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A Savage Pathfinder Q&A

With a week or so left on their Kickstarter, the folks behind Pathfinder for Savage Worlds were kind enough to answer a few questions!

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The following responses include quotes from the Pathfinder for Savage Worlds development team:

Shane Hensley: President and founder of Pinnacle Entertainment Group (PEG).

Simon Lucas: Production manager for PEG.

Donald Schepis: Developer for PEG.

Chris Warner: Pathfinder for Savage Worlds project manager.

Karl Keesler: Graphic design and layout for Pathfinder for Savage Worlds.

Mike Barbeau: Lead designer for the Rise of the Runelords conversion.





The Savage Pathfinder announcement last year took many people by surprise. How did this come about? Did PEG approach Paizo, or vice versa?

Shane: "Erik Mona and I spent some time together at a wonderful convention in France with our mutual translation partners at Black Book Editions. I had the idea then, but it took a while for us to have the proper time, team, and opportunity to pitch it. With the help of another mutual friend, Markus Ploetz of Ulisses Spiel, I proposed what we wanted to do, and Paizo graciously let us play in their beloved sandbox."

How involved is Paizo in the project?

Paizo's a great partner to have! They're writers and designers, GMs and players just like us, so that makes them super easy to work with. Like anyone, they want to make sure that we're kind and respectful while we're in their sandbox. We'd be the same if the roles were reversed, so there's no friction. They’re some of the best partners we’ve ever worked with!

Rise of the Runelords is a classic Paizo adventure path. Why did you choose that particular adventure path to start with?

For many folks, Rise of the Runelords is where they fell in love with Pathfinder, so we wanted to allow Savage Worlds players to do the same! You'd be hard-pressed to find another Adventure Path that's more of an iconic representation of the world of Golarion; playing in that sandbox is part of the promise of Pathfinder for Savage Worlds.

Shane: "One of my favorite adventures is the Hook Mountain Massacre. If I needed any more incentive to "Savage" Rise of the Runelords, this was it. ;)"

What is the biggest challenge converting Pathfinder sensibilities to those of Savage Worlds?

Savage Worlds
was built with pulp in mind. You have a bunch of low-level goons for the heroes to roll through and a tougher villain behind them. When it comes to some of the single-creature encounters, we had to add in the goons or make the creature super scary. In either case, we've always matched the tone of the Adventure Path.

Mike: "The most challenging aspect is preserving an encounter's intent. Some encounters prepare players for what is to come, while others show the party's growth as they overcome greater challenges. Finally, there's the final battle in the arc, which should always terrify the players and force them to think outside the box! We test each encounter multiple times to ensure it functions as intended. While the encounter may look right, everything changes once the players hit the table and the dice start rolling."

Going on from the above question, what are the biggest differences between the two systems in terms of playstyle and overall assumptions?

Without a doubt, the biggest difference is our approach to combat. It's a combination of two things: difficulty scaling and resource management.

For difficulty scaling:

Pathfinder's
built with the expectation that at a certain point, you can encounter a foe that is so tough you don't have a shot at beating them. Thus, the reverse is also true. Players can outclass lower-level enemies. Your AC and bonuses to hit steadily grow from 1st level to 20th. That makes Pathfinder feel legendary.

On the other hand, Savage Worlds was built under the expectation that the weakest character in the entire game has a (small) chance of killing the strongest. That's why we have Aces (re-rolling your die so long as you get the max value and totaling all those rolls together) and raises (extra benefits for every 4 points over your target number). That makes Savage Worlds feel pulpy.

For resource management:

If you boil Pathfinder combat down to its barest essence, you're making a bunch of decisions managing your most important resource: hit points. You can still see the influence of grandaddy Chainmail in Pathfinder's design. You have so many tools to shift the flow of hit points in battle that you’re constantly discovering new strategies and tactics as you play. It's still a wargame at heart, which makes the decisions in combat feel so vital and fun.

While Savage Worlds still has tactical combat that follows the same generalized principles as Pathfinder, when you take a hit, we want to scare the player. Taking a Wound is a big deal, especially since you can only take three before you're taken out. That said, Wounds modify your ability to succeed at rolls and negatively impact your actions. Tests, Support, Bennies, etc., all focus on altering your ability to succeed on a roll. The bonus and penalties to your rolls are the resources you manage in Savage Worlds. So long as you're still on your feet, you still have a chance to make a big difference in combat.


Do the team members have favourite Pathfinder adventure paths, and if so which ones?

From the Team:

Shane: "The Hook Mountain Massacre portion of Rise of the Runelords is right up my twisted alley. Love it and ran a converted version of it long ago for my friends. I'm also a big fan of Kingmaker. I love the concept of the party reclaiming land from monsters, settling it, and eventually having to govern over it."

Mike: "My favorite is Curse of the Crimson Throne. It's the most used looking book I own and has notes sticking out from dozens of pages. I love how you have to take this city that's falling into chaos and help restore it. Without giving too much of the campaign away, let's just say that the entire adventure path is a blast!"

Chris: "…the AP that speaks to me the most is Kingmaker. I love sandbox RPGs where the players' decisions directly impact the storyline, especially stories that involve realm-building. The more I read about Kingmaker, the more I want to play it—at the tabletop and in CRPG, as a GM or as a player."

Are there plans to tackle further adventure paths, now that the demand for RotR has been clearly shown on Kickstarter?

We want to finish the first one before we start working on the second! We all have our favorites among the Adventure Paths, so we'd all love to do those next. Rest assured, so long as the community is asking for more and the folks at Paizo are happy with us in their sandbox, we'll keeping this train going.

You say on Kickstarter that you'll be making this anyway, whatever the KS does. Obviously, the KS has done incredibly well just in the first week, but can you talk a little about the choice to use KS?

Kickstarter is a valuable platform for us for a bunch of different reasons. A big part of it is the outreach Kickstarter helps with. We're a small company, and while we punch above our weight, getting the word out is still the hardest thing for us. And crowdfunding, in general, helps us do bigger, riskier projects. Probably most important, though, is it helps us maintain this direct-to-audience relationship we have. We don't have to make products a publisher or distributor thinks will sell; we can make the things you folks love! There's no middleman; it's just us.

The core rulebook contains the traditional Pathfinder classes in the form of edge' trees'. Has any thought been given to expanding into some of the newer classes that have been added to the game since it was launched?

All the time, we discuss a new Class Edge, and someone says, "actually, that'd be great for [insert other class]." One of the values of having a team working on Savage Pathfinder is we have more designs than we can realistically use in a single book. That means we'll have plenty to work with if (hopefully when) we expand the classes we're representing in our ruleset. And we're all fans of Pathfinder, which includes some of the newer classes that we've played ourselves. We want to play those classes in Savage Pathfinder too!

How would you say that Savage Pathfinder compares to other fantasy rules for Savage Worlds, like the Fantasy Companion?

Shane had some thoughts on this one: "We often say "convert the setting, not the system" when people ask for advice on playing other game worlds with Savage Worlds. In the case of Pathfinder (and d20 in general), the system is baked pretty heavily into the fabric of the world--wizards don't usually wear armor, only rogues get sneak attacks, etc. Via Class Edges and little changes like grouping armor and shields into Pathfinder-style categories, I think we've managed to capture both the freeform nature of Savage Worlds and the Pathfinder tropes that establish the way the world works."

We've talked about Pathfinder for Savage Worlds and the Fantasy Companion's development assisting one another, and that's very true. You'll see some cross-over since a lot of our favorite fantasy tropes exist in Pathfinder too, but we've got a lot more up our sleeves for the Fantasy Companion.

How different to core Savage Worlds is this new game? Will a SW player be able to jump in and play without difficulty?

It depends on the player. If you're new to TTRPGs in general, it might be a little easier to get into Savage Pathfinder since most folks at least know the fantasy tropes. For a Pathfinder player testing the waters, you just need to learn the new ruleset, which certainly helps flatten the learning curve! A Savage Worlds player will be right at home in Savage Pathfinder. That said, they should double-check their powers and Edges as there are changes sprinkled through the entire book that makes everything have a little more Pathfinder flavor.

There's a very different power curve between SW and traditional d20 games like Pathfinder. How do you address this in the game?

Shane: "We decided early on we'd use milestone Advancement for Rise of the Runelords, so the power levels in many respects are about the same."

The other side to that is the power of a Savage Pathfinder character is informed by the new options players in Golarion can access. With new powers and Power Modifiers (some of which you need the new Arcane Mastery Edge to unlock), spellcasters have more options than ever. The addition of Class and Prestige Edges also gives everyone new abilities to play with. Nothing to say of magic items, which are one of the more exciting additions to Savage Pathfinder!

For a SW player experiencing Paizo's rich adventure paths for the first time, or a Pathfinder player experiencing SW's 'fast and furious' gameplay for the first time, what are the aspects of the game that you would 'sell' it to each group on?

Everyone on the team has their own pitch:

Shane: "We have quite a few "Plot Point Campaigns" for Savage Worlds, but don't often get to create more structured series like Paizo's excellent Adventure Paths. I think that gives groups a great choice between traditional adventures and a more sandbox approach, both of which have great advantages depending on time, playstyle, and the GM's ability or willingness to fill in the blanks herself.

For Pathfinder players, I'll say what I did before... your game is great and there's no reason to play the Savage Worlds version of your favorite game. :) But you might like some of our other offerings, like Deadlands, East Texas University, Rippers, The Last Parsec, Flash Gordon, Rifts, or so many others. Our game style is pretty wild and more unpredictable, which can be good or bad depending on your tastes."

Mike: "The stories that each Adventure Path tells are amazing. Paizo does a wonderful job of making you feel like you're shaping history as you play through the campaign. Pathfinder players can play through these iconic stories while getting to check out some new mechanics and play exciting variations on the classes they know and love."

Donald: "I’m a big proponent of stealing the best bits from other systems and settings and putting them in your own game. A Pathfinder GM might see Interludes from Savage Worlds and realize they want to do the same thing in their game. A Savage Worlds GM might read Rise of the Runelords and come away with awesome bits to steal for their own homebrew setting. No matter what, folks playing a wider range of games just makes all games better.”

Chris: “I am a SW player experiencing Paizo’s adventure paths for the first time. So, my pitch to another SW player is simple. You’ll have a blast playing a well-told story, using most of the core rules you already know and love—with a number of innovations designed to accentuate the tropes of a fantasy RPG. On the other hand, to a Pathfinder players, I would say get ready for some furious challenges in a world you already know and love. You’ll enjoy the familiar comforts of home on Golarion, while learning a rule system designed to encourage your wildest and most imaginative ways to do at least six impossible things before breakfast.”

When can we expect to see the game in stores?

Kickstarter backers will get their PDFs about a month after the end of the Kickstarter on Monday, February 15th, 2021. Print fulfillment starts about six months later after proofing, fan playtesting, printing, and shipping. If a brick-and-mortar store backed using the retailer tier or joined our retailer program, they’ll get their goods at the same time as our print backers. If not, they’ll get books in time for the holidays!
 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey




Donald Schepis

Developer @ PEG
Have the monsters been posted anywhere yet? That's honestly the biggest thing keeping me from backing.
We're probably going to be editing and tweaking the bestiary right up until it goes to the printer (you can always make improvements to stat blocks) so I don't think we've got any concrete plans to show them off yet. Are you trying to figure out the list of creatures that'll be included or are you more interested in how they're being designed?
 

Retreater

Legend
We're probably going to be editing and tweaking the bestiary right up until it goes to the printer (you can always make improvements to stat blocks) so I don't think we've got any concrete plans to show them off yet. Are you trying to figure out the list of creatures that'll be included or are you more interested in how they're being designed?
Multiple reasons. How they will run? How do their powers scale against the characters? What kind of abilities do they have? How does "CR" work? Will the stat blocks have everything a GM will need to run them, or will you have to look through various books to find spells, equipment, edges/hindrances descriptions?
 

Sunsword

Adventurer
I wanted to take a moment and say how much I appreciate having other articles related to the conversion within the article. I try to catch every news bit posted but obviously, I miss some. Thanks for keeping the bar high.
 

smcc360

Explorer
Great info; thanks for sharing. I’m in as a backer, and I’m looking forward to trying the system changes out on my table of Pathfinder/D&D 5E fans, to see how it stacks up.
 

Donald Schepis

Developer @ PEG
How they will run?
The creatures will run just like any other creature in Savage Worlds. They'll use the same systems for skills, parry, toughness, extra vs wildcard, etc.

How do their powers scale against the characters?
A design pillar for us is that the creatures' power level makes sense for what they are. We definitely consider how strong the players will be in relation, but harmony between the rules and the narrative is a big deal for us. We're talking about how to include nastier versions of otherwise weaker creatures (think low-level versus high-level goblins), but we've not landed on the exact implementation quite yet.

What kind of abilities do they have?
Everything you'd expect in traditional Savage Worlds and more. We have new Edges like Formation Fighter that increases the Gang Up bonus you provide; new abilities like rending attacks that deal a Wound on the target's next turn if they fail a Vigor check because they're bleeding; innate spellcasting that tells creatures activate powers, etc.

How does "CR" work?
We're not going to use a challenge rating system. By the nature of our systems, situational advantages can make the same creatures much deadlier, which isn't possible the reflect in a usable manner with CR. For example, some weak goblins can wipe a party if they've got bows, elevation, and there's no way for the party to escape the ambush/get to the goblins. We are looking at using graphics to group the creatures by relative lethality, but that's relational and not categorical. What I mean is our proposed categories help the GM understand that X creature is more deadly than Y creature, not that X creature is a challenge for a party of 4 at Novice. That's something we're still working on, so it may look different by the time the books come out.

Will the stat blocks have everything a GM will need to run them, or will you have to look through various books to find spells, equipment, edges/hindrances descriptions?
If we put every power, Edge, and Hindrance's full description with every stat block, the bestiary would be 1,000 pages long. Generally speaking, once you're familiar with our more common Combat Edges you won't need to look it up all the time and powers have enough options they're always worth double-checking. It's probably still less than you need to look up in most other systems. As for gear, generally, anything you need to know is included in the stat block already.
 


Retreater

Legend
I’m glad to see CR left out. A good idea, but it never seemed to do what I wanted it to. I have more faith in the GM Eyeball.
The swingyness of SW laughs at GM Eyeball. I've had big bads die in one round and a single minion kill a character.
I'm very on the fence about SW. Based on my experience, I almost feel like the system can't work for a long-term campaign, which makes me very hesitant for the PF conversion.
I feel for campaign play that the exploding dice should be removed from the game.
 

Sir Brennen

Adventurer
Will the stat blocks have everything a GM will need to run them, or will you have to look through various books to find spells, equipment, edges/hindrances descriptions?

If we put every power, Edge, and Hindrance's full description with every stat block, the bestiary would be 1,000 pages long. Generally speaking, once you're familiar with our more common Combat Edges you won't need to look it up all the time and powers have enough options they're always worth double-checking. It's probably still less than you need to look up in most other systems. As for gear, generally, anything you need to know is included in the stat block already.
Also want to add, because SWPF will be pretty self contained, having all the core Savage Worlds rules and then some, you really only need that and the adventure. Maybe the Bestiary if you need to check something on a particular creature or "how does the Tentacles special ability work again?" So "various books" really is only a couple. Some encounters you might only need the adventure itself.

Also, in my experience, and as Donald mentions, SW adventures do have stat blocks comprehensive enough that 90% of the time you won't need to look anything up if you're familiar with the rules. Also, they differ from PF1 and D&D 3.x in that opponents are not built like PCs; they are simply assigned whatever traits and abilities the GM feels appropriate and, more importantly, relevant to the encounter.
 

Retreater

Legend
Also, in my experience, and as Donald mentions, SW adventures do have stat blocks comprehensive enough that 90% of the time you won't need to look anything up if you're familiar with the rules.
I didn't find that the case when I was running SW Rifts. It was a slog looking up equipment, enemy stats, powers, vehicle rules, etc. I definitely would want something less intense than that.
 

Sir Brennen

Adventurer
I didn't find that the case when I was running SW Rifts. It was a slog looking up equipment, enemy stats, powers, vehicle rules, etc. I definitely would want something less intense than that.
We've had this conversation before, but Savage Worlds Rifts is probably the worst example for that. I expect SWPF to closer to "base-line" SW. Stats for weapons are usually simple enough to include in the stat block. Armor is already reflected in Toughness.
 

Donald Schepis

Developer @ PEG
The swingyness of SW laughs at GM Eyeball. I've had big bads die in one round and a single minion kill a character.
I'm very on the fence about SW. Based on my experience, I almost feel like the system can't work for a long-term campaign, which makes me very hesitant for the PF conversion.
I feel for campaign play that the exploding dice should be removed from the game.
Well, we've got some solutions in the oven for that issue, so you will probably find that to be less true in Savage Pathfinder. Also, given that there are numerous examples of long-term games run in Savage Worlds I can point to, it is literally untrue that you can't do a longer game using the system. We're 20+ sessions into our Dev Playtest of Rise of the Runelords and Acing isn't as big a problem as you perceive it to be. I think more so folks forget that "how hard is this character to kill" isn't always the best lever to pull, it's just the default because folks primarily play games descended from war games.
 

Retreater

Legend
Also, given that there are numerous examples of long-term games run in Savage Worlds I can point to, it is literally untrue that you can't do a longer game using the system.
Maybe I can't. I've run games in Rifts and general fantasy. Average lifespan of a character is two sessions.
So far I have backed SWADE, Deadlands, Lost Colony, and the new Rifts box. So I don't dislike the products. I'm just nervous about trying to run a 6 part AP. It's nothing I've ever seen done in SW, which has focused on short, Plot Point campaigns.
 

Donald Schepis

Developer @ PEG
Maybe I can't. I've run games in Rifts and general fantasy. Average lifespan of a character is two sessions.
So far I have backed SWADE, Deadlands, Lost Colony, and the new Rifts box. So I don't dislike the products. I'm just nervous about trying to run a 6 part AP. It's nothing I've ever seen done in SW, which has focused on short, Plot Point campaigns.
I don't know the specifics of the way you run Savage Worlds so I can't really diagnose why that might be, but a few things that might help (this is less for Rifts since that's a bit of a different beast):
  • Adding in more extras is dramatic, adding in more wild cards is lethal. As a general rule, 1-2 wild cards should be your upper bound for fights that you don't want to see a player character die in.
  • Don't forget to make sub-optimal decisions that make sense for your NPC. Players do this all the time in Savage Worlds, feel free to make "mistakes" when it's reasonable for the NPC. If you're overly focused on making the optimal decision in every encounter, you're asking your players to play on hard mode.
  • Give out more Bennies. I don't know that I've ever seen a GM give out too many Bennies. In the dev playtest we just finished, I got a Benny because my monk jumped up on a pair of chairs and balanced on them to punch an ogre in the back of the head. I didn't take any penalties or anything, but because it was cool I got a Benny. That's the whole point of them.
Those are some of the more common issues I see folks have when they run that makes the game more lethal than intended. Again, I don't know your game so none of that might be relevant.
 

Sir Brennen

Adventurer
@Retreater Here's a sneak peak at a Savage Pathfinder beastie.

Not much different that a regular SW monster. All the Edges look standard. I'm guessing the skull icon next to the name means it's a Wild Card.

The only thing of note different than standard SW that I can see is the Type property, flagging it as an Outsider (Evil). So things like spells (Banish) and magic items (sword with the dragon bane special ability) will probably key off of that, similar to OG PF.

The Evil qualifier is also interesting because it suggests there's a rudimentary alignment system, at least as far as distinguishing Good and Evil. Again, there will probably be spells, items and abilities (Paladin's Detect and Smite Evil) that key off of it. I believe I heard/read from someone on the design team that Good/Evil identifiers are really only for unnatural creatures that have Good/Evil as a core part of their being, i.e., Outsiders (angels, devils) and undead.

EDIT: Thought the first page was the whole thing. Downloaded the PDF and on the second page there's more detail on the special abilities, including some rather nasty ones.

A breath weapon that recharges on a face card is an interesting mechanic.
 
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smcc360

Explorer
EDIT: Thought the first page was the whole thing. Downloaded the PDF and on the second page there's more detail on the special abilities, including some rather nasty ones.

A breath weapon that recharges on a face card is an interesting mechanic.
Yeah, that thing's bad news. The damage inflicted by its Hellfire Breath (5d6!) could be a party-killer all by itself, not to mention the debilitating curse it inflicts. I feel bad for my Seasoned PCs who're gonna have to face it some moonless night on a windswept shore. Yeah, just awful...
 


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