Savage Worlds 6 Sessions In

So I've been running Savage Worlds' Evernight campaign for some six sessions, and it's my first experience with the system. Six sessions in, what do I think of it?

1. It's more old school than I would have thought. Despite my being pretty new school and the system having drama points (Bennies) and other tweaks like card-based initiative, there's still a strong focus on leveling up, which I associate with old school gaming. The frequent addition of abilities to the group as we speed towards the eventually epic finale (in another 8 or 9 sessions) fits the pulpy idea that heroes are meant to be heroic and damn the logic. Except, you know, movie logic, and that's fine. I'm still flashing back to the olden days of XP hoarding , body looting and the assurance that characters would eventually break the bank. The use of miniatures certainly helps foster that impression.

2. Combat is unpredictably deadly. While no one has died yet, I wouldn't be surprised if it happened at some point. You can have long stretches where the goons can't even hit the heroes, and then a lucky strike aces and puts a PC in mortal danger. Healing is problematic, with a golden hour restriction on healing spells and a week's rest per wound for natural healing. I do like how being incapacitated may lead to permanent injury, but all this seems at odds with the power trip feel that's otherwise in effect in the game (i.e. the advantages of being a Wild Card). My players must really start thinking about their strategies if they're to survive what's to come, the wild attack being a favorite right now, but not suiting every character.

3. I'm not sure about the magic system yet. I personally have no problem with such a streamlined system that has so few spells/powers, and prefer mana/power points to learning specific spells. However, spellcasters do tend to run out of points early. Still, that's offset by their unrestricted access (Strength willing) to weapons. so it's serviceable, but has little flavor to make it stand out. By comparison, tactics and Combat Edges are much more interesting.

4. Character generation is tough on Novices. I like "point-buy" chargen generally, and found Savage Worlds to be easy to work with. I asked players to come up with character concepts first, and then helped them build those concepts with the rules. We succeeded in every case, and in a modicum of time. Being used to GURPS, I was happy with how quickly things came together. If there's a problem, it's that "level 1" characters (Novices with 0 XP) get to take so few starting options to differentiate them. Different Races and a Professional Edges will likely do it, but over time and many chargen experiences, things might start to look samey. I will likely start future campaigns with already Seasoned Characters.

5. Advancement is too steep. On the one hand, that's ok, because I do want to race through this opening campaign and finish it before Christmas, and I do want the characters to grow quickly. I generally give the maximum (3) XP award every session. I do have a problem with Bennies being turned into XP however. I've noticed players hoarding their Bennies and only rarely rerolling or soaking damage in order to get that roll at the end of the session. One player in particular has been extremely lucky with those, and in one of the sessions, I had to tell a player I wasn't comfortable with him leveling twice in the same session (in other words, his Bennies went and gave him 3 XP on top of the 3 I was handing out). In a slower-moving campaign (or maybe even in the near future), I may rule that the number of Bennies you have left represents a number of chances at rolling for an extra XP, limiting the bonus at +1 per session.

6. I like Plot Points. Evernight's, at least, work very well to date. I'd say I'm much more Story-oriented than Campaign-oriented, so the idea of telling a finite story appeals to me and my players strapped for time. Savage Worlds products like Evernight feature a strong setting + prewritten campaign combo that not only saves on prep time and money, but also allows the story to take an unexpected turn. If Evernight was a standard setting, GMs would probably start the story with the sky already obscured, but Evernight first sets up the idyllic fantasy world before pulling the rug out from under the players' feet. The Plot Points also support a learning curve for new players as more and more Savage Worlds and setting concepts come into play. The setting is revealed through the adventures, so the GM doesn't need to assimilate and then parcel out setting information in contrived ways. I know the quality of these varies, but in Evernight at least, I've nothing to complain about.

7. The card-based initiative fuels momentum. I was worried at first that the use of cards, which seems cool in Deadlands, would clash with other settings. While it's not exactly on target when it comes to genre, it's a fun initiative system. Players like to throw down, and my quick calling out of card numbers gives pace to combat that can sometimes be long (especially against larger forces). To make it better suited to fantasy, I'm using Tarot cards instead of playing cards, with the Knights taken out and all but the Fool and the Sun (Evernight's god) as jokers.

8. I'm using the Adventure Deck. This is a fun tool full of New School goodness. They don't come into play all that often (though as the characters become Seasoned, they'll get more cards to use).

9. Allies are a good way to learn the later echelons. The players have had a chance to play with Allies of higher level in one session - something Savage Worlds recommends - and not only did it open up new strategic possibilities, but it also gave the players a look at what was possible at those higher levels. They hit Seasoned a little wiser than they might otherwise have been, and will be able to make more educated choices of Edges and spells, having had a chance to "test-drive" them.

10. I will continue using Savage Worlds. After Evernight wraps up, I'm quite willing to pick up another Savage Worlds setting and have more fun, whether with Plots Points or not. I'm even interested in using Savage Worlds to play in non-SW settings (like doing that Ninja Wars OD&D thing that was almost our next campaign). he system is quick, fun and easy to adapt. In 2011, I look forward to some Rippers, Slipstream or maybe some kind of Kung Fu epic, depending on what my players want to do once they've had their fantasy fix.

Maybe I'll have more comments 15 sessions in...


Granger44 said...

The Explorer's Edition of Savage Worlds did away with turning bennies into XP since the Savage Worlds Devs really want bennies to be spent (and earned) freely. I would suggest adopting that as a house rule especially since you are already awarding 3 XP for each session instead of 2.


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