Test Driving Savage Worlds

Russell and I spent a bit of time playing around with Savage Worlds this weekend, both to entertain ourselves and to see how it would work as a replacement system for the D&D 3.5 campaign he ran last time he was in town (now that he’s seen it he has no desire to move to 4e, but 3.5 has a bunch of flaws that annoy him but he doesn’t feel like trying to fix now that it’s orphaned).

So we rolled up some characters (in a couple cases literally, using the SW:Fantasy Character Generator, the rest we just made up using the usual point-buy) and I ran him and Elyssa through most of a level of Under Xylarthen’s Tower.  Overall it went fairly well.  A couple of observations:

  • Chargen is not as fast as OD&D, naturally, but probably faster than 3e…and was getting faster as we got more used to it.  Most of the same sorts of decisions are there, but there are fewer options and modifiers.
  • For a dungeon crawl, monsters should be treated as Wild Cards unless they significantly outnumber the PCs.  I was running them as Extras (so one wound disposed of them and they didn’t get the Wild Die), and the party of 5 PCs was just running rough-shod over them.  As an experiment afterwards we went back and Russell and I reran the encounter with the two Giant Weasels, making the Weasels Wild Cards, and while the PCs still won handily, it took more than a round and they had to expend some effort; with better rolls, or if I had used more GM bennies the weasels might even have inflicted one or two wounds.
  • Even with the monsters as WCs, Novice Savage Worlds characters are more robust than OD&D 1st level; that’s probably a feature, not a bug.

There are a couple of rules I got wrong as we went, though nothing that really changed the outcome.  Still, it’s worth recording some of the stuff that I looked up in the FAQ afterward so I can use this post as a reminder:

  • When casting multiple Bolts, each Bolt gets 1 skill die, which counts as both the spellcasting and the to-hit die.  A Wild Card also gets a wild die, but only one for the set, and it can only substitute for one of the skill dice.
  • When firing into melee, a 1 on the skill die only counts as hitting an ally if the shot would miss; if you can turn the shot into a hit using the wild die, the fact you rolled a 1 doesn’t matter.
  • You only suffer a free attack against you for exiting melee if you were actually in melee (you’d made a Fighting roll against an adjacent opponent or vice-versa), not just for passing through a square that is “threatened.”  It really is different from Attacks of Opportunity.
  • You can move both before and after attacking, as long as you don’t exceed your Pace (or are willing to take the -2 penalty for performing an action on a turn when you ran).  That might trigger a free attack for withdrawing from melee, but again it’s different from Move then Attack in D&D.  This didn’t come up, but it makes popping out from cover, firing, and popping back a good strategy.

Since the dungeon crawl went reasonably well, we spent some time on Tuesday converting everybody’s characters from D&D 3.5 to Savage Worlds.  Mostly this was to see if we could do them justice without a lot of house rules; it’s no guarantee that Russell will actually elect to use Savage Worlds if we continue the campaign past the end of the current adventure.  Still, it was pretty easy to convert them using a couple of mechanical rules of thumb we came up with, paying no attention to the costs or prerequisites.  We took another pass, this time just making them up from scratch using the point-buy system, and actually was more satifactory, IMO.  Making decisions about what the character should have based on what seemed essential and useful to the concept, even if it wasn’t a one-for-one “he spent ranks in skill x, so he should have this die-size” just produced better, more distinctive and coherent, characters.

One thought on “Test Driving Savage Worlds

  1. For my money, Savage Worlds is the way to do fantasy. I just stumbled across Dungeons & Savages, which is a comprehensive, free supplement designed to bring your SW fantasy a little closer to 2nd. edition D&D. It ain’t D&D 3.5, but there might be some riffable material you could pilfer for your campaign. It’s just a google search away!

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