_960_720.jpg
Savage Worlds has been a fan-favorite setting-agnostic system for going on 15 years. But with a new edition and Kickstarter just around the corner things are a-changin’. We sat down with President Shane Hensley as well as COO and Managing Editor Jodi Black to talk about what’s new in Savage Worlds Adventure Edition.
Savage Worlds Deluxe has been out for six years. Why bring out a new edition now?
Jodi: Savage Worlds hasn't changed much since it was first released in 2003, but there have been changes, for example, to Shaken a couple years back. We had updated the PDF but needed to reprint the book to reflect that change, plus we wanted to redesign the layout for our Graphic Novel format. With any new printing we try to make things better, and the new Adventure Edition received the same treatment. We've been listening--literally--to thousands of Game Masters and paid attention to feedback in our official online communities now for more than a decade. Shane and Clint and the rest of the Pinnacle team have discussed rule tweaks for years, and held off because of the cascading effects such a change might make. The result is the Adventure Edition: updated to be Faster, more Furious in action, and more Fun to play!
Which of the rule changes are you most excited about and why?
Shane: Chases are pretty exciting, as are Quick Encounters, but my favorite by far is Tests (which replaces Tricks and Tests of Will) and Support (which replaces cooperative rolls). It seems subtle at first, but the way it actually plays means there's much more interaction between players, and it tends to be incredibly creative. We've had playtesters bamboozle a space pirate with her Science skill (Test with Science vs Smarts) and keep a teammate alive simply by telling them how much they admire their courage (Support with Persuasion while they were Bleeding Out). That's pretty cool.
How easy will it be to convert older content to Savage Worlds Adventure Edition, and will there be a conversion guide of some sort in the foreseeable future?
We'll release a simple conversion guide, but it's pretty easy. Mostly you'll just want to add a few new skills and ignore some old ones. If something points to an Edge or Hindrance, just use the one in the new edition rather than the old...that kind of thing. Of course a few things might need a bit more work...we've changed Chases completely, for example, so any book that has a special rule for Chases might not make sense in the new system
Why did you decide to break from your previous model and release GM tips separately from the core rules?
Shane: The Savage Worlds Adventure Edition focuses on the adventures our friends around the world are having...mostly as players. It takes a special kind of person to step up and agree to Game Master for her group, so we decided to keep those sections separate. While it's certainly beneficial for a player to read the Game Master section, odds are higher he will focus on the sections to create his character instead.
You recently unveiled a new licensing program called Savage Worlds Adventurer’s Guild. What makes this licensing program different from what you have previously done, and what sets it apart from what other companies are doing?
Jodi: Several other companies have created "Community Content" programs like DM's Guild is for Dungeons & Dragons, and each has essentially copied the setup and edited to their needs. We confess to doing largely the same, but with some very important changes.
Licensing is tricky, right? We cannot allow there to be any confusion about intellectual properties we have licensed for Savage Worlds such as Flash Gordon™, Rifts®, The Goon™, Fear Agent™, The Sixth Gun, Lankhmar, or Solomon Kane. We also need to retain the intellectual property rights for our own settings like Deadlands, The Last Parsec, East Texas University, Weird Wars, and Rippers. For these reasons and more, no setting IP is available for use by the Savage Worlds Adventurer's Guild. Guild licensing allows access to the core Savage Worlds game mechanics (only), so creators can make their own settings come alive!
We also decided creators should keep their own IP. This means anyone who publishes content in the Savage Worlds Adventurer's Guild retains the rights to that product. They can sell the rights, defend them, and if HBO comes calling (just as an example) to develop their cool story idea into a miniseries, Pinnacle doesn't have a place at the negotiation table. This is different from other Community Content programs.
Next, products published in any Community Content program pay royalties to OneBookShelf (who hosts the site) and the company who created the game system. Instead of the higher royalty fees others are collecting, Pinnacle's royalty is only 10%. This is largely to offset the development costs of templates, art, and other assets Guild members will have access to.
Finally, some Community Content programs limit the formats available. We're opening it up to everything. Cards, Fiction, Adventures, Maps, etc. ...all are allowed in our program!
We're pretty excited about the Savage Worlds Adventurer's Guild and can't wait to see what cool products our friends make to share. If everyone says your homebrew setting or campaign is epic, write it up! Got a cool science fiction character stat block, art, and backstory to share? Or maybe it's the diary of your campaign, written from the point of view of your bard character in iambic pentameter. Whatever it is, if you think others might like it too, the Savage Worlds Adventurer's Guild may be the place for it.
If you could bring in any new IP as an officially supported setting, what would it be?
Jodi: We've got a LOT we want to do after the release of the Adventure Edition, and a new Deadlands edition is near the top of the list! There are always a lot of cool settings which catch our eye, but we prefer to play those cards when the time is right. :)
Check out Pinnacle Entertainment’s whole line including plenty of Savage Worlds here, and the new Savage Worlds Adventure Kickstarter here.
Phil Pepin is a history-reading, science-loving, head-banging, river-running nerd, who would like nothing more than to cuddle with his pups and wife.
Picture Reference: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/545820095/savage-worlds-adventure-edition
Blessed Machine is happy to announce the Kickstarter for our new setting, Secret Agents of CROSS. We are also excited to announce that Blessed Machine is now an official licensee of the Savage Worlds game system. We were looking for a system that could model the setting’s concept that CROSS agents are the best of the best. We discovered Savage Worlds and its Wild Card concept, exploding dice, and bennie rules and after a few playtests, we knew we had to produce Secret Agents of CROSS for Savage Worlds. Thanks to the Pinnacle team for helping us work through the process and become an official licensee.
The world of Secret Agents of CROSS is similar to our own with slightly more advanced technology. Religious persecution came into existence nearly as soon as religions appeared. The supernatural has existed in the world since the beginning of time and continues to exploit the world from their extra-dimensional realms and secret lairs. Cardinal James McDonell created CROSS to combat these evils and protect the flock.
Secret Agents of CROSS is a full-color 170-page setting book. It is your guide on how the world of CROSS operates, how to make player characters, and how to run CROSS missions steeped in secret spy stuff, religious history, modern terrorism, and the supernatural.
Below are eight reasons to pledge to the Secret Agents of CROSS Kickstarter.
1) Secret Biblical History
Read never before revealed intel from the Vatican's secret library on what really happened in Biblical times including the use of dragons during the Crusades and the evolution of saintly magic by the most devout Christians. Peruse details on Biblical artifacts and relics and where they came from and how they affect the modern world of CROSS today. Discover how angel DNA affected the gene pool of humans, creating the secret races of the Ardorim, Buerim, Luciphim, Moraxim, and the more widely known Nephilim. Finally, learn the secret history of CROSS and how it came to rest underneath the Vatican City and run operations to protect the flock all across the globe.
2) Ten Character Roles To Capture The Setting Feel
Examine the ten Character Roles players can choose from in Secret Agents of CROSS. Find out the details of the Crusader, a powerhouse of Holy melee; the Holy Ghost, a master of stealth in the virtual world; the Silent Knight, a master of stealth in the physical world; the Wrath, the embodiment of God’s wrath against man, and many more.
3) New Edges & New Hindrances
Uncover new Edges like Cybernetics Access which will allow your agent to choose from over 50 cybernetic implants. Choose the Iron Shroud Attunement which gives your agent access to power armor with 50 enhancements, or embrace your faith with the Martyr Edge and be filled with God’s might when wounded. Investigate new Hindrances like Pious or Obligation to reveal your inner Holy person.
4) Cutting-edge Weaponry, Macabre Relics, And Powerful Artifacts
Designed by the engineers of CROSS, see the specs for over 40 pieces of unique gear like the Starfly Drone, the Miracle Shroud, and the Holy Soaker. Explore body parts of the saints like St. Thomas's Finger, St. Anthony’s Tongue, and the Shroud of Turin. Research mighty Artifacts like Moses’s Staff, the Buddhist Iron Man, and the Ark of the Covenant.
5) Variety Of Deadly And Strange Adversaries
See the compiled dossiers of 30 adversaries your agents may face, collected from intel agencies all over the world. Read the details on the Vengeful Order of the New Cathars, a religion thought wiped out during the Crusades. The New Russian Empire lead by an ex-KGB officer, his number two, Asena, the leader of a lycanthrope wolf cult, and the Pri-men, three half-human primates. All work together to restore the Russian Empire to greatness. Discover the nature of early religious beings like angels, demons, jinn, hellspawn, or creatures like the Leviathan or the Behemoth. Some good, some bad, some you will have to decide for yourself.
6) Gamemaster’s Vault
Study gamemaster information on how to empower each of the Character Roles in your games and run the supernatural of the CROSS world efficiently, and discover double-secret-GM's-eyes-only information not revealed in other chapters. Additionally, pour over a detailed mission generator.
7) Three Dangerous Missions
Read the briefings for three complete missions that your agents will need to embark on to defend the flock.
- Blood & Teeth: Your team of Catholic super agents has been tasked with investigating the disappearances of people from a village in Eastern Turkey. Intel points to straightforward religious unrest, but the mission rapidly unfurls into a complex tale of power and revenge. Join your fellow CROSS agents and embark on a mission of Blood & Teeth.
- Let There Be Light: When a rash of burglaries of medieval artifacts from wealthy homes and museums comes to the attention of CROSS, their initial reaction is one of disinterest. Still, one Manger operative reviews the details to discover they were all made by one infamous man. Then the question becomes: how fast can we get them back?
- Not Dead Enough: Seattle, Washington is known for a lot of things, but grave desecration usually isn't one of them. When word reaches the CROSS agents of a rash of cemetery break-ins involving disinterred corpses, the question becomes, how bad is bad?
8) A Complete Dossier For Secret Agents Of CROSS
Receive a high-quality color pdf or printing fulfilled through DriveThruRPG in standard 8.5" x 11" size and all attained stretch goals.
CROSS wants you as their newest agent. Please head over to the recruiting department at CROSS and Kickstart your career! Don’t believe the propaganda stating that the video uses dangerous subliminal video techniques perfected during the Cold War to convince you to pledge. Accept this mission and enjoy our kickstarter video right now!
Still need convincing? I know you figure CROSS agents will battle demons and deadly hellspawn, but did you know they would also encounter dangerous supernatural creatures like the Tarasque? This giant beast is covered with a protective turtle shell and has a lion’s head with teeth that cut like rows of swords. You will also get access to relics to carry with you into battle, and the most technologically advanced weaponry like grenades that explode to release healing power, hellfire, ensnaring goo, and sleeping gas. The flock needs you at CROSS!
Pete Ruttman is a writer, artist, and graphic designer for Blessed Machine. He has produced several tabletop RPG products including Evilution Unchained and Supervillain Showdown #1. You can keep an eye on all of Pete’s missions at the following locations:
Web Site | Facebook | G+ | Twitter
Picture Provided by the Author
BPB Games is honored and excited to be official licensees of the Savage Worlds game system, and equally excited to share our love of the tokusatsu genre. Savage Tokusatsu has approximately 100 pages of new content to transport you right into your own action packed story. While you may not be familiar with the term, you are likely familiar with the giant kaiju, transforming heroes, and giant robots that make up the genre. If you have ever dreamed of piloting a mech with your friends, fighting monsters that tower above cities, or having your own transformation catchphrase, this is the game for you! Here are our three reasons for why you should check out our Kickstarter.
1) Fast Transformations
Going from a mundane character to a transformed hero is a simple endeavor in Savage Tokusatsu. We have created unique Frameworks, a small ‘class’ to add to a character, to help you choose the best way for your heroes to come across their powers. We have also included an in-depth system for designing the monsters that you would expect to see in the genre and 40 new statblocks for example heroes, kaiju, monsters of the week, and big bads to tailor your adventure to your play style. Tokusatsu heroes are also known for their signature style and weapons. We made sure to include a system for you to design your own iconic weaponry and armor to help you stand out while still remaining a core part of your team.
2) Furious Fights
Whether you are interested in fatalistic battles against massive kaiju with only modern military technology to aid you, or the colorful transforming heroes tokusatsu is known for, Savage Tokusatsu has everything Game Masters and players will need to craft their own heroes and begin a campaign. We have included a full Plot Point campaign for a lighthearted, transforming hero themed adventure that will have your team of heroes matching wits with Fire Team Omega and their quest to put out Earth’s most dangerous fire: the Sun.
One of the additions we are most excited for is the collaborative system for creating and controlling a shared pilot mech. You and your fellow players will share an equal part of the decision making in thrilling mech combat. You will either succeed as a team or fail as a team as your mech goes against obstacles and monsters that tower over skyscrapers and threaten your world.
3) Fun Downtime
While tokusatsu is known for its bombastic fights and over the top visuals, it also focuses on the heroes’ normal day to day lives. We’ve created many new Edges, powers your hero obtains, and Hindrances, their personal flaws, that reflect the cooperation necessary between a team of heroes and the feel of youths making their way in the world. Is your clique making it difficult to concentrate in school and with your team? Does jumping to conclusions end up opening new paths or destroying your leads? Your personality and those of your teammates can affect your relationships throughout your adventures. You also get to decide what specialized knowledge skill your character has, whether it is their favorite video game, school subject, music, or any other hobby, and use that to your advantage both as a civilian and as a hero.
We have grown up obsessed with the tokusatsu genre and would love to pass on our passions to you through our Kickstarter. Learn more about what we have put together HERE and try out our Test Drive HERE! We are also grateful for our guest writers Sean Patrick Fannon, Eran Aviram, and Aaron Carsten who will be creating special one-shot adventures as we complete our stretch goals. We hope these three reasons will get you excited to transform and fight as true tokusatsu heroes!
Kyle Carty is the writer and designer for BPB Games and Savage Tokusatsu. He has also written for EN5ider, Deadlands, East Texas University, Savage RIFTS, and has also done graphic design for Red Markets and Base Raiders. You can keep up with BPB Games on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitch, and on Twitter.
Picture Provided by the Author
Indie tabletop RPG publisher Melting Point Publishing has released their first ever Kickstarter. Unlike most Kickstarters, you can receive a copy of any book unlocked during the Kickstarter and its stretch goals.
Check it out here.
The Kickstarter’s focus is The Krell Effect - a sci-fi adventure that sees the party thrown headfirst into a literal race against time as a megalomaniacal scientist targets them for death while he tries to unlock the secret to control the forces of time itself. Can your party solve the mysteries and thwart his scheme before the crazed scientist threatens all of existence with his hubris? They better - or all of time and space will be at risk!
Their other upcoming stand alone adventures cover a range of styles, times, and themes; from action and adventure stories to mysterious tales of monsters and madmen. They range from traditional fantasy epic adventures, through to Victorian and WW2 era mysteries, and even more.
Here's six reasons why you should back this exciting new Kickstarter!
1) Unlocks As It Progresses
Anyone pledging at the £10 New Adventures Bundle level will receive a copy of all the books unlocked as stretch goals free of charge. That’s right, you'll receive a copy of everything that’s unlocked as the Kickstarter progresses!
2) Instant Adventure
If you pledge at the New Adventures Bundle level you'll receive The Krell Effect (mentioned above) and a ready to use mini adventure (Carjacked) for Savage Worlds. If enough stretch goals are hit, you can choose to receive your rewards for either FATE or Savage Worlds.
The first 20 backers can buy the already released adventure, Still Life and Death, for a 50% discount. This allows you to pick up the first adventure released at a great discount so you can own the entire range of adventures.
Still Life and Death sees the party hired to discover the whereabouts of a missing girl; from there they are drawn into a bizarre mystery involving multiple missing people and antique paintings that seem to depict them being attacked by a variety of monstrous creatures. The party is hurled into multiple encounters with supernatural monsters before coming face-to-face with the scheme’s mastermind. Can they thwart the mysterious figure’s plans, or will they become his final victims?
4) The Ground Floor
You'll be helping a new publisher release a range of exciting new adventures! Furthermore, it’s an opportunity to interact with a fast growing company from the beginning. Melting Point Publishing is looking to help build a community of roleplayers; if you join their Kickstarter you can be part of this movement from the very start.
5) Faster Releases
Helping Melting Point Publishing speed up their release schedule will allow them to publish full campaign books and settings in the near future. This means even more great adventures, campaigns, and settings available to you and your party.
6) Help Fellow Backers
You'll be helping the other backers to unlock more rewards. The more rewards that are unlocked, the more rewards every backer of the New Adventures Bundle level will receive free of charge. This means it’s in the interest of the backers to help spread the word to the rest of the RPG community. Your assistance is appreciated!
If you would like to check out some of Melting Point Publishing's work for free, then you can download their PC character pack for use with Still Life and Death here:
Melting Point Publishing is an up and coming games developer and publisher, and they're looking for your help. So, if you're looking for a variety of interesting adventures for your tabletop roleplaying group then look no further.
Ben Baker is the head writer at Melting Point Publishing. He’s been an avid roleplayer since childhood, and loves helping the RPG community make the most of the technological possibilities available to us in the 21st century.
Check out their Kickstarter here: www.kickstarter.com/projects/1762405716/new-tabletop-rpg-adventures-from-melting-point-pub
Find him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MPP_Games
Join their Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/389243758202302/
When you get to the heart of roleplaying, it’s all about the characters. Whether they are the stars of the show as Player Characters or supporting actors run by the Game Master, rich and believable characters are the key to the roleplaying experience. It is their story that draws you in, excites your mind, and makes you care about the fictional world you’re playing in.
Savage Worlds provides an excellent framework to build characters but it is the elements beyond the stats and edge lists that really tell you who this person is. I put the following guidelines to good use when I created twenty original characters in four common genres (haunted west, modern horror, historical fantasy, and space opera) in Savage Characters, Volume 1 (available on DriveThruRPG.com).
1) Make An Impression
Form a short scene in your mind as though you were watching a movie. This is the first time the audience will meet your character so think of how it might go. What characteristics are immediately noticeable: their hulking strength, head-turning beauty, easy smile, distracting talk, or haunted look? Do they shy away from contact or wade easily into the crowd? Do they move with the regal bearing brought on by years of tutoring and the right bloodlines, with the agile awareness of a veteran soldier, or with awkward stumbles as they adjust their spectacles? Is their speech flowery and intellectual or crude and street level? Does their accent betray their origins? Are they extroverted, wanting to join a celebration or more reticent, preferring to watch from out of the way?
You can set the scene wherever people could logically meet your character for the first time. A tavern or bar is pretty good for this but you could also meet them where their job or role normally takes them: the halls of a noble’s court, the traveler’s roads, sanctuary of their temple, or a craftsman’s stall. Picture them in a situation where they are expected to act rather than be passive so you can get a better feel for them. Leverage this preparation when you introduce your character to your fellow players or when meeting an NPC for the first time.
2) Develop Connections
Very few people live in isolation from the rest of society. In fact, it is often by our relationships with others that we discover ourselves and exhibit who we are for good or ill. No matter where a campaign might begin the characters have history up to that point. They have family, have friends and enemies, and live and work with dozens of others. While they begin to grapple with the Call to Adventure*, whose counsel would they seek? What favors would they call in? Who might make their life harder at the wrong moment?
These connections give the player more to work with both in deciding her character’s actions/reactions and in knowing what resources they can leverage beyond what is on their personal equipment list. All sorts of information can be gathered to better face the challenges ahead. Obligations and commitments, with their connections, will try to hold our hero back, letting them naturally Refuse the Call* or be bold and strike out for adventure.
3) Get Hooked
In Savage Characters, Volume 1, I created five different adventure hooks for each of the twenty characters so they could be easily used either as NPCs or as player characters. Each hook was aligned with a rank in the character’s development to show a progression of challenges. Some hooks tied together into logical sequences, almost like a micro-Plot Point for the character. Some hooks gave options to tie some of the characters together either as allies or antagonists.
Hooks present the ingredients for a conflict but don’t demand a specific solution. The motivations and objectives of other characters should be clear as well as what might happen if the player character does nothing. Would their own goals become harder or be put in jeopardy? Would their allies or innocents be hurt? Would evil claim some triumph large or small? Give the character a clear reason to act and let the player devise just what those actions will be.
If you're creating a player character, help your Game Master out. Try to think of adventurous situations your character might seek out or face. What threats, opportunities, or challenges would motivate your character to act? Would they pursue a treasure map, rumors of a village under attack, or a path to lost wonders? Providing hooks to your GM will make the game more enjoyable for everyone?
There are many ways to develop characters for RPGs. I think these three can provide easy hints for inspiration at the table-side, which is where we all need it most. We suffer plenty of l'espirit de l'escalier in our daily lives so everything that can help you play the character you want in the moment is worth time during character creation.
* See Joseph Campbell’s The Man with a Thousand Faces for an examination of the stages of heroic tales from around the world.
Jim founded Dragonlaird Gaming Studios in 2005 as a channel for his original tabletop RPG work. He’s an accomplished freelance writer with Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine (as a columnist) from Kenzerco, Margaret Weis Productions (Serenity, Battlestar Galactica, Cortex), and many others. He published Savage Characters Volume 1 a couple years ago and has plans to release a series of Savage Adventures soon. You can find his website at www.dragonlairdgaming.com.
Picture Reference: Artwork provided by author
5 Gimmicky Plot Ideas For Various RPGs
If you are looking for a gimmick to get your plot rolling, I’m here to help you out. We get some random search results on our site from time to time, and one person rolled in and looked for “a gimmick for a plot.” Well, I’m the gimmick guy around here so I couldn’t really pass up this opportunity.
The key to generating gimmicks to use to help get you started is to realize that EVERYTHING around you can be turned into a plot idea. A person’s name might be the start of a story. Tripping over the street, burning yourself on your coffee because you’re a klutz. Reading a great book is a *normal* way to get plot ideas, but it’s not quite gimmicky enough, is it?
1) Hot Pies!
The baker in Waterdeep has an important order for pies that need to be delivered to a shady part of town. He reaches out to the party to see if they would be willing to act as guards for his pie shipment. Worse, a rival baker has hired members of the thieves’ guild to ambush and steal the pies. It’s not just a gimmick, it’s a McGuffin at the same time!
How to use this: Pie motivates me. I’m confused if it doesn’t motivate you.
2) Changelings Invade Elysium
The local freehold has fallen on hard times. The Troll lord has fallen. He was killed by a dark, gloomy prodigal calling himself Prince Modius. The freehold is up in arms over this outrage! They have gathered a war-band to avenge their lord. They are sending the Sluagh skulking through the sewers seeking the court of this so called Prince. They think they’ve found it too. The beast they traded a favor to called it Elysium. The Freehold girds itself for battle.
How to use this: You decide if using Modius or the Changelings is the gimmick? Honestly? This is a fun story whichever way you roll with it.
3) Savage Rifting Nightmare Before Christmas Style
Rifts is presented as a serious universe. Rifts drop into serious worlds with serious troubles. That doesn’t have to be the case though. If we assume the Multiverse theory is true, then there are worlds that follow all sort of ‘Cartoon Logic.’ What’s the gimmick here? Clearly it would be awesome to have Jack Skellington piloting a mecha! Or maybe Santa Claus joins a group of dedicated misfit toys, fighting valiantly against the rifts ripping through the North Pole.
How to use this: This is a great one-shot concept for any game that includes trans-dimensional travel in any form.
4) Who? Dr. Who!
Running through a ship, 10 seconds remain before you run out of air. There are three buttons. One is red, one is green, one is cyan. Clearly cyan! Who makes a button cyan!? Quick thinking is the only thing that will save you. That, and the Doctor. The Cubicle 7 Dr. Who game is pretty smashing, and you should look into it. You can also use this gimmick in any game system. Start in-media-res. The players have a short amount of time to make a decision; that decision will have a massive impact on how the rest of the story goes. Provide a silly, eccentric, but helpful NPC to help them. Or, even better, give a random player the chance to play some form of the Doctor.
How to use this: This is a great method to start a new campaign, or liven up a steady style of gaming. Your players might be confused at first, tell them what you are doing and have them play through things. Give them the chance to fill in the gaps before the story starts. Push them to develop some story of why and how they got where they are.
5) Gimme The Gimmick (Make It Dark)
A hook, a murder, a toy, a random passerby: the gimmick is a reason to start playing. It’s the thing that gets you started. The plot that drives you forward. Think of something silly, something funny, something that gets you thinking differently. A gimmick plot can be dropped into any game of any type without too much trouble. That doesn’t mean it has to be funny or silly. The hidden story behind the bakers above might be that they are a family of cannibals that are now at war, brother to brother. Changelings might die off in a panic of banality when they attempt to attack the Vampire court. Jack Skellington might be an actual skeletal nightmare that gleefully rips up Santa and his minions. The Doctor might not be the Doctor, but might be a nefarious menace (perhaps an Illithid or other mind manipulator) who is using the Doctor trope to feed on human brains. The gimmick is a way to start, and you can go as light or as dark as you’d like while using it.
How to use this: Gimmicks are a great start, but they aren’t the end of the story. Use the gimmick as a launch pad into the story you really want to tell.
I hope that was gimmicky enough for you. If not, please let us know what sort of gimmicks you’d like to include as plotlines. I’m ready to hear them, and ready to make them even more of a gimmick than you asked for, anonymous search friend.
Josh is the intrepid Chief Operations Officer of High Level Games. With 19 years of playing rpgs, Josh started with Mind's Eye Theater LARPs and loves the World of Darkness. He runs, www.keepontheheathlands.com to support his gaming projects. Josh is the administrator of the Inclusive Gaming Network on Facebook. He’s preparing a Changing Breeds game. He’s a serious advocate for inclusive gaming spaces, a father, and a graduate from the International Peace and Conflict Resolution graduate program at American University in Washington, D.C. You can also find Josh’s other published adventures here and here.
Artwork by Jeshields, whose work can be found and supported at https://www.patreon.com/jestockart .
Today's RPG product review is Titan Effect The Role-playing Game by Knight Errant Media for The Savage Worlds game system. Unlike my standard reviews, I was given the opportunity to interview Christian Nommay, CEO of Knight Errant Media and a co-writer for Titan Effect. Having read through the Beta Edition of the rules, I (DMDR) had a few questions for Christian (CN).
DMDR: Going through the beta version of the book, and many Influences come right up to the front: X-Men, Ghost in the Shell, and real-life military and intelligence history. What inspired you and your team to bring these elements together?
CN: As a great fan of superheroes and spy fiction, I always had the crazy idea to combine these two genres together. With Titan Effect, I had the perfect project for that. I wanted to tell a spy story with an epic and heroic dimension, or even mythological. The work that probably inspired me the most for Titan Effect was the video game Metal Gear Solid. Besides the richness of the story, I was amazed by the unique mix of grounded espionage, science fiction, and superhero elements, and how these elements managed to remain consistent with each other. I wanted to be able to bring this same consistency for Titan Effect. When Daniel Eymard and Ghislain Bonnotte, my two co-writers, became involved in the project they also brought their own inspirations and references.
DMDR: By drawing from real-life history and topics, how did this affect the lore for Titan Effect? Would the cosmology have had a different feel if placed in an entirely new world?
CN: It was important for me and the team that Titan Effect was grounded in reality as much as possible. The best way for us was to mix Titan Effect’s elements with real-life history. The three of us are history buffs, especially everything related to the history of espionage and war as well as secret societies. This was really the fun part for us. Titan Effect's cosmology probably wouldn't be the same if it was placed in a different universe, or at least it wouldn't have the same impact. For example, World War Two and the Cold War had a lot of influence on how most organizations and characters have evolved in Titan Effect.
DMDR: The history references stop with 2014. Was it your team’s intent for Titan Effect to take place in the present or a near future timeline?
CN: Initially, Titan Effect was to take place much further in the future, in the 2030s (I started writing the project in 2007, but that’s a long story). Since a lot of elements in Titan Effect were linked to the Cold War, it made more sense to bring the action back to the present. Besides, trying to create a futuristic universe is a different kind of beast. At the end, it will be up to the players and the GMs to shape the future of Titan Effect.
DMDR: What excited you most about working on Titan Effect?
CN: The thing that excited me the most during the writing of Titan Effect was the opportunity to create a whole storyworld, with its own rules and characters.
DMDR: What was the most troublesome part of this project?
CN: The biggest challenge during the development of Titan Effect was undoubtedly to ensure the consistency of all the elements and achieve a good balance. It was true for the background as well as adapting Savage Worlds rules.
DMDR: The Titan Effect Kickstarter will be live in October. What potential stretch goals can pledges unlock during the crowdfunding?
CN: I don’t want to reveal too much and keep the surprise. However, I can tell you that among our stretch goals there will be a Plot Point campaign, a player companion, a world atlas, and a lot more.
DMDR: If there was one thing you wanted readers to know about Titan Effect, what would it be?
CN: Titan Effect's creation has been an exciting and emotional journey. With your help, I'd like to share the result of this journey with everyone else.
Review and ScoresComing from the opposite spectrum (Fantasy, non-SW GM/Player), the Titan Effect review took me out of my comfort zone; in a good way! The art is amazing, the text reads like a novel (fun, engaging, nice flow), and the concept perfectly blends together different sources in a way that made me feel at home. I think my biggest complaint about Titan Effect is that I do not have a group using the Savage Worlds game system. I may need to change that.
Cost vs Value
The Cost here is a touch of an issue. Generally speaking, many companies set prices around 10-15 cents per page on soft covers and around 20-25 cents per page for hard covers. There are plenty of examples of main and third party publishers going outside of these ranges. This comes in at around (expected, I cannot guarantee this price) 30-47 cents per page (again expected retail after Kickstarter), which isn’t not too far off of what other Savage Worlds third party publishers are charging for a premium color, hardcover. I will note that you will be getting closer if not under that 30 cents per page if you pledge to the Kickstarter. Once you throw in the fact you get a PDF for most of the pledge tiers, and the prospect of stretch goals, that price per page drops quickly. This is one Kickstarter where there will be huge savings versus retail.
Now that we handled the cost per page, what is the actual value you’ll get? If the core book is similar to the beta rules, you get quite a bit. The beta rules come with everything you need, if you’re a Savage Worlds player. You get a cosmos that seamlessly blends with real-world history, a plethora of psychic spy character options and gadgets, a fully loaded armory, and more than 20 sample NPCs and foes. Want more? The beta rules supplied a really well-thought-out mission generator so a GM can pump out plenty of missions to keep agents busy.
20 points (KS)/ 9 points (expected retail)
I am not really a “digital painting” kind of person. People can make really awesome artwork using a digital painting medium, but I still prefer seeing awesome line-work and traditional mediums. But you know what? I genuinely enjoy the art in Titan Effect. The art is well-placed, not just filler. The images really give a sense of the flavor Knight Errant Media is aiming for. I nearly jumped out of my seat when I saw an operative image with a censor bar over her eyes trying to hide her identity. It was like something out of a spy movie. Perfect. Everything is professionally finished. Definitely order this book in premium color. 10 points
I need to do a lot of reading on my phone: in the lab, at my desk, or a even stopped at a red light. The layout and text worked perfectly on my phone. No need to zoom-in and out or scroll all over the place. The writing is just as perfect. The technical portions provide clear, concise information. Never once did I backtrack and re-read something for clarity. The creative side is not sprinkled on top; it is loud and in your face. As I read the opener, I felt like a secret agent. I reminded myself more than once this was a rule book and not a Tom Clancy novel. 20 points
There really isn’t much to say about the mechanics. But that is quite common in a “campaign setting” book. While there are a few new mechanics in play, most of what you deal with is based on the core book (Savage Worlds in this case). I will mention that Titan Effect uses a supplement that generally can be OP (Super Powers Companion). Titan Effect tones down the power creep with built-in limitations and alterations to the source material. 13 points
Titan Effect almost stands alone. Almost. Like most settings, you need the core rules. If nothing else, this is how I would define a stand-alone setting. Titan Effect calls for partial use of the Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion. While calling for a main-line product typically does not impact the score, this specific rules companion has known power creep with some SW groups outright banning the book as hard as my group did Book of Exalted Deeds from D&D 3.5e (I think that was also the last time anyone ever let me in a PvP session, too). Though Titan Effect will give you extensive use of your Super Powers Companion, not having a copy of this sparingly-used supplement means an extra investment. 12 Points
Titan Effect draws inspiration from almost every source imaginable. We have historical references, real-life military intelligence, and folklore all spliced with biomechanical/genetically-engineered humanoids (or simply evolved) X-men meets Ghost in the Shell flavors. Separate, these ideas are cliché tropes. Together, they create a diverse experience where everyone at the table feels informed with the material and game-style. 19 points
With 94 out of 100 possible points (Kickstarter), Titan Effect is going to infiltrate many Savage Worlds collections. If it doesn’t, it’s because the Kickstarter slipped under your radar (Tentative 83 out of 100 for retail pricing).
If you are interested in picking up a copy (Savage World groups really should), the Titan Effect Kickstarter is live. Keep tabs on all the Titan Effect news by following their twitter and facebook pages.
Donald “The DM Doctor” first discovered the ancient tomes known as AD&D at the age of seven. After twenty years of experience in various RPGs from both sides of the table, Donald took the leap into freelance game design. A Paizo RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 contestant and freelance writer, The DM Doctor posts DM tips and free RPG resources on his blog: www.thedmdoctor.com. You can follow The DM Doctor on twitter, facebook, and google+.
Image source: https://www.facebook.com/pg/TitanEffect/photos/
All blog materials created and developed by the staff here at High Level Games