Category Archives: Table Talk

I Love It When A Plan Falls Apart: Critical Failure in Savage Worlds

Let’s just get this out of the way: everyone likes to win.  Whether you’re on the soccer pitch, knee-deep in a Halo multiplayer match, or rolling the dice in a tabletop session, we all play to win, and we all want to come out on top.

But that doesn’t always happen, does it?  We don’t win every soccer game.  There’s always someone in Halo with a better K/D.  And sometimes — perhaps more often than you’d anticipate — the dice don’t work in your favour.  That’s life, and that’s also Savage Worlds.  Savage Worlds Adventure Edition (SWADE) has two failure conditions: what I’ll call “soft” failure (missing the Target Number), and critical failure: rolling a 1 on both your trait die and Wild Die at the same time.  The use of critical failure is often a huge and thorny point of contention in tabletop communities, but it’s something that’s baked into SWADE…and as a player, I’ve learned to stop fearing it.  It can even be, dare I say it, fun.

First, let’s take a look at failure in Savage Worlds in general.  Due to edges that provide free rerolls on specific traits, and the existence of bennies (which I explain the function and economy of in more detail here), soft failure is not something you have to live with unless you either a) are out of bennies or b) choose to let the failure stand.  The standard Target Number for trait checks is a 4, and while rolling a 3 and keeping it due to choice or circumstance won’t get you quite the result you were hoping for, it won’t cause you any serious trouble either.  However, if you come up snake eyes —  with a 1 on both your trait die and Wild Die — that is called a critical failure, and according to the rules of Savage Worlds, you are stuck with it.  Critical failures cannot be rerolled, which also adds an extra layer of risk and reward to taking advantage of rerolls or fishing for a raise.  A critical failure incurred while chasing a raise has happened at our table on more than one occasion.  So with soft failure being largely avoidable, it makes perfect sense to me that there should be one failure condition you can’t roll your way out of.  

But even in that case, failure isn’t the end.  Or at least, it shouldn’t be.  At our table, Phillip treats critical failures as just another storytelling device.  They never bring the story screeching to a halt; rather, they are used to move it forward in ways none of us including him expect. In a recent episode of Mourners of Lhazaar, a critical failure — on a roll Kevin had a Joker for, no less — changed a Dramatic Task that was going very well and basically resolved to one in which 3/4 of the party wound up in the sea during a nasty winter squall as Michael and I made decisions on how our characters would respond to the outcome of that failure. There were also more than a few memorable critical failures in our last campaign, Seekers of the Ashen Crown.  There was the time that two PCs simultaneously critically failed their stealth rolls to sneak out of a city in which they were wanted for a crime they didn’t commit, resulting in an encounter with the guards that tested the players ingenuity as one of them used a bennie to help him create an environmental hazard that ultimately won the day in a non-lethal fashion.  A few sessions before that, an enemy critically failed a roll that resulted in them failing to steal a piece of the Ashen Crown from us, which wound up shaping the endgame significantly as we played cat and mouse keeping that final artifact out of the archvillain’s hands and found ourselves in a very different position than we would have been had we lost that item.

One of the main arguments I have seen against using critical failure rules in tabletop gaming is the loss of player agency, and that the players wind up feeling like incompetent fools.  My response to that is, it is largely the GMs responsibility to prevent that from happening.  As I wrote above, Phillip uses our bad dice rolls to present us with new problems to solve, and solving those problems is an incredible use of agency as well a great feeling.  Looking back again at Seekers of the Ashen Crown, there was a turning point in which the party was ambushed and betrayed in the middle of a crowded marketplace.  As we tried to make heads or tails of the aftermath, with the guards beginning to close in and seeing that it was time to run, Aruget (played by Ernesto) badly wanted to put out a fire that we’d accidentally started in one of the tents during the fray.  Phillip called for an Athletics roll, and the result was double 1s.  He then narrated that in the process of attempting to put the fire out, Aruget accidentally fanned sparks and hot ash to the tent beside it, spreading the flames and making things worse.  But, like I said, critical failures should be as much about moving the story forward as successes are, and another player seized this as an opportunity to spend a bennie to alter the scene.  With Phillip’s blessing, he declared that the second tent held a crate of fireworks…and the ensuing chaos made for an interesting getaway.

Continuing on the subject of critical failure and player agency, Phillip also regularly encourages and invites us to narrate our own critical failures.  He will often ask us what we think those failures look like, and as long as it doesn’t completely fly in the face of the rules, established in-game canon, or general reason, the outcome we provide is the outcome that stands.  It’s a fantastic way of helping us own and embrace failure just as much as success, and understanding it as an important storytelling device rather than viewing it as an annoyance or a punishment.

That is another thing I often see pop up in discussions of using critical failure in tabletop games: far too many GMs seem to use it as something very punishing.  If you’ve spent much time in online TTRPG spaces, you’ve probably heard and possibly even personally experienced stories of critical failure resulting in scenarios such as a fighter randomly throwing his sword across the room, stabbing himself in the foot, or even worse, seriously injuring or killing an ally.  I’m going to be very blunt here: that is lazy GMing.  A dice roll being extreme doesn’t mean that the outcome of that roll has to be extreme, and there is no good reason for failure to not be just as creative, interesting, and engaging as success.  One of the best things for me as a player is having a new problem for the party to solve together.  In my above example of Aruget and the fire, had Phillip narrated his critical failure as “you trip and fall into the fire, roll too see how much damage you take” that would have brought things to a screeching halt.  It would have in no way advanced the story or contributed to the scene, and it would also have been a real slap in the face to Ernesto to declare that his character who was built both mechanically and flavour-wise around being incredibly athletic, sure-footed, and graceful suddenly — and for no good reason — tripped and fell into a fire.

The other elephant in the room when talking about critical failure in TTRPGs is probability.  This is something that comes up a lot with regards to D&D, being a d20 system, and the standard example tossed around of why not to use critical failures at the D&D table is that of the high-level fighter who gets multiple attacks per turn and whose chances of critical failure drastically increase while the character is supposed to be growing more powerful.  And that’s a valid concern, and I agree that no particular character should be unfairly subjected to critical failures, but I will also say this: critical failures in Savage Worlds are more common than you might think, because every character can (and at our table, regularly does) make multiple rolls on a single action due to situational edges and the use of bennies.  In 45 sessions of Seekers of the Ashen Crown, we had exactly three weeks in which no one rolled snake eyes.  That’s right: 98% of all sessions played of Seekers of the Ashen Crown contained at least one critical failure.  My point is this: I have about as much use for the odds as Han Solo does.  What matters to me isn’t statistics, but outcomes.  Give your players interesting outcomes for critical failures, and I’ll wager that your table will start viewing them in a better light.

Failure as a storytelling device that provokes characters into meaningful action is a concept much older than Savage Worlds, and regularly used in popular media to great effect.  Indiana Jones failing to properly guess the weight of the golden idol at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark gave us one of the most memorable film sequences of all time,  Ghostbusters just wouldn’t be the same had Ray been able to resist thinking about the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, and to paraphrase Michael Caine’s famous line from Batman Begins, the reason we fall is so that we can learn to pick ourselves up.  So players, take that failure, own it, and solve it.  GMs, give your players problems that they can solve, and let them flex their creative muscles to figure out how to make the best of a bad situation and maybe even come out better for it on the other side.  Failure, even critical failure, isn’t the end.  It’s just another step of the journey, and one I’ve learned to embrace.

“Leveling” in Savage Worlds

Mourners of Lhazaar is heading towards their first advancement and so I thought I would talk about advancing your characters. This article builds on the Character Creation article, since it is the next step of your Savage Worlds character.

The title of this article is a bit of a misnomer. In Savage Worlds you don’t level in the way that you might be used to in other d20 systems. You take Advancements, and each 4 advancements are organized into a Rank. You start in the Rank of Novice, then move to Seasoned, Veteran, Heroic, and finally Legendary. I kinda think that the names of the ranks really convey the types of adventures and tales that are engaged with by the characters. With Savage Worlds Adventure Edition, the whole system moved to just milestone advancements. So advancements happen when the GM feels it fits with the story. Which has already been my long standing method of leveling. I prefer the players chase the story, not XP.

But with each advance, you as the player can do one of the following with your character:

  • Bump one of your Attributes up one die type per Rank. An important distinction is that this can only happen once per Rank, not once per advancement. 
  • Bump two skills lower than their attached Attribute by one die type. For example; Athletics and Fighting are tied to Agility. I could bump a Fighting and Athletics from a d6 to a d8, if my Agility is a d8.
  • Bump one skill that is equal or higher than the attached Attribute by one die type. Using the above example, for my next advance I would only be able to bump my Fighting to a d10 since my Agility is still a d8.
  • Take a new Edge
  • Remove a Minor Hindrance, or change a Major Hindrance to a Minor one (if there is a Minor available.) You can also save up two advances to remove a Major Hindrance completely if there is no Minor version. Generally it is encouraged that this is done with a strong story component to make sense.

So I wanted to present this as a background to get to my main point. One of the best things about Savage Worlds characters is the sandbox of options for advancement. You can truly create whatever you want for a character. Any path is truly available for your character to take. This is one of the best strengths about Savage Worlds. I mean any path. You can have a master swordsman magic blasting wizard, or commander of the guard that is a great fighter but better at directing the group and allies tactically, or that tinkerer who is a parkour pickpocket on the side. The options are truly endless. 

There is no right or wrong in making you character. There are even multiple paths towards the same direction. I have made a barbarian type character that is a drunken dwarven berserker, one that is a shifting pugilist, to one that is a focused warforged juggernaut killing machine. These were all different takes on the classic berserker that looked nothing like each other, all taking different paths towards the same general goal.

This level of choice and openness, while amazing, creates a problem when advancing. The problem being, there are too many choices.

The main point I want to present is that planning the advancement of your character is hugely important. Whenever I create a character, I definitely start with the concept that I am looking to play for the campaign, then I hop into https://savaged.us/ and plan my character out to 14-16 advances. I don’t go fully up to 20 as not all campaigns go that length, and to leave room for new ideas based on how my character grows and interacts with the campaign. I have NEVER been able to create a character plan that has all the advances that I want to take. 

I have witnessed more than one player stay into a campaign with no plan of where they want to take their character. What happens is that the player generally picks advances that solve the most recent pain point in a campaign. Then towards the end of the campaign the player is not having as much fun as their character doesn’t really do anything well in the way they would have hoped. One of the other things that I have seen happens is that a player suddenly wants a particular edge to deal with a certain pain point, but they do not meet the requirements of the edge because they did not plan to be able to take it. Often when this happens, they will then even abandon trying to get that edge or path in the future through planning further advances. Overall this lack of planning reduces the enjoyment of the campaign by the player in question.

I never see a character plan as a hard path. I will often tweak the path, taking a different advancement as the character grows in personality and develops a role in the party. Or maybe the campaign takes a different direction than I anticipated, and I will tweak my path based on that. It is easier to make tweaks to an existing path than to wander down a path with no direction.

There is no right or wrong in what advance to take, or when (outside of requirements for a particular advance). While an attribute bump can only be taken once per rank, with a plan I find that some ranks I will skip the attribute bump because I find something else more important. You can not make these kinds of decisions on what is really important for your character arc, if you are just now picking the latest advancement.

My main goal in this article was to first explore the importance of having a vision for your character in Savage Worlds, and then explore how to help make sure that vision will play out in a satisfying way over the course of your campaign. I hope this helps you enjoy the Savage Worlds system even more by increasing the enjoyment you have playing your character.

Why I Play Savage Worlds

Hi, your friendly neighborhood Savage DM Freewolf here (AKA Phillip). Yes, I have been playing RPGs long enough that I still call myself a DM, not a GM. So being the Eberron Campaign Setting nut that I am, I of course started listening to the Manifest Zone podcast when it got started up. Of all the things that I listened to, there was something about the way that Kristian and Scott talked about this system called Savage Worlds that really struck a chord in me.

You see, while I was immensely happy not to have to map top math calculations to determine bonuses to hit or AC or whatever, and I was grateful that 5E really launched me back into the hobby after a long hiatus, there really was a lot about 5E that I really had trouble with as a DM. I have been a DM long enough (and I have grown personally enough) that I don’t DM just to DM. I DM because I am having fun. 

What is the most fun for me in a TTRPG is the collective story that we tell together. I am not the storyteller at a table, we are the storytellers. I was starting to have trouble with how the 5E system would limit our thinking in how we would tell the story, particularly in combat and with the lack of ways to handle complex abstract encounters. But the whole, the first swing at a sack of hit points was no different than every other swing at a sack of hit points, was kind of wearing on me. Not to mention I often played with some creative thinking players, and the best I could say was “ok you have advantage.” That just didn’t seem to capture some of the creative thinking my players dished out. And don’t get me started on the extreme difficulty in creating challenging encounters that don’t involve a hoard of mooks, for higher level players.

So I guess I was hungry for something a bit different when I was listening to Kristian and Scott on the original episodes of Manifest Zone. I can neither confirm nor deny that I have a problem with Kickstarter, when Pinnacle Entertainment had their next version of Savage Worlds (Savage Worlds Adventure Edition or SWADE) up on Kickstarter. After my four year campaign ended, I began looking at the next adventure in Eberron, being run with Savage Worlds. I can say that I have not, and can’t see myself, looking back.

Savage Worlds is a system that really allows a table to tell a great narrative, cinematic story at the table. Combat is not really bogged down with a bunch of difficult or complex mechanics, yet it has more options. I just love that in SW, I can have a mook throw a platter of food at one of the players and it can actually have a combat effect. These kinds of actions are known as Tests. Extending that, you can create a character that is useless at fighting, but can honestly be a real contributor to combat through Support Actions to others and Tests. In fact the more that I have played SW the more that I have seen, fighting big baddies in SW is far more of an exercise in teamwork than it ever was in 5E.

Eberron is a setting that is meant to be very pulpy with lots of noir. The players are epic heroes that can do epic things. SW have dice that “ace,” known in other ways as “exploding”. I have a d6 in a skill and roll a 6, I get to keep rolling ’til I don’t get a 6. This is all the time. I have seen players one shot the big baddies with a dagger and they weren’t the rogue with sneak attack. Epic times. 

SW also has some really cool mechanics to handle those other more complex and abstract situations. There are Dramatic Tasks that are akin to the Skill Challenges from 4E. Instead of handling a situation in a turn by turn type way, you abstract the idea out rolling a series of skills to collect tokens. The more dangerous or complex a dramatic task is, the more tokens you need. But overall it is handled narratively, with the dice assisting the story. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy running for freedom after stealing the idol, that is a dramatic task. In our very own Seekers of the Ashen Crown, the party had to distract a crowded market square with patrolling guards. This was done as a dramatic task, that the players found epic and fun.

There are Social Conflicts, which allow a more nuanced and complex way to influence a large group or judge or something similar. These are like dramatic tasks but the mechanics are slightly different. The goal is to gain success tokens over three rounds by making a good argument for your particular case or cause.

Hands down one of my favorites is the chase mechanics in SW. I was constantly frustrated with how any kind of chase in 5E generally amounted to who had the highest movement and the best athletics checks. Now with some mechanics that support it, we can tell an awesomely narrative chase scene like the chase scene from Casino Royale. No kidding, I have now run those kinds of chases at my tables.

There are also Quick Encounters, which allow me as the DM to run an encounter, but do it narratively with one roll to resolve everything. I mean have you as a DM or player found your game bogged down in constant encounters, not because they furthered the story, but because they were needed to whittle down the resources of the party so an encounter down the line could actually be challenging? Yea I don’t have to do that anymore in SW. 

I think this is a good place to leave my thoughts for now. In future articles, I’ll get more into the weeds of specific game mechanics in SW or conversions to Eberron. But overall I am in love with Savage Worlds because it is a lightweight system that allows me and the players at my table to tell a fantastic story. The kind of story that we turn around and end up telling each other over and over again for years to come. Isn’t that the best part of TTRPG’s?

GM Spotlight: Dylan Ramsey’s Towering Tales

The Pizza Party by Dylan Ramsey. All rights reserved.

While the Savage Eberron community is still a small one, it continues to slowly but surely grow. Since 2019, gamemaster Dylan Ramsey and the Pizza Party have been doing their part with an epic, evolving story that’s taken them all across Khorvaire and beyond, with Savage Worlds Adventure Edition helping them get there. Dylan is an accomplished GM, skilled storyteller, incredibly talented artist, and this past year he has twice lent his voice and acting chops to portray plain, simple tailor Deven Sar’kaas in the collaborative campaign hosted by Eberron creator Keith Baker for his Patreon supporters. I had a chat with Dylan about our mutual love of Savage Worlds, the adventures of the Pizza Party, and a slightly distressing coincidence of sorts involving an eel. Enjoy!

Dylan, which came first in your life, Eberron or Savage Worlds (and how did you get from one to the other)?

DR: Oh, Eberron, for sure! I’ve been an Eberron fan since I was in elementary school and remember carrying around that original campaign book just about everywhere. Granted, I never PLAYED a game in Eberron until after I discovered Savage Worlds (via the actual plays of Saving Throw Show). After my group finished up our last campaign in 2019, I was glad they decided to give a new system and a new world a shot with me for Towering Tales.

Excellent. It hooked you in pretty quick, then! So, why do you love Savage Worlds as a vehicle for Eberron so much?

DR: The mechanics really do it for me on a lot of levels. Edges and hindrances help get across that pulp-noir feel of Eberron (no hero is perfect), and are just a great foundation to build characters off of in general. You can really mix and match them and make just about any character you can imagine – and there are A LOT of characters you can imagine in a setting like Eberron. Bennies and exploding dice are also some of my favorite game mechanics ever. I love being able to reward players in a meaningful way and for the dice to be able to REALLY tell a story when they decide to keep on acing (or critically fail)!

You have been running and chronicling a Savage Eberron campaign called Towering Tales for over a year now. How would you describe Towering Tales in five sentences or less?

DR: Oh gosh, over TWO years at this point–where did the time go?! Towering Tales is an odyssey of love, war, and hijinks, all tying back to a conspiracy of nightmare spirits pulling the strings of the waking world to try and save their own from utter annihilation. Over the course of the campaign, the Pizza Party have encountered everything from pint-sized velociraptor luchadors and flumph-based vigilantes, to dancing leprechaun slavedrivers and a warforged detective who goes off on monologues at the drop of a hat. I love blending drama and silliness to really get players invested in the world, and it’s definitely worked out! So if that sounds like your cup of tal, get ready to laugh, cry, and lie awake at night wondering how in the world my players get away with some of these ideas.

What’s the hands-down best thing that’s ever happened in Towering Tales? I guess if you have to you can pick more than one moment. But it’s okay to say you have a favourite. I won’t tell your players, I swear.

DR: Dramatic: picture a runaway lightning rail emerging from the dead-gray mist of the Mournland. A warforged boxer named Crown is locked in combat with warforged fanatics atop the speeding car, electricity arcing all around them; while inside, Waxillium d’Cannith (whiskey-loving lawman and team dad) tries to defuse bombs rigged to explode when the train hits Vathirond station! I ask Wax’s player to make a Vigor roll. CRITICAL FAILURE! I read verbatim from the book: Wax WILL die by session’s end. His friend, the drow fashion designer Lana, swoops in to try and help him as he begins bleeding profusely from the toxin the Lord of Blades injected him with, but he asks her to give his final regards to their friends and pushes her off the train. Wax takes one last swig of whiskey and tells his dead wife that they’ll be together again soon as he derails the train at the last possible second and saves the city. A sobbing Lana is silhouetted against the explosion, vowing never to let this happen again.

Silly: probably that time they yanked an eel out of an undead fishman’s butt and then shoved a staff up there, which they promptly used to summon a couatl INSIDE the dude, causing the necromancer to explode in a burst of radiant energy! I guess you could say they rekt ‘im.

Okay, first of all, I’m just gonna point out that my very first TTRPG was Jason Statham’s Big Vacation, and one of the random complications you can roll for a scene is eels. So while I am kind of grossed out by this story, I also feel a strange connection to it. Anyways, last question: where can people find the full and continuing adventures of the Pizza Party? Shamelessly advertise yourself, my friend. I’m here for it.

DR: A scene with eels is such an oddly specific complication… But hey, here’s a handy-dandy link to the main session directory. That page includes links to every session recap, as well as to the player character pages, which list their edges, hindrances, advances, etc. We play pretty much every Friday, and I usually have new recaps done by Monday. I foresee things getting even more insane as we speed on towards session 100 and the fate that awaits the Pizza Party at the end of this road, so stay tuned. Whether you pick things up at session 1, 21, 65, or anywhere in between, I hope you all enjoy reading about whatever happens NEXT TIME ON TOWERING TALES!

That’s all for now, folks! Keep your eyes on this space later this week for more pre-campaign planning…and a very exciting announcement.

Anatomy of a Build: Character Creation in Savage Worlds

It’s finally time for that new campaign I’ve been talking up for weeks, which means it’s time for a fresh cast of characters. As we prepare to take to the high seas of the Lhazaar Principalities, I want to take a look at the single biggest aspect of Savage Worlds that vexed me the most as a new player: building a character.

My TTRPG experience prior to taking up Savage Worlds was largely one of what I like to call “plug and play” character creation. Powered by the Apocalypse uses “playbooks”, pre-built archetypes that the player selects a small set of abilities from but are otherwise clearly defined in terms of a characters build and purpose and even include guidance on how to roleplay each archetype. Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition provides players with more flexibility in the form of subclasses, feats, etc., but still holds to some hard and fast truths. All paladins can smite, all rogues get Sneak Attack, and all characters across all classes have the exact same set of skills, albeit with varying degrees of proficiency. Bards have access to different spells than wizards, wizards can swap out their prepared spells after a long rest, and if your table allows feats, that’s a whole other area to explore. But my point is that, at the end of the day, the bard can’t ever smite, the wizard can’t ever make a sneak attack, and the rogue is getting Uncanny Dodge at level 5 no matter what. Even with considerably more flexibility than the afore-mentioned Powered by the Apocalypse, 5e is still at its core built around archetypal character classes designed to stay in very particular lanes. And I have no problem with that; it’s a good and valid way to approach tabletop gaming that many players (this is an understatement) enjoy and have lots of fun with (I personally love a good game of Masks, in which I’ve been using the Delinquent’s playbook). But Savage Worlds has a different appeal.

Savage Worlds doesn’t so much ask the player what role they want to fill as it asks them who they want to be. With a point buy system that allows and encourages players to invest in a wide variety of skills, edges, and powers, everyone begins with a d4 (basic training) in five core skills, but from there the world is your oyster. If your dream is to play as a traveling storyteller who is adept at navigating the seedier parts of town and might not be the best fighter but knows how to control the flow of battle so that their companions can more effectively dispatch the bad guys, there is absolutely nothing baked into Savage Worlds that is stopping you from doing that and being supported by the mechanics while doing it. How you play your character depends heavily on how you choose to customize them.

With that in mind, there are certain guidelines for character creation that are encouraged by both the core rules and my GM. Let’s take them from the top!

Who do you think you are, anyways?

With so many choices in play, where does one start to figure out what their character is going to look like? The recommended answer is to first determine your race (human, elven, dwarf, etc.) and hindrances. You can take as many hindrances as you like, though you can only use up to four points worth of hindrances to trade for an attribute increase, more skill points, or an edge. Choosing hindrances early on will help you narrow down what skills and edges matter to your character, and when it comes to edges, there are quite a few that can actually compliment hindrances! A character who is Hesitant is required to draw two Action Cards and choose the lower of the two…but if she is also Calculating, she receives an advantage if her Action Card is five or less. Not only do that hindrance and that edge feed each other mechanically, they also tell a great story.

Next up is to determine how to distribute your attribute points. Your Agility, Smarts, Strength, Spirit, and Vigor all start at d4 and serve as a baseline for how costly it will be to increase their linked skills, and there are attribute prerequisites for many edges. With the Multiple Languages setting rule in play, the size of your Smarts die will also determine how many languages you can start the game with at no additional points cost.

Then comes choosing and increasing your skills. Every player character begins with a d4 in five core skills: Athletics, Common Knowledge, Notice, Persuasion, and Stealth. Depending on what setting your game is using, you could find yourself choosing from a pool of two dozen more skills — or more, or less, depending on the game world. While it’s possible to overdo it by spreading yourself too thin, I would suggest that Savage Worlds rewards diversifying your build as opposed to pumping points into maximizing a small number of skills. Core rules allocate twelve points for skills at character creation, with the possibility of an optional setting rule that allocates fifteen points to start, and the option of using hindrances to buy more.

Next come edges. Edges are special abilities that confer bonuses like improving skill checks, the ability to take actions that you wouldn’t normally be able to, penalty reductions, improved resistances, better outcomes from certain roleplaying scenarios, and more. As per the core rules, if you purchased points through hindrances (up to four points total), you can use those points to take up to two edges at character creation. Typically, that means that you can only take Novice edges, and will still need to meet any attribute or skill requirements as well (e.g. the Charismatic edge can be taken at Novice rank, but requires a d8 in Spirit). I say “typically” because my GM is partial to the setting rule Born a Hero, which waives the rank requirements for starting edges, opening up even more ways to tell your story from the beginning.

Edges are, in my opinion, the best argument for a practice my GM strongly encourages: planning your advances ahead of time, to the tune of ten advances or more. While this plan will almost certainly change over time as your role in the story evolves, having it in place will help ensure that are largely able to meet all the skill and attribute prerequisites in order to take the edges you want, when you want, and will also save you a lot of frustration and (if you’re anything like me) decision paralysis. Take it from someone who knows.

The last thing to do is purchase your starting gear. At my Savage Eberron table, everyone starts with 300 galifars (gold pieces) to use at their discretion. You can immediately spend as much or as little of those starting funds as you like, on whatever you like. What does it make sense for your character to have on their person when they join the party? What sort of eventualities are they prepared for? What matters to them? Answering those questions will help you decide how to spend — or hoard — your starting funds.

Introducing Daina ir’Lizani: Soldier, Sailor, Leader.

Daina at sea by Wade Johnson

So what does all this jargon look like in practice? Glad you asked! My new character, Daina ir’Lizani, is a human war deserter from the dead nation of Cyre who has found a new purpose as a champion for her fellow survivors, and now seeks to carve out a piece of land in the Lhazaar Principalities that the good people of Cyre can call their own. Pre-emptively elected as the future captain of the ship the party will inevitably commandeer, Daina is built for leading, commanding, and supporting Extras and Wild Cards alike in and out of battle. Her Code of Honor (major hindrance) compels her to keep her word, treat prisoners fairly, and behave according to her beliefs of what a gentlewoman should be. Her Vow (minor hindrance) is to her friends and her crew, to put their needs first and keep them safe and prosperous and seek to help them achieve their own goals and purposes. And because everyone has a “tell”, when Daina is concentrating or focusing on something, her Quirk (minor) leads her to idly play with the hilt of her tago knife — a ceremonial dagger used in the traditional Cyran courtship dance, a gift from her late husband, and a gesture that could be easily misinterpreted as a threat if whomever she’s speaking with does not recognize the knife’s innocent purpose. Here’s what all that looks like as a Novice:

First of all, you may have noticed that the base math for attribute points doesn’t line up here. As a human, Daina’s Adaptability gives her the choice of starting with a d6 in the attribute of her choice (as opposed to the standard d4), and she used two points from hindrances to get that second d8. So that’s how she is able to start with a d8 in two attributes.

The skills are business as usual, using the optional setting rule that allocates fifteen points instead of twelve. With five new skills in addition to the core set, plus the three additional language choices granted by Multiple Languages, this distribution takes into account the edges she wants to gain within the next two ranks and how to get there without feeling like she’s just treading water while getting set up. This particular assortment of skills also reflects her military background and experience as a sailor.

Next up are her starting edges:

Alright, this one’s gonna take some explaining.

First things first: a staple of my GMs games is everyone getting Hard to Kill as a free edge at character creation. Hard to Kill removes wound penalties from the Vigor roll needed to determine whether or not an incapacitated Wild Card lives or dies (and, if they live, how badly injured they’ll be as a result) and gives players a fighting chance against what is otherwise a very ugly death spiral.

For this campaign, we were each also given a free class, background, or professional edge. For Daina, that’s Savage Pathfinder’s Fighter edge…with a few changes. There’s been a lot of debate in the community about the balance of class edges, and this is one of several which my GM adjusted for our table. With that caveat, Martial Flexibility and Combat Training are both benefits of this customized version of Fighter (the original design only grants Martial Flexibility). Two Weapon-Fighting and Command round out the group thanks to the other benefit of Adaptablity (all humans receive a free edge at character creation), and my remaining hindrance points.

Finally, we have all the gear an itinerant sailor needs:

Daina’s starting inventory tells a story. The rapier with its +1 parry bonus seemed like a natural choice for an accomplished swordfighter. The grappling hook, rope, tinderbox, whetstone, and whistle are all handy things to have at sea, and the navigator’s tools give a +1 to Survival checks used to read maps and charts and determine a sense of direction. Since I will be making all those checks at an Untrained d4-2, navigator’s tools were an easy choice for this ship’s captain to have in her arsenal. The flute is a nod to the famous Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Inner Light”, but without any training in Performance, I suspect that playing the flute will be something Daina enjoys but does very poorly.

You may have noticed a glaring lack of any sort of armour. That is a conscious decision on my part at the moment, with the campaign expectation that we’ll be spending a lot of time at sea. An armoured character falling overboard is probably going to have a really bad day, and to help support the story of it being rather impractical for a sailor to wear anything that could drown them, the setting rule Unarmored Hero is in play (+2 on soak rolls when not wearing any armour).

The lion’s share of my starting funds went towards Daina’s tago knife and locket. Both items with profound personal significance, the tago knife’s handle is quite ornate and the locket contains a minor illusion. You’ll be learning more about that locket as the campaign progresses.

Everyone has a story to tell.

When people ask me why Savage Worlds has become my preferred TTRPG system, I have one consistent answer: for me, it hits the sweet spot between the mechanics supporting the story and the story supporting the mechanics. I think this is particularly evident in how characters are created and built, the customization available to all characters, and the flexibility and diversity the system provides and encourages. It can take some doing to figure out exactly how to arrange the mechanics of it all in order to match your story, but it’s worth it in the end.

If you are interested in how advancing (or “leveling”) your character might look, check out our latest article from DM Freewolf.

Interested in experimenting with building a Savage Worlds character? It’s easy to get started on savaged.us! The Savage Worlds Aventure Edition and Savage Pathfinder core books are available on peginc.com and DriveThruRpg. (Note: Savage Pathfinder includes the Adventure Edition core rules, so you do not need to purchase both books in order to get all the content.)

In the studio with Eberron: A Chronicle of Echoes

Though our plans for the next Session 0 continue to be foiled by Hurricane Ida, new Eberron content is always on the menu! I recently sat down with Rebecca and Steve, the creators and hosts of a wonderful podcast called Eberron: A Chronicle of Echoes and we took a deep dive into Steve’s weird relationship with pizza, the Jason Statham cinematic universe, and, of course, Savage Worlds.

Eberron: A Chronicle of Echoes began a little over a year ago as a response to the question “what if talk radio existed in Eberron?” In character as a pair of House Sivis gnomes named Sylas and Alufi, hosts Rebecca and Steve present and explore Eberron lore – with a few twists of their own – and more often than not with special guests from the Eberron community lending their own voices, insights, and good times. It’s a fantastic project that’s built on collaboration and community, and if I keep saying nice things about it, they might ask me back one day. 😉

Check out the full interview here! You can also find Eberron: A Chronicle of Echoes on Amazon Music, Spotify, and Apple podcasts.

We’ve Come A Long, Long Way Together: A One-Year Retrospective of Life and Love in Savage Eberron

In which the Seekers of the Ashen Crown turn 1, and I reflect on how it started vs. how it’s going…and what comes next.

*Record scratch* You’re probably wondering how I got here.

Well, truth be told, so am I.

A year ago, I didn’t know a thing about Savage Worlds beyond hearing a few shout-outs on an popular Eberron podcast called Manifest Zone. A year ago, I also didn’t have any real prospects for playing at an Eberron table using any system. I’d had some pretty negative experiences in my short time playing TTRPGs and, combined with a lifelong battle with anxiety, there were more than a few self-imposed barriers to entry for joining a new table and learning to trust a new party.

By that point, I’d been a casual poster on the official Eberron Discord for about eighteen months. And I’d been lurking that server’s LFG channel pretty hard, but none of the games being offered spoke to me in way that seemed worth making the effort to rise above my baggage for. Then, at the end of July, everything changed.

It was a post from someone I’d never even come across on the server before. He was advertising a system I’d never played, and he was looking to fill a seat at a table that was already together – all of which I’d normally find pretty darn intimidating. And I did find it intimidating, but what caught my attention above all the other LFG posts in the sea was the declaration that he wasn’t looking for players – he was looking for the right players, and he was going to take as much time as he needed to find them.

When you get to my stage in life, and you’re not the kind of player who just wants to roll dice and isn’t too concerned about who they roll those dice with, the idea of a GM wanting to curate a group that will mesh well together (as opposed to just looking to put butts in the seats) is incredibly appealing. So of course I stared at the post for a while, closed Discord, and did absolutely nothing about it, because change is scary and trusting new people is hard.

Two days later, I was still thinking about that post. It was constantly on my mind, along with a little voice whining “you should message that guy. Hey, I can’t help but notice that it’s 3p.m. and you haven’t messaged that guy yet. Have you thought about messaging that guy?” I was getting rather annoyed with that little voice, so I indulged it. I messaged the guy.

Truth be told, I wasn’t afraid that he wouldn’t write me back. If he didn’t, I could tell myself “oh well, I tried!” and happily fade back into mediocrity and not have to face my demons. But if he did write me back, well, then I’d have to put up or shut up. And that’s exactly what happened.

Long story short, he thought I was the right player. A few days later, I found myself on a video call being walked through character creation, and the week after that, it was game on.

Slowly but surely, I learned. Under my GM’s patient guidance, I learned how to make the most of my character, and how to tell the story I wanted to tell with him within Savage Worlds’ framework. Combat was a big hurdle to overcome, but he had my back for that too. I came to admire the elegant way this new-to-me system meshed mechanics with storytelling, and quickly fell head over heels with Savage Worlds as a means of exploring Eberron. The other players welcomed me into the group as an equal from day one, and not only took care of Jak, but took care of me. And while my year had its share of ups and downs, I never stopped looking forward to Tuesday night as the highlight of my week. These guys aren’t just people I roll dice with. I feel like I won the lottery, and the prize was four new brothers.

And then, on top of all that (which is more than enough already) I somehow stepped into the role of “content creator.” When I started posting my game tales on the Eberron server, it was just because I really like telling stories. I also like sharing things that pique my interest and make me happy. All the same, when Kristian Serrano messaged me in March asking if I’d be willing to turn my stories and behind-the-scenes/mechanics talk into a blog to make it accessible to a wider audience, I was skeptical. Kristian may be familiar to some of you as a former co-host of Manifest Zone, as well as the creator of the go-to conversion document for Savage Eberron, and at the time he reached out to me, he was also managing the Savage Worlds Media Network. My skepticism didn’t stem from anything to do with Kristian (who is well respected in the Eberron and Savage Worlds communities and is just an all-around nice guy), but from my own hang-ups. Surely no one would be interested in such a thing beyond the five people who read my recaps on Discord (can’t be more than five, right? Heck, that number’s probably high!). And besides which, if there was interest in such a thing, that would be even worse (see: anxiety)! But Kristian gently and firmly made his case that there was potential for my stories to encourage Eberron fans’ interest in Savage Worlds, and Savage Worlds fans’ interest in Eberron, and that there might be more people interested in my content than I thought. So I said sure, why not. Worst case scenario, I just end up shouting into the void, and it’s not hurting anybody.

Well…the void stared back. It stared back big-time. Within a week of launch, Tales from Savage Eberron had over 300 views, and it was ten more weeks before I saw a single day pass with no traffic at all. I’ve shared other creative endeavours online in the past (and present), but none of them have made nearly as big a splash as this one. The Eberron community is full of absolutely amazing content creators – podcasters, adventure and supplement authors, mapmakers, visual artists – and it is incredibly humbling to have been welcomed into their ranks.

While next week marks the penultimate session of Seekers of the Ashen Crown and the retirement (for now) of Jak and co., well, as our Dhakaani allies would say, the story stops but never ends. We’re losing one player, gaining another, and after a week to catch our breath, we’ll be rolling straight into a new campaign. There will continue to be plenty of stories to tell going forward as a new cast of characters faces the harsh realities of life on the high seas of Lhazaar together. As much as I am processing feelings of loss about the end of Seekers, I am incredibly excited about what the future holds.

In other words, this was a very long-winded way of saying thank you. Thank you for joining me on this journey, thank you to everyone who’s encouraged and promoted me along the way, and thank you to my amazing table.

Raat shi anaa. The story continues. Life in Savage Eberron is good.

Looking to start your own adventure in Savage Eberron? Here are a few resources to get you going:

You Seem Like a Decent Fellow – I Hate to Kill You! Cinematic Combat in SWADE

The dice tell their own story…but so do you.

After the Seekers of the Ashen Crown regrouped following one of our most epic battles to date — and prepared to take down Lady Demise at last — I thought it might be nice to have a little chat about how to pick a fight in Savage Worlds…and do it in style.

First and foremost, combat in Savage Worlds likes to be cinematic and narrative, and that is going to be the focus of this article.  To make the most out of a combat encounter often means going above and beyond “I swing my sword at the enemy.”  Sure, you could swing that sword – but what if the enemy’s Toughness is 12, and your sword only does 1d6 damage?  You’d be gambling on getting a pretty big dice explosion…or, you could forgo an attack in order to set your fellow adventurers up for their own moment of glory by means of a Test.  Tests are non-lethal actions that, when successful, impose a penalty on your enemies to make them either Distracted (less able to hit you and your allies) or Vulnerable (more susceptible to your and your allies attacks) until the end of their next turn.  An opposed roll, a Test can be conducted with a fairly wide variety of skills.  While you can feint at an enemy with your sword to distract them – making a Fighting roll, just like you would on an attack – other actions like throwing sand in their eyes, delivering a scathing verbal blow to their morale, or yelling “hey, your shoe’s untied!” are equally useful.  In the Seekers of the Ashen Crown’s first meeting with the Emerald Claw, Jak took Lt. Sesko down a peg by spitting in his face, and while face to face with Tik at last in the Traveler’s Rest, Kayde’s suggestion that a henchman wasn’t being paid enough for his trouble wound up being something the man took to heart, an epiphany which quite possibly saved Kayde’s life.

In a similar vein, Support fills in the gaps when a Test isn’t quite the help you’re looking for.  Let’s say my friend wants to catch a group of enemies in an environmental hazard like a sticky web or unstable ground.  In strictly mechanical terms, he wants to cast a utility spell, and the prize he’s chasing is a raise (or two) in order to increase his spell’s effectiveness.  This is an instance where Support actions shine.  I can use my turn to do something like bolster his confidence or point out a weak spot in the environment that he can exploit, rolling the associated Trait (as determined by the GM) to confer a modest bonus to his casting roll.  A +2 in Savage Worlds is nothing to sneeze at – it could very easily be what pushes his roll over the edge from failure to success, or from baseline effectiveness to something better. 

Another contributor to cinematic combat is the Multi-Action, a mechanic which allows you to, as the name might suggest, take more than one action per round.  Declared and defined at the start of your turn, a regular Multi-Action consists of two actions at the cost of a -2 penalty to each roll, or three actions at a -4.  With multiple combat edges available that negate the standard -2 penalty, it can be an incredibly useful tool.  My old character Jak could, in theory, Test and attack an enemy on the same turn – and while he doesn’t have any edges that specifically negate the Multi-Action penalty, he does have Killer Instinct (which grants him a free reroll on Tests) and Frenzy (which adds an extra die to his melee attacks).  With those edges working in tandem, the chances of succeeding on both his Test and attack aren’t half bad, not to mention cool as heck if he can pull it off.

As I’ve already discussed in this space, bennies can go a long way towards cinema and narration in a combat encounter.  While they’re good for straightforward rerolls on attack and damage, they can also be spent to alter the flow of battle as we saw in Graywall, when Ivello traded a bennie for some scaffolding that he was able to pull down onto the heads of the guards pursuing him.  The only limits are your imagination – and the GM’s discretion.  I suspect most GMs (including mine) wouldn’t allow you to casually negate an encounter for one measly bennie, but I also suspect that most GMs in these scenarios will be happy to encourage player creativity and reasonable degrees of the Rule of Cool. After all, there was absolutely no guarantee in the example above that Ivello would succeed at making use of that scaffolding – but allowing him the possibility of doing something awesome and game-changing was very much in line with the Savage Worlds philosophy of “fast, furious, fun.”

That being said, there is one circumstance I can think of in which a combat encounter can be significantly altered in the players favour by a single resource: the play of a well-timed Adventure Card.  From keeping Kayde’s brain safely inside his head to enlisting the help of a giant owl to facilitating Tik’s capture, Adventure Cards add a fantastic layer of twists and turns to even the most pedestrian, seemingly hopeless, or already completely gonzo combat encounters.  And it’s always worth it for the look on the GMs face.

So, there you have it: a small taste of the stories you can tell once initiative is drawn.  As much as the dice determine the outcome, us players have an incredible amount of agency and choice when it comes to resolving combat.  It can be a lot to remember in the heat of battle (and, full disclosure, I am often the first one to forget), but when the narrative and actions line up, it’s incredibly satisfying.  Looking back at this campaign’s most memorable encounters, they all share a common thread: the clever and/or timely use of one or more of the mechanics I’ve explored here.  Picking a fight in Savage Worlds can be dangerous and unpredictable.  The good news is, it can also be a whole lot of fun.

Table Talk: All About the Bennies

One more tool in the storytelling box.

Something I’ve mentioned quite a few times now in the Behind the Scenes portion of my weekly recaps is the use of bennies.  What I haven’t explained is what they are, what they’re good for, and how they keep the story and action flowing.  In this article, I take a look at just one more mechanic that makes Savage Worlds great.

Bennies (short for “benefits”) are, esoterically speaking, intended to represent a PC’s luck.  Taking the physical form of tokens such as large glass beads or poker chips, three bennies are awarded to each player at the start of a session, with the promise of more to be earned over the course of play.  There’s little sense in hoarding bennies; they should flow freely, and they don’t carry over between sessions anyways.  Bennies can be spent at any time to:

  • Reroll any trait roll that was not a critical failure.,,but if that bennie earns you a crit fail on your quest for success, you’re stuck with it.  With my party’s luck, where other players might declare they are using a bennie to fish for a raise, we regularly joke that we’re using it to fish for snake eyes.
  • Fight stronger and harder.  In combat, you can spend bennies to reroll damage, recover from being Shaken, soak wounds, change your initiative order, or regain power points (D&D players: think spell slots).
  • Allow the players to influence the story.  At the GM’s discretion, you can trade a bennie for something to happen in a particular scene, in or out of combat. At our table, the first time I saw one used in this way was fairly early on in Seekers of the Ashen Crown when our old friend Lady Demise ejected Lestok – while on fire – from a third-story window.  He survived the trip (and the fire), and then offered the GM a bennie to add a trellis to the side of the building so that he could easily climb back into the fray.  Later in the campaign, Aruget spent a bennie to buy more time during the changing of the guard for his and Jak’s jailbreak, and in the following session Ivello exchanged one for a scaffolding that he promptly brought down on his opponents heads, controlling the flow of the fight and allowing him and Lestok to make a quick getaway.  Of course, declaring you want to spend a bennie in this way does not bind the GM to agreeing to it – they absolutely have the right to refuse if your request is too ridiculous or overpowered.  But at a table where everyone understands the limits of the story being told, chances are good that if you want a chandelier to materialize so that you can use it to swing across the room to safety, you’re getting that chandelier.

At our table, bennies are most likely to be spent on the things we most want to see happen.  In Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Kayde regularly burnt through his bennies trying to get a good Notice roll to satisfy his suspicion and paranoia.  Ivello, the curious scholar, regularly poured his into good Common Knowledge results, while  Aruget, ever the party’s protector, often ran himself out while fishing for as many raises as he could get on healing his injured friends.  For myself, I have definitely followed this pattern in spending bennies on the outcomes that matter the most to my character – the first time I ran myself out in Seekers, I was trying to convince a very obstinate secretary to let Jak talk to his old captain at the Citadel. I also tend to be a more defensive player who likes to save them for soaking in combat-heavy sessions. Bennies, even when not explicitly used to influence the story, still do influence the story by changing the outcome of a roll or preventing a killing blow.

So, how exactly does one recover bennies now that we’ve spent them all making our deepest desires come true?  The hard and fast way of recovering bennies during combat is if someone draws a joker – that awards a bennie to every player in the initiative order. Outside of combat, there are a few different ways to recover bennies, with the responsibility for keeping them flowing falling largely on the GM. The guidelines state that they should be awarded at the GM’s discretion for things like good roleplaying, acts of heroism, and playing to your Hindrances (which is probably where most of mine come from).  At our table, we also receive one for answering the backstory question of the week.  A good one-liner or making the table break out in laughter is also a reliable source of bennies, and we’re not shy to point out when we think a fellow player deserves one.

Now, you may be thinking, “but Elly, I’m just not that quick on my feet.”  That’s okay, neither am I.  I regularly think up witty comebacks and cool quips an hour after the session ends, but don’t have much difficulty earning bennies over the course of play through some of the other means described.  Knowing your character is, in my opinion, key to earning bennies, and I knew Jak inside-out.  I’ll reiterate: bennies, even when spent in combat, are a storytelling device.  If you can be a part of your table’s story, you can be rewarded for it.  Tell a story, get a bennie, use that bennie to tell a story, and the cycle continues. 

One last note about bennies: they aren’t just for the players amusement.  The GM starts the session with a pool of bennies equal to the number of players, but to keep things fair, the only way for them to regain bennies is by drawing a joker in combat.  The GM can use their bennies for all the same things players can – rerolls, soaking, un-shaking.  There are few things that strike fear into my heart like when the GM rolls damage on a PC and then casually says “I’m going to bennie that” – it definitely keeps us on our toes.

As a player, I absolutely love bennies.  The story is always my favourite part of any TTRPG, so anything that helps me better tell or participate in that story is a winner.  I like being able to spend them, it feels great to get them, and I’m always fascinated by how my fellow players choose to use them.  They’re a fun, endlessly versatile mechanic that makes me feel powerful as a character and capable as a storyteller.  They’re a really cool way of making you feel like you can take your fate into your own hands, all while remaining at the mercy of the dice.  And as an integral part of Savage Worlds, they are just one more reason why I love this system.

Table Talk: Hindrances and You

In which I explore what they are, and why you want some.

In my last recap, I explained in Behind the Scenes that Jak has three Hindrances that made life particularly difficult for him and his friends during the events of that session. What I didn’t explain, for those of you less familiar with Savage Worlds, is what exactly a Hindrance is, and why they matter.

What is a Hindrance, anyways?

On the surface, a Hindrance is exactly what is sounds like: a flaw, a drawback, or something that makes life harder for the hero. In practice, they are largely roleplaying cues that help define and enrich your character. If you’re familiar with Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition, it’s a similar mechanic to Flaws, with a few notable differences. For one thing, a Hindrance can be either physical (elderly, exceptionally large or small, missing an arm) or psychological (suspicious, curious, impulsive). For another thing, not all Hindrances are “bad.” A character with Code of Honor has sworn to act like a gentleman in all things – a noble goal that may make him well-liked by some, but might restrict his actions and behaviour in certain circumstances as he is always bound by his oath. A character who is Curious is not necessarily dangerously or foolishly curious, but they can be. A character whose Quirk is twirling the ends of her hair when she speaks might seem harmless, but perhaps you have flavoured that quirk as being a tell for when she is nervous, distracted, or lying. With a few dozen official Hindrances to choose from in the core rules, there’s something for everyone, and no shortage of stories to explore.

Who wants to be perfect?

Hindrances come in two flavours: Minor and Major. A Minor Hindrance is, typically speaking, purely for character and roleplaying enrichment. While the GM might give you a bennie for playing to it, it serves no larger function in the campaign other than to cause a little trouble here and there. A Major Hindrance is meant to cause actual trouble for your hero over the course of the campaign, and affect or be present in the story in some way. Here are a few in-game examples:

My character in Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Jak, had a Quirk (Minor) and was also Shamed (Major). In a world where prejudice against changelings is entrenched, Jak couldn’t resist mischievously or threateningly revealing himself as a changeling at opportune (or inopportune) times, but for the most part, nothing of note ever came of those antics. With Shamed being a Major Hindrance, however – well, that slowly started blowing up in his face in week 27, came to a head with him being discredited and arrested in week 32, and ended up with his friend being forced to punch him in the head for his own good at the end of the following session. A Major Hindrance (Secret) was also responsible for an assassin coming for Quentin/Ivello in week 25, and its inclusion in the campaign made for what perhaps remains our most exciting, Eberron-esque session yet.

It’s worth noting that both both Shamed and Secret started out at Minor Hindrances, but were transitioned to Major during the course of the campaign due to how Ivello’s player and I were acting them out. Players, don’t be afraid to talk to your GM if you find your Hindrance evolving over time! It’s more fun that way.

While it is mechanically beneficial to players to take Hindrances – you can exchange them for up to two Edges (5e players: think Feats) at character creation, as well as use the points gained from them (one per Minor, two per Major, up to four total) to increase your attribute dice size, buy or increase skills, or double your starting funds – it’s also tons of fun to explore a hero who’s not perfect. I have always been of the opinion that putting guidelines on creative endeavours can be a really good thing, and having these built-in cues for how to encourage and guide roleplaying definitely falls into that category. I can’t imagine how bland Jak’s life would be if he weren’t Shamed, Loyal, and Stubborn, or how dull that airship ride would have been without Ivello’s assassin coming out of the woodwork. Hindrances help us learn more about our characters, give us a solid framework for interacting with the game world, and gosh darn it, they just make things more interesting.

Do you have a favourite Hindrance? A great in-game moment that came about because of one? Drop it in the comments!