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!


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:

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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