Saturday, October 18, 2008

On second thought, I actually like Savage Worlds

I picked up the Explorer's Edition of Savage Worlds, wanting to better understand the mechanics that were so infuriating me. Turns out, the system is far better than I'd given it credit for. 2 of my 4 complaints have been significantly reduced as a result of my improved familiarity with the rules. A third complaint is possibly a house-rule or a mistake, and discussion of the issue may fix or mitigate it. The fourth complaint I can side-step whenever I make characters.

My gripes were:

  • Most characters get one action, but some get two. Turns out I was wrong on this one. Anyone can take up to around 3 actions (one with each hand, and one with their mouth, maybe a fourth if you're really creative), but the penalties are pretty large. There's at least 4 edges that mitigate this in someway, getting rid of penalties or providing specific bonus actions under certain circumstances. More importantly, there's fairly robust Trick and Social systems that allow non-combat characters to do interesting things in fights. I'd seen those systems in action, but misunderstood and thought you needed specific edges to use them. Now that I know the system better, I'll be having a lot more fun when fights break out.
  • Diminshing Returns. I brought up the subject with the folks Thursday. Mark, at least, agreed that there's not much mechanical benefit to going above a d8, but clearly the others hadn't spent much time thinking about that before. Luckily, it turns out there's a number of Edges in the book that give numerical bonuses to rolls - if you want to play a genuine expert at something, you're better off taking the appropriate Edge than high dice in skills.
  • Huge damage pools. Well, reading the Explorer's Edition rulebook, there's nothing to suggest that a damage code of 2d6 is "roll two dice and add them together" and not "roll two dice and use the highest die" like all the other rolls. Either it's in the longer version of the rules, or it's a house-rule the group's been using, or someone made a mistake somewhere. I posted to the group, and hope to learn soon whether or not I'm missing something. If we revert to the version written in the Explorer's Edition, combat actions would speed up, the math would simplify, and one-hit-kills would all but dissapear. Fingers crossed.
    Update: I was wrong on this point. Clearly damage is meant to be added together, or else the difference between a rifle and a rocket launcher wouldn't be 2d8 vs 4d8. It'd be 2d8 vs 2d12 or 2d8 vs 3d10 or something with a larger die type than the rifle has. Still, it's annoying that the rules don't cover that in a more explicit example. This also raises the question of: do individual dice explode, or does the roll explode? The answer is individual dice, but the rules don't make that statement terribly explicit, either.
  • You roll d4s, generally mixed with other dice. I still hate plastic caltrops, but I can avoid them myself by keeping my stats at d6s and d8s, so it's not a huge deal. Since most of what we play with this group is one-shots I feel no need to affix the judge's eye on other people's rolls. Even if anyone in that group were going to cheat, it's not like it'd have lasting impact on the course of a campaign, or invalidate someone else's character concept by continually outperforming them. In short, I can and should just relax about this one.

In summation: (Despite my protests in recent posts) Thursday's Toon City Vice session and a read of the rulebook convinced me that Savage Worlds is a far better game than I'd given it credit for. I recommend the Savage Worlds system (and strongly recommend it if you're looking for a crunchy yet generic rules set for use with one-shots), especially the Explorer's Edition. That book is light weight and portable, and costs a mere $9.99! A whole RPG for $10 is pretty sweet.

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