Savage Worlds and Deadlands…

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I bought the original Deadlands back in the ’90s, read it, liked a lot of it…and found other bits were wildly problematic. I never got to play it at the time and recently (last few years), Pinnacle has updated the setting to remove many (most...all?) of the problematic elements. So I want to give the Deadlands setting a look.

I know a bit of the history of Savage Worlds, how it came from a Deadlands wargame, and I have a copy of the Explorer's Edition on my shelf...but that was at least one edition ago...and I’ve never actually played Savage Worlds. So I want to give Savage Worlds a look.

Fans of Savage Worlds and Deadlands...help me out. Sing the praises of either (or both) to let me know how awesome they both are.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

aramis erak

Legend
Deadlands
I've only run a tiny bit of original; char gen was a bit problematic, and the wife wasn't interested while all the other potentials were, and that was the only night she had to game. So, a few one-shots with our roommate. No one else in that group had patience once they saw character gen.

Savage Worlds
I've watched my friend JS run it; I've read 3 editions, but not run nor played. At least the way JS was running it, it was pretty slow, to be honest, and the random factor was right on par with FFG's Genesys engine (incl. Star Wars).... skill performance isn't reliable. For me, that's not a dealbreaker, but it is a factor.

Character gen is multiple pools. The Att/Skill linkage is weak in play.

I don't dislike it, but just haven't had the opportunity to run it for a group that would appreciate the settings I want that are out for it: Pirates of the Spanish Main, Deadlands, Flash Gordon... The Robotech supplement seems really hurredly done, and some of my players don't even know what Robotech is...
 

thullgrim

Adventurer
I’ve run quite a bit of SW both Deluxe and the current SWADE. I’ve run it across multiple genres for one shots and campaigns.

I like it. Base skill difficulty is a 4. Players roll two dice and read them separately for nearly every roll that isn’t damage or effect based. Dice explode. It’s very swingy. If that’s your jam you’ll love it. There are lots of combat options. Non-combat characters are still useful in a fight. It has decent tools for quick encounters, chases, dramatic tasks (read skill challenges) baked in.

The setting rules system means every games can have a different set of baked in assumptions based on the setting rules in play.

Very active community and they are generally very positive about the game. Lots of settings and games available. Shines for action games. I ran a pulp Masks of Nyarlathotep with it for a while. Handled it wonderfully.

Players have to grasp early that Edges, not skills, are the primary differentiator between characters.

Ranger combat has a few issues. It’s important to add modifiers every time someone shoots. The base target number to hit is a 4 and it just to east unless you have lighting and cover in play.

For me it’s faster than PF1/PF2 and still tactical enough to scratch my itch for a tactical game. Its more interesting mechanically than 5e.

You get to use all your dice (and except the d20).
 

thullgrim

Adventurer
More….Very good VTT support if needed across all three major platforms with official products. Because it uses dice, bennies, and cards at the table the game has a very tactile experience that I can’t quantify but find I missed when I come back to run it again.

Deadlands is very good. The new edition has plenty of Deadlands product released for it and it’s trivial to use previous edition material if needed.

You can find a supplement or setting for almost any genre you’d like and the best of the party creations are as good as the official stuff.

I may have more later
 

Randomthoughts

Adventurer
Fans of Savage Worlds and Deadlands...help me out. Sing the praises of either (or both) to let me know how awesome they both are.
2023 is the year I'll be exploring SWADE and I can't be more excited. I started with Deadlands back in the day and backed the kickstarter for the new version, mainly out of nostalgia. I had played prior editions (Explorer, Deluxe) but with SWADE, I'll actually be GMing it.

I find SWADE to be a mix of traditional and modern design that personally hits a sweet spot of what I like in a game. The mechanics are simple and streamlined (especially when seen in light of its original Deadlands roots). @thullgrim 's description should show how easy the "core mechanic" is. Yet there's enough Situation and Setting Rules to satisfy those who like a bit of crunch (like me).

I especially like the Setting Rules, suggested mechanics that you can choose to use in your particular campaign and they're well thought out. Better yet, new Settings tend to include additional Setting Rules. And there seems to be a lot of Settings due to an active community. Tbh, SWADE has inspired me to hack some rules, to make my own homebrews unique.

Deadlands - well, that's a classic setting and now, the problematic elements have been excised AFAIK. The focus in the SWADE version is back to the local level and away from the meta plots of the Reloaded version (which I much prefer). I backed the Kickstarter so have the starter kit and one of the adventures (Horror at Headstone Hill), both of which have top notch production values.

Finally, as an added bonus, Fantasy Grounds has an amazing translation of SWADE and many of the Settings. This is what actually attracted me to the ruleset. I assembled a solid group who's also learning SWADE and started a long-term campaign using the Seven Worlds setting (fingers crossed).

SWADE isn't perfect - and works best for pulp/cinematic. But it's a great ruleset to check out.
 
Last edited:

eyeheartawk

#1 Enworld Jerk™
I'm really not a big fan of Savage Worlds (I've never found the it to be particularly "fast, furious and fun"). Putting that aside, even if I liked Savage Worlds more than I do I'd still prefer OG Deadlands. Chargen is a mess. A bunch of differently functioning subsystems etc. But man, it feels like a weird west game because of it. Savage Worlds Deadlands just doesn't feel special.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I bought the original Deadlands back in the ’90s, read it, liked a lot of it…and found other bits were wildly problematic. I never got to play it at the time and recently (last few years), Pinnacle has updated the setting to remove many (most...all?) of the problematic elements. So I want to give the Deadlands setting a look.

I ran a Classic Deadlands campaign for something like seven years. Not knowing which bits of the setting in particular you found to be a problem, so I can't speak to them, specifically.

Deadlands
I've only run a tiny bit of original; char gen was a bit problematic...

"Problematic" is a mostly non-specific word, that doesn't say why things are difficult.

The Classic character generation system is a bit baroque, yes. It uses a deck of cards to generate Attributes (which can be swingy and unbalanced) and a point system for skills, and then an advantage/Disadvantage system as well. It is not a system in which, if your character dies, you can stand up another one in five minutes, no.


The Att/Skill linkage is weak in play.

I find that to be an intentional feature, not a bug. Both the Classic and SW variants have a large number of sills for each stat - if there was a strong linkage, it would mean that having a good stat meant you were good at everything under it, and it would be more difficult to be good at only one skill in the group, but not the others.
 

MGibster

Legend
I bought the original Deadlands back in the ’90s, read it, liked a lot of it…and found other bits were wildly problematic. I never got to play it at the time and recently (last few years), Pinnacle has updated the setting to remove many (most...all?) of the problematic elements. So I want to give the Deadlands setting a look.
Deadlands was one of my favorite games from the 1990s. The only problematic aspect of the original setting, that I can recall, was the Confederate States of America still existing in 1876 where they abolished slavery voluntarily. While I believe this setting decision was made to ensure the game was fun and provide a cold war Spy vs. Spy atmosphere, that state of affair certainly plays into the hands of the Lost Cause narrative and I understand why people found it off putting. My biggest problem was that I could accept undead gunslingers, poker wizards, and mad scientist, but could not suspect my disbelief enough to accept a Civil War where the South essentiall won. But the new version of Deadlands did away with the CSA with its defeat in 1871 instead of 1865.

Fans of Savage Worlds and Deadlands...help me out. Sing the praises of either (or both) to let me know how awesome they both are.
SWADE rules are relatively easy, works well for most pulp/action oriented games, and the PCs start out fairly competent right out of the gate. I might run a Pulp Cthulhu game soon, and we're going to use SWADE instead of the PULP Cthulhu rules. As a GM, it's trivially easy for me to come up with NPCs and monsters, keep track of them during combat, and adapt the game a wide variety of settings (though I don't use it for every game).

One of my biggest criticisms of the game is how swingy the dice are. As a GM, I've done 30+ points of damage to PCs rolling only 2d6. (The dice explode in SWADE. If you roll a 6 on a d6, you roll again and keep adding it to the total so long as you keep rolling sixes.) There are some other gripes, like having to calculate the number of wounds a character or important NPC takes based on the damage done, but overall it's easily managable.

I played the original Deadlands in the 1990s of course, and I prefer using the Savage Worlds rules. While the original rules were full of that great sasparilla flavor we all love, "baroque" is a good way to describe the system. One of the best things about the game is that a posse of characters can be made up of anyone. You could have a mad scientist, a rabbi, a martial artist, a cowboy, a gunslinger, and a Swedish chef named Cookie all in the same group and it works just fine.
 

I bought SWADE a week and a half ago; still waiting on my copy. Wanted to try something classless and with a significant tactile component that wasn't dependent upon miniatures (TToM person here). I also pre-ordered the Fantasy Companion, and, from a cursory read (I do not retain as much information from digital documents as I do physical books), it appears that I can easily map D&D, Palladium Fantasy, numerous fantasy works, and other types of games or cartoons (Thundarr, for example) to the system without having to houserule things.

I'm pretty excited about it, so will follow this thread with interest.
 

thullgrim

Adventurer
If mapping D&D is your aim I strongly recommend Savage Pathfinder. It utilizes class edges to duplicate the core themes from Pathfinder/3.x D&D. Also the Savage Pathfinder Bestiary I would consider must have for that situation.

If your looking for TMNT style stuff Big Apple Sewer Samurai has you taken care of. For a Thunder game you might look at the SWADE Mutations Deck.
 

dbm

Adventurer
In a recent stream about the new Kickstarter for Ghost Mountain, Shane Hensley mentioned they have tried to get the Thundarr license but at the time he managed to track down the right person to ask they weren’t interested. He keeps it on his ‘to do list’ to ask them again periodically!

Savage Worlds is my favourite system to GM and play. It’s a great start point for any pulp game (and that is my default approach to any genre) and easy to tweak and fine-tune for individual campaigns. Characters are broadly capable without being over powered, and the system keeps all enemies relevant due to the exploding dice mechanism which means any attack is a potential threat.

The damage system is very different to D&D. Significant characters like the PCs and ‘named enemies’ can take a few wounds before being incapacitated, and that number hardly ever changes. You can become more resilient through improving combat skills and armour, but there isn’t the ever-growing buffer of HP like with D&D. That is a radically different resource model and it has significant impact on how the game plays. D&D-ish games kind of assume a series of less demanding encounters to burn up some resources before getting to the more challenging fights. We find with Savage Worlds that you can skip these ‘speed bump’ fights and focus on the more interesting ones, which we find means we spend our combat time on more interesting fights. You can certainly have less significant combat, however these is a sub-system called ‘quick encounters’ which can be used to address these in just a skill roll from each participant - the outcome is mostly assured but the party may suffer some hardship in the process.

Magic is also different in feel. There are power points and skill rolls and spells are a bit less impacting in combat (though still effective and worthwhile) which means “linear fighter, quadratic wizard’ isn’t a thing in SW. And fighters get more options, too, which also helps.

Big spells are better handled using ‘dramatic tasks’ which are a great mechanism for gaming non-combat challenges of a wide variety. We use them for infiltration, exploration and overcoming all sorts of different obstacles.

I haven’t played much Deadlands, but it is the flagship campaign world, and I have read it. It’s a combination of Wild West, fantasy, and horror. I certainly plan to run it in the future and it is very well supported. There is also Savage Pathfinder if you want a pre-adapted fantasy game, and Savage Rifts if you want gonzo science-fantasy.

We’ve run home brew 40k and Warhammer Fantasy, and a game inspired by Joe Abercrombie’s books. it was all super-easy and a huge amount of fun.
 
Last edited:

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I haven’t played much Deadlands, but it is the flagship campaign world, and I have read it. It’s a combination of Wild West, fantasy, and horror. I certainly plan to run it in the future And it is very well supported. There is also Savage Pathfinder if you want a pre-adapted fantasy game, and Savage Rifts if you want gonzo science-fantasy.

There's also Deadlands: Hell on Earth (Deadlands, extrapolated to the contemporary era) and Deadlands: Lost Colony (Deadlands, innnnn spaaaaaaccceeee!).

The SWADE version of Lost Colony is apt to be the next thing I run after I finish Wild Beyond the Witchlight.
 

dbm

Adventurer
And Deadlands Noir and there is a medieval Deadlands on the development path (Deadlands Dark Ages? Not sure what the working title is).

Pinnacle‘s volume of development is off the charts at the moment.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I can’t really talk in-depth about the problematic elements of Deadlands without going into US politics. So I’ll say this and no more. The original is filled with Southern Lost Cause nonsense.

Ah, yeah. The original setting is mid-1990s vintage, and games of that era have a tendency to have stuff we don't want to see any more.
 

Reynard

Legend
I am not a huge Deadlands fan. I mean it's fine and it's fun but I don't care to delve deep into the lore. But so far it works fine if you use it for some crasy Brisco County Jr shenanigans and don't worry about the rest.

Savage Worlds -- especially the newest SWADE edition -- is my go-to game system, though. It really does live up to the tag line: it is fast, furious and fun. It is swingy (which I consider a feature, not a bug) and SWADE has a lot of built in options to customize play to fir the genre and experience you want. It layers other mechanics on top well, too, so you can introduce features from other games you like. It is the only "generic" RPG on the market today that plays classic trilogy Star Wars right out of the box, and that is a huge plus to me.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Thanks for all the positive responses. I’m reading the latest edition of both Savage Worlds and Deadlands now.

The core system seems rather easy to handle, though I’m not the biggest fan of heaps of modifiers. At least most of them are small and easy enough to make up on the fly rather than worry about digging through the book.

I like that the game is ridiculously unbalanced. Exploding dice means success is always possible and any random mook can put the hurt on a PC. Bennies are meant to flow like candy early on, I guess. And those will help keep the PCs from dying to every random townie with a gun.

Monster/NPC creation seems to come down to “make it up and have fun.” Which is nice. I loved that about Numenera and Cypher but I didn’t like the task resolution enough to keep playing.

I absolutely love Dramatic Tasks, Social Conflict, and Quick Encounters. Straightforward and light subsystems that can be used or not. No more pointless attrition fights.

Setting Rules are great. It looks like Savage Worlds could do fantasy superheroes even better than that other game. Use SWADE and the Fantasy companion with some of the setting rules from the Supers companion ported in. Ritual Magic and Cantrips make a lot more sense in SWADE than most other fantasy games. Hell, you could almost run it as 4E. Hmm…

And the support. Damn. Savage Rifts. Savage Pathfinder. Supers Companion. Fantasy Companion. All the older settings like Flash Gordon and 50 Fathoms and Spanish Main. Insane.
 

So I have been running deadlands since it first came out and in every edition. Deadlands is a very visceral rpg with cards and bennies so it can be a bit harder to run online in my opinion. Combat is as they would say "fast, and fun" and never seems to get bogged down. The rules are fairly easy to understand but the edged that you use to create your character does give added complexity. One of the biggest difference that people need to get used to is the fact that spells, miracles, mad science are all doing the same thing you just fluff what your effects look like, so instead of 20 different damage spells of different power levels it is just one that you describe in different ways to give character.

The biggest thing to know as a marshall is when to give bennies. Bennies are rerolls, they are healing or damage mitigation they are boost. It is very important that characters feel like they can use them when needed but to still keep them worried. They start off with three but give them one when they do something cool, make a great quip, do something heroic, the list goes on. If they don't get bennies frequently enough then a lucky hit or two in combat might be able to ko them but if they get to many then they won't feel the challenge.

It is a horror setting but it plays a lot with tropes, don't shy away from them go ahead and have fun. I have had the mariachi as a player, an aged van Helsing, practically clint Eastwood, a long with a spiked dove, a gambler, and a ranch hand. The horror is a big element of the game as a slow creeping influence, your friend might come back as an undead trying to eat your brain, things that people whisper about around campfires become true but it can also get a little gonzo when your mad scientist is fighting a rattler and you are recreating a screen out of tremors.
 

Setting Rules are great. It looks like Savage Worlds could do fantasy superheroes even better than that other game.

And the support. Damn. Savage Rifts. Savage Pathfinder. Supers Companion. Fantasy Companion. All the older settings like Flash Gordon and 50 Fathoms and Spanish Main. Insane.
There handling of RIFTS is amazing, much better than the original (and much better balanced) in my opinion.
Supers are a very fun ruleset with the new source book they just came out with. Better than M&M in almost every way I can see why some like Champions and Hero better for some aspects

If you are going with an older setting just know that you will need to tweek some things. Flash Gordon was like halfway between this edition and the last so most things work fine my favorite however Rippers (think league of extraordinary gentlemen) takes some work due to all of the changes to how social works.

In my current game I have only had one tpk which I allowed everyone to keep there characters but have some ... Interesting downsides happen if they wanted due to damage dice exploding on explosives in an area with lots of combustible material
 

Reynard

Legend
Setting Rules are great. It looks like Savage Worlds could do fantasy superheroes even better than that other game. Use SWADE and the Fantasy companion with some of the setting rules from the Supers companion ported in. Ritual Magic and Cantrips make a lot more sense in SWADE than most other fantasy games.
I used it for a "The Boys meets The Black Company" con-campaign and it went great!
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top