Maybe it’s just me, but gear and vehicles is one of the things that I struggle with as a Savage Worlds Game Master. I’m not suggesting that weapons, vehicles, or equipment are somehow clunky. They’re not.
If you have run Savage Worlds for any amount of time, you have probably noticed that most Ranged Weapons have a range of 12/24/48 and cause 2d6 damage (easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy).
What do you do when you want a Star Trek style phaser with stun and disintegration settings? At this point, I hope you’re shouting, “That’s a Weird Science device!”. And I couldn’t agree more. It just makes sense with the established design philosophy and core mechanics of Savage Worlds.
I’d also argue that applies to cyberware, vehicles, and space ships (anything high tech). So, why doesn’t it? This is the disconnect I struggle with between gear and vehicles.
All Weird Science gear (including jet packs and vehicles) is basically an allied Extra with an Arcane Background and Powers with appropriate “trappings”. Vehicles have Toughness and three levels of wounds like any Wild Card character.
Why Isn’t Everything A Character?
What I’m suggesting is by no means a new idea. Savage Space (a free fan-created supplement by Marcus Burggraf) contains a great example of creating starships as characters using the familiar Savage Worlds character creation process. You should definitely check it out.
The real strength of the Savage Worlds core rules is the ability to translate practically any ‘concept’ into a solid, mechanically playable character in ten minutes or less. Additionally, the lion’s share of the rules are written in character-centric language (attacker, character, defender, target, opponent, etc.) describing the mechanical focus on effects.
Why Everything Should Be A Character
First of all, not everything should be a character. It would be silly to make a standard shortbow or revolver a ‘character’ if it didn’t make thematic sense in your setting.
That said, I’d encourage Savage GMs to create certain things as characters in their settings and long-term campaigns, especially vehicles. First, it fits the Fast! Furious! Fun! motto of Savage Worlds. It is freeing. Rules are easier to apply because you don’t have to reference special rules or tables and stats. You can trap Edges and Hindrances (and even powers) with existing requirements to add personality to inanimate objects in your game. These ‘new characters’ can advance over time.
Let’s Build A Spaceship!
Who doesn’t love a starship with its own unique strengths and quirks? Serenity and the Millenium Falcon are great examples of vehicles as characters! So how would you build Serenity as a character?
You follow the exact same steps you would for any Wild Card player character in Savage Worlds. In fact, you could use the Making Races section in Savage Worlds Deluxe as a guideline for starships as a Race with the Flight ability. Agility would be her highest rated attribute. Strength could represent the power of her engines. Skills like Notice represent Sensors, with Shooting representing weapon systems, and so on. Hindrances like All Thumbs or Bad Luck make sense. Acrobat, Brawny, and Dodge all make sense for Edges.
Instead of Acceleration and Top Speed, you can use a standard Pace and substitute Strength for the running die type. I’d also establish a scale based on Size, which means Serenity would be Size +6 relative to Human Size 0.
In game terms, the crew makes Cooperative rolls as they apply to the situation; but Serenity the ‘character’ makes actual Trait rolls.
What Else Are Characters Good For?
That’s a good question. I’d say anything that requires additional book keeping is better handled as a character. I run a bi-monthly zombie apocalypse setting, and survivor cities or communities are a good example of something you can handle easier as a character.
For example, every die type could represent general resources or members of that survivor camp. A survivor community with a d8 Healing may have access to antibiotics or have actual doctors in its population. Whereas a community with a high Toughness and Combat Edges would represent a more militant and fortified community.
As long as you can apply reasonable abstraction to inanimate objects to fit your setting, why not make them characters?
Until next time, keep rolling… and stay Savage!