07 May 2018

The (Dungeon World) Hit Point Narrative

For the longest time I hated Hit Points. I mean, where's the fun in the characters just hitting each other with pointy implements until one suddenly falls dead. The problem was that I, like probably many others, have seen HP as the "meat" on a character. If someone rolled a hit it obviously means that their pointy implement connected with that meat and some blood came out or something. This approach is pretty much default. Many RPGs make you believe that's the case, often by how the mechanics work. Video games double up on that and any protagonist is able to take numerous hits with swords, bullets and what-have-yous, before they will fall. Yet, this always bothered me, because it wasn't either realistic or fun. So for the longest time I used systems without HP, or removing them from the games I was playing. This has changed once I discovered Dungeon World.

Dungeon World aims to be a narrative take on D&D. Because of that, it takes as much from the original and translates it to a more narrative approach. This includes Hit Points, which I was not crazy about, but because how the rest of the game is played, it also changed my view to hit points...

Hit Points NOT Meat Points

Dungeon World gives the GM a lot of options what to do when it comes to handling player failure of any kind. One of them is dealing damage to the player character, yet the description of the "Deal Damage" move is somewhat lackluster. Once you run couple games where the enemies will "put someone in a spot" or "use up their (PC's) resources" and get into a rhythm of narrating those actions you might notice the difference between those and simply stabbing someone for d8 damage.

To change that we need to get in a slightly different mindset. First of all, don't think of hp simply as health, but more of combination of stamina, willingness to fight AND finally health. Secondly, a successful "hit" does't have to mean that the pointy implement reached someone's flesh. This "hit" shows that for this small amount of time, you got some kind of advantage over your enemy. Enough advantage to do make that enemy less of a threat. So you might have stabbed him in the arm, but you might as well have tired him as he was dodging and blocking your multiple lunges. You might have also forced him to move against a wall, or kicked him through a window to the streets outside.  We see it all the time in the movies when someone is shot at, not wounded, but definitely tired, gasping for air and force to hide behind a cover. Well, that character just lost some hit points.

With all that in mind let's make a new version of the Deal Damage move:

Deal damage

When a source of damage is fictionally threatening a character, the player whose character is affected rolls the appropriate damage die. 
The GM describes what happens based on the amount rolled. This description can be as severe as cleaving someone in half (damage rolled is far greater than the HP of the character) or minuscule as tiring and disorienting someone with multiple lunges that had to be parried (1 or 2 damage). It all depends on the outcome of the roll and the creativity of the narrator (GMs are free to ask for narrative input from the players).
As HP is an abstract of characters ability to stay fighting, you are free to narrate anything that would hinder this ability in any way you want. Whatever you describe will add to the "narrative positioning" which can be used by other players or the GM to trigger moves. 

This move aims to help rule-ify the cinematic feel that narrative combat can have. Requiring to describe the attack AND its outcome separately helps with keeping the narrative flowing and never ending on a mechanical sentence (e.g. you receive 8 damage). Knowing how much damage you dealt ahead of time will help you with your description, and using narrative positioning will kick the combat narrative forward. Once you get in the mindset that the source of damage doesn't have to be a single connecting punch/stab/slash/whathaveyou, you will have much more fun with narrating the outcomes. Think cinematic and have fun!

In reality, what it boils down to is deal mechanical damage AND narrative damage. You received 8 damage from an Ogre? He has tossed you against the wall. You got 1 damage from a goblin? It slashes madly with his sword, and while you manage to parry and block his puny attacks, he forced you back few steps and your arm feels more and more tired from all this blocking. What's even better, is that the more cool narrative is created during those "deal damage" moments, the more narrative there is for the next player to interact with.

I know that for many seasoned narrative GMs all of this will seem pretty obvious. The idea behind this move change is to help people new to Dungeon World (and narrative games in general) to understand the flow and "always end on narrative." I hope you will find it helpful.

18 June 2016

Not quite 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 me saying that the blog will rise again...

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, once I revive it, 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, indie and PbtA 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. Sadly, it will be months before my life will allow me to get back to tabletop gaming. In the meantime, feel free to check out my other endeavor and tell me what you think.

22 February 2016

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?

08 February 2016

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.


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).


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: You should definitely check it out!

06 February 2016

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.