Saturday, January 25, 2014

[Savage Worlds] Alternate Hindrances


I'm a big fan of Savage Worlds and am more than willing to mix it up with the rules a bit.

I picked up a little indie game called The Shadow of Yesterday by Clinton R. Nixon a long time ago and, while I've never played it, I've looked it over.

The Shadow of Yesterday uses a technique called Keys that allow players to reward themselves for doing things they want to do during play.


Clinton also used Keys in another game called Sweet 20 and published it under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, allowing anyone who follows the same license to use and modify the rules.

So that's what I'm going to do, modify it for Savage Worlds.

A common refrain I've heard is that Savage Worlds Hindrances have the same problem as other point-based systems (like GURPS Disadvantages)–what is to make the player play the Hindrances during the game that they've chosen at character generation? 

What if, instead of these standard but bland Hindrances, the player instead choses something that rewards him with immediate in-game rewards for behaving a certain way?

Exit Hindrances. Enter Keys. 

Keys are the motivations, problems, connections, duties, and loyalties that pull on your character. To the player, they're highly important because they generate Bennies. Creating new Keys may be easier than new Abilities or Secrets–they follow very simple rules.


A Key must involve a motivation, problem, connection, duty, or loyalty.


Keys come in two types:


A. Motivations. When the motivation is fulfilled in play, gain a Bennie. When the motivation is fulfilled against good odds, gain three Bennies.


B. Everything else. When the Key comes up in play, gain a Bennie. When the Key presents a minor problem, gain two Bennies. When it presents a major problem, gain five Bennies.


C. All Keys have a Buyoff, which is a reversal from the Key by the character. All Buyoffs give the character 10 Bennies. This Buyoff occurs only when you, the player, wants it to happen: you can lose a battle with the Key of Bloodlust and still keep the Key. If you want your character to undergo a change in her personality, though, adding to the story, you can take this Buyoff by fulfilling it. If you do take the Buyoff, you can never take this Key again. When a Buyoff is taken, the player has to choose another Key to replace it.


It is up to the GM to determine whether one Key is equivalent to one Major and two Minor Hindrances, limiting each PC to one Key. Or one Key is equivalent to one Major or two Minor Hindrances, thereby allowing each PC to choose two Keys.

As always, see the pre-made Keys to get a feel for creating your own.


1. Key of Bloodlust: Your character enjoys overpowering others in combat. Gain 1 Bennie every time your character defeats someone in battle. Gain 3 Bennies for defeating someone equal to or more powerful than your character (equal or higher combat skill.) Buyoff: Be defeated in battle.


2. Key of ConscienceYour character has a soft spot for those weaker than their opponents. Gain 1 Bennie every time your character helps someone who cannot help themselves. Gain 2 Bennies every time your character defends someone with might who is in danger and cannot save themselves. Gain 5 Bennies every time your character takes someone in an unfortunate situation and changes their life to where they can help themselves. Buyoff: Ignore a request for help.

3. Key of the CowardYour character avoids combat like the plague. Gain 1 Bennie every time your character avoids a potentially dangerous situation. Gain 3 Bennies every time your character stops a combat using other means besides violence. Buyoff: Leap into combat with no hesitation.

4. Key of FaithYour character has a strong religious belief that guides her. Gain 1 Bennie every time she defends her faith to others. Gain 2 Bennies whenever this character converts someone to her faith. Gain 5 Bennies whenever this character defends her faith even though it brings her great harm. Buyoff: Your character renounces her beliefs.

5. Key of FraternityYour character has someone she is sworn to, a friend who is more important than anyone else. Gain 1 Bennie every time this character is present in a scene with your character (maximum 3 per adventure). Gain 2 Bennies whenever your character has to make a decision that is influenced by them. Gain 5 Bennies every time your character defends them by putting herself at risk. Buyoff: Sever the relationship with this person.

6. Key of Glittering GoldYour character loves wealth. Gain 1 Bennie every time you make a deal that favors you in wealth. Gain 3 Bennies every time you double your wealth. Buyoff: Give away everything you own except what you can carry lightly.

7. Key of the GuardianYour character has a ward, someone who depends on her for security and protection. Gain 1 Bennie every time this character is present in a scene with your character. Gain 2 Bennies whenever your character has to make a decision that is influenced by them. Gain 5 Bennies every time your character rescues them from harm. Buyoff: Sever the relationship with this person.

8. Key of the ImpostorSometimes your entire life is a lie. You gain 1 Bennie whenever you pass yourself off as someone/something you're not. You gain 2 Bennies whenever you convince others in spite of serious skepticism. You gain 5 Bennies whenever your story survives a deliberate, focused, "Hey everybody, look!" attempt to reveal your identity. Buyoff: Confess your imposture to those duped.

9. Key of the MasochistYour character thrives on personal pain and suffering. Gain 1 Bennie every time she is bloodied (at half HPs) and 3 Bennies every time she is broken (at 1 HP). Buyoff: Flee a source of physical or psychic damage.

10. Key of the MissionYour character has a personal mission that she must complete. Gain 1 Bennie every time she takes action to complete this mission (2 Bennies if this action is successful.) Gain 5 Bennies every time she takes action that completes a major part of this mission. Buyoff: Abandon this mission.

11. Key of the OutcastYour character has lost fellowship or membership in an organization - which could just be a culture, or a specific cross-cultural group. This separation defines your character as much as membership in the organization defines its members. Gain 1 Bennie every time her status with this organization comes up. Gain 2 Bennies every time her disassociation brings her harm. Gain 5 Bennies every time the separation brings your character great pain and suffering. Buyoff: Regain membership in the organization.

12. Key of Renown"You must be the worst assassin I've ever heard of." "But you have heard of me." You gain 1 Bennie whenever you see to it that your name and deeds are known, by bragging about them or making sure there are witnesses. You gain 2 Bennies whenever you put yourself at risk to do something unnecessary or foolish that will add to your reputation. You gain 5 Bennies whenever you risk your life to take credit for your actions (bragging that you were the one who killed the Duke's son, for example.). Buyoff: Give someone else credit for an action that would increase your renown.

13. Key of PowerYou don't even care what you do with it, you just want it. You gain 1 Bennie whenever you earn a boon from someone important, earn a slight gain in prestige, or make a rival look bad. You gain 3 Bennies whenever you ruin, kill, or otherwise eliminate a rival, and improve your own position because of it. Buyoff: Relinquish your power and position.


14. Key of VengeanceYour character has a hatred for a particular organization, person, or even species or culture. Gain 1 Bennie every time your character hurts a member of that group or a lackey of that person. Gain 2 Bennies every time your character strikes a minor blow at that group or person (killing a member of the organization or one of the person's lackeys, disrupting their life, destroying their property). Gain 5 Bennies every time your character strikes a major blow at that group or person. Buyoff: Let your enemy go.

15. Key of the VowYour character has a vow of personal behavior that she has sworn not to break. This could be a dietary restriction, a requirement to pray at sunbreak every morning, or something else like that. Gain 1 Bennie for every adventure in which your character does not break this vow. Gain 2 Bennies every time your character does not break this vow even though it causes her minor harm or inconvenience. Gain 5 Bennies every time your character does not break this vow even though it causes her great harm. Buyoff: Break this vow.


3 comments:

  1. The thing is that Savage Worlds Hindrances essentially do that already. Page 145 of Savage Worlds Deluxe: Explorer's Edition lists role-playing Hindrances as one reason for rewarding a Benny. While granted some groups fail to latch onto the Hindrance/Benny dynamic, it's doubtful that they would be any more inclined to take advantage of these Keys. Ultimately, it comes across as trying to reinvent the wheel.

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  2. Sittingduck, thanks for posting.

    The advantage of Keys is a defined reward for specific actions that the player initiates and then receives the Bennie reward for, whereas Pg 145 is more loose in the interpretation of actions-to-rewards, leaving it to GM choice, in many ways fiat, to decide what the reward is and when, if ever, the player gets it.

    I like the concept of having the players decide what their action/reward is and leave the GM out of it because he's got other stuff on his plate to deal with. The player gets to decide when to get the reward, by choosing when to invoke the minor, major and buyoff conditions in response to the GM's scenario, e.g. "Guys, we're totally outmatched. Since I have the Key of the Coward, I'm going to try to politic our way out of this situation. I turn to the bandit chieftain and say 'I believe we have a mutual enemy in the form of the Duke of Thessaly. Perhaps we can come to an arrangement...'"

    Taking Bennie rewards (mostly) out of the GMs hands (after all, GMs can and should still provide Bennies for player actions) and making it the players responsibility is less work for the GM. Note GM veto remains an appropriate response when players violate the intent, if not the written text , of Keys, e.g. "No, you don't get a Bennie for talking to the shopkeeper. It wasn't a dangerous situation because he's 90 years old and can't lift a spoon, much less stab you with it."

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