Posted in Tools & Techniques

Savage Worlds Moonlighting Downtime Mechanics

Some games get pretty ridiculous, with characters going from farmers to gods in a matter of in-game months. Sometimes, for various reasons, you want to have a few weeks of in-game downtime between or during sessions. Apocalypse World has a great mechanic for this and I’ve altered it to make a Savage Worlds version that we’re now using in my 1-on-1 city-based home game. I’ll present the mechanics, then a little explanation on the design.


Whenever there’s a stretch of downtime in play, or between sessions, choose a number of gigs to work. Choose no more than the number of dice you have in Smarts. Describe a gig then roll your wild die and the relevant skill, like Fighting for protection gigs, Stealth for picking pockets, or Investigation for academic research.

  • On a raise, you get profit from the gig you chose; if you get multiple raises that means exceptional success, perhaps extra pay, recognition or connections.
  • On a success, you get profit but with some complication (or failure but you got out of it clean: no profit, no fallout, no hard feelings).
  • On a failure, you failed the gig and suffer some fallout, like lingering wounds from a protection gig gone wrong, fines or jail time for criminal activities, and maybe someone is mad at you.
  • On snake eyes, double ones, you can’t roll for any more gigs this session and your failure was a fiasco: someone is definitely mad at you, you’ve probably lost something you care about, and the trouble is immediate.

The GM should discuss any profit, complications or fallout with you. If you didn’t roll snake eyes, you can now roll again for any remaining gigs.

It’s heavily based on the Apocalypse World version which, if you don’t own the game, you can check out in the free playbook downloads; moonlighting is one of the Operator’s moves. In AW you roll once for all your gigs combined, using the main stat of the ‘class’. I decided I wanted this to be a mechanic any SW character could use, so I’ve generalised it. I also then adjusted it to take multiple raises and critical failure into account, just for fun and granularity.

Gigs can be anything the character has the skill and opportunity to do. If you have a high boating skill and you could reasonably get sailor’s work or own a boat you can ferry people on, that’s a gig. Gambling can be a gig. Most skills should work fairly well.

It’s the profit and failure that require the most thought on the part of the GM. I haven’t listed what the profit would be because it’ll be different depending on how long the downtime was, what sort of gigs the character did, and so on. AW does list some gigs and their profit (1-barter, 2-barter, etc.) but SW isn’t that abstract. Profit can also be information, if you’re doing some research on strange magical runes, or could be connections and friends if you’re using persuasion or streetwise to schmooze with the nobles or bar flies. It’s intentionally left open for the GM and player to discuss.

One last thing worth noting is that regular success comes with complications. I took inspiration for this from AW and the way I like to run my games. It turns the mechanic into not just a profit machine for PCs, but also a story machine for GMs. So, PC, you took a protection gigs and failed? Well, maybe you’re on 2 wounds and the person you were protecting has gone into lockdown: no chance of pay now. Snake eyes? Well, you really screwed up:  2 wounds, the person you were supposed to protect has been kidnapped (or killed) and now the ones who did it are after you too, hot on your trail. No time for any other gigs. What do you do?

Savage Worlds Deluxe has the Interlude mechanic too, but moonlighting is a different flavour. I’m pretty excited about it. I hope you enjoy using it too. And if you do – or have some other downtime mechanics you like – I’d love to hear about it.

Happy moonlighting!


Posted in Settings

Australiana Apocalyptica

A few weeks ago I started up a solo game of Apocalypse World with my wife. We liked it but decided we wanted something different for a solo game and would wait for another month or two to play Apocalypse World with our main group once we’re done with Prime Time Adventures. This post has some custom moves that we were planning to use and probably still will – feel free to do whatever you like with them. I’ve also written up some brief setting details for an Australian apocalypse.

I knew I wanted our Apocalypse World to be in Australia, where we live. Even ignoring Mad Max, this country is a pretty amazing place and I have lots of ideas about what it could be like after the end times. I’m sure Vam has even more, very specific ideas, but that’s a post for another day perhaps. I presented three settings to my wife and asked her which one she wanted to play in. Here they are:

  • Overpopulated skyscrapers overgrown with relentless rainforest in the wild northeast cities
  • Slimy labyrinthine docks at the clogged, poisoned harbour by a rusting once-great bridge
  • Clusters of peeling corrugated iron buildings, caked in red desert dust under a cancerous sun

She said, “the first one” then added “…but we’re not just in the skyscrapers, are we?”. I told her no, we wouldn’t be, it was just an image evocative of that part of post-apocalypse Australia. So, of course, that was the one I had the least ideas about but we both made a pretty good go of it and the setting came together. Here’s a brief run down:

Setting: Bane

Bane is a huge city extending outwards and upwards, remnants of civilisation overgrown by relentless rainforest. There was enough food here when the world ended, water too. And it was out of the cancerous sun, thanks to the Canopy. So everyone came. Everyone.

Bane is big, but the rainforest claims back more and more each day and there’s less and less space for the booming population. Towering office buildings have turned residential. Dozen people to a room, hundreds lining hallways. And the Canopy: so many trees – some bigger than the buildings – that only the highest floors of the highest skyscrapers ever see sun and feel the breeze.

Everyone below lives in the Canopy’s sweltering eternal darkness. Pitch-black sauna, 24/7. Tensions run high, tempers thin. Fans are prized, ice is killed for. Vines get into everything, messing up what juice still flows through strangled wires. Then there’s the dream sap that pries open your mind, the bloodthirsty rainforest predators, the unpredictable cabal of brachiators, and hundreds of plants ready to kill you in any number of ways.

It’s not a matter of if you’ll die a sudden violent death, it’s when and how, and why anyone should care. It’s what you’ll do with your short sweaty existence before life kills you.


So, that’s our happy little apocalyptic world. For playing there, we’ve got two custom moves so far:

When you consume the dream sap, you open your brain to the psychic maelstrom.

When you wander around without light in the endless sweltering darkness under the canopy, roll+sharp. On a 10+, all 3: you get where you were going without incident. On a 7-9, choose 2:
– you don’t run into anyone you’d really rather not see right now
– you don’t get turned around, lost and delayed
– your scent doesn’t catch the interest of any rainforest predators

Feel free to use or change or do whatever to any of this. We’ll use it eventually, but if you use it first, I’d love to hear about it.