Apocalypse Campaign Guide: Basic Crafting


The next couple of blog entries are going to correlate with the Apocalypse Campaign Guide (Savage Worlds) currently running over at Kickstarter. I was asked in the comments if I could talk a little about how we handle crafting in the toolkit book. Given that Kickstarter Updates are a pain to work with when importing lengthy text and trying to format it, I decided to do them here and link them in the Updates over there. Unless a post is short and sweet, I never use a site’s built-in editor to compose, and always prefer to use WORD. Writers are, after all, creatures of extreme habit.

There was a lot of internal debate that went into how we could handle Basic Crafting in the Apocalypse Campaign Guide. After all, we’re huge fans (and long-time gamers) of the Savage Worlds system, ourselves, and one of the most appealing factors is that the rules really do a fine job of getting the heck out of the way at the table. We didn’t want to design something that was cumbersome, and defeated one of the core appeals of Savage Worlds. So it had to work, had to get out of the way in play, and had to be balanced.

At first we thought about some type of crafting point build system. After all, Savage Worlds kind of does something along those lines with the Arcane Backgrounds (Weird Science) Edge, which has been reskinned in a variety of settings. And yes, we have something similar in our toolkit book, but that isn’t the same as crafting in the vein that we wanted it. Those particular characters are a unique sort, and exactly how they accomplish their inventions, and in what forms, depends greatly on the genre of apocalyptic setting you’re running. A Steampunk Apocalypse’s inventors will be different than one in a space-faring setting, or a fantasy apocalypse, or even a modern day End of the World. So we define them separately.

We needed something for folks who wanted to craft some everyday items or weapons, regardless of genre.

At first we thought about a new skill: Crafting, which would be broken down into subskills much like the Knowledge skill. After getting into that a bit, we realized the skill was unnecessary. Instead, have it rely on Knowledge (type) for crafting, but create a couple of Edges to enhance that and allow the character to receive a bonus for focusing on the crafting aspects of it.

We also dropped the point-build crafting concept, as that just boggled down play.

So we have it rely on the Knowledge (type) skills, and have Edges to enhance it. What we didn’t do was (again) get too cumbersome with needing specific Knowledge skills for each and every facet. For example, Knowledge (Gunsmith) allows you to spend time to craft a gun and bullets. You don’t have to have Knowledge (Chemistry) or a bunch of others to ply your craft. It’s assumed you know how to craft a gun and bullets. Remember, our goal was to keep the games Savage Worlds. There’s a sidebar to GMs talking about breaking different crafting needs down to specifically required Knowledge skills, but that’s something for you to decide at your table. As Pinnacle always says: It’s your game. For the book, though, we didn’t want to boggle things down. We wanted to keep with the FFF! template and that Savage Worlds emulates the tropes of fiction, instead of simulating reality.

To craft, you roll your appropriate Knowledge skill. Because even the best inventors are still victims to the whims of luck in the process— even when factories and full facilities were available, which you don’t have in a post-apocalyptic environment— the GM also draws a card from the Action Deck. This is similar to drawing a card for a Chase scene, and a Clubs can bring with it all sorts of complications (explained via charts, based on the card value of the Clubs). It might even indicate a lack of resources and a needed adventure to find and salvage stuff. Other suits can simply give you a negative penalty, no penalty, or a bonus.

Based on getting a success, and how many raises you also receive, you’ll be able to craft $X amount of goods. Meaning if you rolled enough to be able to craft $200 worth of goods, you can then go to the Gear charts in the Apocalypse Campaign Guide or Savage Worlds Deluxe (or something like Pinnacle’s Fantasy Companion or Science Fiction Companion, if you also own them), and choose up to $200 worth of stuff to craft. It might be a Glock 9mm (cost: $200), or a Derringer (cost: $150) and some extra bullets.

Specific settings would naturally have their own cost charts (such as World of the Dead did in 2013), but for the toolkit rules we have to be a bit more general in scope.

Of course, you’re unlikely to be just randomly crafting during the story. Instead you’re going to want to craft a particular item or set of items, so what your crafting item goal is will determine your needed number of success and raises.

Crafting takes time, as well. Take the total cost of the goods you want to craft. Every $10 worth (round down) equals one base day. You then add 1d6 to that. So, crafting a Glock pistol takes 20+1d6 days from start to finish.

That keeps things balanced in that player-characters can craft mundane items instead of hoping to salvage everything, but it’s going to take time— time that you are stuck at your workspace and not out adventuring and being heroic.

Obviously, that means you’re not going to be crafting vehicles and starships via this method, and some items are just simply too expensive and complex to craft in a post-apocalyptic world (unless you managed to Ace enough to roll phenomenally high). But that fits the genres. Sure, you can technically gather enough parts to build a car from scratch, but you’re unlikely to have the time or real tools to do so in such a setting.

However, for those who want to add armor and weapons to your favorite vehicle, be it a car or a starship, or increase the damage potential of a weapon a little bit (and risk a malfunction at some point), we do have Modification rules as well.

So that’s how we handled Basic Crafting, and we liked the way it felt in play. It allowed for things to be made, as long as the time is available and the rolls can be made, and didn’t unbalance the need to scavenging for stuff in a post-apocalyptic setting, since the player-characters should also be out-and-about in the world, taking part in the action and furthering the story.

Check back on Monday, August 8th for the next Apocalypse Campaign Guide installment. And feel free to share this blog post, and get even more folks interested in the Apocalypse Campaign Guide Kickstarter. We’re not far from funding it, and making it see the light of day.

Next installment I’ll talk about some more options, among them the Advanced Crafting Rules. Those rules are designed for the Savages out there who like more crunch in their Savage Worlds sessions. The advanced rules directly tie into the rules options for Resource Management, such as how many resources you’ve accumulated over time (mostly via trade and scavenging), how much you have carried at any particular time, how much you have in your storage shed or car trunk (which uses the Cargo Space rules), and so forth.

So, there’s also an Advanced ruleset that groups can choose to use if they like that sort of crunch, as your Resource Management and Cargo Space will directly play into what you have on-hand to put into Crafting.