Maybe it’s just me, but gear and vehicles is one of the things that I struggle with in Savage Worlds. I’m not suggesting that weapons, vehicles, or equipment are somehow clunky. They’re not.
But there isn’t much variation. You may have noticed that most Ranged Weapons have a range of 12/24/48 and cause 2d6 damage (easy–peasy-lemon-squeezy). In fact, I challenge you to photocopy that table and cross out anything with the same range increments and damage. You’ll be surprised by how many entries are left.
What do you do when you want a Star Trek style phaser with stun and disintegration settings?
I hope you’re shouting, “That’s a Weird Science device!”. And I couldn’t agree more. It makes sense with the established design philosophy and core mechanics of Savage Worlds.
I’d also argue that applies to cyberware, vehicles, and space ships (anything high tech). So, why doesn’t it? This is the disconnect I struggle with between gear and vehicles.
All Weird Science gear (including jet packs and vehicles) is basically an allied Extra with an Arcane Background and appropriately trapped powers. Vehicles have Toughness and three levels of wounds like any Wild Card character.
Why Isn’t Everything A Character?
What I’m suggesting is by no means a new idea. Savage Space (a free fan-created supplement by Marcus Burggraf) contains a great example of creating starships as characters using the familiar Savage Worlds character creation process. You should definitely check it out.
The real strength of the Savage Worlds core rules is the ability to translate practically any ‘concept’ into a solid, mechanically playable character in ten minutes or less. Additionally, the lion’s share of the rules are written in character-centric language (attacker, character, defender, target, opponent, etc.) describing the mechanical focus on effects.
Why Everything Should Be A Character
First of all, not everything should be a character. It would be silly to make a standard shortbow or revolver a ‘character’ if it didn’t make thematic sense in your setting.
That said, I’d encourage Savage GMs to create certain things as characters in their settings and long-term campaigns, especially vehicles. First, it fits the Fast! Furious! Fun! motto of Savage Worlds. It is freeing. Rules are easier to apply because you don’t have to reference special rules or tables and stats. You can trap Edges and Hindrances (and even powers) with existing requirements to add personality to inanimate objects in your game. These ‘new characters’ can advance over time.
Let’s Build A Spaceship!
Who doesn’t love a starship with quirks? Serenity and the Millennium Falcon are great examples of vehicles as characters!
So how would you build Serenity as a character in Savage Worlds?
You follow the exact same steps you would for any Wild Card player character in Savage Worlds. In fact, you could use the Making Races section in Savage Worlds Deluxe as a guideline for starships as a Race with the Flight ability.
Agility would be Serenity’s highest rated attribute. Strength could represent the power of her engines. Add Skills like Notice to represent Sensors, Healing to represent a sick-bay and so on. Hindrances like All Thumbs or Bad Luck make sense. Acrobat, Brawny, and Dodge all make sense for Edges.
Instead of Acceleration and Top Speed, you can use a standard Pace and substitute Strength for the running die type. I’d also establish a scale based on Size, which means Serenity would be Size +6 relative to Human Size 0.
In game terms, the crew makes Cooperative rolls as they apply to the situation. But Serenity (the ‘character’) makes actual Trait rolls.
What Else Is Character Good For?
That’s a good question. I’d say anything that requires additional bookkeeping is better handled as a character.
I run a bi-monthly zombie apocalypse setting. Survivor communities are a good example of something handled easier as a character.
For example: every die type represents general resources or members of the survivor camp. So, a survivor community with a d8 Healing may have actual doctors in its population or a huge stash of medical supplies. A survivor community with a high Toughness and Combat Edges represent more of a militant and fortified community.
As long as you can apply reasonable abstraction to inanimate objects that make sense for your setting, why not make them characters?