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[50F]50 Fathoms in times of SWADE

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  • [50F]50 Fathoms in times of SWADE

    We started playing 50 Fathoms in the end of 2016. We usually build our world ourselves and tinker with the mechanics (in the sense that we take the core rules and companions and add new edges or setting rules as needed), so we did with 50 Fathoms, too. Now, with the Adventure Edition, I went over it and tried to streamline it a bit more so it fits to SWADE. 50 Fathoms feels a bit dated now and doesn't seem to fit into the design philosophy of SWADE anymore.
    Here are my impressions and suggestions about the game mechanics. I hope you find them useful for your own game or even for an update of 50 Fathoms.
    Keep in mind these are just my impressions and considerations. They're subjective and not meant to be valid for every game. Maybe they're not even universally valid for ours Also, please feel free to comment on them!

    Unnecessary rolls
    Rolling for travel time just eats up time without adding anything to our game, because a few days more or less usually don't change anything. If it matters, playing scenes or even Savage Tales to determine if the crew is delayed or gets by faster seems much more interesting than rolling on Boating every day. Now that SWADE has guideline travel times for sailing ships, we just use these.
    The same can be said about determining the costs of Carousing. Even if you track money (we do), the money spent for carousing isn't worth randomly determining in my opinion. A guideline (in the case of 50F, 5-30 pieces of eight per evening) is completely sufficient.
    Rolling to get drunk wasn't only never relevant, it's also a bit confusing in connection with spending more money to get rid of more Fatigue. So you spend more money to party harder but actually don't get drunk but order a band and dress up all fancy?

    Related to this, Squanderous seems rather irrelevant. Doubling the price of carousing (which never mattered much to us) with a Hindrance that is as "heavy" as Poverty – which would fit the description as well and might have a noticeable to huge impact – seems unbalanced and superfluous. Frugal looks similar. (We had PCs with both of these)

    Naval Combat
    Covered by the Core Rules now, so that's how we run it. Using the rules for linked weapons was actually suggested by DoctorBoson before already, that cut down the number of dice for one broadside considerably.
    With Deluxe, we got rid of rolling the lower of Shooting/Boating for shooting cannons very quickly. Together with a -2 (Unstable Platform), it's hard enough for the NPCs to hit at all to the point where shooting cannons was so boring that everyone just went for boarding immediately. For the PCs who want to get actually proficient at the cannons, raising two skills in addition to getting an Edge (Steady Hands) seems overkill.

    Storms
    I found these very harsh (basically it feels like "go Ace&Mage or go bust") and had the impression that they had a bit too many random elements (card draw and two dice rolls vs. one skill roll). After making sure they're actually as harsh as I read it and using them a few times in our game, I just replaced them with Dramatic Tasks. Maybe an updated version will fit with the new Dramatic Tasks?

    Enabling Edges
    Some of the Edges allow you to take specific actions so Skill get useful at all. I was told that this was a holdover from older design philosophies of Savage Worlds; in any case, buying a Knowledge skill to get an Edge to be allowed to use your Repair skill to repair guns (Gunsmith) or your ship (Ship's Carpenter) didn't sound appealing, so we got rid of that. McGyver and Mr. Fix it cover the uses of these Edges or the character specialization rather well.

    Combat Edges
    Dirty Fighter: Outdated because of the new tests, replaced with SWADE's Feint.
    Improved Dirty Fighter: Really overpowered* in my opinion. I actually tried this in a bunch of games because it was in the german Core Rules, the only way to not make it overpowered is being stingy with Bennies, and who would want that?

    Leadership Edges
    Board 'Em: Doesn't seem to fit in with SWADE's take on flat bonuses, but since nobody ever took it, we didn't look into it much. Looks like a Support roll with Persuasion or something similar by the commander would cover that already.
    Master & Commander: Not in active play atm, but since it's similar to what Ace did before, maybe just grant the crew a free reroll instead of the +2.

    Professional Edges
    Boarder: I'd swap the +2 for a free reroll to align with SWADE's other bonuses.
    Rope Monkey: Rather complicated and needed a roll every time – two PCs took it so far, was used maybe once in total. Changed to granting the effects of Acrobat and Combat Acrobat when moving in the rigging (and also granting it for climbing in that case).
    Scout: Why not just Danger Sense? At least with SWADE (and the streamlined rules for surprise), having both Edges in the game would be pretty strong. Of course, you might just throw out Danger Sense and keep Scout.

    Social Edges
    Reputation: Gone with Charisma, I guess

    Weird Edges
    I'm not entirely sure what to do with the bonuses. Giving out free rerolls would probably yield silly results in combination, especially with Ace. The card drawing should still be fine even if you replace the storm mechanics with SWADE's Dramatic Tasks, though.

    Ships
    Need to be converted to SWADE stats. I took a few guesses and stats for our game. If anyone is interested, I could post them here later.

    Gear
    Cannons seem to have an abundance of detail. Not only can you fire different sizes, but you also have to track all these cannonballs and chain shots and whatnot, you also have to keep track of the gunpowder (convert casks into cargo space, calculate powder needed for your cannon size...). For understanding how to track cannon ammunition, I have to read p.28, p.30, p. 31 and p. 43.That's a bit much, don't you think?
    Reloading times for cannons are in SWADE now, so we either use these or ignore them completely when Chase rounds are much longer than the usual six seconds because of the slower movement of sailing ships.

    Careening
    That seemed to be a bit too detailed for an FFF game (or any RPG in my opinion). Does anyone use these a lot?

    Crew Upkeep
    I found it a bit fiddly to calculate and subtract rations for each man and day in comparison to the simpler mechanics of the Science Fiction Compendium, so I'd rather track it just by day and adapt it to the crew size, if needed (E.g. if the crew size is suddenly halved after a particularly nasty fight).

    Powers
    Magic probably needs a revision as well, but since no PC ever wanted to play a mage, we didn't put time into that.


    *Enemies have these, too, so it's not unbalanced in favour of PCs. Still no fun for us.


  • #2
    I've found the 50F travel rules to be pretty bland. My players got sick of it eventually. The Adventure travel guidelines seem better for most groups.
    Carousing worked fine for my table, I just made the consequences factor into the "hangover period" and not the night's debauchery. But I can see your point.

    Naval Combat was ... odd. Because we used the Deluxe chase rules for most fights, the tiny and nimble Sloop was the king of the waves. Until that time I used the vehicle combat rules, and then the Man o' War reigned supreme. I hope your game works out well.
    Personally, I liked the differentiation between a land-based artilleryman and a naval gunner caused by Boating. Again, I understand not wanting to worry about it, and having to take Steady Hands is enough of a distinction to make it matter.

    Good call, replacing storms with Dramatic Tasks. That's really what they're meant to be, a big dramatic set piece that can sweep upon the characters unexpectedly.

    If Gunsmith and Ship's Carpenter survive a hypothetical setting update then they'll probably give bonuses to Repair rolls for those uses. I'd imagine that the knowledges would be replaced with Academics, that Gunsmith would grant +2 to Repair firearms and cannons and halve the cost to create specialty ammo, and Ship's Carpenter would ... allow repairs "in the field", and heal +1 Wound on success if at a dry dock.

    Reputation is kind of already covered by Menacing and Streetwise.

    Storm Chaser can negate penalties. Negating penalties is a powerful, but often ignored, ability in Savage Worlds. Ignoring two, or even four, points of penalties in a Storm is pretty great; if you also get a second card, you can survive almost any storm.
    Contact should be handled by a Quick Encounter. Wind Sense could grant +1 to those, and draw an extra card during Storms. Still very niche and unlikely to be taken, but useful without being game breaking.

    50F is a fiddly age of sail campaign. As such, it has fiddly age of sail cannon rules. That's not a bad thing, but I understand wanting to ignore that. I'm just pleased that they never made us worry about the bore size of a given 16 pounder.

    Careening is a pain and my players only did it once, but they're reasonably playable for a crew that can't go to a major harbor for "reasons".

    Magic wouldn't require any real revision. Just use the Adventure powers with the 50F trappings. I'm surprised that your players haven't done magic - and one point four of the five characters were mages, and the fifth was a Scurillian.
    I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks for your input!

      Originally posted by ValhallaGH View Post
      Personally, I liked the differentiation between a land-based artilleryman and a naval gunner caused by Boating. Again, I understand not wanting to worry about it, and having to take Steady Hands is enough of a distinction to make it matter.
      Wouldn't familiarization be more consistent, though? Just curious. All other applications of Shooting I know are either ruled with Unstable Platform or, in other settings, with a skill that replaces the Shooting skill instead of limiting it (Artillery in Weird Wars).

      Originally posted by ValhallaGH View Post
      If Gunsmith and Ship's Carpenter survive a hypothetical setting update then they'll probabl).-y give bonuses to Repair rolls for those uses. I'd imagine that the knowledges would be replaced with Academics, that Gunsmith would grant +2 to Repair firearms and cannons and halve the cost to create specialty ammo, and Ship's Carpenter would ... allow repairs "in the field", and heal +1 Wound on success if at a dry dock.
      I'd say Science instead of Academics
      Hm, I wonder if that works well together with Mr. Fix It. They're professional skills, so they don't stack, but with Mr. Fix It you get a repair bonus (and, possibly, time boost) on all your repair rolls. Wouldn't that be usually preferred?

      Originally posted by ValhallaGH View Post
      Reputation is kind of already covered by Menacing and Streetwise.
      Yes, but in slightly other ways. For a pirate game, I probably would like to somehow have Bloodthirsty counted – maybe allow it as a prerequisite for Menacing?


      Originally posted by ValhallaGH View Post
      Storm Chaser can negate penalties. Negating penalties is a powerful, but often ignored, ability in Savage Worlds. Ignoring two, or even four, points of penalties in a Storm is pretty great; if you also get a second card, you can survive almost any storm.
      Great suggestion!

      Originally posted by ValhallaGH View Post
      Contact should be handled by a Quick Encounter.
      What makes you prefer those over the rules for Naval Chases in SWADE?

      Originally posted by ValhallaGH View Post
      Wind Sense could grant +1 to those, and draw an extra card during Storms. Still very niche and unlikely to be taken, but useful without being game breaking.
      Sounds good as well, I'll do that.

      Originally posted by ValhallaGH View Post
      50F is a fiddly age of sail campaign. As such, it has fiddly age of sail cannon rules. That's not a bad thing, but I understand wanting to ignore that. I'm just pleased that they never made us worry about the bore size of a given 16 pounder.
      Haha But it often stroke me as a bit weird: Everything but pirates seems less fiddly. Fantasy is either single shots or mass battles, modern / weird war settings have linked weapons and sci-fi is rather abstract as well. Only in pirate games every cannon somehow counts, although that's nearly completely "just" timing.

      Originally posted by ValhallaGH View Post
      Magic wouldn't require any real revision. Just use the Adventure powers with the 50F trappings. I'm surprised that your players haven't done magic - and one point four of the five characters were mages, and the fifth was a Scurillian.
      Good to hear that this works out. I don't know, my players were never that interested in elemental magic. Blood magic was interesting, but not available for PCs (for good reason), and the players were actually more interested in Voodoo, so I went and added that (waves to Buccaneer).

      Edit: Oh, I forgot about a tidbit I added: Navigation.
      50 Fathoms mentions navigators, who earn additional shares / coins, but never explains what these persons do. With SWADE's new Support rules, a skill like Navigation might actually be useful because it would be based on Smarts, so PCs with higher Smarts than Agility (and especially PCs with the Elderly hindrance) could use this skill to support their captain in his Boating rolls. Not sure if it's worth to be included in the setting for that, though.
      Last edited by Vasant; 01-07-2019, 05:55 PM. Reason: Forgot to write about Navigation

      Comment


      • #4
        You're welcome.
        Originally posted by Vasant View Post
        Wouldn't familiarization be more consistent, though? Just curious. All other applications of Shooting I know are either ruled with Unstable Platform or, in other settings, with a skill that replaces the Shooting skill instead of limiting it (Artillery in Weird Wars).
        Familiarization says, "doing this is a lot like what you're used to, but [key element] is different and will mess you up until you get used to it."
        Requiring an Edge says, "doing this is a special trick, that can be learned, but that takes serious investment to master."
        Requiring a second skill says, "doing this is a hybrid of two activities, requiring mastery of both to master this."

        Originally posted by Vasant View Post
        I'd say Science instead of Academics
        Yeah, that's probably a better choice. I'm still getting used to the new skill list.
        Originally posted by Vasant View Post
        Hm, I wonder if that works well together with Mr. Fix It. They're professional skills, so they don't stack, but with Mr. Fix It you get a repair bonus (and, possibly, time boost) on all your repair rolls. Wouldn't that be usually preferred?
        Mr. Fix It is a better "I fix things" edge, but I was thinking that Gunsmith is a very specific niche. The niche of fixing guns of all types and preparing specialty ammunition.
        Ship's Carpenter is doing two things in my suggestion, things that don't overlap with Mr. Fix It. That last part really threw me because my first thoughts were basically a limited version of Mr. Fix It. But a Ship's Carpenter that has both edges is going to be amazing at repairing ships.

        Originally posted by Vasant View Post
        Yes, but in slightly other ways. For a pirate game, I probably would like to somehow have Bloodthirsty counted – maybe allow it as a prerequisite for Menacing?
        Eh. Knowing that someone is a Bloodthirsty pirate just makes me more likely to shoot him out of hand, because he's a Bloodthirsty pirate that will kill me and mine if he gets the chance. That's not Menacing to my mind. But you do what's best for your table.

        Originally posted by Vasant View Post
        What makes you prefer those over the rules for Naval Chases in SWADE?
        Having back-to-back chases feels really clunky. You engage in a Chase to see if you get to engage in another Chase.
        I'd rather resolve one of those chases as a Quick Encounter. If the real challenge is catching up to the ship then Contact would be the Chase and the actual engagement would be a Quick Combat. If the real threat is the confrontation with the ship then Contact would be the Quick Encounter so we can quickly transition to the interesting scene.
        It's a play style choice but one that seems to be common to most other tables.

        Originally posted by Vasant View Post
        Haha But it often stroke me as a bit weird: Everything but pirates seems less fiddly. Fantasy is either single shots or mass battles, modern / weird war settings have linked weapons and sci-fi is rather abstract as well. Only in pirate games every cannon somehow counts, although that's nearly completely "just" timing.
        I think Shane really got into the Age of Sail when he was doing research for the setting. And the importance of the number of cannon in ship combat was always on the minds of the sources we have from that time.
        I'm actually okay with both individual guns and linked weapons. Sometimes you really want to know how each gun crew does. But when I'm running a Man o' War or two against the players, I don't need that knowledge - enter Linked weapons.

        Originally posted by Vasant View Post
        Edit: Oh, I forgot about a tidbit I added: Navigation.
        50 Fathoms mentions navigators, who earn additional shares / coins, but never explains what these persons do. With SWADE's new Support rules, a skill like Navigation might actually be useful because it would be based on Smarts, so PCs with higher Smarts than Agility (and especially PCs with the Elderly hindrance) could use this skill to support their captain in his Boating rolls. Not sure if it's worth to be included in the setting for that, though.
        If all it does is Support the Boating roll to travel, it's not worth it. Just let people use Survival for that.
        Last edited by ValhallaGH; 01-08-2019, 12:32 PM. Reason: spelling
        I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.

        Comment


        • #5
          Just had a thought, that I'll be cross-posting.

          New Setting Rule:
          Naval Gunnery
          Firing cannons from a ship is remarkably difficult. In addition to the normal Unstable Platform penalty, gunners suffer -2 to Shooting rolls from a ship. Training the the Boating skill negates this penalty.

          Now you have the flavor of "use the lower die type" but don't actually have to be a master sailor to also be a master gunner.
          I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.

          Comment


          • #6
            Thank you! I'm looking at finally running 50 Fathoms after years of wanting too, and I plan to do it in SWADE.
            This helps immensely.

            Has anyone throught through if the races need to be updated?

            Comment


            • Vasant
              Vasant commented
              Editing a comment
              Happy to hear that! I didn't go to the races yet because without a single, short exception, everyone in our game played Masaquani and humans.
              Last edited by Vasant; 01-21-2019, 10:05 AM. Reason: Typo
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