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Scum and Villainy

First Edition


Publisher Description

Unwise deals. Blaster fights. High adventure among the stars.
Welcome to the world of Scum and Villainy.

Scum and Villainy is a Forged in the Dark game about a spaceship crew trying to make ends meet under the iron-fisted rule of the Galactic Hegemony.


Scum and Villainy: A Game About Space Scoundrels [ edit ]

Scum and Villainy is a game from Evil Hat Productions, makers the acclaimed Fate RPG(s), as well as the popular game Blades in the Dark, which Scum and Villainy takes its core rules from.  But, despite being set in its own unique universe, you can clearly feel the love for Star Wars in this game, as well as for other popular space travel stories, such as Firefly or Cowboy Bebop.

For instance, there's the game's name itself, a clear reference to a quote from Star Wars about Mos Eisley ("You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy").  There's also a power called "Don’t tell me the odds" (another SW quote), and the game's "Scoundrel" playbook has the power to "shoot first" ... a clear nod to the controversy with Han Solo firing first in the original edit of New Hope.

The game also has three different ships/playstyles, which seem designed to cater either to fans of Star Wars or the other two franchises mentioned.  When a group selects their starship they can choose the "Cerberus" (a bounty hunting-focused ship, ala Cowboy Bebop), the Firedrake (a revolution-fighting ship, ala Star Wars) and the "Stardancer" (a more generic smuggling ship, ala Firefly).  And just to make things more fun, in S&V ships actually have their own character sheets and stats (which let them contribute dice to rolls), and can even level up.

In other words, if you're looking to play a Star Trek-like campaign, this probably isn't the space RPG for you .. but if you're looking to play rogues (of any sort) in space, Scum and Villainy has you covered.  But you won't find any detailed or "crunchy" rules in S&V: as a PbtA system it offers a relatively rules-lite, narrative-heavy system.

Scum and Villainy, First Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse

Character Creation [ edit ]

As in its parent system (Blades in the Dark), character creation in Scum and Villainy is relatively fast.  A player begins by selecting a "playbook" for their character.  There are seven playbooks to choose from, such as Muscle (fighter), Stitch (doctor), or Scoundrel (rogue).

Each playbook provides a different set of actions the character can perform to earn experience, as well as a unique Starting Ability.  For instance, the Stitch can declare "I’m a Doctor, Not a...:" to use their Doctor rating for a different action.  They also provide a variety of Special Abilities, but each character can only choose one.

Next the player chooses a Heritage for their character (a note about their family life) and a Background (a detail about their history).  After that they assign four Action Points (similar to skill points in other systems) to their actions, with no more than two points in any one.

After that the player makes a couple social choices for their character, selecting a friend, an enemy, and one (or two) vice(s).  Finally the player selects their character's name, alias, and look, and then they're ready to play.

After all of the characters have been created, the entire group selects a starship, from one of three options (smuggling-focused, bounty-hunting focused, and rebellion-focused).  They can then choose two upgrades for their ship, which were presumably provided by the groups faction ... and so they also have to decide how they paid for those upgrades (if they did at all).  They also decide on the ship's reputation, special ability, and favorite contact.

After creation ships earn experience (which can be used to purchase further upgrades) by completing tasks related to its focus.

Core Mechanics [ edit ]

To perform an action in Scum and Villainy a player first states what they want to do, and what type of action they want to use to do it.  The action must be appropriate, so one could use a Command action to boss others around, but not to fight.

Next, the GM decides the action's "position", either controlled, risky, or desperate, depending on the PC's current environment.  The GM also sets an "effect level", which determines how much effect the action will have: limited, standard, or great.

After that the player collects their "dice pool" and rolls it.  They get a number of dice equal to the number of points they have in the relevant action.

If at least one die rolls a 6, the action succeeds.  If the highest result is a 4 or 5, then the action is a success with a complication. If none are higher than 3, it results in failure.  If two dice both roll 6 the action is a critical success.

Players can add a die to the roll by getting help from another character (the other character must spend 1 stress).  They can add one further die by either pushing themselves (ie. spending 2 stress), or by making a Devil's Bargain (if the GM offers it).  The latter gives the player an extra die for a roll, in exchange for having guaranteed (GM-determined) consequences later on (eg. they lose an item, betray a loved one, etc.).

Finally, one other way a player can add dice to a roll is by spending the party's Gambit pool.  This is a pool of dice shared by the entire group, which gets re-filled when a player rolls a 6 on a risky action.

Combat [ edit ]

As a more narrative-focused system Scum and Villainy does not have any sort of initiative system: combat simply happens in whatever order the GM decides.  Similarly there's no special "combat time" of rounds: players simply describe the actions they want to take, and the GM responds with what happens, the same way they would out of combat.

Characters take damage in the form of stress, which is temporary and can be recovered during downtime (eg. by indulging in a character's vice), and trauma, which represents permanent harm the character has suffered.  When a character suffers four trauma they are removed from the game.

Ships have a slightly more advanced system, involving shields and different ship components, but space combat still uses the same simple narrative system.

On RPG Geek, with 17 reviews submitted, Scum and Villainy has an average score of 7.97/10, which ranks the game in 185th place on the site.  That might not sound impressive, bfut keep in mind that's when ranked against every RPG (and major edition of those RPGs) in existence, so the fact that a relatively new game, from a smaller publisher, could even show up in the top 200 at all is actually fairly impressive.

Meanwhile on Drive Thru RPG, with 52 (paid customer-only) reviews, the game has an even higher score of 4.8/5.  The written reviews are (similarly) universally positive (eg. "an excellent game", "elegantly designed, beautifully made, fun to play game"),

Of course, no RPG is perfect, and perhaps the game's biggest weakness is simply that it has no official supporting material: only its one core rulebook.  While that rulebook does provide a great basis, and many have used it alone to run entire campaigns, players and GMs looking for more supporting material for their games may wish to look elsewhere.

For everyone else though, Scum and Villainy clearly offers a great option for running any sort of "rogues in space" adventure.  Even without supporting products the setting and underlying "Forged in the Dark" rules provide everything needed to run countless adventures and campaigns, so if a GM is looking to run a Star Wars, Cowboy Bebop, or Firefly-styled campaign, they really need to check out Scum and Villainy.

Each playbook comes with a different special ability (eg. the Stitch gets an "I'm a doctor, not a ..."  power that lets them use their doctor