Savage Worlds: Tips for Speeding Combat

Nothing Earth-shattering, just some handy hints to keep things moving along:

  • Use two decks for initiative. Have someone other than the GM shuffle the second deck while the first is in use, and at the end of a round when a Joker’s been played just swap decks. (If possible, use decks with different color backs, so that you have no problems separating out the cards when you have people on hold past the point where you reshuffle.)
  • Collect the initiative cards as people take their actions, that way the top of the discard pile always reminds you where the count-down is.
  • People who go on hold should flip their cards over and hang on to them until they act, so you can tell at a glance who’s Holding vs. whose initiative hasn’t rolled around yet, and who doesn’t need to be dealt a new card if they’re still holding at the end of the round.
  • If somebody dithers when their Init comes up, tell them they’re on hold and move on–when they make up their mind they can go.
  • Use physical tokens for Bennies and Wounds (I like to use White and Red poker chips, respectively) and to mark powers with duration (e.g. if somebody has the Armor spell on them, give them 3 tokens, like pennies or life-stones from Magic, and have them discard one each turn–when they’re out the spell’s over).
  • Similarly, mark Shaken characters with something easily visible; if using miniatures, I like to drop a little pipe-cleaner ring around the figure.  When you’re not using minis, another poker chip will do.
  • Roll the attacks for all the Extras (or all of them in a convenient clump) at once. SW is designed to allow for this; since they get no Wild Die, it’s easy to just roll one die per Extra.
  • When rolling to hit, remember that you never care how many raises you get beyond one. After applying any modifiers, just ask Does it beat the Parry?  By 4 or more? (For Throwing/Shooting it’s the range TN instead, but same idea.)
  • When rolling damage, you do care about the number of raises up to 4, but you can still simplify a little if you remember that you don’t care about any remainder so you don’t need to divide.  Subtract off the Toughness and compare does it beat 0? 4? 8? 12? 16?  Most people, even the math-phobic, can just see the answer.
  • Don’t look up rules during play.  (I know I said this in my Three Don’ts post, but it bears repeating.)  If you don’t know the rule off the top of your head, make something up that seems reasonable.  Make a mental note to review it later after the session.
  • If somebody challenges your interpretation, don’t argue.  Either stick to your guns or give in, but don’t stop for debate.  If what they’re proposing isn’t ludicrous, I’d say let them have their way.  You’re going to look up the actual rule later, so at most it’s going to affect this one combat, and Fast! Furious! Fun! trumps your guess as to fidelity to a rule you can’t at the moment remember.  Yeah, it gives your players a minor incentive to challenge you, but if you’re not playing with mature players who won’t abuse the system and you… well, you have bigger problems than that.

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