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.

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