Breaking rules is fun.

Here's an idea. Breaking the rules of a game makes for a better game experience.

Games have rules. Some have few, others have dozens. It doesn't matter if it is a rule that tells you to roll this dice at this time in RPG, or a one that tells you how to move your piece in a board game, or even a equation that limits how high can you jump in a video game. Without those rules there would be no real game to speak of. It would be more of an experience than game. On the other hand, what would it be, if you had rules that everyone has to follow, but each person is allowed to "cheat" in some way? I would call it an awesome game experience.

Let me tell you about two games that you probably never heard about: Monastyr and Neuroshima.

Both Neuroshima and Monastyr are Polish RPG games from Portal Publishing. Before Portal moved to producing board games, they were THE Polish RPG company. Now, while the games differ on many different levels (for one Neuroshima is post-apocalyptic, while Monastyr is XVII-XVIII century inspired dark fantasy), they have very similar mechanics. I won't go into too much detail into the system powering those games. The only thing you should know, that it is a somehow cumbersome mechanic, with quite a few stats and skills and by extent, quite a few rules.

The interesting thing about those systems is that during character creation you are basically choosing two ways of how to "cheat". You choose your birthplace (i.e what country/settlement you are from) and what have you been doing throughout your life (basically a professional background - a soldier or a monk). With each choice you gain a special ability that basically breaks the rules of the game in some way.

You might be allowed to re-roll a die 3 times per session, or you might always succeed in a particular test. You basically change the rules of the game in some way. Because there are so many choices (each background has at least two of those "cheats", you choose one) and you can't get more of those special abilities, it makes each player feel unique and powerful. What I have noticed with those games, that even as I hated the mechanics (I am more of a rules-lite kinda guy), I kept coming back to them because of those special abilities. This got me thinking...

Plenty of other games have special abilities that you can get. D&D has feats, Savage Worlds has Edges, heck, even fate has...what-you-call-them... stunts. But for whatever reason they do not feel the same. Edges, Feats and Stunts don't feel unique and as fun as the "cheats" from Monastyr and Neuroshima. They feel mundane, as a player you expect to have them, they are part of your character build, not something special.

To make those abilities feel special, they have to be almost game breaking and not fit into the existing mechanics. Look at games like Cosmic Encounter or Apocalypse World on the RPG side of gaming. Both those games are popular because of their game altering abilities. Each player can do something that changes the flow of the game. That's not all, both of those games reinforce exclusivity of those "cheats". If you have one alien, or playbook, no one else can have the same (not as true in AW, but it would be like that with a limited number of players). You, as a player, are the only owner of this particular game breaking cheat. You can do something unique that no one else can and that makes it cool.

When I released my 24h game HEIST_ACES one piece of feedback that I got over and over again is to include unique abilities. Now I know why and will work on implementing that in the future. Saying that, I feel that many games can benefit from "cheats" like that. Give each player a special ability or two that can break the standard set of rules in one way or the other and see how much more they will enjoy their character. It will make the games more memorable for the player when they get to use their one of a kind ability. You will vividly remember when you saved the day, because you were the only person who was immune to toxic fumes. Being able to occasional break the rules like that, changes the game into more of an experience. And it's only a good thing.

Savage Abilities - Savage Fan Creation Review

Savage Worlds is a very customizable system. Thanks to its simplicity it is quite easy to create new content either by "reskinning" existing material or by following the guidelines included in the companions. Unfortunately, outside of those two approaches there isn't much in a way of official advice on expanding the system. If you are looking for a more granular approach to designing savage content, you should definitely check out Zadmar's Savage Worlds stuff. It is a gold mine of great tools and rules-building supplements. Let's have a detailed look at Zadmar's  newest creation - Savage Abilities.

Savage Abilities

Savage Abilities by +Richard Woolcock  is a free supplement designed to help you with creation of new Edges, Hindrances, Templates and Powers for the Savage Worlds system. As with other publications by the author, you get an extensive list of options that you can combine into Savage Worlds abilities. Each option comes with a point cost, so you can balance your newly created abilities against the Savage Worlds standards.

Before we delve into the content proper, let's look at the layout and graphic design of the document. Most of the free supplements and conversion found online have a somehow spartan design. Usually a decent, readable layout with maybe few graphics and ornamental fonts. Not Savage Abilities - this product can be easily confused with a small press professional release. It has a standard RPG two column layout on a readable pastel background and it even comes with professional looking art and a beautiful cover (by artist Storn Cook). The grahpic design has a "feel" of the earlier Svage Worlds publications from Pinnacle. Honestly, I have seen paid products with a much worse design. As a person who appreciates graphic design, I tip my hat to the author for this approach.

The book itself offers options and advice on creation of Edges, Hindrances, Monster and Creature Templates, Powers and Crafting of items. Each chapter comes with example Abilities and adds a new interesting ways of looking at particular abilities. The Edge chapter lets you create Races trough the Edge mechanics, allowing for type of subraces (people with elven blood or high, wood or dark elves for example). Not only this will add flavor to your setting, but thanks to the point-buy system, it will be balanced against other Savage Worlds aspects. You get another "extra" within the Powers chapter. Thanks to the point cost of each part of the Power and categorizing those options into "schools of magic", you can introduce an Ars Magica inspired freeform magic system. Author goes to the great lengths explaining this mechanic followed by advice on using it. The whole Powers/Magic chapter is a great resource if you want to create a magic-rich setting. The options here, act as modifiers to the "option effects" from the end of the book. Oh, and also, this option allows you to create utility spells, that some people are missing from Savage Worlds. Want a "knock" type spell? Well, just create a Power that gives the mage a temporary boost to lockpick skill. It was at this point where I was definitely sold on the book!
The Crafting system is just a cherry on the top. While it might not be amazingly fast, it uses simple mathematical formulas to give you the price of raw materials and time needed to create any item, by using just its cost and the craftsman skill ratings. This is a great addition, that can be used as-is during campaign downtime or as a reference when PCs are ordering custom equipment from craftsmen. I can see myself expanding this system with scavenging, to be used in a post-apocalyptic campaigns.

The last chapter is the meat and potatoes of the book. It hosts almost 150 different options that you can combine into creating any of the Abilities explained in the previous chapters. The options are grouped into categories that allow for easier navigation. You can find here options for combat, senses and movement among others. While this is not a complete list of things that can be achieved in Savage Worlds, it gives you an amazing starting point into creating a plethora of new abilities!

My only (minor) issue with the book is that it uses the multiplier of 12 as it's basic unit costs. The author explains his reasoning behind it, but for whatever reason I would prefer a system based on 5s and 10s. Probably, because as humans we are used to the decimal system. This, combined with the vast amount of can lead to a small brain-overload, especially if you don't come from a math or programming background. Nevertheless this (and other of the author's suplements) should be your to-go products for creating new balanced content for Savage Worlds.

Savage Setting Rule: Defective Equipment

A common element of post apocalyptic or survival campaigns is the resource scarcity. Long time ago I have shared my way of making the resource amounts unpredictable, today I want to touch on using defective equipment. When push comes to shove, a rusted gun with a faulty trigger is better than no gun at all. If you are looking for Fast, Furious & Fun rules to express this in your games - read on!

I have originally created this rule for a Savage Worlds conversion of a Polish RPG - Neuroshima. You might know this name from board games like Neuroshima Hex or New Era. Before the fine folks of Portal Publishing have moved into board games, they have created a gritty post-apocalyptic RPG by that name. In the world of Neuroshima almost everything sucks - there is a AI that wants to finish off humanity, almost every person has some kind of disease and good quality equipment is hard to come by. So, you make do with whatever you can find - usually, the stuff is faulty in one way or the other. Normally, I am not to keen on adding penalties to tests, but in this case - it works thematically.

Defective Equipment

When items in good condition are hard to come by, using a slightly faulty equipment does not seem like such a big deal. There is plenty of rusted, bent and slightly broken stuff around. If you are lucky enough, you can scavenge some of it yourself. If you're not a scavenging type, there will be plenty of traders and merchants who can sell you some of those wares. Most of the available equipment comes faulty in some way. For every fault it gives the user penalties. Don't be afraid to add some flavor and narration to those faults - this makes for a more thematic roleplaying.

This slightly broken stuff gives you penalties to tests whenever you are using it. The car pulls to the right and the breaks are almost gone? -2 to Driving. This rusted Glock has a bent barrel? -1 to Shooting. That's not all - if your modified roll equals to 0 or less the item breaks - gun gets jammed, the car looses its steering etc. Now, only a successful Repair test can help.

When you are using defective stuff that does not require a test, the GM decides what happens – water purifying pills can give you diarrhea for example.

There is a good side to this whole deal. First - all that the defective equipment is usually cheaper. For each -1 modifier, you are taking off 20-25% of the cost. Secondly if you have some time, skill, tools and spare parts you can repair this stuff. A Repair test (or some other skill, like Knowledge:Chemistry when working with drugs) removes a -1 penalty for each success and raise. Repair takes time (to be decided by the GM depending on the item you're working on), so it can't be used during combat. Spare parts can usually be scavenged or bought (they cost around 10-15% of the item cost).

Equipment Degradation Sub-rule: Instead of items breaking down and needing repair on a critical miss, they become more defective. A roll of 1 on your skill die gives the item a -1 modifier. Snake eyes give -2. Those modifiers are cumulative. This rule works very well with games where both the equipment and skilled craftsmen are very hard to find - like a survival campaign.

Masterwork Items Sub-rule: Some characters (mostly NPCs) can improve items beyond their original quality. Masterwork items have a +1 modifier to tests, but can degrade as per rule above. If a PC wants to be able to create masterwork items, he needs to buy the below Edge.

Masterwork Craftsman
Requirements: Veteran, Repair (or other related skill) d8+
The character can improve items beyond their original quality. A successful Repair test on a non defective (no test penalties) item adds +1 modifier all tests using this item. The item created has a cost of 150-200% of a standard price.

Savage Eberron - Savage Fan Creation Review

I am not a big D&D player, nor I have a great deal of knowledge of the D&D settings, but Eberron caught my attention. It was he winning entry for Wizards of the Coast's Fantasy Setting Search during the 3rd edition era. From what I know, it is a fantasy setting with some pulp and noir elements mixed in. I haven't played in the setting per-se, but I have translated some elements (Warforged!) into my Savage Worlds campaigns in the past. Now +Kristian Serrano has made a proper conversion for Savage Eberron, where he tackles all of the unique aspects of the setting.

Savage Eberron

Unlike other conversions, Savage Eberron does not come in a pdf or a downloadable file. It is hosted on google docs as a living document. Anyone can comment on the document, request addition and/or changes. I think it is a great approach for conversion of this scale and it seems that the author is keeping the file up to date and takes the comments and requests into consideration. At the time of this review the file "weights" 58 pages and includes more or less everything you would want from a conversion. New Races, Edges and setting rules.

The file is pretty stark on the graphic design. What it lacks in flair it makes up in readability. It will work great, if you plan to read the file on a phone or a tablet. The file is "bookmarked" (all the content is hyper-linked in the table of contents) and laid out really well. Overall, the conversion is really accessible.

Overall, I can classify every Savage conversion into one of two camps. There are the people who translate all the rules from a given game and people who translate just the "feel" of the original content. Savage Eberron fits more into the former camp. It is logical, as D&D games rely pretty heavily on rules. The file has a plethora of new Edges and Arcane Backgrounds for the players to use, as well as every race from Eberron setting. For me, it is a little too much info to digest at once, but it is a personal opinion and I can see the fans of the original game enjoying the choices offered.

With all the system options the conversion gives you, it might be a little confusing for someone who is not familiar with the Eberron setting. The author includes only the mechanical aspects of the conversion and no fluff whatsoever. I understand this approach, but adding little fluff would make the file more accessible to users who are curious, but not fans of the setting itself. I am not talking about coping text from the source material, but explaining, in laymen terms what Warforged and Dragon Marks are would be greatly appreciated.

While Savage Eberron doesn't bring anything new or game-changing to the table, it is the most complete Eberron conversion that I have seen and a solid piece of work. It pushes the Savage Worlds system into a bit more rules heavy approach, making the experience a bit closer to the original D&D, by adapting almost every aspect of the setting. If you enjoy Eberron, but don't want to deal with the clunkiness of the D20 system - you should definitely check out Savage Eberron. On the other hand - if you are looking for some extra content for you Savage fantasy campaign - you will find plenty of content to choose from here. New Races, Edges, Archetypes and even a selection of monsters. Just make sure you google the more unique details of the setting.

While I am more for capturing the "feel" of a setting, Savage Eberron's detailed approach works very well, especially when combined with the "living document" development. If you are a fan of Eberron go and comment on the file, so it can be even better in the future.

Savage Fan Creations Review: Savage Dead Space

 Big List of Savage Worlds Fan Creation Reviews!
This post is a first review of free Savage Worlds fan license supplements. It is a direct followup to the Open Letter to Savage Worlds Bloggers and it will be an irregular feature on this blog. I hope that other bloggers will write similar reviews so I can add them to the Big List of Savage Worlds Fan Creation Reviews (also available trough the sidebar). While the list is far from big right now, in the future I would like it to be a go-to place for reviews of free Savage Worlds content. If you are a blogger and have a (or want to) review of a fan supllement - send it my way, I will add it to the list with the link to your review. Feel free to use the above logo in your post.

Now, without further ado, let's look into Savage Dead Space, a conversion by +John-Gunnar Nielsen Kristiansen.


I have found the Savage Dead Space conversion on the +Savage Worlds G+ community back in march 2014. You can still find the original post about it here. It is a conversion of the Dead Space video game, which is sort of sci-fi survival horror. I have chosen this file to review, as apart from being a solid video game conversion, it is also one of those files that can easily be lost in the depths of the interwebs (at the time of writing, the file is not linked on either SavageHeroes or Savagepedia, and googling Savage Dead Space does not point to it). While it might not be 100% complete, there is enough here to have a good one-shot or implement parts of into a larger scope sci-fi campaign (the world of Dead Space might not be suited for long running campaign anyway).

Savage Dead Space consists of two files: rules/equipment and bestiary, both available as pdfs on google docs. I am looking at the only available version - the unfinished version 0.1. 

The biggest draw to this conversion is the bestiary. The Necromorphs are an interesting enemy and author had made sure that each one of them will "feel" different. The creatures have special abilities taken straight from this action game, which makes for some great tactical combat. After all how will you act when you are facing few Dividers (if you kill them, they will divide into 5 smaller creatures) and being lured by a crawler? The creatures in the bestiary are translated to the Savage Worlds ruleset very well. Each creature has a short description and artwork (I asume taken from the game's wiki) which add a lot of flavor to those critters. You should check it out if you need new horror, sci-fi or even fantasy creatures.

The other file gives you a little background on the game world and adds two new Edges and one Hindrance. The only other thing here is a short list of weapons. While both files are clearly unfinished, this one seems even more so. The only "saving grace" for this file are the alternate fire modes for the weapon. I would like to see the at-fire rules in more Savage Worlds settings, I think it is a great addition, especially for more tactics oriented campaigns.

Both files, while unfinished have a good one column layout, using fonts from the game. While this makes the file seem more "thematic", the font is sometimes difficult to read, especially in larger blocks of text. If this file would get finished, I would like the author to use more mundane font for the main text and stick with the thematic fonts to headers. One more thing, I bet this is not author's fault, but the graphics in the file are of a very low quality. I am not sure if this is a pdf conversion issue, or an issue with google docs. Nevertheless, the file is readable.

I would like to see this conversion finished. The author seems to have a knack at creating good tactical options for Savage Worlds players and the game has a great potential for horror/survival one-shot. It will also fit in very well into the Nemezis campaign setting. Check it out, even if you won't use the monsters and equipment you can see how you can make both of them more tactical in Savage Worlds.