Monday, May 4, 2020

Savage Worlds: Adventure Edition impressions

Also known as "Tilting at windmills: now with shinier, newer windmills!"

Got my hands on a copy of SWADE (Savage Worlds ADventure Edition), which is effectively Savage Worlds 2nd Edition. Or, I think 3rd edition now maybe, Explorer's Edition might be 2nd. Anyway. SWADE is simplified compared to SWEX (Savage Worlds EXplorer edition), to a fairly significant degree for good and ill. They made a lot of minor changes and streamlining, a little bit of flavor is lost in the translation but it seems much more usable.

Character creation: You get a lot less points for skills, but they condensed skills a TON and it makes them actually usable. There's also an alternate rule listed in the book specifically for more modern settings, where extra skills in computers or driving are to be expected, which gives a handful of extra points under the assumption that experience and information to learn new skills is easier. Still a weird disconnect between high control stat and low skill, but the ease of buying up skills now that they're not so thinly spread makes it not too huge an issue, now manageable instead of almost crippling.

Hindrances can now be stacked in whatever order you are allowed to take them in, rather than ONLY getting 1 major, 2 minor. Can have 4 minor, or 2 major, or 1 major and 2 minor.

A few things that used to be equipment features are now perks, and conversely a couple things that used to be perks are now just flat rules for using certain types of equipment in particular ways.

Gear: gear lists are much improved, and are actually remotely functional now. Some things are still weird, there's a lot of room for improvement, and it's still all but impossible to own even the cheapest of vehicles even with the Wealth edges. Non-weapon/armor gear is almost nonexistent in scope or detail.

Skills Modifiers: Gone are individual tables per skill of bonuses and maluses, everything runs on a scale of -4 to +4 for good or bad and give some examples to help the GM with gauging what modifiers. GURPS style floating modifiers win again!

Expanded rules: There were add-on free expansions for handling quick encounters in SWEX, but now they're core book (everyone rolls once or twice to handle a particular task, rather than a whole series of individual tactical rolls. For taking care of side-missions or surprise detours that aren't ready for a full on tactical fight/exploration/etc). Hazardous conditions still have hunger and thirst kill you insanely quickly, even though they specifically mention the Rule Of Threes, which none of the relevant rulesets remotely approximate, as most will kill you in a day or two unless you have phenomenal stats and/or rolls. Chase rules seem like they work better now, a bit more complicated with a timeline of cards that's kind of hard to visualize reading but sounds like it would be really nice in actual use.

Tests/support: Now tests just take a skill or attribute and use it against the controlling attribute of the target, rather than having a bunch of skills and specific stats used to defend against them. Tests target the enemy and inflict assorted penalties. Support lets you use just about anything you can justify via roleplay to give a buff to an ally, so even if you're not well suited to whatever's going on you can almost always find a way to participate.

Powers: Core powers rules remain, individual details per each trapping are removed. There are still interactions with Trappings and things that might give a bonus or penalty, but it's far less in-depth in slightly disappointing ways. It's almost not worth it to get different flavors of a particular Power. All powers use Smarts for range, even the Faith powered ones, which makes Smarts arcane backgrounds flatly superior (but easily remedied by just making Faith the range stat for Faith powers), and all use the same table for magical backlash. Ranges are also fixed, rather than range increments per ranged weapons. Gadgeteering powers have their inventions that fire them exist in a weird limbo of sort-of existence, and nobody can make items usable by others without an edge for it. Powers are now super variable by default, with a huge array of extra boosts available to swiss army knife them to a slightly OP degree. More limitations are needed than the default 2 in the book.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Tilting at Windmills: Please Hold

Work has been eating basically all my time this whole year, along with getting back to the gym now that I identified the cause of some internal distress that was interfering (50% dairy by weight diet with randomly acquired lactose intolerance, woo!).

And now I've discovered there's a new edition of Savage Worlds, that might address *some* of the issues I had with 1e (namely, attributes not contributing to skills terribly much, and also gear, plus some new improved rules apparently). Going to grab ahold of that, do another First Impressions like I did for Savage Worlds Deluxe, and then determine what (if anything) is required to fix things.

As much work as I've put into this, having to not homebrew stuff is lazier. And, if they still didn't fix it, it'll still mostly apply probably with a few tweaks.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tilting at windmills: A question of Savage Worlds probabilities pt1

Got busy and this project was nudged down the list by time and sleep deprivation, but it's still ongoing. With a Deadlands Classic: Hell On Earth game now joined, it seems a good place to examine things from for comparison. The company behind Savage Worlds I believe had little to do with Deadlands, but based their system on a much simplified version of it and purchased the rights to it, now sold as Deadlands Classic.

Both Deadlands and Savage Worlds use D&D dice, from d4 through d12. Higher is better, and a target number system. Dice rolls explode in both systems if you score a max roll. Both use Edges and Hindrances to describe their system of advantages and disadvantages.

Deadlands has stats drawn from a deck of cards for random generation, distributed into stats. Skills are based on the 10 parent stats, each point of skill nets you another attribute-sized die to roll during tests, which you take the single best result of. Savage Worlds, skills are capped by attributes, but gain no further benefit beyond cheaper advancement. Instead, Savage Worlds grants player characters a Wild Die, which is just a d6 unless they have a few high level edges that boost its power in some or all situations. In SW, Skills level from d4 to d12 just as attributes do.

The problems with Savage Worlds are at least twofold, possibly more.

The first problem is that high stats give next to no bonus to skills based upon them. A person who minmaxes with a d12 in a skill-controlling stat (dexterity or intellect) will spend exactly the same amount of points to get a wide array of skills to average level as a purely average competing character with d6 stats across the board. For a character to be remotely competent, let alone skilled, they must stay fairly laser focused on a few skills to be good at (at least with default 15 skill points). The wild die allows a d4-skilled character to still have a d6 available, but it's still sub-optimal and leads to a number of character concepts that simply can't properly be made because they require too broad of skillsets (My first experience was trying to port in a weird west bounty hunter, who had ranged skill, melee skill, a vehicle skill, with tracking and perception. In GURPS or Deadlands Classic, such a build was very doable, low investment skills had decent power even without the law of averages to help out if the controlling stat was good.

The second problem is somewhat subjective, the lack of a bell curve. Single die rolls have a flat probability, SW Extras get flat probability and named characters get the luck die for a weird bell curve. Having a bell curve is nice because it gives you some semblance of idea how you can expect to perform on a given roll; ie, average.

There's a few possible solutions. A simple one could just be to give more skill points starting. Giving everyone at least the same bell curve could be done by giving Extras an Extra Die, perhaps a d4 because fate doesn't give as much of a shit about them as the Wildcards, but still maybe a little. But that still doesn't solve the problem of attributes vs. skills disconnect.

What you could do is replace the wild die with an attribute die. Suddenly a high dex character can bring their natural aptitude to bear with only a little specific skill, while a high dex/high skill character is a true terror. Or, add the attribute die in addition to the wild die, or offer choice of best two out of three. Offering this same upgrade to the NPCs would be powerful, as they're not necessarily built the same way as players, and tend to just automatically have the required skills/stats they should for whatever place they'll be encountered in.

I think that's enough rambling on this for a single post, I'll finish it up with actual probability calculations and such in another post.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Budget wargaming: dollar store edition pt2

Now, as a follow-up to the last post, we get into 2x 35 packs of army men.

Pros: Models are much more detailed, and larger if you want a slightly bigger scale. Includes some specialty gear like minesweepers, flamethrowers, and mortars
Cons: Models are way bigger than the scale of most gaming terrain and anything else, and completely random. Where the 50 packs came with a squad of fireteams in each, this is just a grab bag. Maybe usable for decoration, or if you buy a vast quantity to hopefully random-chance your way to something resembling a distribution of units with which to assemble a team.

I had really high hopes for these, but they were dashed by the reality of opening the bags and actually getting a good look at the contents. There isn't enough consistency to get them for minis, whether for wargaming or as tokens for a tabletop game on the cheap. Also, they're way larger than most gaming minis and terrain so you can't mix them in with other stuff.

Verdict: Not recommended

Up next in part 3, we look at assorted creatures and dinosaurs, and then in part 4 we get to the point of all this!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Tech Tuesday: VR Continues to advance

So it has recently been announced that Steam has their own entry into the VR market, the main feature of which is a set of controllers that are just shy of a glove, allowing natural movement of the fingers copied by your hand in game, allowing you to grab things by grabbing them, rather than retraining yourself to interact via less advanced controllers.

Enter Boneworks, a game built to display the hardware and, I suspect, serve as a game engine akin to how Source was used (but for VR, of course). I have my suspicions that this may be the killer app, once the hardware becomes more affordable ($1000 for a full Index VR rig, plus a VR ready computer). I expect the other members of the VR market will emulate the controllers in short order.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Budget wargaming: dollar store edition pt1

As a lead up to an upcoming gaming convention several months ago, I went to the local dollar store for some figure for running some improv RPGs. Among them, I got 2x 50 packs of army men  25 per side per bag. I wasn't interested in the unbagging, but I was very interested in the unit counts.

Cost: $2 plus tax (two packs of 50)

I was surprised by how fairly uniform they were. 3 of each unit type, roughly.
12 riflemen (3 prone, 3 crouch, 6 standing)
3 pointing men with rifle (NCO?)
3 radiomen
3 shotgunners
3 bazooka troops

Image courtesy of google image search, from an ARMA forum
With 3 riflemen and an NCO, you get a fairly usable squad with 3 fireteams. The rocket troops and shotgunners don't fit anywhere, and either serve as their own squads with no NCO, or the fireteams get buffed up to 6 man teams, with one shotgun trooper and rocketeer each.

One of the tan armies is short one NCO, but all the others are full strength with one bonus unit, to make 25. Get a couple bags and extras will likely offset the occasional miss, riflemen seem to be the most common extras (which statistically makes sense).

Quality: Models are a bit unsteady, but partly my little not-very-stable personal table I'm using is to blame. The quality of the modeling is meh, but it's sufficient to tell who's what, which is enough. For $1, you really can't complain. The degree of completeness and unit distribution is far beyond what I was expecting for the price.

Playability: With a $1 tape measure/measuring tape or just a straight dowel for Line of Sight, $1 for half a dozen dice and a D6 tactics system, or possibly a coin flip system (in most tactics systems, a basic troop winds up with about 50/50 odds), or even no dicerolling at all to enforce tactics and maneuvering, you wind up with a remarkably playable small unit setup.

Cobbling together a WH40k style system and unit cards works well, can fit your entire army's statblocks on a single notecard. Savage Worlds has the roots of a functional tactics game that was made with/in it, but they never really finished it out properly, and it requires the hard-to-dollar-store D&D dice.

Up next, I bust out the premium $1 army men, which are 35 of a single color to a pack.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Training Thursday: Share the pain

Took both my hubby and my housemate to Krav Maga with me. Both greatly enjoyed the training. Neither was in shape enough for the unusually heavy cardio class we got. They're both going to complain at me tomorrow, I suspect. On that note, I've been taking Krav Maga courses for about 4 months now, after a lifetime of taekwondo (reached halfway between first and second degree blackbelt). Different goals, but I felt like I learned more practical, applicable defensive stuff in the two trial courses than I did in all of my TKD. Of course, I'm picking it up incredibly fast, because just like even historical fencing wasn't really applicable to a real fight, it made you BETTER in the real fight.

Also tried out an imitation chik-fil-a chicken recipe for people who don't want to help them pay for anti LGBT shit (which boils down to "Brine it and use seasonings, dumbass") and it turned out quite good. Soak it in pickle brine for a couple hours, add some seasonings, dunk in flour and then egg and whatever. Just google it, you'll find a bunch of recipes.