Giving into the Cult of Savage Worlds

Yes, I gave in. It took long enough I suppose.  I’ve tried to resist your damn sermons, I’ve ran from your converts and at some point I contemplated pouring salt around my house. Your followers came out of the woodwork; anytime it was muttered “I want a system to run X setting with” it was usually your disciples who would pop up and suggest “Savage Worlds could handle it.” Who the heck are these guys? I remember reading about these chaps when I was looking into the new edition of Deadlands a while back. To be honest, at the time it didn’t register on me that Deadlands: Reloaded was the actual new edition of the game, and that Savage Worlds was an RPG system but out by the same talented amigos behind it. I just figured “Ah, they converted Deadlands to yet another system.” Ya know, kinda like d20 and GURPS.

GURPS. I remember you. I have a pretty good collection of GURPS books. I bought it on the idea of having a toolkit to make whatever freaking RPG setting I wanted, and having a unified rules system to handle it. Except, I SW_Fannever got around to really running GURPS sans a couple 1-shots. The system, while detailed and flexible, just wasn’t my cup of tea. Which is ironic, since I ran countless games of Big Eyes/Small Mouth in my time. And it was virtually the same system; only stripped down and marketed towards anime junkies.

When the Savage Worlds train began picking up steam, and like a wildfire everyone began converting almost everything to it, I wrote it off as another GURPS. Another Tri-Stat system. Another RISUS. Another “You can run ANYTHING!” system. For the longest time, I found my “toolkit” rulebook in the form of the new World of Darkness core rulebook. Sure, it was aimed mostly at Modern Horror, but the system was easy to adapt to any situation, detailed enough to offer a nice side of crunch yet maintained a pretty straightforward rules set that it was easy to whip up stats on the fly, and combat was usually over pretty quickly.

Revelations.
So why did I give in? I had written off as “another trendy system” (which it very well may be) and figured I had enough trendy systems as is (Between nWoD and D&D 4E, yeah, I’m a game whore.) The decision came at a critical moment of personal thinking, debate and an analysis of what I really need vs. what I want.  It started with a pre-order of the new Warhammer Fantasy  3E Box Set.  I’ve been really itching to try the new edition, with all of its gimmicky parts like the power cards, boardgame-esque counters, stands and trackers. It seemed like one part board game, one part Narrative fantasy role play in one of the most brutal settings on the market. I’m still curious to see how it turns out, and I’m hoping those who have ordered it get their money’s worth with it. But something dawned on me about it. You see, I was writing a blog article that never made it to this site because I had to work out a contradiction with myself.

See, I’ve been having one major nagging problem with the 4th edition of D&D: Emphasis on background fluff and implied setting.  While all editions of D&D have had its “canon” in terms for how the universe works, it was still safe to assume that Rogues rely on nimble hands and quick feet, Fighters relied on martial training and brute strength, etc. And to be honest, 4E did handle that. Reading through the core Player’s Handbook, despite every class getting “cool powerz” it still came off in the flavor and execution as such (at least, it did for me.) But lately, it seems like the implied setting is starting to creep into the rules, and leaves me feeling a little…..ick.

For example, for those who haven’t had a DNDInsider subscription — The Assassin class. Let’s review 1st Edition AD&D: You were a subclass of the Thief, trained to use poison and made your own side cash and XP knocking off targets. Third edition was a bit different, but still okay in my book: It was a prestiege class, where someone had to train and raise up their skills and talents to become one of these master killers.  So surely, an Assassin in 4E is another Martial Class right? Wrong. It’s “power key word” is Shadow. You’ve sold a part of your soul to the Shadowfell (read: parallel dimension of your world where creepy things go bump in the night) and now your character has cool shadow powerz to sneak around and kill people with.

Umm, what? Even if you play the “Change the fluff to fit it in your setting” description, it’s still wonky and doesn’t work right for me.  Even if I trim the whole Sell-Souling to the darkside aspect, the powers are pretty much trimmed to something that doesn’t really fit with my concept of what an assassin should be in my game world. Looks like they’re giving Monks the same treatment as well: Bad ass, ki-powered martial artists who roam the world looking for adventures and perfection of the form right? Yeah sure, except we should mention they’re all Psionic based now. It’s a small flavor, but still…..I’ve noticed in the D&D campaign I’ve been running all year, what started off as my setting using some base D&D “lore” with my own reinterpretations and an attempt at my own cosmology has wound up being shoe-horned into matching the 4E implied setting. I still love the new edition, and to be honest I’m looking forward to more campaigns once my current one concludes….but one lesson I’ve learned from it: It’s easier to just play in THEIR world than yours.

So how does this all related to the new Warhammer game? After analyzing these issues I have with 4E, I asked myself if I really needed another Fantasy RPG where we’re pretty much tied to the implied setting of the game. Especially after the investment into 4th Edition D&D. Also, did I need another RPG with gimmicky parts and the need to keep purchasing more of them to get “the full effect?” No. I didn’t. I’m fine with 4E in that aspect.

The Conclusion and the Conversion

deadlands reloadedSo in the end, I decided what I really needed was something I could spend less time learning how to play and spend more time creating stuff to play.  Also, I have this massive collection I’ve built up since I was a kid of all these ridiculous rulebooks, settings and sourcebooks for so many different RPG’s. So I decided to give in and take a look at Savage Worlds, and what floored me were the rules themselves. A community where everyone goes conversion crazy is a plus, but I’ve seen it (and been a part of it) before with different systems. When I checked out the Test Drive for Savage Worlds,  I think what caught my eye was the fact that it all looked….right. It had a feel and an aesthetic that fits my gaming style perfectly. It has enough rules to get detailed and tactical with, yet the core mechanic and the way the stats are setup are lightening quick for me to assess on the fly and keep up with minimal paper work. Not only that, it really was flexible where even as I read the demo rules I was quickly picturing how I could convert some old character concepts to these rules.

Finally….ten bucks. Ten bucks buys me a nice little book that covers almost every situation I’d need, and the rest I could just idea farm from another source.
Granted, I went ahead and purchased Deadlands: Reloaded for it too; but it’s nice to know I could go grab any book off my shelf and quickly scheme up some stats from any game or setting.
I may finally use all those RIFTS books afterall…….

7 thoughts on “Giving into the Cult of Savage Worlds”

  1. Welcome to the Savage side!

    My indoctrination was much like yours. I kept hearing people talk about it, but I didn’t it much thought, I was (and remain) quite content with 4e, D&D being our game. Then two of my players, talking idly one night, said it would be cool if I ran a Firefly game. One of them had the Serenity book and I had read in more than one place that the system was clunky and non-intuitive. Then at just the right time WrathofZombie guest-blogged on Chatty’s blog with a post demanding the gaming world give SW a try and things clicked. I still wasn’t sure if it would be the right vehicle to run my game, but for $10 I could check it out. And that was that.

  2. Savage Worlds is a solid system, not my first choice, but I am happy to play it when it comes up. And, of course, anything that keep Deadlands going gets a big boost in my books.

  3. Welcome to the cult. Just drink the Koolade and enjoy. When I first start playing Savage Worlds I was amazed by the amount of fan support there is out there. Plus their forums are nice and friendly place. Pinnacle and all its licensees do a great job of communicating with fans and supporting their products.

  4. Nice. I’ve come to the same revelation with 4e recently. No matter how hard I try to I cannot play in a published campaign setting. I’m too much into the idea of building worlds and making it my own.

    The 4e rules set does have that implied setting built into the rules which does feel constraining when trying to come up with your own and the example you use is a perfect one. I also get the same feeling with pathfinder and previous editions of d&d unfortunately. I love the game, but not the implied setting.

    The same goes with warhammer, the new edition looks like a hell of a lot of fun but I’m just not into the setting as much as I was say 5-10 years ago.

    Basically I’m sick of the whole traditional fantasy paradigm. I’ll have to check out savage worlds sometime as I’ve heard lots of good stuff about it but right now I’m checking out fantasy craft. Fantasycraft really feels like the fantasy mold breaker.

  5. Welcome to Savage Worlds!

    I started looking for a new rules set because, albeit I’m an avid 3.5/Pathfinder player, I wanted something that wasn’t so crunchy all the time. I also did not want to just go to a S&W or 1e dnd retro clone. I wanted something new.

    I kept hearing, constantly, about how great SW was. And like you, for $9.99 I figured how could I lose? A book that touts, “This is all you really need to play!” Bam. You got yourself a deal!

    Here is a review I did for Savage Worlds as a guest post on ChattyDM.

    http://chattydm.net/2009/07/29/dude-you-gotta-try-savage-worlds/

  6. I’d DMed 3/3.5 for years, and always felt too intimidated to try to write my own scenarios – it was all so dense and fine grained.

    When I got SW, the cork popped and I suddenly felt “I can do this!”. Since then the ideas have been pouring out, and I’m having a blast building a unique playground for my group. I’m loving my gaming more than I have for aeons, and I thank SW for it.

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