Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

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Tokidoki
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Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#1 Postby Tokidoki » Wed Feb 22, 2017 6:34 pm

I'll be running a sci-fi game set in the Fragged Empire setting. I want to try to make viable character options that aren't combat oriented or require you to have an Arcane Background to be useful, like a mundane scientist (i.e. not a mad scientist) or what have you. Since I don't have a lot of experience with SW as a system, can someone tell me if those are actually viable options? What Edges (either in the core book or in any SW supplement) or GM tricks are good for solving problems not directly related to combat, or at the very least can support combat without actually involving shooting or fighting?

I know there are existing mechanics that can do that, like a Trick or Taunting/Intimidation, but I was curious if there's any Edges or mechanics in SW material that can further help.

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#2 Postby Freemage » Wed Feb 22, 2017 7:22 pm

Tokidoki wrote:I'll be running a sci-fi game set in the Fragged Empire setting. I want to try to make viable character options that aren't combat oriented or require you to have an Arcane Background to be useful, like a mundane scientist (i.e. not a mad scientist) or what have you. Since I don't have a lot of experience with SW as a system, can someone tell me if those are actually viable options? What Edges (either in the core book or in any SW supplement) or GM tricks are good for solving problems not directly related to combat, or at the very least can support combat without actually involving shooting or fighting?

I know there are existing mechanics that can do that, like a Trick or Taunting/Intimidation, but I was curious if there's any Edges or mechanics in SW material that can further help.


Well, starting with Trick and Taunt/Intimidate: Strong-Willed makes Taunts and Intimidate that much more effective in combat (and these are useful social skills outside of combat). Similarly, note that "Smarts Trick" is another term for "lying"--that's the route you want to go if someone is going to be trying to put one over on an NPC outside of combat (you may choose to give them their Charisma bonus to the roll). Dirty Fighter gives a bonus to Trick maneuvers, which is also handy.

The Dramatic Task system, applied to social rolls (Persuasion, Intimidation, Taunt, Streetwise) can be an effective means of breaking down a scene so it's not just a one-roll-and-done approach. It's appropriate to parties where you're trying to influence the mood of the crowd, or an extended period of knocking down doors trying to gather clues, and so on. It'll give the diplomancer time to shine, while the fighting types take on the support job.

A grease-monkey can be vital in any setting where the PCs can't just throw money at technical issues, yes. For a mundane wrench-wielder, the MacGuyver and Mr. Fix-It Edges are pretty damned handy.

For any scientific type, Scholar is a must-have (since it makes any non-critical failure roll a success). Investigation combined with Knowledge (Science) is another good option for Dramatic Tasks.

I think I'm going to just say "Dramatic Tasks" again. This, combined with cooperative actions, is the key mechanic for putting emphasis on non-combat scenes to make them play out with intensity similar to that of a combat scene. I recommend building on the base system a bit--allow supporting characters to use skills other than the primary skill, if they make sense. So if your primary is using Streetwise to get information by going around to a bunch of seedy bars, his brute fighter buddy might aid him by rolling Intimidation and looming menacingly in the background.

Leadership Edges are useful in combat for a non-combat character. Being the guy who makes all the other players harder to damage, more effective in throwing blows, and more likely to survive, is a decent way to help out in combat without being a combatant yourself.

Really, most of the Professional Edges grant bonuses out of combat that would be useful to the right character concepts. As with Scholar, most give a +2 bonus to a set of skills, which makes an unmodified roll into an almost guaranteed success, letting the skilled character shine and do cool things more easily.

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#3 Postby Snate56 » Thu Feb 23, 2017 6:24 am

Hmmm, not familiar with the setting. Medical knowledge is always useful to a party of adventurers.
You need to think of areas the PCs are going to want to investigate. What's the world like? If you were on Blue Planet, Marine Biology would be useful, for example. Biochemistry would be nice if you were stuck in a zombie apocalypse.

Another choice would be the "expert treasure finder", the sneaky guy, the one who can break in to (or out of!) anything.



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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#4 Postby Deskepticon » Thu Feb 23, 2017 1:16 pm

Every character should be a viable option (if it makes sense in the setting of course). What you really want to do is tailor your game to play at the characters' strengths (and occasionally exploit their weaknesses too).

For example:
If there is a chemist in the group, give him an oportunity to use the skills he should be good at. Present a laboratory in one scene and see what he does with it. If he wants to mix up an impromptu bomb, let him (Dramatic Task). Maybe he's a biochemist and wants to concoct some type of healing salve (+2 on party's next Healing roll). And like already mentioned, the Scholar edge is a great choice for nerdy science types.

Combat is a staple to RPGs, but if the party isn't particularly combat focused then don't throw a squad of para-military troopers at them. At least not without allowing them several alternative options: the chemist can create explosive/corrosive traps, the techie might trip an alarm as a distraction or close blast doors, etc.
But more to the point, you should include challenges that make the players feel useful. If one player isn't having fun, soon no one will be.

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#5 Postby ValhallaGH » Thu Feb 23, 2017 2:09 pm

Tokidoki wrote:I'll be running a sci-fi game set in the Fragged Empire setting. I want to try to make viable character options that aren't combat oriented or require you to have an Arcane Background to be useful, like a mundane scientist (i.e. not a mad scientist) or what have you. Since I don't have a lot of experience with SW as a system, can someone tell me if those are actually viable options? What Edges (either in the core book or in any SW supplement) or GM tricks are good for solving problems not directly related to combat, or at the very least can support combat without actually involving shooting or fighting?

What do you mean "viable"?

Viable in combat? Tricks (Edge: Acrobat), Tests of Will (Edge: Strong Willed), Leadership edges, clever uses of the situations and Skills, and unusual resolution mechanics (Dramatic Tasks, Chases, Social Conflicts) all allow a character with low or non-existent combat skills (Fighting, Shooting, Throwing) and no arcane ability to be useful in combat. And all in the Core rules.

Viable outside of combat? Social skills, Charisma edges, investigatory skills, technology skills, knowledge skills, medical skills, the relevant professional edges for each of those, social edges (Connections, Noble, others), and vehicular skills can all make a character absolutely essential to group success.
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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#6 Postby kronovan » Thu Feb 23, 2017 3:27 pm

There's background and even some combat edges that can be useful for a PC without combat skills that will occasionally find themselves in combat encounters. Background edges; Alertness (avoiding foes getting the drop on them), Fleetfooted, Quick, Luck - even Brawn can be appropriate for a gentle giant type of PC. Combat edges; Dodge, Elan, Extraction. For all other situations in a combat-lite campaign, focus on Professional edges and make sure the associated skill is of a decent die type. And as others have already stated, make sure Knowledge skills pertinent to the PC archetype are spec's in the build.

As well, as GM you can sometimes use Dramatic Tasks for combat situations. Those can still involve Tricks and Tests of Will..

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#7 Postby Snate56 » Fri Feb 24, 2017 6:37 am

kronovan wrote:There's background and even some combat edges that can be useful for a PC without combat skills that will occasionally find themselves in combat encounters. Background edges; Alertness (avoiding foes getting the drop on them), Fleetfooted, Quick, Luck - even Brawn can be appropriate for a gentle giant type of PC. Combat edges; Dodge, Elan, Extraction. For all other situations in a combat-lite campaign, focus on Professional edges and make sure the associated skill is of a decent die type. And as others have already stated, make sure Knowledge skills pertinent to the PC archetype are spec's in the build.

As well, as GM you can sometimes use Dramatic Tasks for combat situations. Those can still involve Tricks and Tests of Will..


I could see such a character tying up one or more foes because they are frustrated at not being able to hit the s.o.b. ... :lol:
This would buy time for the rest of the party to arrive and put them out of their misery.



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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#8 Postby kronovan » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:22 pm

Snate56 wrote:I could see such a character tying up one or more foes because they are frustrated at not being able to hit the s.o.b. ... :lol:
This would buy time for the rest of the party to arrive and put them out of their misery.



SteveN


Yeah there's decent possibilities for party synergy when a good defending PC is in a combat encounter. And of course if aggressive foes consistently whiff against such a PC -say 2 or more rounds- they should be made to make Spirit tests or take a level of frustration/fatigue. 8)

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#9 Postby galu » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:38 pm

Tokidoki wrote:I'll be running a sci-fi game set in the Fragged Empire setting. I want to try to make viable character options that aren't combat oriented or require you to have an Arcane Background to be useful, like a mundane scientist (i.e. not a mad scientist) or what have you. Since I don't have a lot of experience with SW as a system, can someone tell me if those are actually viable options? .



Generally yes.

Although I think that a PC focused elsewhere (tinkerer, social predator, etc.) usually has the spare skillpoints to be generally useful in combat. All novices start with 15 skillpoints, and getting d4 fighting and d6 in one of shooting/taunt/intimidate shouldn't hurt the concept much.

Useful, non-combat archetypes in space:
- tinkerer (fixing up the ship and found lost world relics/devices)
- gambler/face (you can win a ship on sabacc!)
- pilot (of course)
- bounty hunter/assassin (location of targets with investigation and streetwise, then ...)
- colonist (heavy machinery, general fixing stuff and maybe survival)
- agent/spy (infiltration tech, security systems)
- megacorporate handler (that is: organizes secret projects, like event horizon tests or xenomorph egg-smuggling)
- celebrity/entertainer (a PC, whose adventures are pulp novel, or rather holotape material)
- explorer (of uninhabited planets, like prospectors)
- medic
- trader/smuggler
- psion on the run
- rogue replicant


I really think that before starting up, it is worth talking with the group what they are interested in. The reason why I think it's useful, that in the past I invested lot's of time in galactic maps and interstellar trade rules, and in the end they were not really interested in these. (effort wasted, yeah!) But if you have a player, who wants to play a tinkerer, you might want to introduce fixing things during a space battle, or challanges related to keeping the ship running / disassembling ancient relics.

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#10 Postby Tokidoki » Tue Feb 28, 2017 12:54 am

Thanks for the eye opener guys, hopefully I'll be able to convert my group! They're usually big on narrative-focused games (not as light as, say, FATE or Dungeon World, but definitely nowhere near Pathfinder/D&D) and when I heard about how Savage Worlds has a focus on combat and miniatures I was a bit worried. But I'll take what has been said so far to heart.

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#11 Postby Ilina_Young » Tue Feb 28, 2017 3:03 am

if you really want certain skills to be used in the campaign and deem them mandatory. you should give a free d6 in those mandatory skills to everyone. for example, in a Game about Noir Gumshoes and Political intrigue. everyone should have a free d6 in investigation and streetwise. in a Wuxia game about martial arts, you give everyone a d6 fighting and martial artist for free.

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#12 Postby Freemage » Tue Feb 28, 2017 10:14 am

Tokidoki wrote:Thanks for the eye opener guys, hopefully I'll be able to convert my group! They're usually big on narrative-focused games (not as light as, say, FATE or Dungeon World, but definitely nowhere near Pathfinder/D&D) and when I heard about how Savage Worlds has a focus on combat and miniatures I was a bit worried. But I'll take what has been said so far to heart.


I'm not sure I'd agree it's got a 'focus' on combat. Rather, it specifically has rules that allow most non-warrior types to affect combat positively. A team of two general combat types and four support characters is still going to be quite potent in combat, and probably have a lot to do outside of it. (Oh, and the reverse is also true--it's usually easy to build a combat-centered character in such a way as to have a secondary, non-combat focus where they can shine.)

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#13 Postby Deskepticon » Tue Feb 28, 2017 10:53 am

Freemage wrote:I'm not sure I'd agree it's got a 'focus' on combat. Rather, it specifically has rules that allow most non-warrior types to affect combat positively.

This.
Also there are plenty of additional gamerules where an entire session can go by without a single combat. I know, I've been in a few.
Dramatic tasks, chases, and social conflicts can keep the session from becoming a talkshow while inserting some non-combat action.

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#14 Postby galu » Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:44 pm

Tokidoki wrote:and when I heard about how Savage Worlds has a focus on combat and miniatures I was a bit worried.


I think I would re-phrase this. Savage Worlds is a generic system, which - without modification - does pulpy stories really well.
That means that PCs are much more durable then what you are used to, they start very competent and stay competent.
It also means that to portray specific moods, you will have to mod the system a bit. Games which might be problematic to portray in unmodded SW?
- Ultra-lethal cosmic horror might be one (PCs have to tools and chances to kick dark forces in the face, like Conan. They generally will not try to hide and go mad like De La Poer)
- "start as a lowly peasant and end up a demigod" games. I mainly think of DnD 3e and the likes. SW characters will become stronger with time, but but they usually don't get the "change of scale" (HP replaced with saving throw, level 1/5 HP fighter becomes a level 15/70 HP terminator wih myrmidon followers and a demigod trophy) which is built into newer DnD versions.

You can still do noir, investigation, exploring, western... Anything, just keep in mind the ladder: start very competent, but will not change pace during the campaign.



Combat rules/Minis:
SAvage Worlds is uniqe in a way: it has interesting combat options, meaningful battle choices, and a "middle ground resolution of fighting" while remaining very fast to run. It is not a minimalist system like "Over the edge" or "Dungeon World", rather a surprisingly fast rules-medium system.

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#15 Postby Freemage » Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:49 pm

galu wrote:
Tokidoki wrote:and when I heard about how Savage Worlds has a focus on combat and miniatures I was a bit worried.


I think I would re-phrase this. Savage Worlds is a generic system, which - without modification - does pulpy stories really well.
That means that PCs are much more durable then what you are used to, they start very competent and stay competent.
It also means that to portray specific moods, you will have to mod the system a bit. Games which might be problematic to portray in unmodded SW?
- Ultra-lethal cosmic horror might be one (PCs have to tools and chances to kick dark forces in the face, like Conan. They generally will not try to hide and go mad like De La Poer)
- "start as a lowly peasant and end up a demigod" games. I mainly think of DnD 3e and the likes. SW characters will become stronger with time, but but they usually don't get the "change of scale" (HP replaced with saving throw, level 1/5 HP fighter becomes a level 15/70 HP terminator wih myrmidon followers and a demigod trophy) which is built into newer DnD versions.

You can still do noir, investigation, exploring, western... Anything, just keep in mind the ladder: start very competent, but will not change pace during the campaign.

.

Another aspect to this is that combat remains potentially deadly, even in the latest stages of character development. While you can become quite potent, it's usually still quite possible for a goblin Extra with a dagger to get a lucky dice run, you to get a lousy one, and suddenly you're at char-gen, wondering what the hell just happened. This actually has the effect of making the decision to initiate combat a more serious one--and options to avoid combat more attractive.

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#16 Postby galu » Thu Mar 02, 2017 12:57 am

Freemage wrote:Another aspect to this is that combat remains potentially deadly, even in the latest stages of character development. While you can become quite potent, it's usually still quite possible for a goblin Extra with a dagger to get a lucky dice run, you to get a lousy one, and suddenly you're at char-gen, wondering what the hell just happened. This actually has the effect of making the decision to initiate combat a more serious one--and options to avoid combat more attractive.


My experience is that Savage Worlds is a very forgiving system, with quite a few "get out of the jail free" cards. You can take surviving edges, spend bennies, and as last resort, have a "do you survive" roll. It's not that you have 5 hit points, and a lance does d8+str bonus damage.

Also, I would add that combat against the same lousy enemies (eg. goblins) remain potentially deadly. This is an other approach to the usual. Eg. in D&D a goblin group for a mid level party is a speed bump, but in general, the meaningful combats will be quite hard for the same mid-high level group: by the time you have enough hit points to laugh at goblins, you will not need them. You will need to make saving throws against potentially deadly effects, and your HPs don't matter anymore. (that's what I wanted to say in my previous post: SW characters become stronger with experience, but don't change gear. This was not meant to be a "con", in fact I like this)

The Savage Worlds character developement is like "start out as a young Cimmerian, and become barbarian king of Aquilona". (this is not the same - not worse or better, just different - then when you start out as a lowly level 0 commoner, and end up as Achilles, level 9 fighter)

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#17 Postby Ilina_Young » Thu Mar 02, 2017 2:11 am

SW progression is limited in a few Aspects. it takes about 8-10 Advances to max out a role or combat style if you start with the desired skills. including skill and attribute bumps. some races or hindrances grant edge equivalent benefits that make this easier. most spellcasters don't need more than like 6 powers to fill thier niche.

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#18 Postby Deskepticon » Thu Mar 02, 2017 5:13 am

Ilina_Young wrote:...most spellcasters don't need more than like 6 powers to fill thier niche.

Yeah, and a good reason for why SW core needs more Power Edges to help differentiate casters.

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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#19 Postby ValhallaGH » Thu Mar 02, 2017 8:27 am

I think your casters need more character to differentiate them. :lol:


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Re: Non-combat Edges/roles in SW

#20 Postby Freemage » Thu Mar 02, 2017 10:30 am

Deskepticon wrote:
Ilina_Young wrote:...most spellcasters don't need more than like 6 powers to fill thier niche.

Yeah, and a good reason for why SW core needs more Power Edges to help differentiate casters.


I'm curious what sorts of differentiation would be needed that couldn't be accomplished just as well by Trappings.


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