Savage Worlds: Meet Mack Noland

Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy Hensley
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If you’re at all curious about the character generation process in Savage Worlds, this entry may be of interest to you. I’m going to describe in detail how I went about creating Mack Noland prior to our first gaming session. If you’re the type of person who cringes at the thought of hearing about someone else’s roleplaying game character, you’re probably going to want to give this post a wide berth and come back a little later in the week.

I make no guarantee that I did this the right way, but I followed the character generation guidelines in the core rulebook to the best of my abilities. Experienced Savage Worlds players should feel free to point out any areas where I may have mis-stepped.

The first step in character generation is choosing a Race. The game Gus is running is set in New York, New York on our fair planet of Earth sometime in the 1930s, so the only Race available was (presumably) human. Thus, Mack Noland is a genuine human being, and that means his first Edge is free. More on that in a bit.

The next step is Traits, which are made up of Attributes, Skills and Derived Statistics.

The five Attributes are Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength and Vigor. Each Attribute begins at a base level of d4 and costs 1 point to raise to the next level (d6, d8, d10 and d12). Starting characters get five points toward adjusting their stats, and this is how Mack’s Attributes looked initially:

Agility d6 (1 point)
Smarts d8 (2 points)
Spirit d6 (1 point)
Strength d6 (1 point)
Vigor d4 (no change)

Instead of choosing Skills next, I decided to pick Mack’s Hindrances, those physical and personality flaws that are going to make life interesting for him. Each Hindrance is classified as major or minor, depending upon how much impact it will have on the character’s life. Characters can have as many Hindrances as the player wants, but they only get “points” for one major Hindrance and two minor Hindrances. These points can be used to raise attributes, get additional starting funds, buy additional Edges, or add Skill points. Mack’s Hindrances are as follows:

  • Lame. While on the police force, Mack was wounded in the line of duty. The bullet is still lodged deep in his right leg, so Mack walks with a pronounced limp and carries a cane with him where ever he goes. This is classified as a major Hindrance and reduces Mack’s Pace (one of the Derived Stats) by 2.
  • Ugly. Never a pretty boy to begin with, Mack had a rough-and-tumble life as a young lad on the streets of the Big Apple. His nose is markedly crooked, having been broken twice in street brawls, and he sports a jagged, white scar on his left cheek, stretching from the outside corner of his left eye to just above his jawline. This is a minor Hindrance and gives Mack a -2 to his Charisma (another Derived Stat).
  • Doubting Thomas. Mack doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be punched, stabbed or shot. Thanks to this minor Hindrance, Mack will suffer a -2 penalty to Guts rolls when confronted with supernatural horrors that he cannot deny.

Once Mack’s Hindrances were assigned, I used the 2 points I gained from the major Hindrance to bump his Spirit Attribute from d6 to d8. Mack’s final Attributes are as follows:

Agility d6
Smarts d8
Spirit d8
Strength d6
Vigor d4

Next it was time to choose a number of Skills for my disgraced-cop-turned-private-investigator. Starting characters get 15 points of Skills, to which I added the 2 remaining points I gained from Mack’s minor Hindrances. Each Skill is tied to an Attribute, and buying and/or raising a Skill costs one point per die-level (the levels again: d4, d6, d8, d10 and d12), and raising a Skill beyond the level of the corresponding attribute costs 2 points per level. Mack’s Skills are:

Driving (Agility) d6 (2 points)
Fighting (Agility) d6 (2 points)
Gambling (Smarts) d4 (1 point)
Guts (Spirit) d8 (3 points)
Investigation (Smarts) d8 (3 points)
Lockpicking (Agility) d4 (1 point)
Shooting (Agility) d6 (2 points)
Streetwise (Smarts) d8 (3 points)

Once the Skills were selected, I calculated Mack’s Derived Stats: Pace, Parry, Toughness and Charisma. The base value for Pace is 6, but Mack is Lame, so his Pace is reduced to 4. Parry is calculated by adding 2 to half of the Fighting Skill (2 + 3), so Mack’s Parry is 5. Toughness is 2 plus half of the Vigor Attribute (2 + 2), so Mack’s Toughness is 4. Finally, Charisma has a base value of 0; Mack is Ugly, so his Charisma is -2.

As a Human, Mack gets one free Edge, and I chose Investigator, which gives him a +2 bonus on all Investigation and Streetwise rolls, as well as a +2 bonus to Notice rolls made while searching through evidence. Each Edge has some prerequisites, and Mack’s Attributes and Skills were specifically geared toward meeting those: Smarts d8+, Investigation d8+ and Streetwise d8+. The character Rank requirement for Investigator is Novice, which is the Rank at which all new characters start.

Once all the numbers were in place, the only remaining tasks were to buy Gear and flesh out Mack’s background. New characters get $500 in starting currency, so I equipped Mack with a Smith & Wesson .44 revolver, a blackjack, brass knuckles, a lighter, a cigarette case, street clothes, a cane, and just under two hundred bucks of folding money.

As for the background, most of the significant details had come into light while I was assigning Attributes, Skills, Hindrances and Edges. He’s a grizzled private investigator who used to be a member of the NYPD until he was forced into early retirement following a bribery scandal. Mack was innocent, and the charges of accepting bribes were never proved, but his reputation was ruined and upper brass used his old injury as an excuse to force him to retire, then took advantage of a clever loophole to deny him his pension. Down but not out, Mack got a private investigator’s license and his since gained a reputation among his former colleagues as a royal pain in the ass, owing mostly to his uncanny ability to spot the clues that the police detectives overlook and beat them to their crime-solving punch.

NaNoWriMo 2007: Last Minute Preparations

NaNoWriMo 2007 Participant
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National Novel Writing Month begins in a few short days, and I still haven’t decided which story I’m writing. I have two potential ideas:

  1. A supernatural detective story set in the mid-nineteenth century. The detective in question is one Bannister Proulx—a name I’m borrowing from last year’s incomplete NaNo effort, Yesterday’s Tomorrow—a police consultant, dabbler in the arcane and amateur magician. While investigating an unusual murder in Cleveland, Ohio, Bannister learns of similar killings in San Francisco, Boston and other far-flung cities across the United States. So similar are the slayings that Proulx can draw only one conclusion: as impossible as it may seem, the grisly crimes are the work of a single individual; a man or woman capable of transporting him or herself across thousands of miles in the span of a few short hours.
  2. A political thriller set in the near future, shortly following America’s triumphant return to the moon. In a whirlwind campaign, the commander of the moon mission gains a seat in the U.S. Senate and seems like a favored candidate for the upcoming Presidential race, until he dies under mysterious circumstances while on the campaign trail. The police detective assigned to the case digs a little deeper than her superiors would like, and finds herself involved in not one, but two far-reaching conspiracies that could very well alter mankind’s destiny on Earth.

That second idea was born out of an attempt to play Primetime Adventures several months ago. Chris Miller, Miscellaneous G™ and I fleshed out the basic premise over a couple of hours one evening, but the idea has been simmering in the back of my head ever since, and I’d love to fill in the details.

I’d definitely feel more comfortable writing in (or near to) the present day, but over the weekend I started mind-mapping the gas-lit detective story using Bubbl.us, a free online brainstorming tool. I didn’t get as far as I’d hoped, but it was cool to mess around with Bubbl.us for a couple of hours.

Then there’s the matter of word-processors. Last year I used yWriter for both Yesterday’s Tomorrow and the untitled superhero novel, and I loved it. Unfortunately, yWriter is a Windows application and this year I’ll probably be doing most of my writing in Linux. I’ve yet to identify a suitable substitute (at least as far as yWriter’s outlining and character tools are concerned), so I’ll probably be using OpenOffice.org or Google Docs. I’m leaning toward the former, as I’m not sure I’ll always have a reliable Internet connection when I’m writing and Google Docs is an online app.

I haven’t found a decent progress meter yet, either. The API for NaNoWriMo.org is nowhere to be found on the official website at present, so I may have to revert to the home-grown progress meter I made a couple of years ago.

So I’ve got two and a half days to decide what I’m going to write, how I’m going to write it and how I’m going to keep track of my progress here at KJToo.com. Oh, and did I mention the five-minute essays I need to write and record for The NaNoMonkeys? Yeah, there’s those, too.