25 January 2013

Hacking Savage Worlds to Warhammer 40K

The Idea

I'm a Warhammer 40K enthusiast. I've got a ton of the gaming miniatures, albeit mostly unpainted, and most of the Horus Heresy novels. I've played Deathwatch, Rogue Trader, and some Black Crusade, but I've never really been satisfied with the system; it's very rules-heavy and getting the most out of game play really requires a high level of system mastery. That's not always a bad thing, but I'd rather have something faster in play, without all the endless searching for bonuses and penalties, managing the dozens of different abilities from gear, and the complex rules for psykers.

The solution: Savage Worlds. I'll be mostly focusing on Deathwatch at first, because Space Marines are my favorite part of the setting. There's something about the idea of giant, genetically-modified post-humans in power armor bashing aliens and daemons in the face with swords that appeals to me. I think the high-action style of Savage Worlds would mesh really well with the cinematic nature of 40K, so here's a very rough draft of what I'm thinking for a rules hack.

What to Change

To get started, I want to lay out what I think I'm going to need rules for, and what I'd like to change/add to make the hack work. To that end, I've made a list.

1. Gear - I'm going to need stats for power armor, bolters, chainswords, and all the other gear that Space Marines use. I'd like to keep it as simple as possible, in keeping with the Savage Worlds theme of Fast, Fun, Furious, but gear is a big part of the Space Marine aesthetic, so I would also like to keep that relevant mechanically. It will be simpler than FFG's system, though.

2. Psykers - How to handle psykers shouldn't be too difficult at first. I'm planning on just using the Arcane Background (Psionics) edge, with the associated powers, but including rules for accidentally opening warp gates, corruption, and things of that nature. To keep the chaotic feel of the warp, I'll incorporate some random charts for corruption or warp events on failed rolls. If I decide to expand these rules later for Dark Heresy or Rogue Trader-style games, I'll probably have to create new powers for things like Astropaths or Navigators, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

3. Astartes Chapters - I think it's important to have at least some differentiation between Space Marines that comes from their particular Chapter. To that end, I'll probably be creating some Professional Edges that reflect that. This also goes for specialist Space Marines, like Chaplains, Techmarines, and Apothecaries.

4. The Bestiary - This one is probably going to be the most extensive section when all is said and done. I'd like to have stats for Eldar, Dark Eldar, Tyranids, Orks, Chaos, Tau, and anything else I might have forgotten. Another thing here I'd like to add is Horde rules. Nothing says Space Marine like mowing through a dozen enemies with a chainsword, so I'll probably be adapting the Deathwatch Horde rules to work with that theme.

5. Characters - Given that Space Marines surpass normal humans in every physical way, I'll be creating a custom race for them. I probably won't be adhering to the normal "net +2" guideline for races because of how impressive Space Marines are, but I'm not worrying about playing Space Marines alongside normal humans. If a situation comes up where someone wants to play a normal human, like an Inquisitor, I'll probably give a couple free Edges to make up for the racial difference, to balance things out in play.

I'm sure I'll be revising this list as I work on this hack, but these are the five key areas I'm going to focus on. The next post should be my thoughts and initial work on creating a Space Marine racial template.

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