Step 0: Preamble
Outbreaks of terrible diseases are a staple of rpgs, though they usually act as a threat to be averted or as backdrop to the action, and not as the “main attraction” for characters to get stuck in with directly.
Now, this discussion on the German Tanelorn forum had the original poster asking for ideas for a more proactive and involved approach to integrating such a contagion scenario into a game. Born from that was the suggestion to model the outbreak – and the efforts to control and defeat it – via the use of a modified mass conflict mechanic – Savage World’s mass battle rules in this specific case.
For us, that translated into the chance to make good on our plan to contribute more to the Tanelorn Produktiv initiative (making this our first T6 – Productive Ideas article, directly inspired by the discussions on the board). It also meant a good opportunity for a first practical follow-up on our own Medical Systems examination.
(And, as a side effect, it also gave us a reason to finalise our first Savage Worlds article.)
Step One: Setup
In a contagion scenario, tokens are used to represent the affected population – the infected, sick and dying on one hand and the healthy people on the other. Otherwise this step is identical to the usual mass battle rules:
- Give the larger group 10 tokens.
- Divide the number of people in the group by 10 to identify the number of people per token.
- Give the second group a proportionate number of tokens, rounding up.
After determining the number of tokens, the so called Contagion Strength of the plague has to be set. This is the equivalent of a Trait and will be used to make certain rolls for the plague/infected population over the course of the outbreak. The higher the Contagion Strength, the more dangerous and persistent the plague.
Finally, the disease itself should be statted in the usual way, though this is only used when there is a chance of the heroes contracting the disease themselves. For determining the effects on the population at large this is not required.
Step Two: Modifiers
As in regular mass battles, modifiers resulting from the difference in tokens, character actions and other influence factors are totalled.
Obviously, characters can get stuck in with the battle against a plague just as well as in any other battle. And while there may be no bullets flying and swords clashing, the fight will be just as desperate and heroes just as needed.
Characters taking a direct hand in caring for the sick and dying and trying to stop the spread of the plague make their choice of either a Healing or arcane skill roll each round. Add or substract the number of tokens difference between the healthy population and the infected. Add +1 for each Rank the character has above Novice.
For characters using an arcane skill, they use up 2d6 Power Points each round as in a regular mass battle.
Characters using Healing instead use supplies, ranging from advanced cures and vaccines to things as simple as fresh bandages and clean water. Out of a predetermined amount of these supplies available, the character uses up 1d6 points worth each round. After the supplies run out, a character can continue to use Healing in subsequent rounds but will suffer a -2 modifier to his roll.
Failure: The hero’s efforts are in vain, as victims of the plague die under his hands and people around him contract the disease. He has to make a Vigor roll to avoid contracting the disease himself, subject to a penalty of -4 in addition to the standard penalty for the disease.
Success: The hero is succesful in lending succor to those already affected by the disease. He adds +1 to the Contagion Roll but has to make a Vigor roll to avoid contracting the disease at an additional -2 penalty.
Raise: Many more of the hero’s charges recover than could be expected and through his tireless efforts the plague has a hard time to find new victims. He adds +2 to the Contagion Roll and has to make Vigor roll to avoid contracting the disease, albeit at no additional penalty.
Two Raises: The mere presence of the hero seems to cast off the pall of the plague and the sick and healthy alike take new hope as he strides through the wards or sits down besides their beds. He adds +2 to the Contagion Roll without suffering any negative effects himself.
|+1||As in Mass Battles, the side with more tokens receives a +1 modifier for every token difference.|
|+1||Reliable cures but entailing risks for the patient/contagious but stable or vice versa|
|+2||Reliable cures or really powerful ones with dangerous side effects/highly contagious or mutable|
|+3||Powerful cures with little to no side effects/very contagious with multiple and/or changing vectors|
|-1||Conditions slightly favourable to the spread/the containment of the plague (hard winter/adequate basic supplies)|
|-2||Conditions somewhat favourable to the spread/the containment of the plague (major vermin infestation/good public sanitation system)|
|-3||Conditions decidedly favourable to the spread/the containment of the plague (dead and dying lying everywhere/isolated quarantine wards)|
|+/-?||As in Mass Battles, this modifier depends on the overall plan and tactical decisions made by the respective sides. Unless the plague is somehow engineered or controlled by a sinister force (such as a disease demon, a plague priest, or a mad medic), this modifier is always 0 for the plague.|
Step Three: Contagion Rolls
After totalling the modifiers, both sides make rolls applying all modifiers. This is a Knowledge (Medicine) roll made by the leading healer/coordinator of the relief efforts for the side of the healthy, though another Knowledge might possibly be substituted depending on circumstances. For the plague, this roll is made using Contagion Strength. Alternatively, an engineered/steered plague uses a fitting Knowledge (such as Medicine or Occult) of their creator/controlling agent.
Each success and raise causes the other side to lose one token.
Step Four: Sustainability
At the end of each round in which a side loses one or more tokens, a roll must be made to check for the sustainability of the plague/the efforts at containing it. For the healthy side this is a Spirit roll made by the character coordinating the relief efforts. For the plague it is a roll using contagion strength.
The roll is modified by the following circumstances:
|-1||For each token lost so far|
|+2||There are ample supplies available (healthy side only)|
|+2||The disease is highly mutable (plague only)|
|+2||The nature of the disease is unknown (plague only)|
|+2||There is an effective targeted cure available (healthy side only)|
For the healthy side, a success means that the battle against the plague goes on – return to Step Two. Failure means that hope of defeating the disease is lost, but it might still be contained. Return once more to Steps Two and Three and then go to the Aftermath. (The leader of a battle against the plague may voluntarily choose this option and just let the disease run its course.) On a result of 1 or less, the upsurge in the disease lets despair settle in amongst healers and healthy alike – in the ensuing panic, all efforts at further treatment or containment break down completely and the plague continues to spread unchecked. Go immediately to the Aftermath.
For the plague, a success means that it continues to take its toll on the population – return to Step Two. Failure means that the disease enters its final stage, starting to burn itself out with few new infections but not releasing its grasp on those already infected. Return once more to Steps Two and Three and then go to the Aftermath. (The creator/controller of a plague may voluntarily choose this option and just let the disease run out.) On a result of 1 or less, the plague collapses in on itself, successful treatments and spontaneous recoveries marking an end to the contagion. Go immediately to the Aftermath.
When either the healthy population or the infected run out of tokens or fail their sustainability rolls, the battle comes to an end and the final toll of the plague can be resolved.
If the healthy side won, all their remaining tokens represent unscathed survivors of the contagion. For each of their lost tokens, those which succumbed to the plague over the course of the battle, roll 1d6. On a roll of 5-6, that tokens recovers and survives the plague. Also roll 1d6 for each of the tokens lost by the infected, as these represent people who were successfully treated or at least quarantined (preventing them from spreading the disease further), a roll of 4-6 means that they are amongst the survivors. Any remaining tokens on the infected side recover only on a roll of 6.
If the plague won, the chance of survival for both the original victims (remaining tokens on the plague side) and the newly infected (lost tokens on the healthy side) is equally slim: 6 on 1d6. For the treated (lost tokens on the plague side) it is marginally better at 5-6. The remaining healthy population still is unaffected – unless the battle ended due to the healthy side failing their sustainability roll with a result of 1 or less, in which case even the remaining healthy tokens only survive on a roll of 4-6 per token.
Finally, the number of tokens can be back transformed into population figures, as per Step One.
Special thanks to
killedcat for initiating Tanelorn Produktiv,
Boba Fett for allowing us to use one of the Tanelorn icons in the creation of the “T6” logo,
and Skeeve for starting the thread on dealing with epidemics in Savage Worlds.