Savage Shadowrun - Savage Fan Creation Review

I've seen a few Shadowrun conversion floating around the iterwebs, but it wasn't until I have received a request from +Christoffer Krakou to review his creation, that I really sunk my teeth into one. In all honesty I haven't seen the appeal of Shadowrun for the longest time. I mean, fantasy cyberpunk? I like my cyberpunk gritty and down to earth, not full of spell-slinging trolls. It wasn't until the recent Shadowrun video game reboot (Return, Dragonfall and Hong-Kong) that I have finally seen how awesome the setting can be. The only thing stopping me from playing it was the cumbersome mechanic. Enter Savage Shadowrun.

Disclaimer: I was am not very familiar with the actual mechanics of Shadowrun. I have read through fourth and fifth edition, but most of the feel of the game I take from the above mentioned video games. It is possible that if you are a hardcore fan of the pen&paper Shadowrun, you won't share my opinion.

Unlike many other conversions of other RPGs to the Savage Worlds system, this Savage Shadowrun feels very robust and complete. The conversions I usually encounter translate the most important aspects of a game and leave a lot of Savage Worlds unchanged. It is not a bad thing by any means, it works for many RPGs and keeps with the Fast, Furious and Fun spirit of Savage Worlds. However, when translating such complex system like Shadowrun, those extra rules add greatly to the "feel" of the game. Because what makes Shadowrun is not only the setting, a large portion of what makes the system click are the rules that interlock with different attributes of the sixth world. In that aspect, Christoffer's conversion does a great job at capturing the mechanical essence of the game.

In just under 80 pages, the document manages to squeeze every rule needed to play (from character generation, thru rules for magic and technology users, to cybernetics), a selection of weapons, spells and even few appendixes that give extra insight into some of the new rules. That's a lot of stuff for a free conversion. To be fair, Christoffer worked on this document for over four years, this shows some dedication. So let's see what hides between those pages.


This chapter is a pretty usual fair for conversions. You get lists of new races (that are more powerful than the usual SW races, clocking in at +4 instead of +2), Edges and Hindrances. To emulate the game, few new skills are included, mostly pertaining to the technology and magic aspects of the game. All of the stuff included here is of a really good quality, and reading through those makes me want to make a character or two. The one quibble I have here is the Deception skill. It is used both as type of persuasion and as a part of hacking. I think that is one of the mechanical quirks of the original system that can be streamlined in the conversion. If I were to run this conversion, I would probably skip it and just let Persuasion do the talking (and maybe adding a new Edge for using persuasion during hacking instead of Deception).


This chapter talks mainly about Hacking, but also touches upon Rigging (using semi-autonomous drones), it is the most meaty of the chapters, as it introduces many new concepts. Hacking is a big deal in the sixth world, and has its own set of mechanics in the conversion. It seems a bit complex on the first read, but it will soon make sense. After you get wrap your head around the high concept of the Matrix and understand that it is a "different plane of existence," unlike the meatspace you will be fine. I think that those rules will make hacking a really cool aspect of the game, and it won't slow down the overall gameplay. Another cool thing is, that because hacking is a bit different from the normal Savage Worlds mechanics, non-hacker players will see it as some kind of techno wizardry. The only thing I wish the author would change are the names of the derived statistics for digital actions to more a Savage Worlds friendly terms, as right now it maybe confusing to players not familiar with Shadowrun. Adding digital before the name of the normal stat would resolve the issue. So, the Resistance would become Digital Parry etc.

Magic and others

The magical traditions are more akin to standard Savage Worlds ruleset. They use a tweaked variant of the "No Power Points" rules and a custom spell list. There is a lot of good stuff here that makes the magic more polished than a traditional Savage Worlds setting does. You get rules on astral space, summoning spirits and using a mentor spirit who gives your characters both pros and cons. The magic chapter has more of a DIY approach to magic, as the Shadowrun magicians are as varied as the rest of the world. A DIY approach is always a plus in my book.
The rest of the document consists of lists of various equipment and services the characters can obtain. Many of those come with special rules of their own and make the conversion more than just a collection of rules. There are few paragraphs of fluff and fluff is used to explain various rules (the explanation of why Doubting Thomas Hindrance is forbidden is by far my favorite) and even some Shadowrun art to get you hooked up. You can run a bare-bones session with this document alone, but you will still want to have some of the Shadowrun books to really sink your teeth into the setting. All in all, this conversion does a great job at introducing players to the world of Shadowrun and provides a good alternative to the official mechanic.

Christoffer released the conversion and a set of character cards on his blog: You should definitely check it out!

Savage Daddy's Heist Companion - Savage Fan Creation Review

As with the rest of the blog, the Savage Fan Creation Review series fell really behind the schedule. In an effort to keep this blog running I am also reviving the fan review series. I am starting with an old request for a long overdue review of Savage Daddy's Heist Companion. Written by +Jerrod "Savage Daddy" Gunning  (of Savage Worlds GM Hangout and Sin City Savages fame), the Heist Companion gives advice and options for running a heist centered game. Let's see what's inside...
In 23 pages, the Heist Companion gives you all the rules needed to run a heist game using Savage Worlds system. Inside you'll find new Archetypes, Edges, Hindrances and heist oriented setting rules. The document doesn't delve  into fluff, as "heist" as a genre is pretty much self explanatory and I would assume that anyone wanting to run a heist game is familiar with the formula. This "lack of setting" also makes the companion pretty genre neutral. The rules can easily be incorporated in anything from modern, through cyberpunk to sci-fi genres. It can even be applied to fantasy with a little tweaking.

The main aim of the supplement is to give both, the players and the GM, solid tools to run a one-shot in the vain of heist movies like Ocean’s Eleven, The Sting, etc. You can technically incorporate the rules into a non-heist campaign, but you would need to skip few rules. You start the game the same way any heist starts, by...

Getting the team together

First, you create your characters. As with any high stakes heist, each character has a specific skillset that fills a niche in the team. Those niches are covered by Archetypes (first introduced in Streets of Bedlam) and let you be the Mastermind, the Face etc. Those archetypes are also connected to the new Edges. Only certain archetypes can purchase certain Edges. All of those are pretty powerful and make each character useful in a different way during the heist. All the new Edges and Hindrances are really fitting the genre and some of them interact with the new mechanics of the heist itself.
After the players have created their characters, they can recruit some NPCs to aid them in the heist by filling the remaining archetypes or just doubling some up for good mes sure. The recruiting process has its own risk/reward attached to it, as failed recruiting attempts make the heist a little more difficult. Once you have your team, you...

Prepare and run the heist

This is where the bulk of the new mechanics live. You get some random heist generator and time to do the "planning phase" of the job. New mechanics like Heist Bennies and Exploit Cards are used and it all ends in an aftermath where you find out how well the job has gone. I would advise you check the file yourself, as I think that me summarizing the rules would only confuse you. I have to admit, everything after the character generation portion of the companion is a pretty dense read. Those rules do a great job at emulating the genre, but you need to re-read them here and there, as they pack a lot of new information into few pages. I am a big fan of both heist genre and new mechanics, but even I think the document could use some extra examples for clarity. For someone who just started with Savage Worlds, running heists or both the supplement can feel overbearing. Nevertheless, it helps you change the usually action oriented Savage Worlds into full on heist.

Overall, it is a good example on how to expand the Savage Worlds ruleset to accommodate a different playstyle. The companion has no art and sports a basic, but clear graphic design overall. A few tweaks here and there would make it an amazing resource for running heists.

Disclaimer: I couldn't find the Heist Companion hosted anywhere. I have shared the copy I have received from Jerrod via email.

What I think about... The Wild Die Podcast

I am somewhat a podcast junkie. Sadly, since the end of The Game's the Thing and the somehow sporadic release schedule of Smiling Jack's Bar and Grill I am always on the lookout for more Savage Words content for my ears. Yes, there's the Savage Blogger Network Podcast, but it is a short form podcast focused mostly on the news. As for the Hangout on Air,  I prefer to watch it on a second screen of my desktop while I am working. So I was happy to find that a new Savage Worlds podcast has showed up...

The Wild Die

At the time of this post The Wild Die is only on its second episode. but I think it is important to acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly, even that early in the podcasts life cycle. Afterall, you only have one chance to make the first impression.

The guys behind the Wild Die seem to be new to Savage Worlds, but not new to the hobby. It is interesting to see the perspective from someone who moved from a "certain popular d20 based system." This is both a good and a bad thing. Good because it introduces people with similar background to the system and lets them master the rules alongside the hosts. It is also simply interesting to listen to someone whose path to the System was such much different than my own, which can help me teach the system to others who are stepping outside their DnD boundaries. The same aspect that makes The Wild Die so intriguing is also "the bad and the ugly" of the show. Both of the hosts seem to still be learning the rules. It is most clearly seen (heard?) during the segment when they delve into particular mechanical aspect of the game (Powers episodes seems to be a big offender right now). What seems to be targeted at explaining the quirks of the system to people new to Savage Worlds can turn into a somewhat confusing, "off the cuff" chat riddled with inaccuracies and reading from the rules. I understand that the hosts are still wrapping their heads around it, but it can seem confusing to someone not familiar with the game. To remedy this there is a "listener mail" segment, in which some of the rules errors are addressed, but you need to wait until the next episode to find out about those. Nevertheless the hosts' enthusiasm for the system is contagious and I can see why they get emails from people who want to give Savage Worlds a try. Which is a great thing, as most of the other Savage Worlds podcasts that exist (and existed) were targeted at more hardcore fans who knew the system's ins and outs. I am curious to see what impact the Wild Die will have on the Savage fandom. It will definitely expand it, but I am also waiting to see what ideas the new players will bring to the table.

Going forward, I can see the show taking more of a mentor and a student approach, as one of the hosts (I cannot remember his name now, but he is a big fan of Deadlands Noir) seems to have more experience already. It would be a welcome change to the usual "everybody here is an expert" type of podcast, and from what I heard so far, it could be a very effective way of teaching new players. I would also like to see more humorous banter in the future, as right now it seems that it only shows up when the hosts forget they have to act professional. Maybe its just me, but podcasts hosts do not have to be business like.

The Wild Die is not perfect, but no podcast is. It is also a brand new show that is still finding its footing. There are some small mistakes, like talking at the same time and the music intermissions between segments being a tad too long for my liking. I am sure that the hosts will find the "sweet spot" for what they want to do. It probably will take some time to overcome those growing pains, but I am planning to stay and listen to the Wild Die. It might not teach me things I don't know about Savage Worlds for a while, but it will give me a look into the mindset of a new Savage player. And honestly, I want to see where the podcast is heading...

Right now, the Wild Die does not seem to have a website of its own (or one that my lazy midnight googling could find), but it is available on iTunes Stitcher and it has its own Google+ group. If you are interested in Savage Worlds (especially if you are new to, or thinking about trying this system) you should effeminately definitely check it out. Even if the podcast covers things you already know, you will be able to experience the system through the eyes of some new Savages.

Edit: Found their website.

Savage Hexcrawl - Part 4: Players' rules FAQ

My Savage Hexcrawl rules are almost two years old. Since then I have used them in few campaigns with different groups and with players new to the idea of hexcrawl. This post is a collection of answers for questions that kept popping out during those games.

How much time it takes to travel one move point?

Move points don't work that way. It is an abstraction that does not really take time into consideration. Think of move points as a combination of effort and skill in travel. People who are less suited for travel will have more trouble travelling the same path than a seasoned explorer does. Novices will get tired faster and they will get lost more often. So in general, it will take a character who receives 5 move points, twice as long to travel the same distance than a character who receives 10 move points. If you want an actual time required to travel one move point for for your character/party divide 8 hours by the amount of move points. So an average character with a Pace of 6 would spend around  1h 20min to travel one move point. I would advise you against translating everything into hours and minutes however. The system is abstracted and move points include things like stops for food and drink and getting lost and backtracking during travel and short encounters. If you spend 4h inside a hex doing normal "RPG adventuring" you don't loose any move points automatically. You are still able to travel as much, but now you risk travelling at night, as you wasted daytime. 

What move points do I get if I use different means of travel on the same day?

The system assumes that you will always use the fastest means of travel for the bulk of your journey. If you have a horse, you will ride it. If you have a car, you will drive it. But stuff happens. Horses might die and cars can run out of gas. There can also be terrain that does not allow different means of transport. A horse cannot climb a steep mountain and a car can't drive through a river. If you have to change means of travel your GM will need to do some math. Calculate roughly how many percent of your move points you have used. So if you spent 8 points while on a horse, you have spent 80% of your daily travel time. Take the remaining percentage and translate it to move points based on your new Pace. So if your horse died after 8 move points and you have to travel by foot you have (Pace x 100-80%, so 6x0.2) 1.2 move points left. Any fractions are rounded down as changing means of transport takes time - taking your equipment down etc. You are NOT getting a fresh set of move points based on your Pace (so 6 for Pace of 6) because the characters are already tired from the journey. Even riding in a car will tire you out. The same happens if you find a horse or a car in the midst of the day. You translate the remaining percentage. Your character is already tired from travelling this day.

What happens if I get Encumbered or Wounded?

If during your travels there is a negative change to character's Pace (Wounds, Tiredness and Encumbrance all affect Pace) and because of it you become the slowest in the party, the group automatically looses movement points. The amount you loose is equal to the difference between the original party Pace and the Pace of the character who just got Wounded, Tired or what have you. So if your party Pace was 5 and a character with Pace of 6 got two Wounds and got encumbered (making its new Pace 3), they loose (5-(6-3)=) 2 move points. This is why it is a better idea to setup a camp for the rest of the day to rest and heal before continuing the journey.

Why would I explore a Hex?

As mentioned in Part 1, you can spend a move point to explore a hex, but it is not explain what benefits does it give you. Exploring a hex makes the GM draw another card to check for Events. It lets the players seek more adventure, no Notice test, just card draw. Exploring is also used when trying to find something inside the hex if you don't know exactly where it is. GM might ask you to explore the hex and test Notice or you can explore it until a good event card shows up. So if you know that there is a small keep inside the hex, but don't know exactly where, you need to explore it, plain and simple. In metagaming it also adds to variety - you will add more entries to your notebook for that hex, which will make the world seem more alive.

Where am I inside the hex?

Short answer - doesn't matter. The system is abstract, it only matters that you are somewhere inside that six mile radius. Rest of it is not on the map, but in the minds of the GM and players. If you need some concrete info, you can travel to the middle of the hex by spending half of the point cost for the terrain type (so 2 for swamp or 1 for plains) and traverse it by paying all of it. If you enter a hex but don't have enough points to exit, or even a middle, just narrate where you are.Use your imagination  ;)

Those are all the questions that come to mind. If you have any more, feel free to ask them in comments and I will answer them here. I will eventually add some more GM advice and combine the hexcrawl info into a pdf.

I've been texting with a stranded astronaut!

I have always been a fan of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, but outside of a free Lone Wolf app, I never really tried it packaged as a game. Honestly, I've gotten this game, because it was on sale and I've heard good things about it here and there. I was not prepared for what it offered.

You know, there are some games that break the barrier between fact and fiction. ARGs or Omikron: The Nomad Soul comes to mind. Lifeline gives you a similar experience, but delivers it in completely different and innovative way. When you open the app for the first time, you will receive a transmission from someone named Taylor, who is stranded on some good forsaken moon. The ship is crashed and you (the player) are the only person Taylor could reach. So you begin to talk.

The game is basically an interstellar chat app. Taylor writes what's up and every now and then, you can respond, give advice or even make decisions on how Taylor should approach any given task. That's it. That's all there is. No stats, no inventory, just a conversation between two strangers light years away. This alone makes the game quite immersive, but there's more...

To reinforce the fact, that Taylor is a real person, stranded on some lonely moon, the game adds an element of real time. Whenever Taylor goes off to do something you see "[Taylor is busy]" and the app stops responding. Now you can only wait. You don't know exactly when you will receive another message. Sometimes, Taylor will give you a hint "I'll report back in half an hour", but often you will have no idea. This adds to the whole immersion factor, as I found myself thinking what is Taylor doing, how is his trek, did anything interesting happened? Them, you receive a text saying "oh no" and you jump in to see what happened, because you start carrying about this stranded astronaut.

This waiting aspect, and first person narration make this much more than a "Choose Your Own Adventure" game. The barrier between what's real and what's fiction is much thinner than in other (even similar) games. It is much easier to believe that you are talking to someone light years away, than believing that you are in that place, while you are clearly sitting on your couch and drinking coffee. After a while, receiving a message from Taylor, will be almost like receiving a text from someone you know You will want to know what happened when they were away. It is a great mechanic that I am hoping to see in more "Choose Your Own Adventure" style games.

If you are thinking of getting Lifeline (iOS and Anroid), know that it is more an experience than a game. Gameplay is limited to those binary choices while you chat. It is more like a good book, but you are getting more invested in the character and can actually advise them on how to proceed. Comparing Lifeline to book is not a bad idea actually. Just like a good book, this game is a vessel to transport you to that fictional world. While the whole game takes place on a barren, almost featureless moon, the writing brings it to life. Especially, that everything is narrated from Taylor's point of view, who has pretty quirky, but relatable outlook on the whole situation. During the few days it will take you to complete the game, you will get to know Tyler pretty well. I was sad when the story finished and the communication ended. I wish I could still receive texts from this person who I helped during the shittiest time of their life.