A little more on Savage Worlds (part 1)

I don’t mean for this blog to be an advertisement for Savage Worlds, but I just really really like the system and it’s the one I’m playing the most right now. So I’m going to do a couple more posts on the system itself and what I like so much about it. I had hoped to do this all as one post but our last session of character creation ended up taking the whole session (new players unfamiliar with the system/setting and some new rules we’re adding/changing that everyone needed to go over before making choices) so we haven’t had a chance to play with our new characters just yet. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Two weeks ago in our weekly game one of the player characters died. This is the first time that’s happened in this game (though we’ve come close several times!), but it’s good to be reminded that it’s a real possibility, and sometimes from unexpected sources! His character was killed by the last remaining enemy robot, and it wasn’t even one of the more powerful ones. Injuries had stacked up in the battle already and the robot rolled really well. Poof! There goes one of the characters.

So we all knew he was going to roll up a new character. However, as we discussed things over e-mail several other players also decided to roll up new characters, and we added another player to the group. I’ve decided to stick with my character for a little while longer because I like him and I think he’ll be especially good for the newer characters (he’s got a lot of leadership abilities that’ll help keep them alive) but otherwise, at least among the regular players, it’ll be a new crew of characters.

I think this’ll be good for both the game and the players. When we started using SW we started out with characters about midway through the normal character progression to represent everything the characters had already been through (even if that was in two other systems!). This worked out ok, but I think it’ll be good, especially for those who weren’t/aren’t already familiar with the system to start out with novice characters. There’s less to keep track of and there are fewer choices to make all at once. It’ll be easier to grow them organically going forward from a place of greater familiarity with their capabilities.

Anyway, watching folks make new characters (and helping them with it a bit), and thinking about what sort of character I might want to make whenever I decide to, or need to, replace Captain  (soon to be Commodore!) Blackwell has reminded me of several specific things I really like about Savage Worlds.

I don’t have a ton of experience with genre and setting agnostic systems, but most of the more “universal” systems I’ve read and played around with haven’t really excited me. But Savage Worlds has. I’ve really been impressed with its’ ability to work in a number of different settings I’ve played in, from Ancient Greece, to fairly standard Fantasy gaming, to our current Hard Sci-Fi / Cyberpunk game. It really does work pretty well in all of these situations, with only a little bit of tinkering (mostly just deciding which edges and/or skills don’t apply, and maybe adding a few). The system is really tolerant to hacking and customizing without breaking, but at the same time doesn’t require it. Nearly everything you’d need for most genre’s of adventure is already in the core book. You can add new subsystems and more detailed stuff for the things you’re interested in (like say computer hacking), but you don’t have to. You can go as deep or shallow as you want and it’ll still all work.

The other thing I love about the game is how open things are for characters. You can be hyper specialized if you want, or you can be a jack of all trades type character, and neither is likely to feel “broken,” either in terms of being over-powered or under-powered. You have several different choices you can make at every “level” from raising your attributes (this one you can only do once per tier, but that’s not a big deal), buying new skills, getting better at the skills you already have, or buying edges (a lot like feats if you’re familiar with d20 based games). All of these are valid choices! There really isn’t a bad choice for you to make! You can make a character who focuses almost exclusively on getting new skills, or one who just focuses on a few and mostly buys edges, and they’ll both feel useful and fun. Heck, you could probably pretty easily get away with never, or almost never, raising any of your attributes and still have a very effective character. The system is well balanced internally and you’ll rarely feel like you made a bad choice when you’re working on a character. The more I look at how all of this stuff works the more impressed I am with the system.

I’m also a big fan of the hindrance system. You can take hindrances in order to gain more points to spend at character creation. The thing I like about this system is that as a rule these are actually interesting character hooks. They don’t just feel like a punishment you have to take in order to get the things you want, but things that might actually be fun to play around with. They might make things a big more complicated, but they’ll also be some of the things that make the game fun and interesting. They’re basically ready built adventure seeds, and hooks for the GM to pull on whenever she wants to.

I had hoped we’d get a chance to play a bit last week so I give some examples of how much I like the low power-curve in SW and how that lets characters of different level play well together. But I’ll wait to write about that until later this week when we get a chance to actually play the characters. My previous experience with the system tells me that having different leveled characters isn’t going to be a big problem, but I’ll talk about that more soon!

Good gaming!

-The Duke of Brandonshire 🎲

Stephen B @DrOct