One of the things I really love about Savage Worlds is Hindrances. Nothing can define a character more quickly or thoroughly than a few well chosen Hindrances. For example: Vow (Rid Gotham of Crime), Quirk (No Guns!), Heroic = Batman. Sure, Batman would also have tons of skills, the Filthy Rich Edge, and gobs of Combat Edges. But the real core of the character isn’t all of that, it’s those three Hindrances. They’re what make Batman tick, and when things get tough they’re also the thing ensuring that old Batman always has plenty of bennies to use when things get tough. I think we’d all agree that Batman without those Hindrances is just a boring old Rich guy beating up thugs.
Now, I can hear you saying “but wouldn’t the rest of the Justice League also have Heroic? And don’t most of them also have a Vow against killing?” I hear you, and you’re absolutely right! those Hindrances are less about the characters and more about the genre or style of game the GM would like to run. In which case, you can actually end up with some characters that start looking a bit similar as the players all build characters to fit in the game. Which is great, but it can also cramp your style. Because if I’m building someone like Superman, you could easily argue that he has both Code of Honor and Heroic. But both are major hindrances!
To me, the answer has been something I like to call Genre Hindrances. When I start a new game, I think about the kind of characters I’d like to see and the play style I want to encourage. I then look and see if that maps to any of the existing Hindrances. If I do find one or two that fit the style I want (such as Heroic in a supers game), I do something special. I offer all players the option (no one must take the Genre Hindrance!) to take the Genre Hindrance as a bonus Hindrance that doesn’t count against the 1 Major, 2 Minor Hindrance limit. If the characters do take the Genre Hindrance, they don’t get additional points. Instead they get a genre appropriate reward. By default, the reward I offer is 1 additional Edge, and the player can ignore any non-Legendary rank requirements for that specific Edge. But there’s no reason you couldn’t grant other bonuses.
I’ve been using this little Setting Rule for years now, and I’ve always been happy with the results. Depending on the group, either I get a full buy-in or at most one or two abstainers. The players are happy, as the extra reward is balanced by a Hindrance they were likely going to play up anyway. I, as the GM, am happy because I now have another method of handing bennies to the players and I get the types of characters I want to see for the story I want to tell. It’s a win-win situation all around.
In closing, here are a few ideas for Genre Hindrances and their rewards.
- Occult Investigators: Curious Hindrance; d4 Investigation and the Connections Edge.
- Heroic Fantasy: Heroic Hindrance; One Combat or Arcane Background Edge.
- Cyberpunk Bandits: Wanted (Corporation) Hindrance; $1,000 Starting Funds.
- Four Color Supers: Heroic Hindrance; +5 Power Points.