Savage Worlds breadcrumbs
Posted Monday November 03, 2008 at 07:25 AM
I've been looking around for a good system to adopt as my default system. It's much like leaving home on a long journey, through wilderness and unfamiliar cultures, looking for something without knowing quite what it is. The high, study walls of D&D 3.x were left behind long ago; I've since wandered through the outlying lands of d20-derived systems, and had an extensive stopover in the nostalgic lands of 1st and 2nd editions AD&D. (I still carry a talisman of Old School from that stop, and it guides my steps even now.) My travels in the realms of indie games have been exciting and tumultuous, but forage in those lands is unreliable and I've left off intensive exploration for now. Short day trips should do me fine for a while. I heard a rumour in those lands, though, and it has lead me here...
Metaphor aside, I'm currently looking at the setting-agnostic Savage Worlds from Pinnacle. Getting here I wandered through a few interesting pages about the game and left a trail of breadcrumbs:
- My curiosity was first piqued by Dr Checkmate when he wrote in Leaving the Shire, "This is going to sound odd, but I’ve missed having a system to, for want of a better term, hack. Savage Worlds does everything I need it to do right out of the box. I guess I’m still looking for a second system, but the more I look the less I think I need one." This intrigued me. Maybe this system could satisfy my itch? I needed to do some research.
- This RPGnet review of Savage Worlds is where I started. It's not completely positive, noting that combat was a bit uneven, but the comments on the review mention that the tactical options in the combat system are good and skimming over them like the review group did will result in flatter and more difficult combats.
- Pinnacle has a page of Savage Worlds downloads that include a set of Test Drive rules, pregenerated fantasy characters, and a one-sheet adventure. That's everything I would need to put it through its paces and see if my group likes it.
- Reading through Pinnacle's list of published Savage Worlds settings, Fifty Fathoms, Evernight, and especially Sundered Skies look interesting. The Slipstream setting also looks interesting for sci-fi play.
- A fan mention the setting of Shaintar. I looked up the RPGnet review of Shaintar: Immortal Legends and I really liked what I read. It sounds like what modern D&D might have been in an alternate universe.
- Reading about Shaintar on publisher Talisman's site lead me down a tangential byway to their comparable sorta-universal system Suzerain. The RPGnet review of Suzerain is glowing, but it feels like the wrong kind of crunch for my tastes so back to Savage Worlds...
- On the RPGnet forums this thread planted the seed of using SW to run classic AD&D settings. I like the Forgotten Realms and have a lot of setting material for it.
- I read through Forgotten Realms but not D&D... and found a tangent with Burning Realms, a blog about running the Realms using the Burning Wheel.
- More wandering led me to the provocatively-named thread Why does Savage Worlds suck?, which despite the name has a lot of interesting and varied opinions on the system. It's a stupidly long thread so I haven't yet read more than the first few pages.
- Searching for more Forgotten Realms/Savage Worlds stuff online lead me to an ENworld thread where BabbageCliologic linked to his very gonzo Savage (Forgotten) Realms notes hosted at the tongue-twistingly-named One Thousand and One Nights and One Night.
Pros of Savage Worlds that I can discern from a distance: By all reports it's very easy to teach to new players. It looks easy to adjudicate and fast to run. It should be easy to stat things up for the GM, while maintaining a considerable amount of crunch for the players who really enjoy that. It's well-supported and there's a nice selection of settings are available, cutting down on creative prep I'd need to do. It's a universal system that doesn't feel dry, a huge sticking point for me with most universal systems. It's a traditional RPG that doesn't require teaching the players a new way of relating to the mechanics or the point of the game, unlike Solar System or Burning Wheel. There's sufficient tactical depth in combat to satisfy the grognardiest of my players while allowing large combats to run quickly. It appears to have the right feel for a fantasy system, which is totally subjective but vitally important for me to like a system for playing fantasy.
One con I need to consider is that magic is very different than in D&D. From what I've read, it sounds like a mage character is often better off swinging a sword that slinging a spell, which will throw most of my players. On the other hand, a different conception of spellcasters as people who have arcane talent in addition to, rather than exclusive to, martial and other skills is something that many D&D players have fondly wished for. Another possible con is that Novice characters seem to be rather weak. That could be fixed by starting characters out at the next rank, Seasoned, but dumping all the options of the advancement system all at once on new players detracts from the major pro of it being easy to teach.
I'm not in a hurry to buy into Savage Worlds since I wouldn't be running it as a regular game until the current AD&D game comes to a close anyway. I would like to try running the sample fantasy adventure with the Test Drive rules and the pregen characters, though.
I never did find any solid conversion material for using Savage Worlds to run Forgotten Realms, but I think that'd be icing on the cake given how easy it looks to stat up real and imagined things in SW. I really, really like the sound of Shaintar, even though I have some misgivings about having all the PCs be part of a specific organisation.
Monday November 03, 2008 at 01:44 PM
You need to take a look at Advanced Dungeons and Savages, an adaptation of AD&D to Savage Worlds. It may have a lot of what you're looking for.
Monday November 03, 2008 at 01:59 PM
Novice characters are stronger than you might think they are based on reading the system...particularly if you have them going up mostly against Extras instead of Wild Cards. The Wild Die they get on all Trait rolls gives them about a 62% chance of succeeding at a task even with only a d4 in the trait. And being able to take 3 Wounds before falling instead of the single hit for an Extra makes them reasonably resilient. What Novices lack, IMO, is generally the Edges that let them bounce back quickly and keep soldiering on in combat even if they're Shaken or Wounded. They need to be more ready to duck behind a pillar to recover their composure (become unshaken), or start looking for a way to break off if they've taken several wounds. That can be pretty different from D&D combat, but as GM you can easily adjust how squishy they are by being generous in giving out extra Bennies.
If you're interested, I've got a bunch of posts on Savage Worlds, including advice for new GMs.
Monday November 03, 2008 at 02:07 PM
I'm hugely satisfied with Savage Worlds. My group recently started a fantasy sandbox campaign using SW; we've found that it performs admirably AND channels a healthy dose of old-school sensibility that really appeals to us. I'd recommend Tales of the Rambling Bumblers, a blog written by a guy who's really put SW through the ringer in terms of utility and potential abuse. He's got a lot of good points that I've applied to my campaign.
Monday November 03, 2008 at 05:48 PM
It's a pretty strong endorsement when two comments in the moderation queue both direct me to the same blog, even if one is a modest link from the author. Thanks for the link! I'm going to go take a look now...
You make some good points Joshua. I keep forgetting about the impact of the Wild Die, which will be much more significant for Novice characters, just when that's needed. I did read the experiences of one GM who said that it's best to err on the side of combats that are too easy while still getting a feel for how challenging a given encounter might be. It's good advice.
My goodness Berin, that is 68 pages of wonderful. The 1st edition AD&D layout and font—not to mention the art!—make me inexplicably happy. Thanks, I think this will help a lot. It also reminds me that I still really love 1e despite wanting to jump ship to Savage Worlds as my go-to system. If I do sell my group on a Savage Realms game, the old setting materials and monster manuals will get a lot of love.
Monday November 03, 2008 at 08:01 PM
Also in the pro-column: Savage Worlds is remarkably reasonably priced. You can pick up the Explorer's Edition for $10.
Tuesday November 04, 2008 at 12:53 AM
Yes, the price tag makes it attractive. It's low enough that I can consider getting a table copy as well as my own, or making gifts of them to players if the system is a hit.
If I get serious about it the multiple Fantasy Kits will run me a pretty penny, but I don't need to pick up what I don't need.
Tuesday November 04, 2008 at 01:15 AM
Welcome to the Savage side of life. I'm huge fan and am still trying to convince my gaming group. I'd also like to mention that there's a great community over at Pinnacle's forums. Plus the Fantasy Companion is coming out in January. It'll save you from buying all those toolkits.
Tuesday November 04, 2008 at 04:40 AM
Yeah, I've heard good things about the Pinnacle forums. Also Talisman's, which is good if I end up with a copy of Shaintar.
I read the Fantasy Companion announcement, which I realise now that I reread it is where I discovered that there were free Test Drive rules available.
I do like the price $20 price point, but I'm a bit gun-shy of crunch-centric books after years of disappointment in the D&D3 splatbooks. (I'm the sort that loved the TSR supplements that were fluff-heavy and I quickly learned to loathe splatbooks.) I will probably end up buying the PDF kits for the fluffy stuff and GM advice anyway, but I might pick up the Companion for table use and for throwing to players who want more character options.
Sean Patrick Fannon
Tuesday May 12, 2009 at 01:03 AM
Every once in a while, I wander through Google to see what people might be saying about Shaintar. I was very happy to read that you are positively inclined, and I do hope you have since had a chance to check it out some more.
If it helps any, while the suggested focus is on Grayson's Grey Rangers in the Plot Point Campaign, Shaintar is a very rich and diverse world that by no means requires using that organization to structure your stories. It is simply a very convenient hub around which I chose to weave the official storytelling.
Let me know if there's anything I can be of help with in your continued explorations.
Tuesday May 12, 2009 at 04:39 PM
Thanks for stopping by, Sean!
I've since acquired a copy of Shaintar and absorbed most of it. I really do like what you've done with it. The best review summary I've read is "It's standard fantasy, but done right"—nothing really stands out as being different from a stock fantasy setting, but everything feels like it fits together well.
Having read it, I rather like the conceit of having everyone be part of the Grey Rangers. Coming from a D&D background, and being completely unfamiliar with Texas Rangers, I assumed it was more about the trees-and-animals kind of ranging from the reviews. Having read the book I've started thinking about it more like the United Nations, or for those who know Mutant Chronicles, like the Cartel: room for lots of disparate character concepts, possibly with conflicting priorities, but all dedicated to keeping the territory safe.
It's at the top of my to-play pile right now. We're playing some Burning Wheel now, and after that I'm thinking of either stock Shaintar or using it to run another fantasy world, depending on the players.
Sean Patrick Fannon
Saturday June 06, 2009 at 03:42 PM
The web link I've embedded here goes to the latest "Big Announcement" about the revival of Shaintar and what's coming.
I am active in the Talisman Studios forums, as well as the Pinnacle Forums. You can also e-mail me directly with any questions or ideas you have.
And, if you wish to get involved on a creative level with what's happening in the world, join the "Shaintar Consortium" (the link can be found in that post).
Sean Patrick Fannon’s last blog post: Re: The New, Improved Future of Shaintar