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From denial to Savage Worlds (Via 4E)

I wasn't immediately converted to Savage Worlds after finding it. I first disliked the idea of the system; As I've written a lot of SW materials, I thought of telling how I got into the game after trying several other ones, including trying to create my own rpg rules. If you're very critical about the system you want to use, this post may be an eye-opener.

It's years since I first heard about Savage Worlds. I wanted to find a new system I could use for various genres - for Star Wars, Babylon 5 and Sword & sorcery for example. I was also intrigued by idea of running one-shots of Judge Dredd, perhaps a superhero games too ( inspired by Freedom Force - I've never been much into super heroes before playing that magnificent game!)

When I stumbled upon Savage Worlds, I was curious but turned away soon after reading that it's mechanic is based on a single die that represents attribute's or skill's level. How stupid mechanic can that be? Now, years later, I realize I was so wrong. I'll tell later about that later.

Trying out various games

Anyway, I've been very stubborn about game mechanics and the dice it uses. I had played enough d20 and wanted something different this time, but nothing too unconventional. My favorite dice methods were 2d6 and d10. I dug out my good old Cyberpunk 2020, read through it and was surprised how advanced the system is, even if it's quite ancient today. Some features, like using auto-fire, didn't have best possible mechanics; a good hit with a smg to a heavily armored guy needed a lot of rolling, which might cause just a flesh wound after all the trouble.

I also tried traveller (Mongoose's), and while in theory I liked it, there were several things I would have changed, and I don't think it would work too well as an universal system. The system is known for it's character generation - which is really interesting, but could use some abstraction. I've had hopes of making a simplified system for some other system some day, but it's likely that I'll never find time for that (unless I can make the system VERY simplified).

An earthquake in the D&D world - declaration of 4E

I had tried Star Wars Saga edition, so when 4E was announced, I was quite excited and had some expectations based on SE about what to wait for. My old D&D group, which had mainly withdrawn to play WOW (I never touched that evil killer of rpg's!) got exited of it, and when the game finally was released, we were able to start regular gaming again. The Ptolus campaign is still going on, but today I'm not that excited about GM'ing 4E anymore.

I've grown tired of munchkiny combos, pc's being able to win 10 levels higher solos, needed work for conversions and having to find suitable magic items from huge masses of possibilities. Also, some concepts of Ptolus just don't work with 4E - I'll write more conversion info on 4E Ptolus later. Also - at least in theory - encounter levels should be carefully planned. If playing in a ready world, 5th level encounter is just boring for 12th level characters, and it isn't easily changed.

The combats consist of huge amount of tracking down hp's, marking numerous different conditions on different monsters and especially end fights may take 2 hours so, most of which comes from players browsing through their powers and rolling & calculating their damage. And as it seems to have become a norm in D&D games, they may also use a lot of time thinking of what to do and negotiating their co-operative actions (which I'm trying to limit).

Ok, enough of 4E ranting.

Cortex system - promising but not my cup of tea

When I found Cortex, I was very excited. I had already started to look for some alternative for 4E, and decided to buy Battlestar Galactica RPG - another great setting I wanted to lead a few games in. I also got Cortex core rules pdf in the Haiti aid pack of drivethrurpg. Anyway, after reading the rules for a while, something just wasn't there - I wanted some solidness there. Characters being able to make 'up to 3 actions during their turn' would lead to my players making 3 attacks each turn, whatever the final result.

There were also some other a bit clumsy sounding things. One of the biggest turn-offs was pc's needing to roll trait+skill, which both probably were different dice - and then spending same plot points to improve chances and gaining some bonuses from a special ability. So, a player (my players are always lending dice from each other) could during his turn try to find a d8, d6, d4, d10 and a d12, roll them and then calculate the results together, then remembering that he miscalculated something and then tune some more. Doesn't sound very fun to me. Basic rolls would usually be trait + skill, which would also need having 2 different dice, which ones depends on the skill.

Swallowing my absolution about dice - trying out Savage Worlds

Once again, I heard a lot of Savage Worlds, mainly at forums and Stargazer's blog. This time, I decided to find more about it. Downloading the test drive from the Pinnacle's website, and seeing that complete core rules softcover costs just €10 in my FLGS, made me try it. After reading the rules and registering to the SW forums, I was soon sold. I wanted to change some things, but I was recommended to just try the system like it is, and so I did - mostly without changing anything. (Note: Now that SW Deluxe is out, my biggest own change - removing Guts skill - is official!)

I really like the system. I didn't like the idea of the mechanics first, but trying it made me convinced. It's GM's dream as it lets you improvise very easily. If you want a system with solid structure, which supports use of miniatures (which I love using), Savage Worlds is an excellent choice. It's community is friendly and there's a large amount of official products for the rules, as well as fan-made content (the Pinnacle crew generally just wants you to put a Savage Worlds Fan -image on the product and they're fine with it). The links in the text are just the best resource links, go google for some more to find more stuff!

I don't have very great experience of actually GM'ing SW yet - so far I've been running a cyberpunk campaign, and am planning to start a Sword & sorcery campaign in near future using the excellent Beasts & Barbarians setting. I constantly keep finding new things you can do with Savage Worlds that are amazingly simple but work, and how easily the system can be tailored for different purposes. It's been more than once that I've thought of how to simulate something with the system, and after a bit of thinking have come to the result that it IS already in the rules - even if it wasn't obvious at first.



Average: 3.2 (74 votes)


Characters taking out things

Submitted by Graham Wills (not verified) on

Characters taking out things way more powerful than them is not exactly an unknown trope in fantasy -- ask Eowyn and Meriadoc, for example. I've pkayed a lo of both 4e and SW, and although they are very different and I like both, I woud not say that combat is better in SW. It's certainly faster, but it never felt as exciting, and ther isn't a ton of variety in what you do. Honestly, it is better for a low combat campaign, in my opinion. Othrwise you may find your players getting a little tired of their limited comba options.

My issue with the mentioned

Submitted by Shaper and Maker on

My issue with the mentioned 4e encounter is that 4e is supposed to be very balanced. And I can live with the result, but it makes me worried about the future of the campaign, if planned epic conflicts will become monsterfests with no excitement.

When comparing 4E and SW combats, SW supports so much where you describe what you want to do (allowing players to play with very little knowledge of the system), and it actually expects everyone to be a little bit story tellers. GM awarding bennies for cool things is an important part of making the combat interesting. In 4E you need to choose from a selection of ready powers and do some of those precisely defined actions - which even tell you what the action looks like. 

Combats are where a SW GM perhaps needs to improvise or prepare a bit, to make up a thing or two that makes a combat interesting -IMHO that's a tiny trouble compared to all the preparations needed for a 4E game, if you aren't GM'ing a published adventure. One or two terrain features, circumstaces or othe special features can make a big difference in a combat.

I think that shaken replaces well many separate conditions in 4E - it replaced slowed too before Deluxe edition. One thing with SW (and many other games) is that combat often isn't the only or best option - D&D games may slow down when pc's decide to find several totally unnecessary combats as it gets them xp. I sometimes enjoy that too, especially as player (as GM I may get frustrated after a while as the story doesn't go forward). I think I enjoyed it actually more in 3(.5)D&D than in 4E, while at low levels. Encounters often went quite fast and were simple.

I haven't had a boring combat in SW yet, although I've heard there can be such too. In such a case it's a big advantage that a system is fast as it helps you get through that boring encounter faster :)

Savage worlds isn't a perfect system but it's got enough very interesting features to make it my system of choice.

This post got some critique

Submitted by Shaper and Maker on

This post got some critique for me about abandoning game systems after just reading through them. There is reasons for that, about which I've written another post.

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