Wednesday 14 February 2024

Savage World Personality and Character Generation

This generator is based on my Simple Card-Driven Personality Generation post but repurposed for a solo game I am currently playing which is set in a tropey, savage and primeval land. All the gifs are from Fire and Ice.

The How
Draw two cards from a standard deck of playing cards (jokers removed) and consult the table below. The first card drawn indicates the adjective - the second indicates the noun. Combine the words to form the character's personality type. Depending on its use, this table go a little beyond the remit of the previous generator and can suggest things that veer beyond personality, therefore it is as much a generator of characters as it is of personalities. 

The Table


♦️ Red 

♠️ Black ♣️









































Tuesday 6 February 2024

Dumb Duels - a Reasonably Engaging Dueling Minigame

No party wants to sit and watch another player fight a duel. I have and after a point, it's no fun at all. This is the inherent problem with duels in RPGs. Here's a relatively dumb method that should up the engagement for duels enough for you to possibly attempt one every couple of real world years. It has a smidge of inspiration from 'Everyone is John'.

After the duel has been challenged and accepted, tell the players you've got this dumb gameplay twist to try, and then give them the following: 
  • A quick overview of the area in which the duel will take place.
  • A brief description of the player's opponent.
  • Allow the duelling player to list some of their character's strengths, abilities, items, etcetera, that they could bring to bear in the duel to their fellow party members. 
Once this is done move on to the coaching stage. 

Now the character that will be fighting the duel is coached by the rest of the party. All present players partake in this whether their characters are narratively able to or not. Each player, excluding the dueller, suggests two 'moves' each. These 'moves' can be anything that the duelling character could reasonably do in a combat turn during the duel such as 'try to cut his head off' or 'do a flying kick' or 'tip over the acid vat' or 'magic missile!!!' or 'do an erotic dance'. Once these moves are collated into a written list, the duel can begin. The duel then works as regular combat but with the caveat that the duelling player can only select their actions from the moves they have been provided by the party. The DM controls their opponent as they would normally. 

If the duelling character expends all of their moves and the duel isn't concluded - evaluate everyone's engagement level and act accordingly. If they're engaged, the duel takes a pause for another round of coaching, if ambivalent or less, then the duel has probably gone on long enough and the novelty has worn off - end it quickly, possibly in a high stakes final turn with the dueller deciding on their own final move. Remember with all things, pace is king. 

Tips and Tweaks
  • For extradramatic dueling (and to end the duel faster) allow two moves to be performed by the duller in a turn. 
  • If you suspect your players will overanalyze or derail the coaching stage have the players write down their two 'moves' in secret without interparty discussion. This method can yield a higher quantity of 'sensible' suggestions especially if paired with a reminder. 
  • Consider the HD of the NPC opponent, if they've low health consider allowing the party to provide only a single move each. 

Friday 26 January 2024

Hackjack - An Experimental System of Death, Dismemberment and Blackjack

Hackjack, like Blackjack only your character will be horribly maimed and then probably die.

The Swimmer, Sir Sidney Nolan, 1966

Basically; when your character enters negative HP (and each time your HP decreases thereafter) you have to draw a card from a standard deck. Each card has its value (which I term death-score, aces are worth 1, face cards are worth 10) and an injury with attached mechanics. For example, an Ace of Diamonds has a death-score of 1 and would see the character receive a cool scar. Death-score is analogous to negative HP. A player places their cards in a drawpile where all the card numbers can be seen and totalled easily. Once the total value/death-score of the cards you have drawn exceeds 21, the character dies. Some cards come with Trauma and Blood. Blood can increase the death-score of subsequent cards and Trauma dictates how long a player will have to spend recovering after their near-death experience. If the character’s death-score  hits 21 exactly, that character's death-score resets to 0 but their wounds, Trauma and Blood pool remain. Unless a character receives massive damage (13 or higher), the death-score value of the card they draw remains the same, this will be detailed shortly. You will find all of the wound results for each card at the end of this post.

No 'tis but a scratch' jokes for you


If a character draws a card that has a Blood value, for example ‘Blood 4’, give that player 4 tokens (red is preferred) or a piece of paper that says ‘4 blood’. Have the player place the tokens or note apart from their Hackjack draw pile, this creates a ‘Blood pool’. If the player already has a Blood pool, add those 4 Blood tokens to it. The player now has a choice, on their next and subsequent turns they can either prevent themselves from bleeding, or risk transferring their Blood tokens/note over into their drawpile. If a character with a Blood pool takes damage and is not preventing themselves from bleeding, they must move their entire Blood pool into their death-score draw pile. If they are preventing blood loss, their Blood pool will remain where it is. Players who are preventing themselves from bleeding in this way cannot do anything but walk or defend themselves, characters who are not defending themselves are free to act normally, save for other wounds they may have accrued thus far. Each point of Blood added to the drawpile increases the player’s death-score by 1. Death-score increases in this way do not provoke additional card draws. A player should declare at the start of each round whether they are preventing blood loss or not.     


Trauma represents significant bodily harm, this value helps to calculate how long a character will take to recover from their injuries. Trauma does not accumulate like Blood, a character’s Trauma score will only increase if they draw a card with a higher Trauma score than they currently have. For example, if a character draws a card that has a Trauma value of 2, compare it to their current Trauma score, if the Trauma on the card is higher than their current Trauma score give that player 2 tokens (black is preferred) or have them make a note on their character sheet - if the Trauma on the card is lower than the player’s current Trauma score, make no change. Trauma does not increase a player’s death-score. A character's recovery time is rolled for when a character has their death-score healed (when they have 1 HP or greater) or they rest for the night/8 hours. Compare the Trauma score to the below table and roll the matching number of dice. For example, a character with a Trauma score of 3 would have a recovery time of 2d6 weeks. The recovery time begins when the character has reduced their Blood pool and death-score to 0, if healing via sleep alone this can take some time (depending on your system). 


Recovery Time 


Whatever recovery time/procedure is detailed for the wounds received.


1d6 days


1d6+6 days


2d6 weeks


2d6+6 weeks


2d6+1 months


2d6+6 months


Removing Death-score, Blood and Trauma

As stated, a player's death-score (including Blood) is analogous to negative HP, as such it can be healed away in the same fashion with 1 HP of healing removing 1 point of death-score or Blood. A character's Blood pool is always healed first. For example, a player with a death-score of 13 and Blood pool of 3 is healed by a cleric for 6 HP, their death-score is now 10. This procedure works with all methods of healing. When a player reaches 1 HP they can roll to check their recovery time as detailed above. Practically, as a player’s death-score is healed, remove tokens first before dealing with the cards themselves. If any cards are ‘split’ by healing, i.e. a character whose draw pile has one card with a value of 4 and is healed by 2 HP, remove the card and give the player 2 tokens to represent the remaining death-score of 2. Otherwise, record the death-score as a number on the player’s character sheet and tally it off that way. Trauma can only be removed by undergoing recovery or with high level healing magic.

Massive Damage:

For some sources of damage a death-score of 10 just isn’t high enough. If a character receives damage higher than 13, then that damage value will override the card’s death-score value. For example, if a character with a death-score of 3 takes 17 points of damage from a giant's hurled boulder, and they draw an Ace, their death-score increases by 17, not 1, to an unenviable total of 20. In these instances, it is necessary to supplement the drawn card with an additional token (or tokens) to indicate the difference between the card and the actual death-score. For example, if the death-score exceeds the drawn card's value by 5, that player can be given 5 tokens or a note as with similar procedures around Blood.

If a character with positive HP recieves damage that would place their HP below -21, they die instantly. If a character with positive HP receives damage that would place them below -13 HP, they begin the Hackjack minigame by drawing a card and setting their death-score to the value of their negative HP. For example, a character with 7 HP is caught in a bomb blast for 22 damage. Their HP would be -15, this unfortunate character would draw a card, apply the wound and add the difference between the card and their negative HP to their death-score in the form of tokens or a note. 

But why? Why did I make this minigame? I wanted a system that took some of the meta aspects of death and dismemberment away and added others. I wanted to make things slightly less predictable and make that unpredictability fun in trying to predict. For example, when dealing in true negative HP, like regular HP, you can kind of guess how long it will take a series of d6 attacks to kill you. Therefore, the card based, blackjack gimmick. And it is a gimmick; I want players trying to count cards, weighing up their odds, hoping for a forgiving suite, cheering when they draw an Ace and gurning at the sight of a face card. That's fun to me. At the same time, I didn't want the system to allow players to absorb massive damage and just live. After all, the cards have a death-score value ranging from 1 to 10. Therefore the rule that if the damage a player would take exceeds 13, that damage is the death-score the player must take instead of the death-score on their drawn card. I chose 13 because this is higher than the largest common attack die, anything over 13 damage probably deserves the higher death-score. It also speeds up play, knowing you only have to roll damage if there is a possibility the result will be higher than 13.

Each suite has its own character. The following semi-mnemonic is my attempt at justifying these categories:

Clubs will leave you battered, they represent intermediate wounds.

Spades will bury you. This suite is made up of more severe wounds.  

♦️ Diamonds are pretty. Therefore diamond cards deal with more minor, aesthetic, hidden or psychological wounds. 

Obviously, Hearts mainly deal with internal damage, organs and blood.

Feel free to rewrite the wounds. They are far from exhaustive and can be catered to the kind of experience you want at your table. 


Ace. Body blow. Get knocked back.

2. Head injury. Confused and disoriented. Roll over your current death-score with a d20 to regain your senses or remain dazed.

3. Damaged eyes, you are temporarily blinded until you have rested. 

4. Damaged arms, drop carried weapons, arms useless. Trauma 1 

5. Damaged legs, drop to the ground. Legs useless. Trauma 1

6. You are covered with dozens of small painful wounds. Blood 1.

7. You have a moment to prepare yourself. It's going to be bad but you will choose how. Take the 7 death-score from this card as usual but draw two cards and choose which wound will affect you. 

8. You are bleeding badly. Blood 2.

9. A chronic wound. Permanently, whenever your character enters negative HP you begin with a Blood pool of 2. 

10. You are bleeding profusely. +1d4 Blood. 

Jack. Your body utterly fails in defending itself. Take the Jack's 10 death-score and draw two more cards, taking both card's wounds, but not their death-scores and the lower Blood and/or Trauma value if any. .

Queen. Lingering wound. Permanently, whenever you hit 0 or negative HP add 2 death-score to the first card you draw. If this card is drawn again the wound grows worse, adding another 2 to your starting death-score.

King. You are near mutilated and covered in painful, grisly wounds. -3 to all rolls. Trauma 3, Blood 2


Ace. You are knocked to the floor.

2. Messy, bloody or dramatic wound leaves you prone, 1 Blood.

3. Broken arm, roll for which. Drop carried item. Arm is useless. - 2 Dexterity and Strength until recovered. Trauma 3. 

4. Major head injury, wisdom and intelligence drop by d4 each. -1 Intelligence and Wisdom until fully recovered, 1 Trauma.

5. Broken leg. Determine which. Fall prone. Move speed reduced to a slow walk. -3 Dexterity until recovered. 3 Trauma.

6. Many bones crack, -1 to all rolls. Trauma 3.

7. A large and savage wound. -1 to all rolls, Trauma 2. Maximum HP permanently reduced by 1d2 points. 

8. You are permanently blinded.

9. Something that should be inside your body is now outside. -4 to all stats. 2d6 Blood. Trauma 4. 

10. Maimed. -3 Strength and Constitution until recovered, -1 permanent Strength damage thereafter. Trauma 4.

Jack. Lost limb. Roll a D4 to determine which is lost. And a D4 to determine how much, 1 = just the hand/foot, 4 = the whole thing. 3 Blood. Trauma 2.

Queen. Gruesome mutilation. 4 Trauma. Draw another card instantly, take that card's death-score and wound but not Blood or Trauma. If alive, roll over your new death-score with a d20 or pass out.

King. Brutalised. You are prone and broken. You are incapable of doing anything. 5 Trauma. 6 Blood.

♦️ Diamonds ♦️

Ace. You receive a cool scar. 

2. You get blood or dirt in your eyes and cannot see until it is cleared.

3. Lose a finger, roll a d10 to determine which. Blood 1.

4. Hurt nose, can't smell until comfortably rested.

5. Jaw or mouth hurt leaving a scar. Unable to speak. Trauma 1, Blood 1. 

6. Minor disfigurement. -1 Charisma permanently.

7. Smashed leg. You will walk with a limp from now on.

8. That’s going to leave a mark! You are bruised, burnt or otherwise marked in a distinctive way for the next week.

9. Bad back. You can never rest peacefully again. When rolling to regain HP from rest you can never roll the maximum amount and must reroll. -1 to all stats until recovered, Trauma 1.

10. Ouch! If you live you'll have an impressive scar to show off. Trauma 1. -1 to Strength and Constitution until recovered. Blood 1.

Jack. Lose one eye, -2 on all to-hit rolls until recovered. Trauma 1, Blood 1. Permanent -2 to-hit on ranged attacks after recovery.

Queen. Fear. You are terribly hurt physically and mentally. You will take 1 point of Wisdom damage for each round you are in a situation that involves the thing that caused you to draw this card. 

King. Your face is destroyed. Unless wearing a mask your Charisma score is 1/2 its original value. Trauma 4.


Ace. You avoid the worst of it but get a glimpse of what is to come. Look into the draw pile and see what the next card to be drawn is, even if it isn’t drawn for you.

2. Impacted throat, by some means you are unable to speak until you have rested.

3. Sickening stomach strike.  -3 Constitution and you can't eat or drink for d12 hours.

4. A low blow. Groin attack. Roll over your death-score with a d20 or stagger about in pain for a round. 

5. Excruciating pain. Roll a d20 over your current death-score or pass out. 

6. Not again! Take this card's 6 death-score but repeat the wound of your previously drawn card, all wound effects stack or are replicated including Blood and Trauma. If this is your first card, draw another card and apply it twice. 

7. A blow to the brain. -1 to all mental stats (INT, WIS, CHA) Trauma 1.

8. Internal organ damage. Blood 2, Trauma 3

9. Lung damage.  -2 Constitution. Trauma 2.

10. Multiple broken ribs, drawing red cards increases your Blood pool by an additional +1. -1 to all rolls. Trauma 3.

Jack. Opened vein, +1d6 Blood, woozy, -1 Intelligence and Wisdom, Trauma 1 

Queen. Damaged heart. Half constitution score. Blood 1. Trauma 4.

King. Severe internal organ damage. 6 Blood. 6 Trauma.

Tips, Suggestions & Optional Rules:  

  • Don’t return cards to the deck after they have been drawn, give them to the player. These cards will form the player’s draw pile and with the blood tokens help them to keep track of their death-score. The meta-game aspect of players card counting and guessing what injuries are left in the deck can be enjoyable and forms part of the ‘pushing one’s luck’ element of this Hackjack system. 

  • While a lot of thought has gone into each card, some results can still require a degree of quick thinking on the part of the DM. On occasion an incongruous card can be drawn for an attack or damage source that doesn’t quite match it - a house-cat’s scratch might see an unlucky character lose an arm or a lighting bolt may sever an artery. You are creative and will figure it out. Enough blows from a mace can sever a leg, a peasant pushing a character down a flight or stairs might see the character mutilate themselves on their own sword. 

  • If unsure how to describe a death, use the card that kills the player as inspiration. 

  • Get a cheap set of cards and write the Hackjack effects on them with a permanent pen. It saves a lot of time. 

  • Read the card carefully and have the player note the wound effects. If a wound doesn't have an associated trauma score it will have some other duration or cure listed, either a few rounds or until some other criteria is met. The effects of wounds with a trauma score, including stat damage, last until the character has undertaken their recovery time. Therefore it is completely possible to continue adventuring as a character with a broken leg, ribs, internal bleeding and a bruised brain. Permanent wounds are listed as such and will require a quest or high level magical healing to resolve. 

  • Poison can come in two varieties, death-score poison that does death-score damage and bleed poison that increases your Blood pool.

  • Thanks to Milk of the OSR discord server for the suggestion that certain types of opponents, particularly the undead, could directly attack a player’s death-score bypassing HP altogether. 

  • If you want to increase the brutality of your critical hits, consider adding a Hackjack card draw to your critical hit and possibly even critical miss tables.

  • This following mechanic is cut content: ‘The Trauma score is also used to determine if a character passes out from the pain of their wounds as well as how long the character will need to recover from their significant injuries. If a character has a Trauma score of 3 or more they must check to see if they pass out if they attempt to do anything other than walk or crawl away. To make this check the character must roll over their current Trauma score with their class Hit Dice. A character that passes out can be woken by another player.’ Include it if you like but I felt it was unnecessary, just an extra thing to remember, it limited play and it complicated how a character’s death-score, Blood, and Trauma were removed. This feature could be reintroduced using a new metric ‘Pain’ if you choose to do so. Or, you could have players roll over their death-score with a d20 or lose consciousness.

  • While death and dismemberment systems do increase the survival rates of players they often don’t decrease the rate of new characters. Players will often retire characters that become too injured or become attached to the new character they start while their old character recovers from their wounds. 

  • I chose not to include Jokers but you could use them as lucky breaks, with no attached wound or death-score.  

  • Rewrite anything and everything you like to fit your system of choice. You might change certain cards entirely, wound effects, stats or saves. 

  • Check out James Young's So It Looks Like You're Gonna Die as it was a big inspiration. 

  • If you want to get more use out of carrying a deck of cards to your sessions consider my Simple Card-Driven Personality Generation post.

This post is a update/rewrite of a messier system, you can find that post here