a case for Guts as a skill

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a case for Guts as a skill

#1 Postby manifold » Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:08 pm

I've been doing a lot of research lately on soldier behavior. The current research into sports psychology and martial arts breathing techniques are being applied to soldiers and LEO's, teaching them how to anticipate and control their arousal (read fear) response in combat. As with all skills, this ability gets better with practice. The discipline is called Mental Toughness, and is a trainable, transferable skill. It is not courage, which might be called a talent for mental toughness; rather, it is a set of techniques and a mindset that is learned and practiced. In terms of Savage Worlds, I'd call this ability Guts. (Keep in mind that Guts isn't just for countering the fear ability; it's also for dealing with terrifying shocks like, say, seeing your radio man blown to pieces or your best friend loose his ability to control his body and start cutting holes in his abdomen.)

Also, while Spirit is an attribute and can only be raised to a certain extent, and that slowly, Guts can be raised higher and more quickly. In Char Gen, guts may seem like a bad deal, but over the course of a character's career, Guts can be made quite powerful very quickly.

Ymmv. I understand why some wouldn't want to fool with it. I've been diddling around with Traveller, and I realized that it had no mechanic for morale or fear, which made me think about Savage Worlds and the general attitude that Guts is only for horror games. I disagree. In any game where there is risk and danger, there is a place for Guts.

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#2 Postby Thunderforge » Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:34 pm

I think it ultimately comes down to the importance of mental toughness in the setting you want to run. I'd argue that Pulp games shouldn't have Guts because the visceral shock of seeing people die just isn't present (heck, Nazis have all sorts of gruesome deaths and Indy barely flinches). Supers too shouldn't have Guts because it just doesn't fit with the setting.

I think that Savage Worlds also assumes that Guts is only used for Fear. After all, the Fear table has listings for phobias and white streaks in your hair, which are not the usual effects of seeing your buddy die. So that's probably one of the reasons it's usually only for horror settings.

But of course, there's nothing keeping you from putting Guts in any settings that you feel it is appropriate for.
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Re: a case for Guts as a skill

#3 Postby robert4818 » Mon Feb 27, 2012 1:19 am

manifold wrote:I've been doing a lot of research lately on soldier behavior. The current research into sports psychology and martial arts breathing techniques are being applied to soldiers and LEO's, teaching them how to anticipate and control their arousal (read fear) response in combat. As with all skills, this ability gets better with practice. The discipline is called Mental Toughness, and is a trainable, transferable skill. It is not courage, which might be called a talent for mental toughness; rather, it is a set of techniques and a mindset that is learned and practiced. In terms of Savage Worlds, I'd call this ability Guts. (Keep in mind that Guts isn't just for countering the fear ability; it's also for dealing with terrifying shocks like, say, seeing your radio man blown to pieces or your best friend loose his ability to control his body and start cutting holes in his abdomen.)

Also, while Spirit is an attribute and can only be raised to a certain extent, and that slowly, Guts can be raised higher and more quickly. In Char Gen, guts may seem like a bad deal, but over the course of a character's career, Guts can be made quite powerful very quickly.

Ymmv. I understand why some wouldn't want to fool with it. I've been diddling around with Traveller, and I realized that it had no mechanic for morale or fear, which made me think about Savage Worlds and the general attitude that Guts is only for horror games. I disagree. In any game where there is risk and danger, there is a place for Guts.


Here's how I see the Guts Skill.

Its not just for Horror Games, through it makes the most sense for one. Instead its a skill for games where the players are considered "normal people". By that I mean, players are not considered "heroes" or "heroic" but are instead simply considered to be the equivalent of the Man on the Street.

In a heroic game, Guts doesn't make much sense. The players are hero's, and hesitating because of fear (nauseating scary things, or just situations) doesn't fit with the mood of the game.

On the other hand, if you are playing a game where its normal people thrown into abnormal situations, its a very different concept.

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#4 Postby TheLoremaster » Mon Feb 27, 2012 7:39 am

Thunderforge wrote:I think that Savage Worlds also assumes that Guts is only used for Fear.

I don't think that is true, and never really was. Even as far back as Revised, we've always had two levels of fear: Fear/Nausea and Terror, and Fear/Nausea was specifically used when, "(i)f the scene was grotesque or horrific, such as a grisly discovery or learning a secret 'Man Was Not Meant to Know'". The rule is clear, even if GMs didn't use it that way.

I do think that Guts should be used as a Setting Rule only when appropriate. It seemed like nearly every setting discarded it as a Skill and replaced it with a Spirit roll, so changing the core rules to match practice is a wise idea. I still plan on using Guts when running horror or military games, or any game where I want to have a "grittier" feel.
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#5 Postby Savage Mommy » Mon Feb 27, 2012 9:24 am

I would agree that it should be a setting rule. But, with that said, it is the DM's game and if they want guts to be a skill, then it is.
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#6 Postby Pariah74 » Mon Feb 27, 2012 10:29 am

I can't say, but it seemed like the Guts skill being moved to a setting rule was less about the skill itself and how it interacted with normal people, and more about freeing up those points for other skills.

What I am saying is, I think it may have come down to "How often do you really use this skill in most settings?"

And sure, Boating probably doesn't come up a lot either...but you don't roll on a table that can kill or cripple you when you fail at Boating.
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#7 Postby ValhallaGH » Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:13 am

Pariah74 wrote:And sure, Boating probably doesn't come up a lot either...but you don't roll on a table that can kill or cripple you when you fail at Boating.

Depends on the Boating roll. :twisted:
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#8 Postby Pariah74 » Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:12 pm

I knew somebody would say that. :lol:

Okay, the Core Rules don't require you to roll on a "You Might Die" table if you fail your boating roll. :wink:
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#9 Postby tylermo » Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:46 pm

It's time for Joel, or other nameless Pinnacle folk to do a death by boating table, much in the tradition of the Charlie Sheen edges. :-)

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Re: a case for Guts as a skill

#10 Postby newForumNewName » Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:47 pm

manifold wrote:I've been doing a lot of research lately on soldier behavior. The current research into sports psychology and martial arts breathing techniques are being applied to soldiers and LEO's, teaching them how to anticipate and control their arousal (read fear) response in combat. As with all skills, this ability gets better with practice. The discipline is called Mental Toughness, and is a trainable, transferable skill. It is not courage, which might be called a talent for mental toughness; rather, it is a set of techniques and a mindset that is learned and practiced. In terms of Savage Worlds, I'd call this ability Guts. (Keep in mind that Guts isn't just for countering the fear ability; it's also for dealing with terrifying shocks like, say, seeing your radio man blown to pieces or your best friend loose his ability to control his body and start cutting holes in his abdomen.)

It is trainable, but it is also something that many soldiers/warriors and LEOs ignore. Honestly, as a game mechanic, I'd use Realms of Cthulhu's Sanity mechanic but tie it to Guts instead of Spirit. Each horrific situation can do Mental Trauma damage just like regular damage and can accrue increasing amounts of insanity. The insanities would represent PTSD and can be managed, but rarely removed entirely (although I've heard about studies with a new pill that shows great promise in that area). Or something equally rules-fiddley that's simpler or easier to implement like the penalties to actions only last so long, but the insanities are forever.

However, that level of "realism" is not what everyone wants in every game. In fact, most games don't have or use that level of "realism" so Guts isn't necessarily appropriate.

manifold wrote:Also, while Spirit is an attribute and can only be raised to a certain extent, and that slowly, Guts can be raised higher and more quickly. In Char Gen, guts may seem like a bad deal, but over the course of a character's career, Guts can be made quite powerful very quickly.

I'm not sure that I understand this. You can only raise any skill once per advance. If you have several skills that are lower than their linked attributes, you can raise two skills a single die type with an advance, but that still isn't any faster or slower than raising an attribute. You can also apply those Legendary edges to any Trait and attributes are Traits, so you could, potentially, have a Spirit of d12+2 with a d10 Wild Die.

manifold wrote:Ymmv. I understand why some wouldn't want to fool with it. I've been diddling around with Traveller, and I realized that it had no mechanic for morale or fear, which made me think about Savage Worlds and the general attitude that Guts is only for horror games. I disagree. In any game where there is risk and danger, there is a place for Guts.

Weird War II is a horror game without Guts. It has a Sanity mechanic that works well for wartime where having a more fatal system like Realms of Cthulhu would make it less fun, but it still forgoes Guts.
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#11 Postby ValhallaGH » Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:49 pm

Pariah74 wrote:Okay, the Core Rules don't require you to roll on a "You Might Die" table if you fail your boating roll. :wink:

Unless you fall in the water and have to start Swimming. :mrgreen:

Not all failed Fear rolls have a chance of fatality. There has to be at least a -1 fear-source penalty to risk a heart attack; everything else is varying degrees of psychological issues.
I'm not disputing the fundamental point, just the idea that it always applies.
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#12 Postby newForumNewName » Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:53 pm

Unless it's Deadlands and then you could get Terrified to death from a regular +0 terror monster just because you are in a Fear 1 area and roll 20 on the fear table (not that that's happened at one of my tables...).
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#13 Postby ValhallaGH » Mon Feb 27, 2012 1:03 pm

newForumNewName wrote:Unless it's Deadlands and then you could get Terrified to death from a regular +0 terror monster just because you are in a Fear 1 area and roll 20 on the fear table (not that that's happened at one of my tables...).

Fear Level doesn't add to the Fear Table roll. Unless your Marshal is especially cruel.
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Re: a case for Guts as a skill

#14 Postby Dracones » Mon Feb 27, 2012 3:28 pm

manifold wrote:I've been diddling around with Traveller, and I realized that it had no mechanic for morale or fear, which made me think about Savage Worlds and the general attitude that Guts is only for horror games. I disagree. In any game where there is risk and danger, there is a place for Guts.


The problem is you need to look at rules with a bent of "does it help the adventure flow" and you also need to look at your rules with a "does it sell the setting". Things that don't promote those two things are a bit of a distraction.

Let's look at it another way with cop behavior. If you watch a TV show about a cop you won't see them cowering behind a car in a firefight too afraid to move unless that's part of the story. A gut check in Savage Worlds Miami Vice would just get in the way. The action, the story element, is in the character actions(not lack thereof). Crockett and Tubbs never freaked out and neither should the characters. A gut check so your character can do something, at best, slows down the game and at worst halts it while your PC cries about who's going to take care of their cat if they get shot.

Now on the other hand look at something like Realms of Cthulhu and the story actors freaking out and slowly going insane are a part of the story and there are mechanics in place for that.

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#15 Postby Pariah74 » Mon Feb 27, 2012 6:54 pm

ValhallaGH wrote:
Pariah74 wrote:Okay, the Core Rules don't require you to roll on a "You Might Die" table if you fail your boating roll. :wink:

Unless you fall in the water and have to start Swimming. :mrgreen:



That would be a separate roll then, and swimming still doesn't make you roll on something else or die. Also, you only have to roll for swimming to avoid drowning if there extenuating circumstances.

But I see you're just giving me a hard time. My point remains, I think it was removed because it's one of those skills that may not come up much in a default setting, but folks are always gonna "waste" points on it just to keep from dying.
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#16 Postby newForumNewName » Mon Feb 27, 2012 7:36 pm

ValhallaGH wrote:
newForumNewName wrote:Unless it's Deadlands and then you could get Terrified to death from a regular +0 terror monster just because you are in a Fear 1 area and roll 20 on the fear table (not that that's happened at one of my tables...).

Fear Level doesn't add to the Fear Table roll. Unless your Marshal is especially cruel.
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Re: a case for Guts as a skill

#17 Postby Lord Inar » Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:35 am

manifold wrote:...The discipline is called Mental Toughness, and is a trainable, transferable skill.


I had also thought that another reason for removing Guts is that it is the only skill that is only reactive. It's hard to image saying "I'm going to use my Guts skill to do ______," whereas you can construct that statement with any other skill.

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#18 Postby steelbrok » Tue Feb 28, 2012 3:42 am

Aren't there brave/courageous edges that migh represent this training better than having a Guts skill?

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#19 Postby Sitting Duck » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:16 am

ValhallaGH wrote:
Pariah74 wrote:And sure, Boating probably doesn't come up a lot either...but you don't roll on a table that can kill or cripple you when you fail at Boating.

Depends on the Boating roll. :twisted:


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#20 Postby ValhallaGH » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:04 am

steelbrok wrote:Aren't there brave/courageous edges that migh represent this training better than having a Guts skill?

The Brave edge; +2 on rolls to resist fear.

I don't claim it's a better model than Guts. It is simply the only relevant edge.
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