The Sea of Shadows
Setting Rules and Races
!!! I will also print a couple of copies of this for character creation and general gameplay. !!!
DARK SEAS SPECIFIC MECHANICS:
One Unique Thing: Shamelessly stolen from 13th Age rpg system, each character has One Unique Thing that defines them (and the world! If someone is, for example ”the last of the Irish”, it means all the other Irish are dead. Or worse. Probably worse.) Whatever the One Unique Thing is, it is completely unique to your character. No other NPC or PC has it.
What this unique thing is can be pretty much anything, either fantastical or mundane, as long as it is interesting. It can be an item your character possesses, some feature of the character or something that happened to him or her – you can decide whatever it is. I would recommend against anything too complex though, the best ideas often can be described fairly succintly. They mostly have very little mechanical effects, being more of a storytelling and roleplaying tool, but I might give access to custom Edges and Hindrances for some ideas/look for suitable ones from different Savage Worlds supplements.
Below are a few example One Unique Things
Offered as a sacrifice to the Gods of the Sea, but was returned by the Gods
Secretly a colony of intelligent spiders wearing human skin.
Knows the secrets of the crystals
Cursed by the moon
The only Devil that has sworn fealty to the Crown
The one sea captain that will not go insane
Bearer of the greatest weapon the Scots ever built
The Ship also has One Unique Thing! Decide upon it as a group.
Below are ship specific rules.
HOW DOES CARGO SPACE WORK:
Each time after the first item is put into the cargo space, roll the Cargo die, applying any modifiers from the item’s size. On a success, there is room for the item, on a failure there is no room for that item. If your cargo die is d6 or more, you may also decide before rolling to take a +3 on the roll, and in exchange your Cargo die is smaller until you offload some cargo at port if you succeed. If you fail – whether you took the bonus or not – the item does not fit, and your cargo die is considered a type lower until you offload some cargo at port. Each item offloaded upgrades cargo die by one up to the maximum, and emptying the hull always gives back all cargo space.
Minimum amount of crew represents how many crew members are required to operate the ship’s most vital operations, such as engines (not guns). You can make do with less for short periods of time, but halve all speeds should the ship be in such dire straits.
FULL POWER TO THE ENGINES!:
The ship’s engineer may get a temporal boost out of the ship’s engine by performing this action, pushing the engine beyond its normal limits (as long as it is not already beyond its normal limits). The engineer rolls either Repair or Weird science (if the ship has a Weird science-upgrade), on a success, the ship accelerates twice its usual acceleration, ignoring maximum speed. On a raise, the ship may instead double its current speed, if it is higher than doubling its acceleration. On a failure the ship stays at its current speed, on a roll of one, the engine suffers a malfunction. The maximum speed you can push the engine to is twice its top speed – going over that is impossible, and trying to do so is guaranteed to blow up the engine. Don’t blow up the engine.
Each turn the ship spends beyond its maximum speed, there is a risk of the engine malfunctioning. Either an engineer or a crew member has to roll Repair or Weird Science each turn, with an escalating penalty modifier each turn (+0 first turn, -1 second turn, -2 third turn etc.) – on a success, the engine works as normal, on a failure it has malfunctioned! The engine basically shuts off, and it will take two succesful -2 Repair or Weird Science rolls to repair it, or one success with a raise – until it is repaired, the ship decelarates each turn until it is left drifting.
The ship has two different resource dice, Fuel die and Supply die. Both are derived from Cargo die, and start at whatever the maximum for Cargo die is. The GM occasionally asks the players to roll one or the other, or upon taking certain actions on board the ship (such as going all out with the ship’s engine) – on a success, the die stays the same. On a failure, the die is downgraded by one die type. If the d4 roll fails, you have run out of that resource, and are in trouble, although food shortage is far less critical than fuel shortage – after all, there are always your fellow shipmates to consider… The exact form the troubles take is decided on a case by case basis by the GM – if a port is close by when fuel runs out, its a bit inconvenvient to get the ship there, but in the middle of the darkest of waters, well, that is something else entirely.
AMMO FOR SHIP’S GUNS:
After each battle where the ship’s guns were fired, roll the maximum Cargo die of the ship (w/ modifier given by the GM, depending on the length of the battle and how many times the guns fired). On a failure, ammo is running out but not out yet, -2 modifier to next Ammo roll. On a roll of one, or on the second failure, ammo has ran out. Different sorts of guns use different sorts of ammo, so roll separately for different types of weapons.
Whenever the players’ ship gets wrecked, that is not the end. Instead, usually the wrecked ship ends up crashing to some convenviently placed mysterious island or similar location, and the players have to figure out a way to fix the ship back up to being seaworthy. Or sometimes pirates take it over, and the players have to figure out a way to take their ship back. Sometimes, the more benevolent Gods of the Sea might intervene as well, but usually not for free. You still shouldn’t go wrecking your ship, you will lose crew and equipment permanently each time the ship gets wrecked – this rule is here to prevent some bad luck from bringing the campaign to a premature end, but losses in sea battles will still be punishing in some way.
Shipscale ranges are larger than personscale ranges – if you need to convert something from shipscale to a smaller scale, 1 square is roughly 10m. The range/speed numbers in shipscale combat are rather arbitrary though, so don’t think about them too hard.
What is a ship without a crew? In addition to the ship’s Officers, there is a rabble of people – and something that is sorta like people – that work as the ship’s crew. While their superstitions, rampant alcoholism, violent nature and generally odd behaviour are most unwelcome, a ship cannot work without its crew. Different sorts of ships require different amounts of crew, and generally the more the better. Physically they are completely average in all ways, and should not be relied on to do anything but Boating, Drinking, Fighting and Drunken Fighting (in which they excel at). Sometimes they might Mutiny as well, if Morale is low enough.
(Sailors have generic stats for humans unless the crew is improved in some way, albeit their skills at Drunken Fighting are higher)
The Crew MAY have one Unique Thing as well, if the players wish them to have it, or they may share it with the ship (for example, “The one ship whose crew is not filled with worst scum of humanity as sailors” would affect both).
Ship Mascot: if the ship has either an NPC or PC Native aboard, the Crew has one Bennie to use per session. Should the crew kill their Native mascot/s for whatever reason, they lose access to Bennies, and there may be other consequences as well. Usually the Crew considers all Natives on board Mascots, regardless of what they actually do on board the ship, and they tend to give demeaning nicknames to all Natives. Except to Native Shamans. “Never anger someone who can talk to the Gods” is a common saying amongst sailors.
Surgeon on board: if the ship has an NPC or PC surgeon on board, crew casualties can be mitigated somewhat. (Exact rules TBD later, but the better the Surgeon, the more they can be mitigated)
Priest on board: If the ship has an NPC or PC Priest/Shaman on board, they gain a +1 to Spirit rolls made to resist fear while on board the ship. If they have both a Protestant priest and a Native Shaman of one or more of the Gods of the Sea, they gain +2 to Spirit rolls made to resist fear. Conversely, if the priests die, the Crew might Mutiny. The Crew also often confesses their worries to Protestant priests (and might occasionally ask a Native Shaman questions about their Gods to better avoid their wrath).
Crew’s morale starts at d8, and works much the same as Cargo die – failures downgrade it whenever you need to roll Morale, if you fail a d4 roll, the Crew mutinies. Positive events might upgrade the morale die or allow a roll to improve it, terrifying events usually cause a Morale roll – in the very worst situations (ship gets wrecked, captain turns out to be a Void-cultist) the die is automatically downgraded, but this should only happen in the darkest of circumstances.
Piloting and Driving skills are allowed, but you will probably not get much use out of them, if any. There are very primitive automobiles around, but the Officers spend much of their time at Sea, and only lunatics try to conquer the sky, so only lunatics have anyone capable of flight.
Tracking is combined into survival.
Fiddling with the engine is under Repair skill or Weird Science if someone has installed some weird shit in the ship’s engine.
Commanding the Crew will have some special rules, TBD on later.
Miscellaneous Setting rules:
Extras’ damage rolls never Ace
General Setting Details:
Pound’s usage has basically stopped entirely, instead small glowing crystals called shards are used. They are abbreviated with a small “s”. Any era appropriate items from Savage Worlds core book retain their exact value, except dollars are changed into shards. Souls may also be used when trading with Devils, but souls as currency are rather abstract.
Basically every playable character speaks English, but Devils also speak their own language, and Natives speak at least two different Native dialects, and English. Each character with Smarts of at least d6 can also learn one another language used on the Sea, or two real world languages. Linguist Edge works as usual.
Major Languages used on the sea are:
Different Native Dialects (these are rather vague, purposefully so – when talking with a specific Native tribe in Native dialect, roll d6 w/ a +1 modifier for each extra dialect you have – on a success, you know the Dialect the Native is using).
The Forbidden Tongue
Magic in the setting
There are supernatural forces in this new and strange world, and how different groups can use them varies. Humans, for example, basically cannot use traditional magic, but they have learnt how to create bizarre and arcane machines by using bizarre and ominous resources found on the Sea – some have also received blessings from the Gods of the Sea, but worshipping strange entities is considered bad form in British society. Worshipping Void is considered treasonous, and only humans have been known to do it. All races have a note to which Arcane Backgrounds they have access to, if any. Magic, Miracles and Weird Science are the primary sources of magic in the setting, Super Powers are completely banned, and Psionics can only be used by certain races
At the start of the campaign, I would prefer to limit the available races somewhat, although if you have an idea for some sort of character whose race is not listed here, feel free to ask me about it – if somebody wants to play something like a Frankenstein Monster, go for it, pretty sure some setting book had rules for that. The races here are just the ones that are definitely a part of the setting.’ Reminder, here is the fluff for each race.
Each race has their own place in the world, and each have their downsides and upsides. Regular Brits have an easier time dealing with other humans than their fiendish allies or fishlike colonial subjects, but the Sea is strange and dark to them. The Natives understand much of the Sea and its nature and are able to tap into its forces more freely, but they face racism, subjugation and belittlement by the Empire almost daily. The Devils are considered equal partners in the frail alliance between Bastion and the Stolen Empire, and are able to master strange and dark arts as well as technology, but they are treated with suspicion by humans and Natives alike, and in the end they know just as much about the Sea’s secrets as humans (very little).
Humans – duh. Some slight regional varieties exist between humans, but they are similar enough that there is no need for any major changes between the Scots and the English, for example. Use normal human rules (one free Edge).
Most humans cannot use magic, and cannot start with the Arcane Background (Magic). Being a cultist for one of the gods of the Sea, or a meddling with forces you don’t understand through science, those are different though (so humans can use Miracles and Weird Science).
While most of the Devils stay in Bastion, some have travelled to the Isles, most on diplomatic or trading missions, but even the Devils are not immune to the call of the Sea… Or, perhaps, they are merely hoping to hunt down the aristocrats in exile.
The Devils have the following rules:
Creatures of Fire: Devils are, at their core, usually associated with fire and brimstone, and the Devils of the Sea are no different. Devils are immune to all negative environmental effects with fire, but they take a -4 to all tests to resist the negative effects of cold. There are rumors that some devils are the opposite, being creatures of ice – with them, the effects are reversed.
Slaves Never Again: All Revolutionary Devils have major issues with authority, and have some sort of Vendetta against ruling classes. All Devils have the Major Hindrance Vengeance, targeting aristocracy in some way – whether it is against the former lords and ladies of Bastion, all aristocrats, a specific infernal lord or just human aristocrats, it is the player’s choice. Surprisingly many Devils secretly plot against the Empire’s royalty with human revolutionaries, in some bizarre common ground between revolutionaries.
Additionally, all Revolutionary Devils have Racial Enemy (Aristocratic Devils). -4 to Charisma when interacting with Aristocratic Devils.
Infernal Nature: When it comes to mental strength, Devils are in general above other races in that category. Intimidating and frightening non-Devils is a habit all Devils learn sooner or later. Devils start with d6 in Spirit, and Intimidation.
Access to Magic and Weird Science Arcane Backgrounds – the Devils worship nothing besides themselves
The various minor species of all sorts of local tribes of merfolk and other suitably humanoid looking native inhabitants of the Sea of Shadows are known merely as ‘Natives’ by the Empire, and several individual tribes have either peacefully or forcefully been integrated into the Stolen Empire. All Natives have the following:
Aquatic (cannot drown in water, moves at full Swimming skill, free d6 in Swimming)
Bad with machinery the natives have severe issues with machines and start with the All Thumbs Minor Hindrance.
Lucky charms! The Natives seem much luckier than humans for some reason. All Natives have the Luck Edge.
Access to Magic and Miracles Arcane Backgrounds – the Natives may not understand technology all that well, but they know this dark place and the forces at play here.
The Natives are roughly divided into those who are full-humanoid, and those who are half-humanoid.
Full-humanoid (or ‘fishfaces’ as Brits often deride them)
Various groups of fishmen and -women who have been bribed with shiny things by the Empire.
Fishlike appearance: For some reason, most of the Natives that have legs instead of tails, tentacles or something look fishlike or even monstrous. -2 penalty to Charisma
And the general Native qualities.
Half-Humanoid (or ‘fishlegs’ as Brits often deride them)
The mermaids, mermen, sirens and other Natives who usually have a humanlike upper half, and a large fishy lower half – slightly less common aboard Empire’s ships, but not a very rare sight either. Often useful in boarding actions, both defensive and offensive ones.
Sea Creatures: These natives suffer from Dehydration if they stay out of water too long – they must submerse themselves in water for one hour out of every 24 hours, or suffer Fatigue each day until they are Incapacitated; day after that, they die. Additionally, on land their Pace is 3, and their running dice is d4, as they are not really born for life on land. Most ships that have these Natives on them also have a ‘fish tank’ on them, where they spend most of their time in.
Strength of the Sea: Natives adapted to life underwater tend to be slightly larger and tougher than humans. +1 to Toughness and Reach. (also count as being Size +1 in cases where it is relevant, such as the Giant Killer Edge)
And the general Native qualities
Below are also a few sorts of beings that will most likely appear during adventures on the sea, you can play as them as well. Do note that if the party is mostly made of members of these races, the Empire would probably react to you quite differently when compared to the normal vague indifference/slight hospitality, as at the start of the game they are not well known in the Empire.
Their rules are hidden in the GM section of this page, if you want to play ’em, ask for the rules. Sharkpeople have fairly standard racial rules, the Aristocratic Devils are more complex.
Aristocrats of Hell
Surprisingly similar to regular aristocrats, albeit it’s easier to tell that they are monsters. Also responsible for far less deaths than British Aristocrats. Sworn enemies of the Devil Revolution
Sharkies, Fishies, Sharkpeople or simply ‘Sharks’
Humanoid creatures resembling different varieties of sharks. The Empire officially denies their existence, and thus certain members of this species have become fairly successful pirates as London refuses to admit they exist.