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Why Guts?
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jonrog1
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 6:44 pm    Post subject: Why Guts? Reply with quote

I'm running a few SW games to get better acquainted with the system before I start writing for it. So I'm coming at some of the game from a design standpoint, but total outsider newb to the specific system.

I don't know if this has been tackled before, but I'm curious if you more experienced players could clue me in to the evolution/use of the Guts skill.

One of the great things about SW is how those simple skills can fill in for a lot of uses, so we don't have the giant skill trees of other systems. But all the other skills can be used to accomplish something. They are, well, verbs. TO Notice, TO Persuade .... Guts is the only skill that's roughly equivalent to a "saving throw" in other systems.

To recover from Shaken, you make a Spirit Check. To recover from fatigue or soak wounds, you make a Vigor check. In tests of will, its (skill) vs. (Attribute), where the Attribute is the, for lack of a better term the "Defense" against suffering the effects of that contest. The combat defenses are derived values from Attributes.

So why Guts? Why a whole skill vs. a single effect (fear)? Granted, it's been adapted and expanded upon in interesting ways in several SW products. But in a meta-gaming/design sense, I'd imagine two versions of campaigns occur: a.) in games where you need Guts on a regular basis, everyone's going to have bought it anyway, so it may as well be a derived value b.) in games where it rarely comes up, the PC's feel they've wasted a skill slot.

Can't the function of Guts -- which I assume is meant to show that some PC's can handle fear/terror better than others -- be handled better and more simply by Edges? Indeed, in horror, oriented games, there tend to be such Edges available. Guts seems like one tiny kludge in what is otherwise the most streamlined RPG on the planet.

I'm not assuming that Guts is broken, I'm just genuinely curious as to how people use it, whether playtesting revealed its necessity in a way I haven't seen in my limited play experience, or whether some other people just make do with Spirit rolls.

Thanks for the help.
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UmbraLux
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 6:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You might want to check out The Making of Savage Worlds. It may help show you some of the designers' goals.

My opinion is simply that you should use or create skills for anything you expect to see commonly in the game and dump or roll into a generic skill anything which wouldn't see much use. This is essentially what most settings have done. Guts doesn't exist in settings without a horror element and Navigation does exist in settings where sailing the seas is a significant part of the game.

I think it's Clint who often touts Savage Worlds as a 'core' system and not a generic system. I like it...add any pieces you feel are missing and shave off or shelve any extras! Smile
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kreider204
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Personally, I pretty much hate the idea of a Guts skill, and prefer to leave fear-related rolls to Spirit.
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fanchergw
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi jonrog1,

One of the stated design criteria for skills was that it be something that would be use reasonably frequently. Since many PEG settings have a strong horror component, I suspect that is what Guts was made as a skill. Doing so also makes it something that can be at a different die level than one of the 5 attributes, to reflect those who are particularly courageous or particularly cowardly.

As you suspect, many experience SvgW GMs drop the skill and just use Spirit rolls in games where they don't feel that the horror level is sufficient to justify having it as a skill. Also, it is not uncommon for one or two edges / hindrances to be created for the setting to allow for variation. (The Yellow and Doubting Thomas hindrances already exist so it's not hard to just adjust them to apply to the appropriate Spirit rolls.) Fortunately, SvgW is all about adaptability.

That said, I think in those campaigns that have a high horror level, a lot of GMs leave the skill in.

Gordon
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Cutter XXIII
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Guts skill comes straight out of Classic Deadlands (which is actually the primordial version of Savage Worlds).

In the Weird West, where capital-F Fear is a palpable, virtually tangible, force in both the setting and the mechanics, the Guts skill makes sense. Steeling oneself against horror (while gaining the benefit of the innate, derived trait Grit on each roll) is posed as an acquired skill. Not every greenhorn can look terror right in the face when everybody and his Aunt Mabel is a-skeert of it.

As for covering Guts with Edges, an Edge is far more costly than a skill at d4. So in a game where horror is common, "forcing" players to buy a skill is more palatable than making them use an Edge.

The general trend has been, as Gordon said, to nix Guts and use Spirit in its place, unless horror is prevalent enough to warrant a Guts skill. It's all about the Setting Rules.
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Last edited by Cutter XXIII on Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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jonrog1
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the feedback. I get the philosophy of having the skill in a horror-heavy game, but it being a skill used solely for that purpose -- and in a different mechanism than most other effects and skills -- bumps me. And, as mentioned, there's the metagaming aspect.

In a sea-travel heavy game, for example, you'll certainly have PC's taking Navigate -- but I think it's a fair bet that not ALL the PC's will take Navigate. And that choice will in no way affect the PC's viability as a group. That sort of specialization makes sense. Those without the skill will have to choose to solve problems in a different manner.

In a horror-heavy campaign, in theory all the PC's will be subject to the horror, but those lacking the skill have no other choices in how to deal with the circumstances, and suffer effects beyond their control.

A GM in an arctic setting ("cold-heavy") could in theory add a Cold Tolerance skill. Come to think of it, that setting actually exists (Hellfrost), and I think the Edges/Attributes in that expansion handle the environmental dangers quite well, without creating that additional skill.

That said, the difference between a "core" system and a "generic" system had never occurred to me before, and it is a crucial distinction. It will definitely help me run a better game.

Personally, I think I'm going to settle in on a variation of Reality Blurs RoC's Sanity stat as a defacto Guts threshold. Thanks for the help!
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jonrog1
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@Cutter ah, missed that reply. I get it now. Guts in that case is almost an opposed roll against an attack in that setting. I'll go back and reread.

Although the presence of Grit implies that even in that setting some derived Stat makes a base sense.
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Cutter XXIII
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jonrog1 wrote:
@Cutter ah, missed that reply. I get it now. Guts in that case is almost an opposed roll against an attack in that setting. I'll go back and reread.

Although the presence of Grit implies that even in that setting some derived Stat makes a base sense.


I figured we'd cross-posted. Wink

Yeah, the function of Guts is very specific in Deadlands. You get to add your Grit (based on Rank) to the roll, but the local Fear Level is subtracted. Still, because it's a skill it's proactive. It's really about the feel of having a gunslinger who's more salty than any other cowpoke.

Realms of Cthulhu uses a similar set-up, except the derived stat is Sanity. It's just like Toughness versus mental anguish. And that's really the feel of a Lovecraft story: how much can you take before your sanity crumbles away?

Both are very cool systems, insofar as they emulate their genres to a T.
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inlife9
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jonrog1 wrote:
And, as mentioned, there's the metagaming aspect.

#unsure
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Mono X
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This might seem a little strange, but I consider the difference between Spirit and Guts to be that Spirit deals with resisting 'external' attacks. Whilst Guts is used to overcome 'internal' obstacles.

For example:

When someone uses Intimidation on you, you use Spirit to resist it. It's essentially an attack that you resist.

When you see a horrible monster you feel fear and you use Guts to overcome it. - But the monster is not doing anything to you, it doesn't make a attack of any kind. The fear you feel is your fear, you'd still feel it - even if the monster didn't know that you were there.
Or;
Something has fallen into a burning hot fireplace, you need to put your hand into the fireplace to grab it. It could hurt a lot and needs some bravery (or guts) to do it. The fireplace doesn't actually intimidate you, it's your own fear you need to overcome - so you need to make a Guts roll.

Does that make sense?
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skylion
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think MonoX pretty much summed up my thoughts on the matter.

But I would like to ask. Which is the worst bad penny? The "why do we have a guts skill?", "What happens if I get shaken three times?", or, "Where is the knowledge: computers?".
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Lysander
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 10:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of the ideas I had was to allow a 3rd roll based on the guts skill if purchased (Spirit Die + Wild Die + Guts Die) and take the best of the 3, to signify a character that is really hard to rattle. Haven't tried it out, but I think it could work, and it makes buying the guts skill a little more effective...
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Dylan S
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 10:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Didn't read the whole thread, but for my vote, you're absolutely correct. That's why in campaign settings where horror isn't a major theme, I drop the skill and have players roll a spirit check instead. I find that this gives the players one more reason to upgrade their spirit, and, like you said, prevents Guts from becoming a useless skill sink.
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77IM
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 10:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jonrog1, I hate Guts for all the reasons you listed. In my games I use Spirit instead, and introduce a Guts Edge (+2 Spirit vs Fear and -2 on the Fear table) for anyone who really wants to be noticeably braver than usual.

BUT, I think Guts should stay in the core because: It's much easier to remove than add. Because Guts is referenced in several places, it's easier to say "Replace all references to Guts with Spirit" than it is to say "Replace all the following references to Spirit with Guts..." because you'd have to enumerate them and people would have to remember that those places use Guts instead of Spirit.

In my ideal world, Guts would be in the core but there'd be a sidebar with the optional rule to use Spirit in place of Guts. (I know that too many optional rules can bloat a game that is trying to stay lean, but this one is so prevalent that to me it seems worth a mention.)

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wanderingmystic
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I run a Lovecraftian Rippers game and having a Guts skill is absolutely necessary, how ever I did not let my players start out the game with it they could only buy it or raise it after experiencing unspeakable horror. I also run a Slipstream game and have completely removed guts from it.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My position is similar to 77IM's, I suspect. Most of the time, I've preferred to do away with the Guts skill - but then, most of the time, I've been running "pulpy" campaigns.

Either it's that undead horrors and the like are par for the course (and hence it would be bizarre if half the heroes had trouble standing their ground any time a new one popped up), or that truly fear-causing elements are just so rare that I'd feel it a waste for any member of the party who invests skill points into Guts.

On the other hand, when I run a "Savage Ghostbusters" game, it's entirely plausible that half the party might run away screaming if a ghostly entity violently transforms (ala the librarian from the first GB movie). Ditto if I'm trying to run a game with "ordinary" folk who are suddenly confronted with supernatural or alien horror. In such settings, Guts makes sense as a separate skill.

Thus, I wouldn't advocate it as something that should be removed from the core rules. Rather, I just think of it as a possible setting rule for certain settings. (If I recall correctly, Weird Wars goes the route of "replace Guts with a Spirit check.")

If you go the route of removing Guts skill for your campaign, and instead go with just having people make Spirit checks, I would recommend following 77IM's lead and making available an Edge to give a bonus to Spirit checks vs. Fear. (I have a similar Edge in my campaign, which I call "Brave.") On the flip side, if someone deliberately wants to play a coward, perhaps for comedic effect, you could offer a "Coward" (or as Deadlands would put it, "Yeller") Hindrance for a penalty to the Spirit check vs. Fear effects.
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77IM
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yellow Hindrance already exists in the core. -2 to all Guts rolls. It seems really redundant since d4-2 is already adequately represents the "coward" concept to me. Using Spirit instead of Guts actually makes the Yellow Hindrance more relevant.

-- 77IM
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

77IM wrote:
Yellow Hindrance already exists in the core. -2 to all Guts rolls. It seems really redundant since d4-2 is already adequately represents the "coward" concept to me. Using Spirit instead of Guts actually makes the Yellow Hindrance more relevant.


Ah, sorry, for some reason I thought "Yeller" was a Deadlands: Reloaded Hindrance. I must have just been thinking of it as being there since "Yeller" was a Hindrance from Deadlands Classic.

Anyway, another thing that came to mind is that a lot of the punch for Fear tests really depends upon the GM and when he decides to force them. For instance, while the core SWEX has monsters that force a Guts check at -2 (and I don't recall seeing any that force a Guts check at +/-0), if I'm running a pulp campaign with two-fisted heroes, "mere" walking dead probably don't warrant that steep of a penalty. (And that's whether I'm just making everyone go with Spirit checks, or actually investing in Guts skill.)

Furthermore, even if I'm throwing creatures that warrant a "Fear" check at the heroes, I often skip the Fear test if I think the situation warrants. For instance, if the heroes have already learned of the presence of the undead, and are sniping zombies from a distance, that doesn't seem to warrant testing against a case of the heebie-jeebies quite the same as a zombie bursting out of the ground in a graveyard and grabbing your poor never-ran-into-zombies before hero by the ankle.

If the heroes are supposedly normal, everyday people who are having their first brush with the supernatural, THEN a Fear test is definitely called for. However, after the first brush, and the first chance to test to see who's going to bolt and run, and who stands his or her ground, it doesn't seem fair to keep randomly testing for Fear against a similar encounter - not until things are ramped up somehow. (E.g., it was "just a zombie" before ... but now there's a horde of them!)

I guess my notion is, if it's a campaign where the players are expected to put together cool heroes who kick tail, it's not much fun to be at risk of screaming like a little girl and running away because you didn't sink enough of your precious skill points into Guts. Being able to take on the legions of undead, etc., is expected in some settings, and if I expect everyone to spend skill points to get to that level, those are points they COULD have been spending on more often-used skills.

On the other hand, if it's a campaign where the players are "ordinary folks" first running into the undead (or alien menace or whatever), then the NORMAL reaction might be to bolt and run, and it'll be the rare fellow who really wanted to invest into being the "square-jawed hero" who has Guts skill and thus a better chance of standing his ground (perhaps with a benny to seal the deal). It's worth spending letting a player spend points on in that sort of setting, because it's something that can distinguish the character from the rest of the party.
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Cutter XXIII
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

77IM wrote:
Yellow Hindrance already exists in the core. -2 to all Guts rolls. It seems really redundant since d4-2 is already adequately represents the "coward" concept to me. Using Spirit instead of Guts actually makes the Yellow Hindrance more relevant.


Don't underestimate the utility of Taking Guts d4 and the Yellow Hindrance, then playing up that Hindrance at every opportunity to earn a boatload of Fate Chips (in Deadlands Reloaded, at least).

Sometimes a Hindrance (or a Skill, for that matter) is the best way to model the character one is going for, even if it's not the most numerically advantageous set-up.
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Vinzent
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 3:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Because "Suck it up and walk it off" is too long a name for a skill.

See also...

Maintain Bladder Control
Not scream like a little girl
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