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Slowly getting back from the dead...


Let's face it, this blog was basically dead for quite a while. Real life got in the way of not only blogging, but gaming and general. The later only made the blogging matters worse, as I had less and less "material" I could blog about. This post is my own, personal rally to bring this blog back from the dead.

As any "bring back to life" media has taught us, even that the freshly risen body looks the same, it is not the same being as it used to. In the recent months my gaming habits changed. I moved away from Savage Worlds, and more into other types gaming: boardgames, less traditional RPGs and indie video games. This last topic culminated into me delving into video game development, which I document on another blog: Level 0 Game Developer. If you are interested in making video games, especially from a standpoint of someone who has next to no programming experience, you should check it out.

What it means for this blog? First and foremost, I will focus on the games I am actually currently playing. It doesn't mean that the blog will change into video game or boardgaming blog, but there will be posts about those, as well as RPGs (looking back, this is the same idea I had when I started this blog, so who knows how that will go?). Secondly, I am not abandoning Savage Worlds. It is a game that I still enjoy, and its community is one of the best I had a pleasure of ever being a part of, but because I am currently not playing it, there will be less material for it. In its place, I will write about other roleplaying games (especially small, independent and narrative games) as well as system agnostic content... and who knows, I might actually finish some of my unfinished projects that are laying dormant in my notebooks and on my hard drive. Not having to worry about catering to a single system is a bit of a relief to be honest.

If you were a reader of this blog in the past, I hope you will find the new content worthy of your time. You should be on the lookout for some new posts in the coming weeks. In the meantime, feel free to check out my other endeavor and tell me what you think.
Sincerely,
Level27Geek
   and...

Tools of a Tabletop Dungeon Delver

Click Me - I get bigger!
Meanwhile... art!

The main reason why the blog is not getting as many updates in recent months was the fact that I outside of it I have to juggle work and school.

I study graphic design and try to dabble in illustration in my spare time. So, as a side project I decided to combine my passions for RPGs and illustration and created this RPG themed postcard sized art thingy.

I have chosen a D&D-esque theme, because no matter what we play, D&D is still the iconic RPG out there that even people from outside the hobby heard about.

I am toying with the idea of making more. The idea is to make a piece like that for each of the classic fantasy classes, but this time they would have actual "tools" (so warrior would have a sword and shield on his card, wizard would have a staff and spell book, etc.) as well as their classic hit die. Those could be turned into functional character sheets (on the back) or incorporated into something like Dungeon World playbooks. As for now, they only function as art pieces...

Maybe instead of classes I should focus on making some for different systems? Anyway, I am curious what you think about it? Do you like it? What would you change?

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 am not very familiar with the actual mechanics of Shadowrun. I have read through fourth and fifth edition, but I have never played the game itself. Most of the "feel of the game" I am basing on the above mentioned video games.

Unlike many other conversions of 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 narrative parts 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.


Characters

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 add a new Edge for using persuasion during hacking instead of Deception).

Technology

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 give it some time and it will make sense. After you 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 for example.

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 this 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:  savageshadowrun.blogspot.dk. 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.