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Sell me on Savage Worlds

Corrosive

Adventurer
I know it's very popular and I'm considering the plunge with the new Savage Pathfinder Kickstarter.

So, tell me about Savage Worlds!
 

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Retreater

Legend
I've run a few campaigns, and here are my observations.

My perceived positive points:
1) It's generic enough that many different genres can be supported.
2) The core mechanics are pretty simple to get the hang of.
3) The company seems to be made up of good people.
4) The new edition (SWADE) is new, and it's likely going to last a while before another edition is released.
5) The products seem to be of overall good quality, nice production values.
6) Greater customization of characters and power choices than the class-based design of D&D.

My perceived negative points:
1) Very swingy and deadly (exploding dice can make boss monsters go down in one round or a minion to kill a PC in one round)
2) Subsystems have very different resolution systems (not like a d20 system). You might be rolling dice or drawing cards. A little bit of chart overload.
3) Fiddly bits like drawing playing cards for initiative, tokens (bennies) being passed out all the time, etc., add extra complications for a table as well as a hurdle for online gaming.
4) Doesn't support "theater of the mind" games very well. You have blast templates, measure movement and range in inches, etc. - more like a tabletop skirmish game than a typical RPG.
5) "Fast and furious" tagline isn't true for me - it's a "rules-medium" game, kind of a step between D&D 5e and PF1.
6) Toughness and Armor Rating as well as Armor-Piercing weapon factors need to be taken into account for every hit, slowing down the game and contributing to Point 5.
7) The core SWADE book is uninspiring, generic roleplaying. Without a setting it's boring to read, flavorless in concept.
8) Because of how they do the settings, you're going to be going from the SWADE book, setting guides, monster books, equipment books, etc. - in some campaigns it wasn't unusual for me to have to refer to 5+ books in a single session.
9) Your character gets worse based on your wound level, so there's a death spiral mechanic.
 

I've had good experiences with Savage Worlds, so I generally second Retreater's positives.

I think, however, with any system, any of those negatives can be true or less true depending on your table. Personally, I've never had any problems playing 'theater of the mind' with SW - to say that it's harder to do that in D&D, especially 4e, I don't find to hold in the groups I've played with.

The reason bennies are meant to be passed out freely is they're meant to be used, which I find to be an issue - players will hoard them in the games I'm in ... saving them for a 'just in case' moment. At least they don't convert over to XP like the drama dice did in 1e 7th Sea.

What I would recommend is just go get the quickstart rules - I'm sure they're out there - and just give it a shot. If you like it, great! If not, you're not out anything.
 

Count_Zero

Adventurer
I'll also say that depending on the setting your using, it can be incredibly fast to create a character. In Sprawlrunners, the serial-numbers-filed-off version of Shadowrun for Savage Worlds, I was able to create a group of 5 characters on my own in a couple of hours (at about 15-20 minutes per character) the first time I tried

It took me about 30 minutes to an hour per character to do the same thing for Cyberpunk Red, and that was using the Edgerunner method.
 
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The thing about Savage Worlds is that it captures a very specific feel.

I'll call out a few of the individual bits/mechanics in a minute, but really, the overall vibe at the table is the biggest thing for me.

It very much captures a feeling of heightened adventure, with the ability to do fast, easy adjudication of "off-the-cuff" action. It supports a very fun, freewheeling style of play. On a general play level, it was very freeing to me to both play and GM the game in a way that just "made sense" to me. There's enough rules there to give both the GM and players an accurate view of the general boundaries of what's possible, while not being so rules heavy that it locked down every possible action behind a specific set of gated mechanics (i.e., "You must have feats A, B, and C to even consider attempting action X").

I've often said that it captured the general feel of some of the best experiences I had playing BECMI. It's purposefully lighter and looser than D&D.

The thing you have to do as a GM is train the players to stop thinking in D&D terms. It's one of the problems I'm having right now with one of my players. He's played D&D 3.5 for so long, that everything he does is through the lens of those mechanics. You have to be willing to come to terms with what Savage Worlds is doing, how its inner workings are built differently than D&D.

The thing about the system is that it can be polarizing. For example, most of the things @Retreater listed above as negatives, I'd count as positives.

He finds the initiative system of using playing cards to be slow and unwieldy. I find it to be intuitive, fun, and giving a breath of fresh air to combat. He thinks the fiddly bits of tokens, cards, etc. are a drag on gameplay. Our group finds them to be a fun aspect that actually adds to the sense of shared game experience. Players actively talk about, laugh, banter, using bennies effectively.

90% of the time, I think the toughess + wounds, plus "death spiral" mechanic are actually more fun, and make combat have greater stakes and significance. There's a small percentage of the time where toughness modifiers go too high, and then the combat can turn into a slog. There are ways to mitigate this, but it has been a "thing" on a few occasions.

I do agree that the "Fast and Furious" aspect of the tagline can be somewhat overblown. There are, as @Retreater noted, lots of potential modifiers to specific combat rolls. Calculating damage against base toughness + armor, then calculating increments of 4 damage over that, can seem to give some people pause. We've been playing for 8 years now, and there are still moments when one of my longtime players will pause and say, "How many wounds is that exactly?" And we'll have to calculate it out --- "So 19 damage, means they took one wound at 11 damage, two wounds at 15 damage, and a third wound at 19 damage."

It can be very swingy. But again, for me, that's a feature, not a bug. Most of the time, the swinginess is in favor of the players. They can often end conflicts way sooner than you might otherwise expect.

The fun, freewheeling style does require a strong commitment from the GM to be willing to improvise. Savage Worlds is very good at doing very light, to almost no-prep games. But as a result, you have to be prepared to improvise when your players do fun/unexpected things. But the core of the system is strong enough to give a solid foundation for helping you mentally be in the right headspace.
 
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I will say this as well --- like other "generic" rules systems meant to cover multiple genres (GURPS, Hero, Genesys, Fate), Savage Worlds does tend to have a similar feel even when you cross over between genres. But it's generally "good enough," and sometimes significantly better than "good", at handling whatever you throw at it.
 

MGibster

Legend
Savage Worlds has been my go-to game to run for nearly a decade now.

Fast, Furious, and Fun: It is fast, furious, and fun. Sometimes you do have to count modifiers as the situation calls for it (lighting, cover, range, etc., etc.) but on the bright side the GM really doesn't have to keep track of hit points for the vast majority of bad guys on the table. Once most bad guys are hit and take point of damage they're out of the fight. Some settings, Rifts, it does get bogged down when you're trying to calculate every plus and minus from powers, equipment, etc., etc. But for most settings it isn't much of an issue.

Adaptable: You can run a wide variety of games using the Savage Worlds rules. I've used SW for a variety of settings including fantasy, science fiction, post apocalyptic, World War I & II, 18th century piratical goodness, swashbuckling Three Musketeer style, the Old West, etc., etc. If I have a wild hair and want to run a campaign in my own setting then SW is typically my first choice. It's just easy to create creatures/opponents/whatever I need to fit my vision.
 

Core mechanics (attributes, skills, traits) very very good.

Easy to learn, simple in function (You roll trait dice, you always need a 4 or better to succeed, every 4 over is a raise or extra level of success).

Skills are very broad: Only around a dozen skills, and they're very broad. Shooting skill for example covers bows, guns and starship weapons. Also something I like a lot.

Minion rules work well (most creatures exist in one of three states - either dead, 'shaken' or fine). No tracking of HP etc; they're either 'miniature up' and OK, 'miniature lying down' and shaken, or off the table.

Quirky playing card based initiative system that works really well.

Decent (if underdeveloped) leadership and aura effects for PCs who want to lead mooks or minions of their own.

All very modern, streamlined, abstract, fast and in line with modern game design.

Where it breaks down for me is Combat, which is a horrible simulationist mess (particularly when guns get involved) that looks like something from the late 90's fantasy heatbreaker gun porn. Overly complex and detailed weapon tables (and stats) and many combat options like autofire, 3 round burst, rapid attack, area attacks etc are needlessly complex (when you take into account the simplicity and smooth nature of the rest of the rules).

Combat also involves way too much math for mine. At its simplest, you roll your appropriate skill dice vs TN 4 (modifed by range and other penalties), tally up raises (every 4 you rolled over what you needed to hit), roll damage (affected by raises) on multiple dice (that all explode), subtract THAT result from the Armor Value and Toughness of your target (less the armor piercing value of your weapon or attack) and then divide that number by 4 to see how many wounds you inflict.

Mutiattacks and autofire have their own rules, but effectively necessitate doing the above multiple times for a single players turn.

Your opponent might then soak the above, by rolling Toughness.

A single attack requires a lot of math (add up the attack roll, dividing by 4 to determine raise effect, roll multiple exploding damage dice, add that together, applying to a number of [toughness plus armor mins AP) and counting every 4 over that number.

As a DM it gets draining, fast.

There are fixes to the above (fixed damage for weapons, having burst fire simply inflict extra damage, single roll resolution area attacks etc) but without them, you can burn out as a DM pretty quick.

Personally, the game would run a lot better for me if they stripped all that Combat and equipment crap out, and streamlined and abstracted combat a ton more.
 

corwyn77

Explorer
I agree with pretty much everyone here aside from Retreater's negatives which I also see as positives. SW requires a strong setting to feel unique. Fortunately, most settings I've seen for it are strong. I've use it for dark fantasy/alien invasion, Vietnam/Mythos, Swashbuckling fantasy, WW2, Deadlands, Zombie apocalypse, Xcomish, Supers, Pulp/supers, Noir, Flash Gordon-esque Space Opera. It does them all pretty well.
 


Retreater

Legend
Where it breaks down for me is Combat, which is a horrible simulationist mess (particularly when guns get involved) that looks like something from the late 90's fantasy heatbreaker gun porn. Overly complex and detailed weapon tables (and stats) and many combat options like autofire, 3 round burst, rapid attack, area attacks etc are needlessly complex (when you take into account the simplicity
And my negative view is largely because of this. I was running the Rifts setting, which is probably the most equipment driven setting on the system.
The only real issue I had with the core fantasy system was the swingyness of combat. We converted a D&D campaign to SW, had a TPK, and that was the end.
 

MGibster

Legend
And my negative view is largely because of this. I was running the Rifts setting, which is probably the most equipment driven setting on the system.
Rifts is really, really bad in that regard. I ran one Rifts campaign and probably won't ever run another one.
 


Rifts is really, really bad in that regard. I ran one Rifts campaign and probably won't ever run another one.

Im hearing you.

The interplay of rail guns + autofire, lead to multiple attempts to soak on a single turn from some PCs, presuming they even had the Bennies for it (which they often didnt even if you were throwing them around like candy), and a ton of PCs getting turned into pink mist.

I managed to 'fix' it by changing the way autofire worked (you can either spray an area with a burst making it an area attack potentially affecting multiple targets, or you can hammer a single target with multiple shots inflicting an extra dice of damage). Whichever option you chose, the burst was resolved via a single attack roll with the -2 autofire penalty.

I removed 3RB and ROF and weapons were redone as either Auto, Single shot or Semi auto.

Made it a lot smoother, but then we still had to deal with multiple actions, the quickness power, two weapons (or more) etc. To fix that I had to basically limit each turn to 3 actions (before SWADE did this officially), and amend a lot of Powers and Edges that added extra actions (instead having those powers reduce the MAP).

My next step was going to be giving all weapons a simple fixed damage value that is added to 1d6 (you get an extra d6 for a raise) for damage to speed that up as well, and removing AP entirely.

Then I tweaked how Soaking works by adding an extra wound level (4 wounds = dead), and tallying all wounds a PC gets in a pool for the turn (and applying them at the end of the turn) stopping counting when the PC reaches 4 wounds (and dead), and disregarding any extras. At that point the PC Rolls to Soak (instead of after each hit that turn). You still need a Bennie, and for each success you can soak a wound you took that turn.

If you took 4 wounds in a single turn you're dead unless you can soak at least one at the end of that turn (meaning you're only incapacitated) Soaking two wounds leaves you with 2 (-2) soaking 3 leaves you with 1 wound etc.

At that point it was running a lot smoother, but I kind of just lost the love for it I had at the beginning.

Really, the system would run a LOT better with a handful of generic weapons with basic stats; like a single weapon called a 'Firearm' with nothing more than a basic two ranges (short and long at -2) and a single fixed damage value (that is added to a d6), and room for one or two traits (autofire, long range, concealable, large calibre, silenced, accurate etc) that you can pick from a list.
 

dbm

Adventurer
It’s definitely fair to say that Savage Rifts is the toughest ‘on ramp’ for Savage Worlds. It has often been a criticism of SW that ‘it can’t do high powered games’ and Savage Rifts was possibly one of those attempts at showing what can be done with a bit (fair bit) of customisation.

Having played a few campaigns in the past using the Explorer edition I previously found the game a little too thin, but with the Adventure Edition it is a really well featured system in the core and you can do a lot with it. I’ve been running a weekly game of SWADE using The Last Parsec sci-if campaign over the last ten months or so. It’s been great fun and really easy to GM. Another of the fringe benefits of the system is excellent VTT support.

It is true to say that generic systems have their own flavour which accompanies any game you run with them. For SWADE that flavour is ‘pulp action’ and since that is the type of game I like to run it’s a good thing from my personal perspective.
 

So, comments on combat ---

I've mostly played fantasy campaigns in Savage Worlds. The two campaigns that weren't fantasy were the War of the Dead / zombie apocalypse, and a very short-lived cyberpunk campaign.

I don't recall there being a huge issue with the gunfire / modern weaponry rules in the two non-fantasy campaigns, but then we weren't playing Rifts.

Savage Worlds combat is probably similar to D&D 4e combat in some respects, in that it works best when the players are really looking to "hook" into the rules and build advantages for the whole party.

It's really not designed to play like a D&D 1e fighter---"I swing my sword, I hit, subtract 19 hit points"---even if you envision your character concept as something akin to a D&D fighter. Even your basic "fighter" style character in Savage Worlds has more options/decision points per round available to them than your typical D&D fighter.

To work well, players need to understand the rules, how certain edges (read: feats) interact together, how each combatant contributes to the greater whole. And because it doesn't resemble D&D, it's not something that D&D players will intuit through play immediately. It takes practice and teamwork to really make it shine.

If your players aren't invested in really digging in to the group dynamics/interplay of combat, it's going to be a rough go.

And truthfully . . . like any game, the dice have a lot to do with it. An off night on your players' dice can become a bit of a slog for sure.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Combat also involves way too much math for mine. At its simplest, you roll your appropriate skill dice vs TN 4 (modifed by range and other penalties), tally up raises (every 4 you rolled over what you needed to hit), roll damage (affected by raises) on multiple dice (that all explode), subtract THAT result from the Armor Value and Toughness of your target (less the armor piercing value of your weapon or attack) and then divide that number by 4 to see how many wounds you inflict.

Personally, the game would run a lot better for me if they stripped all that Combat and equipment crap out, and streamlined and abstracted combat a ton more.
Agreed. I'm not really a fan of systems or games that are into almost needless "equipment porn." It seems to run contrary to the spirit of the rest of the game.
 

Agreed. I'm not really a fan of systems or games that are into almost needless "equipment porn." It seems to run contrary to the spirit of the rest of the game.

Totally agree.

The game is advertised as 'fast, furious' fun' and that simulationist gun porn is anything but.

They nail the traits, attributes, edges and skills, and the base mechanic is good (and mathematically sound barring some wonkiness with the d4). Easy to learn, fast in play, simple and abstract to cover multi-gene stuff.

Best base platform for a multi-genre RPG I've seen in fact (GURPS, Hero etc). Does everything those systems do without a laborious 'point buy' slog to get started, and without being littered with trap options and obsolete abilities and attributes.

But then (other than the initiative system which is cool) the rest of the combat and equipment section just ruins it, and the Powers section (while on the right track) lets it down as well with some poorly thought out mechanics like round by round PP expenditure for maintenance (instead of just making powers last 'per encounter' and just cost X and do Y [or Z] on a raise) and some powers that are just blatantly OP.

It's one of the weirdest and most jarring disconnects between mechanics and styles I've seen in a RPG.
 

dbm

Adventurer
round by round PP expenditure for maintenance
I’m not sure what you are thinking of, here? Certainly in SWADE a power can be maintained for it’s base duration by spending a single power point. Most powers last five turns, so 1 PP gets you another five. And few fights last longer than five or ten turns in my experience.
I guess everyone has a different sweet spot. I find that Savage Worlds has a really nice level of crunch which keeps the gameplay interesting without descending into the level of minutia that GURPS does, for example.
 

I will admit that Savage Worlds' combat isn't perfect, but I'm going to defend it for a bit here.

In terms of "mathiness", it's a slight increase in contextual adjudication above 5e. It's certainly less "math-y" than D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, or 4e.

I said it before, if the players aren't willing to dig in to the rules and really get a handle on the action / resolution feedback loop, combat can devolve into a slog. It's not about the raw addition/subtraction of the numbers; it's the ability of the players to conceive what the numbers are doing and how they maximize their results working as a team.

In my experience (again), it's the D&D players that struggle the most. They're either used to just doing simple attack actions and subtracting hit points, or just saying, "I activate ability/spell X" and expecting the GM to adjudicate the result. If you're playing Savage Worlds this way, you're doing it wrong, and missing out on the real fun that can be had in participating in its tactical play.

One of the awesome things about Savage Worlds combat is that all fighting options are viable. Ranged, two-weapon, single "large" weapon, unarmed, duelist/fencing, etc. No matter how you envision your character working mechanically in combat, you can always play to those strengths, and have your character be effective at it.
 

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