I’ve been hammering away at a sci-fi Savage Worlds setting. A long while back I dabbled in a Traveller hack for SW but wanted to embrace the new Science Fiction Companion more. One thing I like about Traveller though was that character generation was sort of a mini-game. You chose to follow along different careers and rolled on tables to see if what skills you picked up. Sometimes something fortunate happened and other times there were these complications (or complete disasters for the player). However a lot of times it resulted in a character that was more fleshed out and a past history.
One particular hang up for starting a new campaign is getting all the players on the same page with setting’s ‘world’. They might have different ideas on what are likely important skills, or worse, sort of overwhelmed with choices. On that front, having lots of archetypes available is helpful. My beef is that archetypes can be a little rigid or maybe too optimized. I wanted to offer some guidance in skills to pick up, but not push them into having particular edges or ability ranks like archetypes have.
Lastly as a sci-fi setting goes, you are going to have a slew of knowledge skills to pick up and can be a little overwhelming for character generation. I’ll freely admit I jumped into throwing in some more edges too which ramps up the complexity of the system some. But for some things I wanted to reward player investment into a background theme, rather than everyone able to be just as effective as that player wanting to specialize.
So I scooped up an idea from Traveller and created a Career edge. This would be an edge that could be chosen once at character creation. It’d allow them to pick up a chunk of basic skills and then possibly choose a few more skills and edges. Lastly, having a list of skills associated with a profession might offer the player some guidance on what other skills to invest in. The gist of this would be a list of 6 skills that players get choosing the edge. Along with these service skills they would choose one specialty branch in that profession allowing them to get a few more skills from its list. The catch is not only do players use an edge, but they also spend 5 skill points from the their total skill pool. Below is an example Marine career skill list:
Interstellar Marines: You received basic military training for the Interstellar Marines, responsible for operations related to assaults on ships and planetary invasions.
Service Skills: Athletics, Edge (Vacc Suit), Knowledge Skill(Military Science), Fighting, Shooting, Stealth
Support: You served as a quartermaster, engineer, or battleﬁeld medic in the Marines.
Specialist Skills: Knowledge Skill(Ship Ops), Repair, Driving, Piloting, Healing, Shooting(Gunnery), Knowledge Skill(Demolitions)
Space Marines: You were trained to fight boarding actions and capture enemy vessels.
Specialist Skills: Edge (Power Armor), Edge (Gravitic Acclimation), Shooting(Gunnery), Fighting, Knowledge Skill(Ship Ops), Shooting
Ground Assault: You specialized in planetary warfare, especially invasions and drop ship operations.
Specialist Skills: Edge (Power Armor), Shooting(Gunnery), Fighting, Knowledge Skill(Military Science), Shooting, Survival
Note that you don’t need all of these specialist skills. I’d still consider getting a list of 4-6 to offer players some choices. For the initial service skills though, you certainly want 5 or 6 skills, as players will be spending 5 skill points when they pick up the edge. They will still have at least 10 skill points to further choose skills. This might sound a lot but for a setting heavy on different knowledge skill choices, they will quickly burn through their points.
This can be very modular for different settings. It’s also likely an easier process than making up archetypes as you just have to think up skills and some edges that would likely apply to a profession or career. Say you were running a Victorian steampunk game and wanted to whip up a career edge list for someone that served in the imperial navy. A basic list of skills would likely include boating, some combat skills, along with some knowledge skills. If they were an officer you’d have some specialty skills and edges related to command. However you might also consider a Connections edge (throughout their career they might strike up a friendship with a nobility or a high ranking admiral).
If they were more a specialist in the imperial navy, maybe they were a medic, cook, or became familiar with the workings of steam engines. You don’t need to make every specialist path a huge list of skills, but could lump them into one list (like the example above for the Interstellar Marines). If you were just a deck crew hand, you’d likely have a lot of overlap with the service skills, but may also pick up some other skills related to a sailor’s life on an imperial steamship. Maybe you might have picked up gambling or streetwise aside from honing your fighting skills.
Once you start making up these lists, you find out how flexible they work and a lot easier than working up archetypes. One note however is that this edge allows players to pick up a ton of skills on the cheap. This tends to work better in settings where there are more skill options to dilute out their pool of skill points.
Another downside is that some double checking may be needed after character creation, especially with certain edge requirements. You might have that occasional player which picks up an edge but doesn’t have a high enough ability score (or training in a specific skill) according to the rules. So when making up these lists a GM has to watch out for those inconsistencies and be prepared to reign in a few edge choices when players are done. It’s a point I will concede to properly built archetypes, as they wouldn’t have this issue. Below is a summary of the Edge (Career).
This is a special professional edge that is available to characters during creation. This edge represents basic training and skills obtained during a career in one professional field after three to four years of service. This edge can be only taken once. Additionally, this edge will also immediately spend 5 skill points from the player’s total. The player must buy skills using this edge first, before spending any other skill points during character creation. After deciding what skills are obtained from the Career edge, players can spend their remaining skill points normally. Note that any edges obtained from the Career edge still are subject to trait requirements after all skill/attribute points are spent (i.e. a player must still have a Vigor of d6 to obtain the Attractive edge at the end of character creation).
To use the Career edge, the player will choose one career profession. They immediately spend 5 points from their skill point total. They then obtain all the skills and edges for service training in that career. In addition, they also gain skills and edges from specialist training. Players choose one specialty field for that career and gain more edges or skills in one of two ways:
A. Gain 2 different skills/edges from the chosen specialist training list. Chosen skills may be similar to ones gained in service training. If so they increase the trait by one die type (but restrictions for linked ability scores apply).
B. They gain one skill from the chosen specialist training list and can raise this beyond its linked ability score. If the skill is new they gain it at d6. If the skill is the same as one obtained from service training, it can be raised 2 die types (to a d8). Note this is regardless of the skill’s linked ability.
[EX: Fred has a poor Agility of d4 but is strong as an ox. He opts to enter the Marines and takes the Career edge. He gains all the skills and edges from the Marine service training list. He then chooses the Ground Assault specialist training and decides to pick Fighting and raise it (Option B). As he currently has Fighting d4 from service training, he can raise it two die types up to a d8. The increased cost in skill points due to having a d4 Agility does not apply. If it was not a skill on the service training list, he could have it at d6 (regardless of the linked ability score).
EX: Bob also decides to tank his Agility at d4 to buff up his Vigor instead. He enters the Marines and becomes a Ground Assault specialist. He wants to use option A and pick up two skills/edges, eager to gain both Knowledge (Military Science) and Shooting. Unfortunately, he already has Shooting d4 due to service training. As it is an Agility linked skill (at d4), he cannot gain raise this skill to d6 through specialist training for the Career edge. Instead he can take Knowledge (Military Science) and some other skill or edge. If he chose to just focus on Shooting similar to Fred and used option B, then he could have a d8 in Shooting (but only obtain that one skill).
EX: Susan also decides to join the Marines but enters the service having a d6 in all ability scores. She also decides to become a Ground Assault specialist. Susan decides to put a point in both Shooting and Fighting for her specialist training. She had already obtained these skills through service training and currently has them at a d4 each. Since her Agility is d6, she can raise both of these skills up to d6 through specialist training.]