29 Jan 2019

Test Run - Scum and Villainy - Tanya

I haven't done this in a while.  I recently purchased Scum and Villainy, a science fiction RPG where the characters fight against an evil interstellar government that's cracking down on the populace.  The inspirations for the game include Star Wars, Firefly, Farscape, and even Mass Effect.  I've been trying to wrap my head around the mechanics and now that I more or less have them worked out, it's time to create a character.

For this test run, I'll use Tanya, last seen as the test subject for the full Firefly RPG.  As a refresher, Tanya is the noble whose family uses her as an assassin against rivals.  For the Firefly RPG, I kept the concept, adding in that she was a medical student.  Easier to kill someone when you know how the human body works, right?  Tanya's not tied to any project yet; her story works better as part of a larger work.  I do have a few ideas, but they're not important here.

It may be easier to follow along with the player sheets available for Scum and Villainy, available for download from Evil Hat's site.  It helped me with some of the game's concepts, at least when it came to character creation.  While I was looking at the game to help with a possible project, it didn't quiet fit my needs there.  That's not the game's fault; the idea involves a smaller ship and crew than what Scum and Villainy is written for.

Step 0 - Choose a ship and crew
The ship is detailed after character creation, but it does help to work out what sort of ship and jobs the PCs want to do.  The game provides three types of ship.  Tanya as a character works best with a group of smugglers.  She's trying to avoid her family for reasons.

Step 1 - Choose a playbook
This is where the downloads really help.  Each playbook is a role, and players can double up if wanted.  The roles can be customized and, indeed, this is what character creation does.  The playbook that best fits Tanya is the Speaker.  Stitch is a possibility, but Speaker provides Tanya the ability to bring up her family and its connections if she needs it.  Stitch is meant to be the moral compass, something Tanya should never be.

Step 2 - Choose a starting ability
Well, not so much choose as take either the starting ability in the playbook or take one because the character is a "xeno", or an alien.  With the Speaker, Tanya gets Air of Respectability, which comes into play during the downtime between adventurs.

Step 3 - Choose a special ability
Now there is a choice.  The abilities are listed on the playbook.  For Tanya, I'll take Player.  She knows lies, having become proficient with them.  Tanya knows when she's being deceived.  The ability is always on, though.  Even the pleasant social lies are ones she sees through.

Step 4 - Choose a heritage
There are five to choose from, but Imperial fits Tanya best.  Her family is nobility, with holdings in the Core.

Step 5 - Choose a background
There are seven to choose from here, but the obvious one stands out - Noble.  It's like the game knew she was coming.

Step 6 - Assign action dots
Instead of skills, Scum and Villainy uses actions.  Mechanically, there's not much difference, but the idea is that characters are active.  Tanya begins with Command at 1 and Consort at 2.  She then gets four more points to spend, with no rating allowed to be higher than 2 before the campaign starts.  She'll take Doctor at 2, Study at 1, both to reflect her medical studies, and Skulk at 1.

Step 7 - Choose one friend and one rival
Each playbook provides a way to tie the character to the setting, the Procyon Sector.  For now, I'll use what's provided.  I'll also figure out how Tanya knows these people.  One of the suggestions for the rival is that the person is a scorned lover.  Tanya doesn't leave many of those alive, though.  For the friend, I'll take Arryn, a Noble, and define her as being one of Tanya's cousins, one not aware of what Tanya does for the family.  For the rival, Je-zee, a diplomat, someone who was collateral damage in one of Tanya's hits.  He suspects, but doesn't have evidence.

Step 8 - Choose your vice
There are seven possibilities here.  Vices are used to relieve stress during the downtime, though there's always the chance of overindulging.  A few don't fit Tanya at all; she's not about to indulge in something where she could lose control, like gambling.  Luxury might fit her best; her role as family assassin leaves her little time to be herself, so she makes up for it by indulging in luxuries that she normally denies herself.  Tanya will have expensive knick-knacks in her cabin.

Step 9 - Record name, alias, and looks
The one part that doesn't need the book or the playbook.  Tanya has a name, though no alias.  It's not something she'd consider for herself.  Someone else can give her one.  Looks, though, is something I have thought about for her.  When she's not out being the face of her family, she prefers to dress simply but still well.  Tailored blouse and skirt, both of good quality, will do for her.

A few thoughts on the game.  It took a few read throughs to fully get it.  I'd prefer a few more examples and a character sheet in the book itself instead of download only.  The game is designed for a certain type of campaign, the people on the edge of space working against the Hegemony and other factions.  A small tweak - mostly renaming parts of the setting - gets /Firefly/.  Renaming Attune to Use Force gets Star Wars.  A little more work, like renaming Attune to Biotics, renaming the Mystic playbook to Adept, and limiting some of the Mystic's abilities gets Mass Effect.

I'm starting to warm up to the system.  It's not my normal approach to a game, so I bounced off it a couple of times.  I found the examples in the rules and they helped.  The idea is that the players and GM get right to the action.  Planning is meant to be quick and the success of the plan is a die roll to see just how much danger the crew is in by the time the action starts.  Roll well, and everything is going to plan.  A partial success means the plan worked, but is fraying on the edges.  A poor roll and the crew gets to open with things falling apart.

What this means is that instead of going through the little steps needed to get to the action, they're already done.  If a plan to steal a priceless ancient artifact from the Governor's mantion involves part of the crew attending a party there while the rest break in from the parking garage, then there's no need to roll to acquire the limo, to get past the gates, or to schmooze with the other guests.  The planning part allows players to say, "Oh, I know someone who can get us a limo; just don't ask from were."  Or maybe even say, "I know where I can boost one where it won't be noticed missing for a few hours."  That gets factored into the die roll for the planning results.

Here's Tanya as created above.  I've created a makeshift text-based character sheet, but the playbooks do work well for this.

Name: Tanya
Look: Well but simply dressed
Heritage: Imperial
Background: Noble
Vice: Luxury
Friend: Arryn, a Noble
Rival: Je-zee, a diplomat

Insight 2
  Doctor 2
  Study 1

Prowess 1
  Skulk 1

Resolve 2
  Command 1
  Consort 2

As always, if you play her, please let me know how things go.

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