Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pimping Savage Worlds

This month's RPG Blog Carnival theme is 'Pimp a Game' and there seems little doubt as to the subject of our entry. Savage Worlds remains our go-to system of choice for its flexibility and playability across every genre we've tried. Its combination of fast combat resolution, flexible powers system, and easy character management make it perfect for the time-crunched gamer.

When I was young and single I had time to dive into endless tomes and supplements finding that just right combination of abilities and skills for my character concept. Too often, however, I was playing someone else's character concept that I had to shoe-horn an idea into. Still, that was fine. I had time and friends.

As my life ran its course, gaming gave way to real life. I found tools and systems requiring less time to run and prepare. I was a MapTool user at the time, running 3e games for my DnD group. Even that became a drag as it seemed to take forever to prepare a game and level characters.

Thanks to Matt Jackson, all that changed. Matt is on a quest to find the perfect game that meets his eclectic tastes. One of the systems he passed through was Savage Worlds. I was lucky enough to encounter him during this phase.

Derek, the Savage Duck, and I ran a free module using the $10 core rules. We were VERY impressed at the speed of the first session. Combat that would take us hours under d20 flew past in a quarter of the time using Savage Worlds. The scenario we played called for using the mass combat rules for the next battle, but I decided to see just how fast the system really was so I threw 250 Orcs against a village to see what would happen.

It took us two, four hour sessions. The Orcs penetrated the village wall but were eventually defeated. Derek and I talked about the game for days. It as close as I'd been to my gaming days back in college.

Next, we invited a few more players in and played a post-apocalyptic game where Earth had been blown to Hell by aliens. The group fought bandits, crystalline robots, zombies, cat-like aliens, and a T-Rex that ate their truck. Everyone had a blast, but I think I had the best time of all. After years of bookkeeping, I finally found a system you just play.

Since then we've played several science fiction genres, fantasy, high adventure in the 1600s, and 1930s pulp horror. All worked wonderfully under the system.

Details, Details

Savage Worlds is a generic role playing system descended from the original Deadlands Weird West RPG and The Great Rail Wars miniatures game. Its a universal system who's tag line is "Fast, Furious and Fun!" In that tradition, here are some Fast and Furious bullet points giving an overview of the system.

 Character Creation
  • Characters are classless.
  • Characters are created using a point-based allocation for Attributes (i.e. - Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength, Vigor), Skills (e.g. - Fighting, Shooting, Throwing, Notice, Piloting, etc.), and Edges which are parallel to DnD's feats and class features.
  • Characters may take Hindrances like Loyal, Mean, or Young to purchase additional Edges, Skills or improve Attributes and Skills.
  • Derived attributes, such as Parry and Toughness, are based on Attributes and Skills.
  • GM created NPCs ignore all of the rules and are simply given the Attributes, Skills, Edges and Hindrances desired for their purpose.

  • There are five varieties of Arcane Backgrounds -- Magic, Miracles, Psionics, Weird Science, Super Powers.
  • The choice of Arcane Background determines the starting power points, number of powers known, and the skill used for the Arcane skill roll associated with that background.
  • The powers are the same regardless of background. A Bolt thrown by a magic user has the same power requirements, damage and range as a Bolt projected by a Psionicist or called down by a Priest.
  • Powers differ by their Trappings which, simply stated, is flare the player tacks onto the power. This is in lieu of having multiple versions of the same spell printed in the book. Thus a Nature Priest might cast an Entangle spell as vines and roots binding the target(s) while another might bring forth a giant spider web.
Roll Mechanics
  • All Trait Tests and Damage Rolls are open ended. If you max a roll, you roll again and add to the result. For example, if you have a d6 in Shooting and roll a 6, you roll that die again adding the result to the first 6. If the second die were a 6, it would be rolled again in the same manner, and so on. This is called Acing.
  • PC characters are Wildcards which gives them an additional Wild Die to roll for any trait test (i.e. - Skill or Attribute). The results of the Wild Die can be used in place of the normal trait roll. Wild dice can Ace.
  • If you are a Wildcard and get double one's (a 1 on your trait test and a 1 on your Wild Die) something really, really bad happens.
  • Fighting, Shooting and Throwing are the three combat skills. Regardless of weapon type or era, a character's shooting skill is good for a bow, a rifle and a starship's main cannon. There are no distinct weapon proficiencies.
  • Initiative is handled by dealing cards. High card goes first. A combatant who is dealt a Joker gets a +2 to all trait tests and damage rolls for that round.
  • Damage is simplified. If a damage roll equals or exceeds the targets toughness then the target is shaken. If the damage exceeds the toughness by 4 or more then the target gets a wound. Extras are incapacitated at 1 wound. Wildcards (PCs and special NPCs) can take four wounds before being knocked out of combat. Each wound, however, reduces all trait rolls by 1 so, as the wounds mount up, the character gets less and less effective.
  • Combat tends to end dramatically when a PC manages a huge amount of damage against the primary villain of the scenario.
  • Bennies are used to re-roll bad trait tests and soak up damage
  • Players get three bennies each session and are rewarded additional bennies for good role play, funny jokes or outstanding feats of bravery and stupidity (and somehow manage survive such actions).
  • Wildcard NPCs, such as the primary villain in a story and his trusted lackey, get two bennies each session.
  • GMs have a pool of bennies equal to the number of players X 2 to use for anything they damn well choose. Normally GMs use these to soak damage and re-roll for the poor, easily mowed extras inhabiting his universe.
  • Bennies have the effect of self balancing a session.
  • You normally receive 2-3 experience points per session. Every 5 points allows your character to advance.
  • An advance can be adding a new skill, increasing an existing skill or attribute, or buying a new edge.
  • It takes about 1 minute to advance a character in Savage Worlds.
  • I've run fantasy, historical fantasy in the 1600's, hard sci-fi, modern, and pulp sci-fi campaigns, and the system handles each exceedingly well. I've even had players take their characters out of a fantasy campaign and plop them in a pulp sci-fi game and run fine.
One of the best things about Savage Worlds is the price. The rule book is $10, and it's really all your players will ever need to play the game. They also have companion books for Horror, Super Hero, and Fantasy genres. Additionally, Pinnacle Entertainment and several other publishers produce complete setting books with rules tweaks and additions specific to that setting. Most include what is known as a plot point campaign which is a complete series of adventures and an underlying meta-plot so you can jump in and play almost immediately.

If you're still not sure about the game system, Pinnacle provides a free PDF Test Drive version of Savage Worlds with which you can whet your appetite. There are also loads for free material available on their download site.

This blog has many Savage Worlds resource including a MapTool framework. You can see the various pages at the top for more information. Also, we've conducted many reviews of the various Savage Settings. We've included the links for those below.

Savage Worlds Deluxe (Core Rule Book) - Review
Savage Worlds Horror Companion (Extra Genre Specifice Content)- Review
Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion
50 Fathoms (Seafaring Fun on Another World) - Review
Space 1889: Red Sands (Steam Punk on Mars) - Review
The Kerberos Club (Victorian Super Heroes) - Review
Realms of Cthulhu (Savage Tentacular Horror) - Review
Deadlands Reloaded: Marshals Handbook (GM's Guide for Wild West Horror) - Review
Deadlands Reloaded: Players Guide - Review
Deadlands Reloaded: The Flood - Review
Deadlands Reloaded: The Last Sons - Review
Hell on Earth Reloaded Player's Guide (Post Apocalyptice Horror) - Review
Slipstream (Rayguns and Rocketpacks)
Solomon Kane: The Savage World of Solomon Kane 

The Savage Duck and I are proud savages. We say 'give it a try' because once you've been savaged, you'll never see gaming the same way again.

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