My Benny & Initiative House Rules

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Maticore
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My Benny & Initiative House Rules

#1 Postby Maticore » Thu Mar 22, 2012 10:47 am

I posted these to my blog, and then realized, why not share them with the SW community at large!

So, without further ado, some delightfully Savage hacks for Savage Worlds:

The Take A Benny, Leave A Benny Tray:

This bad boy is one I’ve been thinking on for a while now. It’s based on the Take A Penny, Leave A Penny tray you see in convenience stores sometimes, an explanation which is likely unnecessary but, then again, you can never be sure. In short, it’s a way to ‘penalize’ metagame or disruptive play by any given individual in your game group. Now, I won’t go into the group politics of this, as that’s for each individual group to decide. Suffice to say, for me, that this only works for a mature group or a group of people who like to mess with each other. There are specific group dynamics that support this mechanic, everyone else steer clear.

In Savage Worlds, there’s a metagame/reroll mechanic for rewarding good roleplaying called a ‘benny.’ In this hack, you lay out a dish in the middle of the players. If someone is metagaming to the detriment (we can talk about good and bad metagaming later, I promise) of the group then you tell them to leave a benny. Alternately/additionally, if someone is playing the game disruptively, or not roleplaying one of their disadvantages consistently, you could tell them to leave a benny. They pick out one of their bennies and drop it in the tray. Then, any other player can take from the tray as if it were their own benny. If you have left a benny, you cannot take a benny until someone else in the group does. This way, you penalize the player’s negative action but you don’t penalize the group. Not suitable for every group, but if your players have thick enough skins to realize that it’s nothing personal, it could be a lot of fun. On the other hand, it could be a giant drama creating fun suck. I’ll let you decide.

Initiative Option Hacks:

-The Secret Hand: Initiative in Savage Worlds makes use of a deck of standard playing cards, and each set of combatants is dealt a card. By default, the player’s initiative card is open, and you proceed from aces to deuces. However, when we play, we play with secret initiative. So the GM counts down from aces to deuces and when your initiative comes up your slam down your card and take your turn. It makes for really tense moments when a character about to be eaten by a pack of raving walkin’ dead pulls a six and the count moves down from ace – the player hoping all the time not to see the GM throw out a superior card. I’ve found it keeps everyone focused on the table, as well, because if you’re not paying attention you could miss your chance to go before your opponent. Finally, I like what it does to ‘holding’ your action. Savage Worlds’ delay mechanic allows you to wait and act on a later card. Nice to see an opponent walk around the corner and smile before revealing the Queen you’ve been sitting on – then making that agility test to gun them down before they even draw.

-Team Up: This is a simple little hack for letting groups of PCs or NPCs team up with each other. It’s as simple as this: if players manage to form a poker hand by acting simultaneously during initiative, give them a scaling bonus to their actions. It’s a +1 if they’ve got a pair and are assisting each other, it’s higher if they’ve got anything more complex than a pair and are assisting. Perhaps +2 or even +3 if they’ve got some astronomically rare card combination. This should be a two way street, and their enemies should use the same mechanics. The crux of this is that it gets some of the more little-used mechanics in many RP systems, the assist mechanics, into the forefront. “I’m gonna taunt him while Player B drives him into cover with gunfire, so that Player C can sneak up behind him and conk him on the head/line up the perfect shot!” is only made more fun for everyone because they managed to get a straight while doing it. (Yeah, I know, three cards does not a straight make, but that sentence was getting pretty long as-is.)

Initiative Variant Hacks:

-Fifth Round Draw: I’ve experimented with this idea in the laboratory of the mind, but haven’t playtested it because of a hard physical limitation. In short, each player keeps their cards through the rounds. On every sixth round, instead of dealing out new initiative cards, the players make the best poker hand they can from the cards in their hand. They can pass in as many cards as they want to the dealer for new cards to construct their hand. Note that this rapidly gets unfeasible due to simple math if there are more than six initiatives in the group. If you play it Stud (nobody can pass in cards), then you could have as many as ten initiative groups, though occasionally someone is going to have a truly awful round and possibly be surly about it. Tell them to (wo)man up about it and be a good sport. If it seems like six or ten initiatives is a lot, think about a standard group of four or five players, and three NPC groups. That already passes the limit for a Draw game. I think that this variant has the most potential for smaller groups with three (or less!) players, who won’t run into the hard-limits imposed by the system as often and will allow for the GM to have more initiative groups, which I find makes Savage Worlds more fun by far. It’s a system that can thrive on large combats without slowing down the game, and I’d hate for a hack to remove that from any play group’s repertoire.

-Hold ‘em: Based on Texas Hold ‘em instead of Five Card Draw/Stud, I think this particular initiative variant has a lot of potential. In short, you play as normal for two rounds and on the third the GM deals out a five-card river, putting aside any Jokers that come up (there are good reasons for that, which I don’t feel the need to explain, but a wild card in the community pool is strange and jokers have very specific initiative effects that you should never allow someone to reap twice). If a player can make a hand, they act in descending order of highest to lowest hand. Otherwise, they get dealt an initiative card as normal. Those with a single dealt card act after those who made a hand. At the end of the third round, cards return to the deck as normal. It’s a short and fun little hack that, like the draw/stud hack above, won’t actually add that much bloat to the game if everyone is pretty familiar with the normal way of doing things.


So there you have them, a set of house-rules and hacks for Savage Worlds. Comments? Concerns? Let’s discuss below. These originally came from my blog at http://thedistracteddm.wordpress.com

I basically only play with secret initiative, since I and my players love it so much. I tried out Hold 'Em at last night's deadlands game, and it went over famously (one player even ALMOST got a straight flush!). I really want to nail down the rules for Poker hand Team-Up, because I think those will be great and set up possibilities for awesome "Team-Up Attack!" style combos in games.

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Re: My Benny & Initiative House Rules

#2 Postby Lord Karick » Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:58 am

Maticore wrote:In Savage Worlds, there’s a metagame/reroll mechanic for rewarding good roleplaying called a ‘benny.’ In this hack, you lay out a dish in the middle of the players. If someone is metagaming to the detriment (we can talk about good and bad metagaming later, I promise) of the group then you tell them to leave a benny. Alternately/additionally, if someone is playing the game disruptively, or not roleplaying one of their disadvantages consistently, you could tell them to leave a benny.

Hi Maticore, some good and some bad in here IMHO. I have also considered the bennie penalty option, but I had an epiphany when I realised that they're better used as carrots and not as sticks, purely from a psychological point of view. If I had a really awkward gamer, I think I'd try to deal with them differently.
Secret Hand: Like, might use this
Team Up: Ditto, has nice potential
Fifth Round Draw and Hold 'Em: I don't see the advantage and it would get all messy when a joker was pulled.

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Re: My Benny & Initiative House Rules

#3 Postby Merlin_Sylver » Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:04 pm

Firstly... well presented!

Maticore wrote:The Take A Benny, Leave A Benny Tray:


I like the idea, but yes it would require mature players. In my regular group, I have an 11 and a 15 year old, and neither of them could be considered mature for their age... indeed the group is constantly trying to talk the 11 year old out of REALLY stupid actions, and generally he still does them anyway... If I had a group of grown ups, I'd seriously consider using this house rule.

Maticore wrote:Initiative Option Hacks:

-The Secret Hand: Initiative in Savage Worlds makes use of a deck of standard playing cards, and each set of combatants is dealt a card. By default, the player’s initiative card is open, and you proceed from aces to deuces. However, when we play, we play with secret initiative. So the GM counts down from aces to deuces and when your initiative comes up your slam down your card and take your turn. It makes for really tense moments when a character about to be eaten by a pack of raving walkin’ dead pulls a six and the count moves down from ace – the player hoping all the time not to see the GM throw out a superior card. I’ve found it keeps everyone focused on the table, as well, because if you’re not paying attention you could miss your chance to go before your opponent. Finally, I like what it does to ‘holding’ your action. Savage Worlds’ delay mechanic allows you to wait and act on a later card. Nice to see an opponent walk around the corner and smile before revealing the Queen you’ve been sitting on –


I very much like this option... seems like it would also add a bit of tension for the GM too, which I would find a bit exhilarating. I will start using this tonight, and report on how it went.

Maticore wrote:...then making that agility test to gun them down before they even draw.

I thought that when you went on hold, then you went any time even to the point of interrupting another initiative... I wasn't aware a person on hold still had to make an agility test in order to shoot first...

Maticore wrote:-Team Up: This is a simple little hack for letting groups of PCs or NPCs team up with each other. It’s as simple as this: if players manage to form a poker hand by acting simultaneously during initiative, give them a scaling bonus to their actions. It’s a +1 if they’ve got a pair and are assisting each other, it’s higher if they’ve got anything more complex than a pair and are assisting. Perhaps +2 or even +3 if they’ve got some astronomically rare card combination. This should be a two way street, and their enemies should use the same mechanics. The crux of this is that it gets some of the more little-used mechanics in many RP systems, the assist mechanics, into the forefront. “I’m gonna taunt him while Player B drives him into cover with gunfire, so that Player C can sneak up behind him and conk him on the head/line up the perfect shot!” is only made more fun for everyone because they managed to get a straight while doing it. (Yeah, I know, three cards does not a straight make, but that sentence was getting pretty long as-is.)

I could see this as something to add to perhaps a Deadlands game, but it seems that it would take focus off the action and on the cards. I think you'd start seeing your players take Quick and Level Headed just to get more cards to make poker hands with. Just my opinion, but I think this would actually serve to make bad meta-gaming worse.

That being said, I've not tested it... and I know full well that the gap between theory and application is often vast.

Maticore wrote:-Fifth Round Draw: I’ve experimented with this idea in the laboratory of the mind, but haven’t playtested it because of a hard physical limitation. In short, each player keeps their cards through the rounds. On every sixth round, instead of dealing out new initiative cards, the players make the best poker hand they can from the cards in their hand. They can pass in as many cards as they want to the dealer for new cards to construct their hand. Note that this rapidly gets unfeasible due to simple math if there are more than six initiatives in the group. If you play it Stud (nobody can pass in cards), then you could have as many as ten initiative groups, though occasionally someone is going to have a truly awful round and possibly be surly about it. Tell them to (wo)man up about it and be a good sport. If it seems like six or ten initiatives is a lot, think about a standard group of four or five players, and three NPC groups. That already passes the limit for a Draw game. I think that this variant has the most potential for smaller groups with three (or less!) players, who won’t run into the hard-limits imposed by the system as often and will allow for the GM to have more initiative groups, which I find makes Savage Worlds more fun by far. It’s a system that can thrive on large combats without slowing down the game, and I’d hate for a hack to remove that from any play group’s repertoire.


As with the previous hack, I personally think this would make bad meta-gaming worse... this hack would even moreso see players taking edges solely for the cards... the number of cards on the table would get overwhelming after awhile. Plus... the RAW says that the deck gets shuffled every time a Joker is dealt.... not doing so reduces everyone's chances of getting another Joker, which would in turn affect whether anyone takes the Wild Card edges or not.

Maticore wrote:-Hold ‘em: Based on Texas Hold ‘em instead of Five Card Draw/Stud, I think this particular initiative variant has a lot of potential. In short, you play as normal for two rounds and on the third the GM deals out a five-card river, putting aside any Jokers that come up (there are good reasons for that, which I don’t feel the need to explain, but a wild card in the community pool is strange and jokers have very specific initiative effects that you should never allow someone to reap twice). If a player can make a hand, they act in descending order of highest to lowest hand. Otherwise, they get dealt an initiative card as normal. Those with a single dealt card act after those who made a hand. At the end of the third round, cards return to the deck as normal. It’s a short and fun little hack that, like the draw/stud hack above, won’t actually add that much bloat to the game if everyone is pretty familiar with the normal way of doing things.


This one I don't think would be quite as bad at making meta-gaming worse, but I do think it would still make the initiative edges a premium in your games. With a system like the one you describe, taking Quick would ensure several redeals, and Level Headed and Improved Level Headed would be must-haves for those extra hole cards. That is, unless you decided to change how those edges work.

Maticore wrote:Comments? Concerns?

See above :mrgreen:
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#4 Postby Yuritau » Sat Mar 24, 2012 1:12 pm

Love the secret hand and team up options. the others just wouldn't work in my group.

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#5 Postby 77IM » Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:46 pm

Secret Hand -- I might try this next time I have a "Mexican stand-off" type situation, instead of using opposed Agility rolls. :twisted:

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#6 Postby Zadmar » Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:12 am

I've always used the Secret Hand approach. The rules don't explicitly state whether the cards should be face up or face down, but from the way "the countdown" is described I just assumed people weren't supposed to reveal their initiative until their card came up.

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#7 Postby J Gregory » Sat Mar 31, 2012 6:56 pm

Secret Hand is how I took The Countdown to work on first reading. The SWEX doesn't actually say that the cards are concealed; but if the cards are showing then why do you need to count down?

I like that the Secret Hand makes tactical metagaming more difficult, not knowing when your party members are going to act.

Merlin_Sylver: "I thought that when you went on hold, then you went any time even to the point of interrupting another initiative... I wasn't aware a person on hold still had to make an agility test in order to shoot first... "

That's the beauty of the Joker - no need to roll to interrupt. If my players go on hold with a good idea to interrupt an opponent, I'll give them +2 for their Agility roll to help them out bit.
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#8 Postby ValhallaGH » Sun Apr 01, 2012 1:24 pm

I just tried using Secret Hand for the bad guys. It was glorious. The shock and surprise as I interrupted the players' tactical planning. The growing tension over the appearance of "Joker squad" (a squad of Extras acting on a Joker). The mystery and surprise of when I was going to interrupt them and kill another PC.

Just amazing.
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Re: My Benny & Initiative House Rules

#9 Postby Silmerosse » Sat Apr 29, 2017 11:10 am

Apologies in advance for necrothreading, but I found this through Google and thought it would be better to bump than create a duplicate.

For those who have experience with hidden hand initiative, how does this affect power maintenance? Will players fudge their initiative/hold to prolong their spells? Or is this something not worth worrying about?
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Re: My Benny & Initiative House Rules

#10 Postby ValhallaGH » Sat Apr 29, 2017 12:43 pm

Silmerosse wrote:For those who have experience with hidden hand initiative, how does this affect power maintenance?

It doesn't, or a least shouldn't.
Silmerosse wrote: Will players fudge their initiative/hold to prolong their spells? Or is this something not worth worrying about?

That's players cheating or ignoring how the rules work. Either way, it's not a problem with the house rule. :wink:
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