Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Recent Thoughts On Savage Worlds

A friend of mine recently stumbled across an old post from October where I lamented the dice mechanics of Savage Worlds and how there wasn't much motivation to stat yourself out with anything above a d8, maybe not even above a d6.

He pointed out, correctly, that it all depends on whether or not you have any Edges that give bonuses for Raises. To which I'll add, some GMs probably give more situational bonuses than others for getting a Raise. The rules read as just +1d6 damage or a handful of other specific benefits in specific situations. I've played with, and often try to be, the type of GM who improvises wildly, and thus could see how a GM might exist who makes something fun happen everytime someone gets a raise. In those circumstances, a d10 or d12 would be justified.

As Erik put it:
Now, exactly as you say, if you want to succeed at a standard task, ie roll a 4, you really don't gain much going above d8 until you start to get the static adds of d12+1 and d12+2. However, if you want to roll raises, ie an 8, which you might if you were say a spell caster as they get extra effect and with a certain feat reduced energy cost if they do, then things change. d4, d6 and d8 are about the same in rolling 8's but there is a significant increase when you go to d10 and d12. So oddly, if you are just interested in regular successes then moderate levels of skill, d6 or d8, are for you. If you want those raises to show just how amazing you are then a high skill, d10 or d12, is for you.
Very good points. What you want out of your gaming experience defines whether your character should be a d6 generalist or a d12 microspecialist. One nice feature of the game is that both character archetypes will feel potent.

Thinking about this, it occurred to me that I haven't really blogged much about Savage Worlds lately, other than in the context of the plotline of my Deadlands campaign. There's a few observations I'd like to make.

After a lot of waffling, I eventually decided I like the system. It's still a little more complicated than it really needs to be. Especially the Deadlands Reloaded version. I think normal Savage Worlds is 10% to 20% more crunchy than I want it to be, and Deadlands is 10% crunchier than vanilla Savage. It's very versatile though, and remains a good generic system for use in campaigns where characters should be hardy and competent but can still have some fear of being killed by an unlucky roll.

On a related note, the game has more Edges than it needs, and they don't all seem terribly well balanced. There's no game-breakers (at least none I've found so far), but some are definitely better and more popular than others. There's a few that only shine if you combo them, and I don't much care for that style of character design, since it rewards system knowledge at the expense of character concept. It's still a far cry better than Scion.

Likewise, the Magic system is losing a bit of it's luster for me. Again, the powers aren't well balanced, and since a new power requires the New Power Edge, you also have to consider them against the rest of the Edges as well. Some are much better than most Edges, others are really weak. Throw in trappings, and that gets even wonkier. Despite the problem-solving freedom of being a Mad Scientist and a Gadgeteer, Kevin finds himself wanting to buy a big attack power, and I can't blame him. The Blessed have found that the Barrier and Raise/Lower Attribute outperform everything else in their arsenal. The Huckster and Mad Scientist can't compete with them in any arena but damage (which is why Kevin wants the attack Ryan already has). Probably, this is a trouble-spot specific to Deadlands, not all of Savage Worlds. If I'd made my own campaign setting from the ground-up, I wouldn't be having this trouble. In a setting with less magic, or fewer flavors of magic, or smaller spell-lists for each variety of magic and no overlap between schools, this would be less of a problem.

Lastly, I've dumped my 1 hit = 1 wound house rule. I'm no longer using it in my Deadlands game. On paper, it was great, and may still be of good use in speeding up combat and preventing anticlimactic character death in some other game down the road. However, I found that I give out so many bennies, it's pointless. Especially in Deadlands Reloaded with its special Red, Blue, and Legend bennies. Soaking damage became too easy, and there wasn't enough challenge in my fights. I waived the rule for the climactic showdown with Finnegan Cobb, and found that the resulting fight was much more enjoyable. It even drained the PCs of bennies for once, whereas the session prior everyone finished with 4 or more bennies in reserve (you start with 3). If I didn't give the darned things out like water, then the 1 hit = 1 wound rule would be helpful. At the rate I award bennies, the house-rule becomes a tiny shaving of time at the cost of reducing dramatic tension. It's going by the wayside starting next session.

No comments: