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Tell me about your Savage World Fantasy Campaign experiences

Azgulor

Adventurer
I purchased Savage Worlds a few months ago primarily out of a desire to have a good RPG for running sci-fi games and have been very impressed with the game and its ability to balance character detail with speed-of-play. One of the things that really impressed me, however, is its “flexible, but simple” mechanical structures for customizing things: Setting rules, trappings to differentiate spells, etc.

Now, one of the oft-cited SW recommendations is “don’t play fantasy as your Savage Worlds intro genre to SW”. This is typically done to avoid a new SW GM or player falling into the “trap” of trying to learn SW through a lens of D&D or Pathfinder expectations. I get it. It’s good advice.

Now, let’s throw it out the window for this thread.

I recently had some time to tinker with the fantasy-side of Savage Worlds. I wanted to familiarize myself with some of the fantasy character-building options, especially the interaction of Experience tiers as it related to character abilities. I chose to create some characters based on video game characters from cRPGs like Dragon Age, Skyrim, and the Witcher series. What I discovered was that not only could I build reasonable pen-n-paper versions of these characters but that they reflected their computer version counterparts far better than if I had tried to convert them into a system like D&D or Pathfinder (which many correctly deem its own sub-genre of fantasy).

Note: This is not a knock D&D or Pathfinder thread. I love Pathfinder and it’s my go-to fantasy RPG.

So my resulting character conversions got me thinking, “If Savage Worlds can translate video game characters with fewer compromises and provide a different experience – i.e. ‘feel’ like the source material, what differences does it offer from an actual play perspective compared to the “D&D/Pathfinder” genre of fantasy?”

So, SW fantasy fans, tell me of your campaigns and games! What did SW bring to the table that a “traditional” D&D-style game doesn’t?

Final Note: I’m not looking for “which is better”; rather “SW offers X, which D&D/Pathfinder can’t offer or require compromises”, etc.
 

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Stormonu

Legend
I've only done a small stint of SW as fantasy (lots more SF-based games).

I ran my Crimson Throne game, which is a bit of a mix of Dark Sun and Al-Qadim. The party was a bunch of troubleshooters (a half-elf archer, a gnome healer, a winged dragon man summoner and a human wizard/preserver). It played remarkably well; the characters were capable from the get-gp and there were no issues with things like flying characters, summoning monsters or the gnome's "blunderbuss" - or the fact the gnome wasn't a cleric but could still use decent healing magic.

Likewise, from the start I was able to use magic trappings to create interesting and flavorful spells without requiring an encyclopedia of spells to rummage through for the game. For example, one of the villains was a priest of the Kraken. His signature spell caused tentacles to erupt from his cloak and engulf his enemies. I just used the basic shield, blast and bolt spells with a flavoring they looked like octopus/squid tentacles, and a grapple/tentacle trapping if I wanted it to do something unusual.

I wish the game had lasted longer (we only played about 3 sessions), but I loved that we got so much done because we weren't bogged down by the rules. I'd say that we managed to cover about 3-4 D&D modules worth of play in those sessions, and I was really impressed by that.
 

innerdude

Legend
I purchased Savage Worlds a few months ago primarily out of a desire to have a good RPG for running sci-fi games and have been very impressed with the game and its ability to balance character detail with speed-of-play. One of the things that really impressed me, however, is its “flexible, but simple” mechanical structures for customizing things: Setting rules, trappings to differentiate spells, etc.

Now, one of the oft-cited SW recommendations is “don’t play fantasy as your Savage Worlds intro genre to SW”. This is typically done to avoid a new SW GM or player falling into the “trap” of trying to learn SW through a lens of D&D or Pathfinder expectations. I get it. It’s good advice.

Now, let’s throw it out the window for this thread.

I recently had some time to tinker with the fantasy-side of Savage Worlds. I wanted to familiarize myself with some of the fantasy character-building options, especially the interaction of Experience tiers as it related to character abilities. I chose to create some characters based on video game characters from cRPGs like Dragon Age, Skyrim, and the Witcher series. What I discovered was that not only could I build reasonable pen-n-paper versions of these characters but that they reflected their computer version counterparts far better than if I had tried to convert them into a system like D&D or Pathfinder (which many correctly deem its own sub-genre of fantasy).

Note: This is not a knock D&D or Pathfinder thread. I love Pathfinder and it’s my go-to fantasy RPG.

So my resulting character conversions got me thinking, “If Savage Worlds can translate video game characters with fewer compromises and provide a different experience – i.e. ‘feel’ like the source material, what differences does it offer from an actual play perspective compared to the “D&D/Pathfinder” genre of fantasy?”

So, SW fantasy fans, tell me of your campaigns and games! What did SW bring to the table that a “traditional” D&D-style game doesn’t?

Final Note: I’m not looking for “which is better”; rather “SW offers X, which D&D/Pathfinder can’t offer or require compromises”, etc.


Three weeks ago our group wrapped up a 14-month long Savage Worlds fantasy campaign. We started in Jan 2013 and it ended in March 2014. Other than skipping the month of December for the holidays, we played every other week (twice monthly) almost like clockwork. I'd estimate we had a total of 26-28 sessions (I'd have to go back and count them to be sure). The campaign overall was an incredible, smashing success; I think it exceeded nearly everyone's expectations, and we had some INCREDIBLE times.

The setting was a fairly "classic" fantasy homebrew world (the basic tone / themes of the game were similar to Michael J. Sullivan's Ryria Chronicles).

For sake of comparison, I ran an 8-month long Pathfinder campaign in 2011, that went from 2nd to 8th level, using the Golarion campaign setting.

I'm not sure what the best way is to organize my thoughts on this, so I'll just "core dump" them into a list. :D


  • PC Power Level -- By the end of the 14 months, the player characters' capabilities were roughly on par. A late-heroic-tier / early legendary Savage Worlds character is pretty much equivalent to a 9th level D&D character.
  • "Being Heroic" is supported out of the gate, and almost expected -- All of those fun things that players never try in Pathfinder / 3.x because they require a feat? Savage Worlds brings it in spades, in glorious, hilarious, exhilarating, marvelous fashion. Tricks, Taunts, Tests of Will are AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME.
  • Enemies in Combat -- There was a definite "ramping up" in the capabilities of enemies required to continue challenging the PCs. But unlike D&D, large numbers of low-level foes can still pose a very real threat. So what if those 25 guys charging up the hill are only d6 "mooks" . . . there's 25 OF THEM and only 4 or 5 PCs. That's a LOT of d6's getting rolled every round, and all it takes is one lucky exploding attack and / or damage roll and things get REAL.
  • Getting Wounded is a Big Deal -- If your character remains wounded at the end of a "golden hour," it's a major, major thing. My players only had this happen to them a couple of times, but there was a DEFINITE shift in the tone of how the group played. Tactics changed, planning changed, and it was a really fun thing to watch as a GM.
  • Magic is good and generally balanced, but a bit bland if you don't use trappings -- I never could really get my two magic-user players to "get into" the idea of trappings. This was probably a fault of mine; looking back on it I really needed to get a firm grip on how trappings would affect gameplay, but I never really did.
  • The "All the Characters Look the Same" Fallacy is just that -- a fallacy -- Within one, maybe two advances, pretty much every character was distinctly different, with strengths and weaknesses that were unique to them.
  • Combat is very teamwork-oriented, and everyone can be effective and involved -- Every single player, in every single combat, contributed meaningfully to the outcome. Every time. Team work, gang-up bonuses, tricks, "setup" maneuvers, environmental factors, improvised weapons . . . it's all there.
  • Players WILL improvise . . . and the system helps you as a GM facilitate it --- Savage Worlds is so elegant in its core mechanic, that you'll constantly find ways to let players improvise in ways that just "feel right" in context. I've often thought to myself that "Savage Worlds is the best version of BECMI on planet earth" for combining improvisational ability and rock-solid mechanics.
  • Don't be afraid to houserule . . . within reason --- I added a few houserules: 1) Around healing (a third wound can only be healed on a heal check with a raise); 2) added a basic weapon proficiency system; 3) rolls of double-1's can't be rerolled / bennied. The one minor "spat" I had with houserules was when I ruled that the "Quickness" spell would use the Explorer's Edition version, rather than the Deluxe version (one of my magic users was miffed for a few weeks, but eventually things ironed out). Overall, the areas you'll want to houserule are probably pretty obvious, but it shouldn't be too hard for you to pick them out, and quickly find elegant solutions.
  • Magic items can be as common or rare as you want -- for this campaign, I really, really didn't want the players running around looking for +1 swords in goblin lairs. So I basically ruled that permanent magic is EXCEEDINGLY rare, for the simple reason that any magic-user that creates a magic item PERMANENTLY LOSES the power points spent to create the item. Frankly, this was one of the best decisions I could have made for the campaign. And frankly, the core game loses NOTHING by limiting magic item acquisition.
  • Ranged Weapons Aren't the Red-headed Stepchild of Combat Options -- One of the most effective PCs in combat was a guy who focused on archery. You'll actually WANT at least one highly-effective ranged warrior in your party (your party can thank me later for this advice :)).
  • Player Min-maxing is basically an open invitation for the GM to mess with a character's very obvious weaknesses -- No explanation necessary, I hope. :devil:

That's probably enough for now, if I think of anything else, I'll add it in another post.
 

Zadmar

Explorer
  • Magic is good and generally balanced, but a bit bland if you don't use trappings -- I never could really get my two magic-user players to "get into" the idea of trappings. This was probably a fault of mine; looking back on it I really needed to get a firm grip on how trappings would affect gameplay, but I never really did.

Trappings are one of my favourite things about Savage Worlds, but they can take some getting used to. I put together a list of examples and suggestions for my players, perhaps might find it of interest as well: Savage Spellbook
 

"Magic items can be as common or rare as you want -- for this campaign, I really, really didn't want the players running around looking for +1 swords in goblin lairs. So I basically ruled that permanent magic is EXCEEDINGLY rare, for the simple reason that any magic-user that creates a magic item PERMANENTLY LOSES the power points spent to create the item. Frankly, this was one of the best decisions I could have made for the campaign. And frankly, the core game loses NOTHING by limiting magic item acquisition."

Love that idea inner dude!

Brock
 

RetroGameView

First Post
I think one of the strengths SW has with fantasy is one of the strengths it has in general: Its flexibility, as already mentioned.

For instance, there's some good fantasy support in the Deluxe Explorer's Edition. Then if you get the Fantasy Companion you get even more generic fantasy stuff to tweak and customize to your game. Then you can take almost any element of any published setting and drop it in if you want to.

You could run a bog-standard D&D-style fantasy campaign, but take something big and dark and sinister from one of the sci-fi books, like some giant alien, which landed on the planet by riding inside an asteroid, or something from one of the other fantasy books and use that as the big dark force behind everything. Or have the party randomly encounter a Cremefillian.
 

Azgulor

Adventurer
Thanks, folks! Lots of great stuff here. I'm glad to see that Savage Worlds can deliver as I expected. I've got the Fantasy Companion & Horror Companion and some 3PP fantasy support so I think I can give SW Fantasy & magic as comprehensive a treatment as I care to or as my players might want.

I'm really impressed that people have been able to run SW games that included non-traditional races, converted D20 material without issue, and were able to evoke very different tones/genres all from the same core rules set. I have to say, knowing that magic items can be something special instead of required because "the system assumes they're there" is a huge plus and knowing that players are satisfied with character development options without having to be on the demigod power path is another huge point in Savage Worlds' favor for me.

For one of my groups, these comments will definitely entice them to give the system a go for fantasy and if I don't screw it up will likely become their preferred system for fantasy.

My other group likes SW for sci-fi and likes Pathfinder for fantasy, so unless GM prep starts feeling more like work than fun (not the case thus far after years of running PF) it'll stay PF for them. However, for when my youngest son plays, SW's apparent blend of character competency combined with it's "Yes, go for it" vs. "No, you can't without X" approach might work better...

Much to consider. Thanks, all!

Special shout out to innerdude! Your particular post, sir, was full of awesome! I appreciate the info.
 

scourger

Explorer
I ran a weird war Rome game before that book was available. It was very fun & flexible. I recommend the Fantasy Companion, which you have. Also, the one-page d20 conversion guidelines on the company web site and the free Savage Beasts download that has many fantasy monsters in it.
 


Zadmar

Explorer
I'm really impressed that people have been able to run SW games that included non-traditional races, converted D20 material without issue, and were able to evoke very different tones/genres all from the same core rules set.
On the subject of d20 conversions, feel free to check out my monster converters (the Pathfinder one is the most detailed) and Savage War of the Burning Sky conversion (scroll down for the PDFs). For non-traditional races, you could also check out Savage Dragons, Savage Undead, Savage Frost Giants and Savage Beasts. Pinnacle encourage fan works, so there's quite a lot of free content out there.
 

R

RevTurkey

Guest
Savage Worlds Fantasy...

HELLFROST by Triple Ace Games.

just go get that, it's amazing.

Excellent, setting, character options, story hooks, published modules, monsters and more.

I have run this for my group for a full blown year plus campaign and they completely loved it. Best rpg I have ever DMed by a long way. I love D&D but my player's enjoyed this more. The proof is that they still talk about the games, events and characters. It's great.

:)
 


Gundark

Explorer
I wish the game had lasted longer (we only played about 3 sessions), but I loved that we got so much done because we weren't bogged down by the rules. I'd say that we managed to cover about 3-4 D&D modules worth of play in those sessions, and I was really impressed by that.
Coming to SW after 3.5/4e I was NOT prepared with how fast the sessions went. I remember them completing the scenario that I had prepared in about 2 hours (whereas before it would have been 4-5 hours).

It shaped my playstyle now where I hate when games get in the way of the pacing of a story.
 

innerdude

Legend
Coming to SW after 3.5/4e I was NOT prepared with how fast the sessions went. I remember them completing the scenario that I had prepared in about 2 hours (whereas before it would have been 4-5 hours).

It shaped my playstyle now where I hate when games get in the way of the pacing of a story.

Yup, this is a big thing too. Pacing in Savage Worlds is almost entirely up to you. If you want a big, grand "set piece" combat to take a significant amount of time, you can. If you want to focus on story elements with shorter combats, you can.

I used to hate it when players would engage in what I felt were "superfluous" combats, or "mundane" minutiae in Pathfinder, since it meant we weren't going to get to other more "meaningful" things. But with Savage Worlds, it's totally freeing, because it doesn't matter where or when or what your players do, because it's so easy to improvise.

I became totally unafraid of putting players on a "railroad," or expecting them to pick up certain plot hooks, because it's almost like you can lay out the bits of the railroad just . . . barely ahead of the train coming along behind it. :)

The players make choices, all you have to do is feed what they want to them.
 

Somebloke

First Post
Hi- not sure if you're interested in input, but I've run a quite successful swashbuckling/fantasy mashup campaign that involves chaingun wielding alchemists, massive battles, sorcerers who trade humanity for power, flintlock pistols akimbo, sword duels as flirting, eldritch serpant demons (including one as a player character), infiltrations, political intrigue, assasinations, secret societies, kung-fu persian priests, Firefly-reapers, ten-story clockwork mechas and one very angry demon-queen based on the girl from Ringu.

I've been able to do this with one house rule (faith magic needs to fall in the maybe magic, maybe mundane trope) and two new edges (one was just a reworking of the adept class and the second was the previously mentioned sorcerer 'class').

The players love the system (after working through and eventually discarding FATE, D&D 4th edition and Pathfinder for the same setting) and I love the flexibility and inherent heroism and daring of the rules.
 


S. Baldrick

Explorer
I ran a Savage Worlds Beasts and Barbarians game and it was a lot of fun. I did lose one player that didn't like the system everyone else either tolerated the system or flat out loved it. Beasts and Barbarians is very "Conanesqe" and it is a terrific setting with some great adventures out there.

You can read my adventure log at my blog.

http://barbariansofprovo.blogspot.com/

It also covers my Crypts and Things campaign as well.
 

MrAndrewJ

First Post
My experience was with only the Explorer's edition and one game at a con, but it wasn't as positive as everyone else's. Using only the core rulebook, magic users felt very constrained for new characters.

Briefly re-reading the rules, it seems likely that a character won't be quite as constrained for as long, but the way magic is tied to edges still felt weird.

I love systems that feel like group tool boxes, and was enchanted enough by Savage Worlds to purchase a digital and print copy. Yet the one part of the system that did not feel like a toolbox was how it handled all of the Arcane Background material.

That said, that was a strict rules-as-written situation. I can easily see how taking the time to tinker and make the game match your setting would be very fun and very much in the spirit of the game.
 

Zadmar

Explorer
My experience was with only the Explorer's edition and one game at a con, but it wasn't as positive as everyone else's. Using only the core rulebook, magic users felt very constrained for new characters.
That's actually quite a common complaint, but it's almost always because the group isn't using trappings, as I elaborated on in an earlier post.

This was more of a problem with the old Explorer's Edition (SWEX), as it only provided a few example trappings. The Fantasy Companion included some actual guidelines for creating trappings, as did the newer Deluxe edition of the rules, but it's still an aspect of the game that many people seem to overlook.

That said, that was a strict rules-as-written situation. I can easily see how taking the time to tinker and make the game match your setting would be very fun and very much in the spirit of the game.
Every setting includes its own rules, Edges, Hindrances, etc. The core rulebook even has a section with example setting rules, along with some pointers on designing your own Edges, which is useful if you're designing or converting your own setting. I wouldn't ever use the core rulebook on its own, except perhaps for a quick one-shot (like the examples in the book itself) - for a full campaign I'd always include setting-specific stuff.
 

MrAndrewJ

First Post
Zadmar, I think we agree overall.

The trappings were great! Very reminiscent of HERO/Champions, and really cool.

It was, in short, that the Arcane Background itself felt like a half-step back toward class-based systems instead of the more organic systems I was used to. It might actually be a great step when moving from class based games to organic games. I can see how it would fit very well with Azgulor's inspirations as well.

I was ultimately trying to say the same thing about using only the core rulebook that you said better.
 

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