It’s been a long time since I blogged about Savage Worlds. So I figured I’d start with some good advice to new GM’s and players. Basically, you need to rewire your brain. Savage Worlds is a great game and there’s more and more people turning to it as their game of choice. And few run into problems from the start. It’s OK.
The first thing is check the Pinnacle Forums. We’re helpful bunch over and there and if you have any rules questions, I don’t think that Clint Black ever sleeps, eats or has any contact with family or friends. He quickly clears up any rules questions and keeps the forums civilized place. Just go over there and read the forums. Go ahead and search for your favorite campaign setting, TV show, movie, book, anime etc. Some fan has probably already mentioned it, started Savaging it. If anything in the game just seems off to you, then search those forums again. You’ll probably find a civilized debate about the topic and learn a thing a two.
If you’re like me, the first thing you do with a new set of rules is start tweaking. Don’t do it. Yes, I was tempted. Oh, so tempted. But I resisted. It was worth it. The first rule of newbie Savage Worlds GM Club: Don’t mess with it until you’ve played it a couple of times. Savage Worlds is easy and has many mechanics that are familiar to most gamers. That lures a few people into making house rules off the bat before they seen the system in action. But give the system a chance to be itself before tweaking it. Yeah, I may sound like I’m being some sort of know-it-all. You’ve met plenty of them before on the Internet. If you don’t trust me about this one then go and peruse the forums or listen to the first episode of Smilin’ Jack’s Bar & Grill and hear it from the pro’s. Chances are that rules tweak you are thinking of, is probably either already there (just worded differently) or someone has already done something similar. Have I mentioned searching the forums?
Now there’s one system of the game that takes some extra getting used to. And that’s damage. It’s a big part of any RPG. Most people come from games that use Hit Points or something similar. Heck, on the surface Savage Worlds looks like your normal game with Wound Levels. People are used to getting whittled down during combat. Just a little hit here and a nick there. But not with Savage Worlds thanks to exploding dice. A lowly thug can take out your epic hero with one attack. GM’s and players need to understand that each attack has the potential to be deadly. The suspense is not driven the slow subtraction of hit points. It’s that potential that each time the dice are thrown your character may just become another dungeon fatality. This is something that both players and GM’s need to get used to. The odds are against the weakly wizard taking out the mega-dragon with his dull and rusty dagger. But it could happen.
It ain’t D&D. (I’ve thought of making a T-shirt that says “This ain’t D&D” for when I run Savage Worlds.) That’s not saying you can’t play a D&D style campaign. You can and it’s pretty easy with the Fantasy Companion, Shaintar and/or Hellfrost. Elves, Dwarves, Wizards, Fighters, Clerics and Rogues. Oh, my! Just don’t play it like it is D&D. If you do, there’s a chance the players will get bored and disappointed when they get TPK’d by a mob of orcs. Your Legendary Fighter may have the highest Toughness in the party but a gang of archers can still mow him down in a heart beat. He’s thinking like a D&D fighter. Arrows only do x damage. That’s the kind of thoughts that will get you killed. It’s not to say that you can’t do the normal dungeon crawl stuff. You can. Check the door for traps. Listen. Kick the door down. Kill the monsters. Take their stuff. Haggle with the local merchants. Wench at the local tavern. Whatever you little adventuring heart desires. Just remember. Savage Worlds isn’t about getting nickled and dimed to death. A solid hit is dangerous. Even a drunken asthmatic peasant can be dangerous. In Savage Worlds, the player characters can hack their way through a mob of mooks but look out a couple of extraordinary die rolls and the tide of the battle could quickly change.
The other thing players to learn is to let their imaginations run wild. They aren’t constrained the rigid class-level-feat restrictions. I remember an early adventure. I described the massive monster ripping an arrow out his chest and howling at the party. They dove for the books. I could see the wheels spinning in their heads. How could my character get that ability. It’s not a Feat or some magical ability. It’s easy. Spend a Benny, roll a Soak and describe what happens. The same goes for Tricks. The players need to let their imaginations go wild and be creative when using Tricks. As GM, don’t let them get away with “I’m doing a Trick!”
“An Agility Trick!”
“What are doing?”
“An Agility Trick.”
“Yes, I know but what exactly are doing? Describe it.”
OK, so you may let Savage newbies off the hook a time or two. But still.
Finally, it may sound like I’m bashing D&D. I’m not. I enjoy the game. I play it regularly. But let’s face it. D&D is the game that most people are familiar with. It’s what they know. You can’t play D&D like it’s Savage Worlds and vice versa. Each game has its strengths and weakness. Each has its own play style.