NPC Support (Savage)
A major benefit of HL to players is the speed and simplicity of creating characters. That same benefit should exist for GMs, but the advancement mechanism of Savage Worlds requires that characters be created one advance at a time. This leaves GMs with a choice of either creating an NPC using an incremental approach or ignoring all the validation errors by just "winging it". GMs typically need lots of NPCs, so the one-at-a-time advancement method is clunky and slow. GMs also need to have a good idea of the relative power levels of NPCs compared to the PCs, so ignoring the validation errors requires the GM to have an innate sense of how powerful a given NPC is.
There must be a better way to create NPCs using our data files. What we need is a way to create a character without any restrictions and tell the GM exactly how powerful that character is. Unless a character is created in a step-wise manner, we'll never be able to determine exactly how many advances a character used to reach a particular set of abilities. However, we can make a very close estimate, which is generally all that a GM really wants.
We're going to allow the GM to create NPCs freely, without any of the normal restrictions that apply to new characters. This requires that we let the user tell us whether he's creating an NPC. Since this is something fundamental to the character, we should add this to the "Configure Hero" form. This also requires that we turn off various validation tests that won't be applicable to NPCs.
Based on the various increases assigned to the character, we'll calculate how many advances were needed to reach that point. These advances must be tracked beyond the normal assignments for a starting character. Based on the advances, we can then determine how many XP were required for the character, which will then tell us the rank of the NPC.
The one main problem with this approach is that we don't know the exact order in which the advances are selected for the character. For edges, this isn't a problem, because we can simply assume that any edges satisfying its pre-requisites was taken in a valid order during the character's evolution. For attributes, this also isn't a problem, since characters are allowed exactly one attribute increase per rank. Skills are where we run into a problem with the order in which advances are taken. We can't know whether a skill was increased before or after its linked attribute was increased.
This leaves us with two options for determining the number of advances: optimism or pessimism. In an optimistic model, we assume that all skills are advanced after any linked attributes are first increased. While not always realistic, this method presumes the NPC optimized his advances to get the most out of them. The alternative is a pessimistic model, where we assume all skills are increased before their linked attributes. This approach is much less realistic than the optimistic model, so we'll go with the optimistic one.