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  • New Players, What To Know?

    Greetings forum, you're looking well.

    I'm planning my next fantasy/horror campaign in Savage Worlds. The friends I play with have the core book (various editions thereof), but we have only played one session of it maybe ten years ago.

    So, everyone is coming into it kinda fresh, including yours truly. For my experience, I ran Deadlands Classic for years, along with various flavors of D&D, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and the occasional game of Champions and Rifts. My friends have similar game experience.

    What would you say is good to know about Savage Worlds going in? Preconceived and other notions, expectations, what works, what doesn't work, tricks, traps, and managing expectations?

    What should players watch out for, and what should new GMs watch out for?

    (For reference, I have the SW Core Deluxe Explorer's Edition, Fantasy Companion, Horror Companion, Science Fiction Companion, Super Powers Companion, Deadlands: Hell On Earth Reloaded, Beasts & Barbarians, and most of the Savage Lankhmar releases.)

    Thanks for the help!

  • #2
    Welcome (back?) to the forum.

    Well, time to dust off my "Essential Game Mechanics of Savage Worlds" spiel:
    • Players make two kinds of rolls, Trait rolls (attributes and skills) and Damage rolls. Both rolls can Ace (if you roll the highest value on the die, pick it up and roll again, adding it together; this is open-ended, allowing a 23 on 1d6).
    • Traits are measured as a die type (d4, d6, d8, d10, or d12). You roll the die type of the trait and a Wild Die (d6), that represents your character's heroic luck. Take the highest of the two dice and use that for your result.
    • If you need to roll a skill but aren't trained then you roll a d4 and your Wild Die (d6), Ace as normal, choose the best, and then subtract two (-2) for the final result.
    • Damage dice are determined by your weapon, and are added together.
    • The Target Number for almost everything is 4. The exceptions are Fighting (you try to hit their Parry), Damage (versus Toughness), and Opposed Rolls (either set the other guy's TN or try to beat the TN the other guy set). Everything else is a TN 4. This means that a +1 is a big bonus, and +2 is amazing.
    • For every full 4 you beat the TN by, you achieve a "Raise". Raises are good, providing extra damage, greater success, faster success, inflicting more wounds, or whatever.
    • Last are Bennies - how much Fate loves you and how you can manipulate those disobedient dice. Bennies have a lot of uses, but the most common is to reroll any Trait roll (not damage). Spend the chip, reroll the whole thing, and take the best of the two results. You can spend as many chips as you want (and have) on rerolling a given roll.
    • We'll cover the rest as we need to.
    That covers most of what players need to know. As a game master, you'll need to avoid a few gaming tropes:
    • Every damage roll can kill the character. If it gets to roll damage then that damage can Ace, and those 2d4 can result in 123 damage. For a normal (Toughness 5) character, that would be 29 Wounds.
    • Every fight can be fatal, so every combat should be important. Important to the story, to the pacing of the session, or to some (or all) of the characters involved.
    • Incapacitation is not death. It just risks death.
    • Hand Out Bennies. Bennies are a vital game mechanic and should be awarded when Hindrances come up or when players engage in behavior you want to encourage.
    • And don't be afraid to hand out "this went to crap faster than I expected" bennies. Player character gets Incapacitated? Give all players a benny for the difficulty of being down a guy. Characters about to be ambushed because they ignored the clues? Give everyone a benny for acting Overconfident in a meaningful way.
    • Use GM bennies to do cool stuff, not to take away cool stuff the characters did. Sometimes Soaking a big hit is cool, but usually it is cooler to fight on despite the Wounds. Buy off the Shaken if needed, re-roll attacks, activate special abilities, or something else that affects the characters instead of negating their cool stuff. This one bites every GM, including me, from time to time.
    • Use the tools, especially the web supplements. The Combat Survival Guide has the mechanics of various tactics. NPC allies can be listed on the Ally Sheet and handed to players during combat. Keeping a copy of Damage & Healing around until you all get used to it. And Quick Combat for those meaningless fights that you need to set tone or realism.
    • Because Extras are so easy to run, don't be afraid to use a lot of them to make a scene big and exciting. You can hand some over to the players as allies, while using an even larger group as back up for your villain.
    • The various One Sheet Adventures are very good and free. Most will last a three to five hour gaming session.
    Good luck, and welcome back.
    Last edited by ValhallaGH; 09-21-2018, 03:43 PM. Reason: Benny use.
    I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.

    Comment


    • ogbendog
      ogbendog commented
      Editing a comment
      I love the "Hero incapacitated, everyone get's a bennie" idea.

    • Reverse
      Reverse commented
      Editing a comment
      Ooh, a Setting Rule of 'Darkest Before The Dawn' to give a benny when a hero gets incapacitated is a great one. Yoinked.

    • Aeonterra
      Aeonterra commented
      Editing a comment
      Awesome stuff! Thanks!

  • #3
    Another exception to "Target Number is 4" is Opposed Rolls : the instigator of the action rolls first, and his roll becomes the Target Number for his opponent to beat. If they tie, there's no clear winner.
    Savage Summaries-RAW, with added info from Clint:Combat Actions,Cover,Healing,Using Powers,Grappling,Chases
    Also:Persuasion,Better Bosses,Better Combat Rating
    And:historical tech levels,generic SW sci-fi tech levels

    Comment


    • ValhallaGH
      ValhallaGH commented
      Editing a comment
      Very true. For players, I can usually cover this with a special exception; but it is quite true.

    • Aeonterra
      Aeonterra commented
      Editing a comment
      Ooo, that's good to know and remember. Thanks!

  • #4
    One ramification of the rules that catches players of other systems off-guard is that literally anything can kill anything. That "23 on a d6" happens just often enough to be surprising to new players. If the d6 in question happens to be a skill check, it's not a huge deal. If it's a damage die, though, you're suddenly looking at a one-shot kill. (ValhallaGH mentioned that the most common use for bennies is to reroll; the second most common is to Soak wounds, letting you roll Vigor to try to block some of the damage.)

    One other thing: Players would be advised to avoid the notion of a 'dump stat'. A classic Big Dumb Fighter will find himself constantly being the subject of Smarts tricks and constantly caught off-guard (since his Notice score will be very expensive to increase beyond his Smarts).

    Players absolutely should take their available Hindrances (2 minor, 1 major) at creation, as it's a way to bring the character into much sharper focus, as well as giving them more points to play with in building.

    Focused attacks are extremely efficient. If you set up a combat with the party facing down a lone Big Bad, don't be surprised when the players pull out all the stops and take him down in a single round. Similarly, a PC who breaks off from the main group and gets himself surrounded is in serious trouble, even if he's a Heroic character facing some wimpy Goblins. My typical rule of thumb for a 'challenging' combat is one Wild Card villain for every 2 PCs, PLUS Extras equal to the number of PCs.

    The game has a surprising amount of interconnectivity in the rules--small tweaks can cause snowballing effects that were totally unanticipated (it's a bit of a canard around here that if someone comes in complaining about some aspect of the game--too lethal, not lethal enough, combats take too long, etc--we usually find out on page 2 of the thread that they instituted some house rule that ultimately led to the problem they're having). As a result, I strongly advise not making house rules until you've had a chance to actually experience the system as-is bit--there are things that seem to 'read poorly' that work out much better in actual play.

    If you're using Arcane Backgrounds, understanding the use of Trappings is key. The goal is to not merely create a mechanical benefit, but to make two different wizards with the same list of basic Powers look and feel completely different, because one opted to play an elementalist with lots of Fire, Earth and Electrical trappings, and the other is playing a dark mage with Darkness and Necromancy Trappings. Also, the Trappings in the book are suggestions and guidelines for the mechanical impact--the fluff text of a spell should be fairly open-ended. In particular, players should be encouraged (or even required) to rename their spells--instead of "Burst w/Fire Trapping" on their sheet, they should have "Breath of the Dragon".

    Comment


    • Aeonterra
      Aeonterra commented
      Editing a comment
      Lots of good advice there. Thanks!

  • #5
    Hindrances give you points, but that's not the most important thing. They are rping hooks to earn bennies.
    The biggest kill-monger power games needs to roleplay in SW, because that gives you bennies.

    Comment


    • Aeonterra
      Aeonterra commented
      Editing a comment
      That's just like Deadlands Classic. As Marshal, I can't make you act out your Hindrances, but if you don't, no extra Fate Chips.

      I'm not looking to start shoveling in house rules (swear to dog), but I wonder if anyone has tried the Deadlands Classic of using 3 different color Fate Chips instead of bennies? I always thought it was cool that you never knew what you were going to pull from the bin, and the best blue chip let you make your roll again and add it to your total.

      (Probably would screw all the SW math up, huh?)

    • ogbendog
      ogbendog commented
      Editing a comment
      I'm pretty sure savage DL had chips of different colors and effects

  • #6
    I would stress the points already made about Hindrances. They should be required (even though the core rules say they are optional.

    Despite the nomenclature, Hindrances are actually net benefits... for each Hindrance taken, the character gains an equivalent positive ability, and the positive ability will very likely come up more often than the Hindrance would. For example, taking a Major Hindrance then using the points to increase your Vigor by a die type will provide a Toughness bonus you will always have... whereas the Hindrance may be situational.

    Even when a Hindrance does come up, it is an opportunity for the character to earn a Benny, so there is no good reason why any player wouldn't take their full allowance of Hindrances.

    Comment


    • Aeonterra
      Aeonterra commented
      Editing a comment
      I'll be sure to stress this to my players. Thanks!

  • #7
    Regarding spell Trappings, the fan-made supplement Savage Spellbook is an excellent resource.

    Comment


    • Aeonterra
      Aeonterra commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, that looks good! In the WayDaHellBackWhen, I played a good amount of Champions, and got used to having to layer on some special effects to each of the powers. It sounds like SW works the same way.

  • #8
    Lots of good stuff, but I'd add one other. Combat relies as much on player choices as it does character abilities. Picking up the Dodge Edge to be less likely to be hit as range is nice, but all characters should be looking for cover when shots ring out (except the Overconfident one maybe, but give them a Benny).

    It's designed so players are invested in each fight not just how the character is built. Yeah, hitting someone standing in the open with a ranged weapon at Short Range during the day is pretty easy, so it falls to the player (as their character) to make decisions in the moment not just in how they will attack but how they will stay as safe as possible while doing it.

    Melee is a bit different as Parry (from Fighting) covers the defense, but attack modifiers make a difference. Getting Gang Up or making a Wild Attack (or both!) can make a big difference in success, but then getting in a position where foes get Gang Up on the hero makes a big difference too.

    In the end, choices matter in combat.

    That said, even the right choice can fall prey to an unfortunate dice roll and a bad one can turn good the same way. Enjoy those moments too. Some of my most memorable and fun experiences in games have come from a critical failure or dice Acing and leading to extraordinary and completely unexpected success.
    Clint Black
    Forum Admin & Rules Answer Guy
    Savage Worlds Brand Manager

    Comment


    • Aeonterra
      Aeonterra commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, Clint! I appreciate the advice, and will pass it on to my players. Combat in SW looks like it has a lot of moving parts, but all the parts seem to do something cool, so I'm cool with it.

  • #9
    Things like "benny" hand out rate, quick combats, dramatic tasks, ect, depend on what your group wants out of an RPG. If they want a very abstract easier time, hand out lots of bennies and solve many events with things like dramatic tasks. If your group likes things more traditional, don't hand out tons of bennies (3 per session is plenty with the current shaken rules), leverage the skill rules more and play it that way.

    One thing people coming from D&D do in Savage Worlds that messes them up is min/maxing. Optimization in Savage Worlds doesn't work the same way. A d4 in a stat is like having a major hindrance and gain from a d8 to a d10 in a stat isn't nearly as rewarding.
    Encumbrance also matters. It's basically armor proficiency so you really should keep track of it. Normally it just isn't an issue in modern D&D.
    Use situational combat rules against the player so the players can learn those rules.
    Card based initiative is great, ignore your gut instinct to change it.

    I recommend running some one shots from the core book first before people make campaign characters to get a feel for the system.

    Comment


    • Aeonterra
      Aeonterra commented
      Editing a comment
      Once I'm closer to game launch, I'm going to have a "session zero" with my players to discuss the type of game they want, and I'll tune it to that as much as I can.

      I have all the Savage Lankhmar stuff, so I might run a short campaign in that for us all to get our feet wet first, and to iron out the bugs.

  • #10
    Originally posted by Aeonterra View Post
    So, everyone is coming into it kinda fresh, including yours truly. For my experience, I ran Deadlands Classic for years, along with various flavors of D&D, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and the occasional game of Champions and Rifts. My friends have similar game experience.
    One issue I see with a lot of Dedlands Classic veterans coming to Savage Worlds is the mistake of thinking of Savage Worlds as "Deadlands lite". It isn't; despite having mechanics derived from the Great Rail Wars table top miniatures combat game, which were loosely based upon Classic, Savage Worlds is very much its own system.

    Some of the lessons of Classic are still applicable because of the similar design philosophies:
    Max out your Hindrances, both to make your character interesting and to maximize your character power (at creation and generating chips during play).
    Getting shot hurts, and getting stabbed hurts just as much. Use tactics, terrain, and special abilities to avoid getting it.
    Magical foes are super scary because they have unusual rules and their attacks tend to hurt even more than normal attacks.
    If you can kill it, then a lot of bullets to the head (or heart) will put it down quickly. If you can't kill it then run away and learn how to kill it. Unless you can just run completely away - then do that.
    It's better to not get hit than to try and take the damage, but sometimes you're going to get hit. Make sure your character has some ability to deal with it. Armor, high Toughness, medical skill, magical healing, reduce Wound penalties, go Berserk, bonuses to Soak, or something else.
    There aren't any dump stats, though there are some dump skills - which vary by campaign. All your Attributes matter, and your weaknesses will be exploited.
    Edges are AMAZING. They make some options actually useful, they provide entirely new options, and they can make a particular trait roll into 90+ % reliable.
    Fighting a monster in its lair is usually a terrible idea that will get you all killed. It's dark, you don't know the battle field, the creature can use its treasury as weapons, and sometimes you don't have a choice but to go in there anyway.
    Fear can be crippling, or even fatal. Phobias are crippling and fear can cause a heart attack that kills a character in rounds.
    The GM is in charge of handing out chips, and needs to hand out the correct amount for the tone and style desired (and to keep things fun). The more chips the posse has the more confident and zany they'll be.

    On the other hand, some lessons need to be forgotten.
    Chips don't carry over between sessions, and they can't be spent for XP. Use them or lose them.
    Everyone can use bennies. The players each have their own supply, and can share them with the right edges. The GM has a general pool he can use on any NPC, and each Wild Card NPC also has a couple of their own.
    All characters should have at least a d4 in Fighting, Notice, and Stealth. Regardless of campaign, that's a good guideline. Experienced players that deliberately choose otherwise can do that, but they need to know what they're getting into. Fighting derives into Parry, to not get stabbed. Notice is skill with your senses and comes up a lot. Stealth is more situational, but if you decide to sneak then being trained makes a huge difference.
    Non-Lethal damage works exactly the same as lethal damage, except that targets Incapacitated by non-lethal are stable and uninjured. Penalties, healing, and stacking are unaffected.
    Probably others, but those are the ones I can think of.

    Good luck, and I hope your game is coming together well! I, for one, am interested to hear how it goes.
    I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.

    Comment


    • Aeonterra
      Aeonterra commented
      Editing a comment
      Excellent comments, ValhallaGH! Thanks, and I will keep them in mind! It's especially cool how you broke down the similarities vs. differences re: Deadlands Classic. That helps me a lot.

  • #11
    I just wanted to post and thank everybody for responding to my query! It's a lot to let sink in, and I'm processing it (around the 1700 other things I have to do around here). More comments and questions will follow.

    The game I'm planning is going to be a fantasy-apocalypse end-of-the-world sort of thing, so I've been looking closely at the Fantasy Companion and the Horror Companion, as I want to stress both elements in the game to come. Right now PCs are going to be refugees from worlds that were unraveled by.... something.... and have all arrived in the city of Karas, the Final City of the World. There's going to be equal amounts of heavy roleplaying as they come to terms with what's happening, as well as some Fast Furious Fun (hopefully) when they have to confront what lies... outside.

    (High-level overview: a deconstruction of Michael Moorcock's Earl Aubec who claimed land for Law out of Chaos; in this case, Entropy is unraveling everything. Also heavy elements of William Hope Hodgton's The Night Land, some Lovecraft, and the rising sense of futilty due to being short on tea.)

    This will be the most ambitious game I've probably ever run, so we'll see what happens. I'm still in the planning phases now, but I have players lined up and chomping at the bit to play it. It will be coming up next in the game rotation after my best friend's Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st-edition game.

    Comment


    • ValhallaGH
      ValhallaGH commented
      Editing a comment
      I'm reminded of The Never Ending Story. The Nothing rolls through removing everything in it's path. But I'm much more familiar with that old film than I am with those novels.

    • Aeonterra
      Aeonterra commented
      Editing a comment
      The Night Land can be found at Project Gutenberg. It's a really old book (which predates Lovvecraft's stuff and probably had an influence on him) which is about someone from the then-present time traveling to the far future when the Sun is dim, the stars have gone out, and all of humanity lives in the "Great Redoubt", a pyramid miles tall. They need the shelter to protect themselves from the strange beings and monsters lurking outside.

      Earl Aubec was mentioned in one of the Elric books, but I don't remember which one.

      You're right about the Nothing from NeverEnding Story. I completely spaced that reference out, but there are some parallels!

  • #12
    In general, for a game with both fantasy and horror elements:

    A. Do people use the Sanity mechanic from the Horror Companion? Does it work well?
    B. Do people use Sanity less often, presuming that the heroic stock PCs are from should let them endure the horrific?
    C. Is it worth pulling in the Guts skill from Deadlands? I know PCs only have so many points to allocate and I don't want to spread them too thin.

    and the dreaded.....

    D. Has anyone ever pulled in the "madness meters" from Unknown Armies/Nemesis to use as a replacement for simple Sanity?

    Thanks!

    Comment


    • #13
      Next thought: I was reading somewhere that a SW GM was frustrated by having his Big Bads one-shotted by lucky players with 72 raises. Their solution is Boss Phases.

      Basically every time the boss would be defeated by going incapacitated/dead, that ends that Boss Phase and enters the next Boss Phase. Wounds are reset, and the boss's offense/defense may change if it's literally assuming a new form. Add as many Boss Phases as necessary to simulate the fight you want.

      Part of me likes this idea, as I've played approximately a zillion videogames where you had to fight the end boss in phases.

      Part of me wonders if this is a good idea, especially if done on the fly, as it is kinda deprotagonizing the PCs to arbitrarily add on Boss Phases just because boss Sary Mue went down too quickly. Now if Sary Mue was designed to have more than one phase ("ach, she'll look like a little girl, then after ye beat on her enough she'll become the demon ye know!") that would be a bit different on this point.

      As I think I've mentioned before, I intend to run SW by RAW starting out. But as an Aged GM, I always appreciate hearing about a good tinkering of stuff, too.

      Comment


      • #14
        Originally posted by Aeonterra View Post
        In general, for a game with both fantasy and horror elements:

        A. Do people use the Sanity mechanic from the Horror Companion? Does it work well?
        B. Do people use Sanity less often, presuming that the heroic stock PCs are from should let them endure the horrific?
        C. Is it worth pulling in the Guts skill from Deadlands? I know PCs only have so many points to allocate and I don't want to spread them too thin.

        and the dreaded.....

        D. Has anyone ever pulled in the "madness meters" from Unknown Armies/Nemesis to use as a replacement for simple Sanity?

        Thanks!
        Sanity is a tricky mechanic. It fits settings and stories were exposure to Evil, let alone fighting it, can slowly (or not so slowly) drive characters progressively more insane. Even then, being mad doesn't make a character unplayable - though it can, especially as the number of insanities increases.

        A. Rarely. It works well for what it is, but I don't know if that's what you want.
        B. I rarely use it because it doesn't fit the fundamentally optimistic tone I strive for. I've got enough depression in my life, I don't like it in my gaming. But that's a personal choice.
        C. Making Fear resistance a skill implies that ordinary people cannot resist supernatural horror. They don't have the training or mind set to start to fight back, let alone become heroes that save the day. Leaving it a Spirit check makes courage much more democratic (and realistic), a trait found in all peoples regardless of age, station, background, or other.
        D. Not that I know of. I'm not sure why you'd want to.
        I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.

        Comment


        • Aeonterra
          Aeonterra commented
          Editing a comment
          Good stuff, ValhallaGH. I'm going to consider carefully whether to put in Sanity. I'm going to leave out Guts, as I'd like the average person to have a chance to resist horror.

          My game is going to start really un-optomistically, but once the PCs get up and running, they can make a difference, though it won't be easy. One of my players loves the trope of "common man dealing with extraordinary events" and he's going to get that in spades.

          Thanks again!

      • #15
        Originally posted by Aeonterra View Post
        Next thought: I was reading somewhere that a SW GM was frustrated by having his Big Bads one-shotted by lucky players with 72 raises. Their solution is Boss Phases.
        ...
        Part of me wonders if this is a good idea, especially if done on the fly, as it is kinda deprotagonizing the PCs to arbitrarily add on Boss Phases just because boss Sary Mue went down too quickly. Now if Sary Mue was designed to have more than one phase ("ach, she'll look like a little girl, then after ye beat on her enough she'll become the demon ye know!") that would be a bit different on this point.
        On The Fly: Terrible idea, do not use. It would be done to take away the players' accomplishments. What you should do is add a bunch of Extras and maybe a Wild Card lieutenant or bodyguard to try and kill the players even if the boss drops.

        As a Planned Event: Should be fine. I had a friend do this, by putting his villain inside power armor and then putting that in the cockpit of a massive walker / mecha / robot armor; after the players killed the walker, the dude in power armor charged out (unharmed) to finish them off, though they still won. Just make sure there is a story / thematic reason for this and that it is legitimately cool; boring boss phases are very annoying, especially when overused.

        Alternatives include the following monstrous abilities: Fast Regeneration, Immunity (specific), Invulnerability, half damage from (common attacks), Heavy Armor.
        Other alternatives are mitigation or avoidance: arcane backgrounds and powers (notably healingwith a trapping that makes it a Free Action but self only), burrowing to only be available some times, invisibility to be very difficult to hit, teleportation to leave target zones, intangibility to be temporarily invulnerable, etc.
        Additionally, you can add story appropriate variations on those abilities. A personal favorite is Fast Regeneration that is keyed to an artifact in the scene - usually a blood chalice or pool that visibly depletes as it heals the villain, providing a clue how to bypass the ability and ensuring that the ability has limited numbers of uses (until the human sacrifices start ).
        I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.

        Comment


        • Aeonterra
          Aeonterra commented
          Editing a comment
          Useful stuff! I like how you bring things back around from a custom rule to things SW supports (abilities for the boss and allies). It's helpful for me to see what works as I design or re-skin enemies.
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