The Seven-Sided Die

The odds & ends of roleplaying

Archive for December 2008

Savage Elder Scrolls

written by d7, on Dec 29, 2008 3:37:00 PM.

This old post has been getting more hits since Skyrim was released, but I’m not planning to update the document. TES fans might want to look at this conversion that appears to be complete and well-made, though: The Elder Scrolls: A Savage Worlds Conversion by the Journeyman GM.

I’ve seen a few hits in my logs from people looking to roleplay in Tamriel using Savage Worlds rules. The Elder Scrolls conversion I’m working on isn’t finished, but it’s finished-enough that I can use it to run games and I have other projects taking precedence. I figure even unfinished rules would be more useful than nothing to those people coming from Google, though.

So: Savage Elder Scrolls.

Note that my experience is mostly with Oblivion, so there’s not much in there that reflects Morrowind or earlier games in the series. However, since I’m not interested in just playing Oblivion with the CPU replaced with a human GM, I tried to avoid re-creating Oblivion’s game mechanics. That was my biggest objection to Advanced Dungeons & Savages, and I didn’t want to make that mistake myself.

Note that there’s a lot that’s just skeleton, especially around the Edges and Hindrances, the Bestiary, factions, and non-combat Gear. Alchemy is only half done, but an enterprising GM can fill in the blanks. Restoration spells are barely touched as well, but Savage Worlds provides Healing and Greater Healing for now. Also note that the contact form referred to at the end doesn’t yet exist here because I haven’t had the time to test out the various contact form plugins.

Feedback and suggestions are more than welcome. This is only around the level of an alpha, so major rewrites might happen.

Selling games by selling bodies

written by d7, on Dec 24, 2008 3:36:11 PM.

Edit to add: Welcome, readers from the Paizo boards. Flame-free comments are welcome. Some important points to keep in mind to avoid saying clueless things: I understand that you're protective of your iconics, but they're fair game for social criticism. Please don't confuse "exploitive" with "offensive"—they're different words. Having a female friend/being a woman who doesn't see any problem doesn't necessarily mean there's no problem, just that that woman doesn't think there's one. There's a difference between criticising an example of a cultural phenomenon and "speaking for all women"—I'm doing the first, not the latter. A female CEO doesn't give a free pass on exploitation or sexism: see Jenna Jameson or Sarah Palin. For context you might want to read my first post on this blog, White privilege in fantasy fiction and gaming, and consider whether the comment you have in mind will get any traction here.

I made an account at Paizo's online store when I wanted to take a look at their Pathfinder RPG beta, so I'm on their mailing list. I got a promotional email from Paizo yesterday that I was compelled to answer.

Some of you might have gotten the email I'm talking about. It's a "Season's greetings, have a discount coupon" sort of promo email. It's one of those emails that's nearly all image. Since my mail reader doesn't load external images until I say it should (for security reasons), it initially just looked like:

Dear D7: [have a big-ass image]

Minus the editorialised replacement text, of course.

The image is of a big-breasted, skimpily-dressed, White woman fondling an enormous candy-cane with a come-hither look, sitting inside a wreath against a snowy background. (She must be cold. Or maybe she just has DR/fire.) The wreath is topped by "Season's Greetings", and the words "from your friends at Paizo" sit just beneath her coyly-crossed feet and elaborately-impractical costume. Curiously, her ears are hidden so she's of indeterminate species. Maybe they didn't want to be on the wrong side of that all-important elf fetish divide.

Yes, I'm being slightly caustic. Here's the non-caustic email I sent them in reply:

Thank you for the discount coupon and well-wishing. However, I have to take exception to the image. I imagine many of your customers appreciate being shown random cheesecake, but it's not terribly professional or respectful to your female customers. I do hope you had something less exploitive of women for your female customers. Even if so (and especially if not!) this is a good time to stop and consider how this kind of careless skin-selling from a major publisher sets back gamers' attempts to make roleplaying less of a horny-boys' club. FYI, the group I run games for is more than half women.

If none of that made any sense, you're welcome to ask what I'm on about. Part of the problem is that this kind of image is considered normal in the industry, so people don't have much of a handle on what might be problematic about it.

Sincerely, d7

I'm curious what their reply, if any, will be. Paizo is known for this kind of cheesecake and fanservice, and I can only imagine the company culture that must hold sway when that's their public face. I'm not expecting much. If only they'd realise (and care) how hostile to women gamers this kind of thing is.

GM advice, industry musings, and storming

written by d7, on Dec 19, 2008 11:53:25 PM.

Despite being finished school, I've been busier than ever. My family is taking a lot of my attention, and getting the house into better order than we were tolerating while I was consumed with school is being alotted the remainder. Then, of course, there is the holidays. Failing a thoughtful post, I can give you some links that are thought-provoking.

I was looking for GM advice earlier today. (More on that below.) By some tangents I came across the site of Greg Stolze, who is the most interesting RPG designer who I've ever been only vaguely aware of. (He's no longer in that category since I've absorbed his page and starting paying better attention to him.) If you enjoy reading industry-insider reminiscing and introspection about game design, you'll enjoy reading Stolze's pages devoted to talking about the games he's worked on. As he notes, they're marketing-pitch free unless you click the links to the products' own pages. He writes about good design, bad editing, a young Jonathan Tweet, the companies that come and go, and what it's like to write the RPG for a franchise he loved as a teenager. I usually balk at reading screens of non-blog home pages, but his are well worth it.

A later tangent found me reading Communicate: Understand the Lessons You Will Teach Each Other, an old guest article at Treasure Tables. Good advice there about considering what styles of play and group behaviour are rewarded by the choices and events the GM brings to the game. Along a similar theme I found Expectations, Conditioning and Your Game: Examples and its follow-up, Rules of Thumb, over at Errant Dreams. They address the broader but more practical techniques for setting the group's expectations for a new game (or resetting them in an established one) through deliberate crafting of an introductory session and making a themes reference sheet to keep the game on-track thereafter. It's one of those ideas that only seems obvious after it's stated.

Returning to industry reminiscing, I found an archive of John Wick's entire series of "Play Dirty" articles for Steve Jackson Games' Pyramid magazine. It's badly formatted, alas, because it's in the form of an email attachment that someone once sent to a fellow gamer, which itself has been archived on the web. It's well worth reading, although I admit I only got through the first few (long!) articles while Mr Baby napped on my chest earlier today. It has a massive word count. Those of you who aren't fans of Wick should probably take it in small doses, though, because he's his usual unsettling self. People seem to either love him or hate him. He's made some great games, though.

And that wraps— wait, what? Oh, right. That game on Wednesday I promised to report on. Um. Let's just say that parts of our group—myself included, much to my chagrin—are entering the storming stage. There's a reason I was looking for GM self-help and self-improvement articles... On the plus side, storming means that norming is on the way!

In transition

written by d7, on Dec 12, 2008 8:08:19 AM.

The RPG Blog Carnival topic for December is transformations and transitions, hosted by Critical Hits. That's very pertinent to me right now since I'm transitioning from being a working student to being either a plain ol' worker or a stay-at-home dad. (We'll see in January which it will be.)

That partly explains the sudden quiet here at the Seven-Sided headquarters. The other part is that my Elder Scrolls conversion for Savage Worlds is coming along swimmingly. I should have Magicka (as magic is called in TES lore) and character mechanics in general done this weekend, and some templated NPCs and monsters done next week. Wednesday the group will hit it with sticks and put it through its paces for a one-shot session.

For Magicka I was tempted to model it after the mechanics in TES3: Morrowind and TES4: Oblivion, but while chatting with Fimmtiu I realised that that way lay madness and I should take my own advice to just trust Savage Worlds' system to work well. I'm tweaking it a bit—the Power used determines which Skill test is needed and there is one Skill for each of the six Schools—but otherwise I've just been putting SW-style mechanics to classic TES spell effects. There are some easy equivalents like telekinesis and dispel which need no name change, and command humanoid which is just puppet renamed. Others are a bit tougher, but I have about 50% of the Powers worked out already.

This hasn't really been a Carnival post so I'm not submitting it, but it did get me to update, so there's that at least.

Oblivious sandboxes and Savage settings

written by d7, on Dec 1, 2008 7:05:00 PM.

There is a tonne of setting conversions for Savage Worlds, but one in particular stands out for its absence: Bethesda Softwork’s venerable world of The Elder Scrolls. It’s been discussed, but I haven’t turned up anything substantial in my searches.

(Edited to add.) Since I wrote this, I’ve discovered The Elder Scrolls: A Savage Worlds Conversion by the Journeyman GM. It’s a huge effort and looks to be very complete, including rules for things introduced by Skyrim. Go check it out!

It’s the perfect sandbox setting[1. Incidentally, there is a good Gnome Stew article on non-linear/sandbox games that gives an overview of the gameplay style, and gives a lot of good advice.], with deep background material, abundant maps, plot threads galore for players to chance upon, and a wide world to explore. It’s also nearly ideal for my current needs since I can wing it and still have a lot of setting information at my fingertips after many hours of playing TES 4: Oblivion. (I haven’t played the others in the series, yet.) As hack/ points out, there is a bounty of adventure ideas to be had from player-maintained sites documenting each game’s quests in good detail, including maps. As easy as it sounds to convert to d20, it will be even easier to convert such adventures to Savage Worlds.

There are a good number of people familiar with the setting through the video games, too. That lowers the player buy-in for those players, although it does mean I can’t steal quests whole-cloth for the campaign. That’s just as well though, since I want to avoid the temptation to just rehash Oblivion. The real strength of a pen-and-paper game is the ability to go anywhere and do anything. Although The Elder Scrolls series of games are delightfully accommodating of that desire, a tabletop game is just so much more flexible than anything that computers can produce so far.

The one challenge then, is not building the setting, but wrapping Savage Worlds mechanics around it. There’s a lot to work out, but fortunately the system is simple and flexible enough that what would be a monumental task in d20 should be something I can actually accomplish in SW. The biggest mechanical hurdle is how to handle magic, since everyone has a little bit of magic in The Elder Scrolls.

The other challenge (”Two! Two main challenges…”[2. Everyone still gets this reference, right?]) will be distilling the setting details that will get unfamiliar players engaged in the sandbox. An overview of the races and their relationships, the provinces of Tamriel and local geography, and recent history will be necessary, but have to be conveyed in few enough words that I can depend on my players reading it.

So! With all that in mind, I’m prodding a skeleton of a Google Doc into a useful conversion. I’m sure you’ll see pieces of it here at some point. Any fellow Savage Worlds and TES fans out there? Do you have any suggestions for how to tackle the various setting details?