Savage Words of Wisdom: Let it Be.

So, I’ve been gushing Savage Worlds fanboyism as of late. I’m totally digging the rules, and I am convinced that with enough elbow grease the rules are a perfect spring board to run just about anything you can throw at it. I’ve read lots of commentary where some folks felt that “gritty” or serious RPG’s couldn’t be handled in the rules, and I think they didn’t give it a fair shake. The biggest hurdle I’ve seen with this mentality is the “Rules as Written” crowd who don’t seem to get that Savage Worlds is a more toolkit/springboard approach to a core rules system than a defined “here are the laws of the universe” kind of system. Don’t get me wrong, the core rulebook as-is makes for a great, quick, Pulpy-action game like it sets out to do. But if anything has been proven by the community that supports it, it’s very much a “tinker-gnome GM” play ground. In a discussion on the PEG website about what the system wasn’t good for, I felt Mr. Black’s response really defined the mindset that makes the system work:

“I will say that as well as generic I don’t like using the term “universal system” for Savage Worlds either. To me, universal systems imply that all parts of the system regardless of their use are inter-balanced, so they could be used universally.  I prefer to refer to SW as a core system. With Setting Rules and a little adaption, it can be used to run a variety of different kinds of games using most of the core mechanics. But those different rules and adaptions for one game won’t necessarily be balanced with those created for other games.”

It’s so easy to tinker and add-on to the system without “breaking it”; adding a few skills, attributes or traits as needed seems to flow fine due to the simple (yet flexible) core mechanic. But the tricky part is figuring out when you really need to add something to the game, and when you need to take a step back and play it as-is with the system. There’s a saying that echoes in a lot of the Savage Worlds communities, that before you go off adding stuff to the system, you should make sure it’s not already covered in the rules. When I started my exploration into SW, and asking some general newbie questions about converting material, Chuck from The Geek Life Project shared this statement:

My personal philosphy is I don’t convert things to Savage Worlds, I translate them. Yes, it’s a bit of semantics. Basically, don’t over think converting specific game mechanics, convert just what an ability does in relation to SW. There’s a very good chance that there’s something close enough to what you are looking for in the core book or some other support material. Just keep it F3.

Learning the Hard Way.

Alright, so I wanted to do a conversion project to really get my hands dirty with stretching the mechanics of the system. Unfortunately, I picked a project that I think instead wound up battering my brains into pieces: “Oh,

hey, I have like over a dozen RIFTS books I hardly get to use.” This was probably a bad idea, but it was encouraged by some peers to give it a shot. A buddy suggested Necessary Evil (this was prior to the Supers Companion coming out) and treating all characters like “supers” since, well, they kinda are. Let’s face it: the RIFTS setting is like splicing the movie Heavy Metal in with various action cartoons from 1980’s Saturday Morning while cranking Dio up in the background.

I don’t regret this endeavor because, in the end, I learned a lot from it. For starters, I’m now more familiar with the rulebooks of RIFTS, Savage Worlds and Necessary Evil. Not expert, but I’m pretty damn good at looking shit up now across all of them. The next thing I learned is: They weren’t joking about not over-thinking it. I spent almost all of December “over-thinking it.”  You don’t really understand it, until you do it. In my case, over-thinking it was literally trying to stat everything over; followed by the mistake of trying to template out each class.

After waking up from my brain aneurysm, did the final piece of awesome enlightenment hit me: You’re doing it wrong.
Starting back over, I realized it’s literally just a lot easier (and keeping with the “3F!” philosophy of Savage Worlds) to just forget about the stats and power levels of RIFTS and just strip it down to its conceptual elements, then stat those out under the SW rules. Granted, there’s a lot of character concepts in RIFTS that have signature powers that aren’t covered in SW or NE; but, that’s where the GM just needs to step in, scratch together a quick power, edge or background, wave his hand in the air and say “Let it Be.”

At the risk of receiving legal grief…..

Without stepping on Palladium Books’ toes or intellectual property, I figured I’d end this with a quick run down of my final guidelines for what I call my “Savage Megaverse” home rules:

In addition to the RIFTS rules and the Savage Worlds core rule book, the following also requires either Necessary Evil or the Supers Companion:

  • Seasoned Characters, all receiving the benefit of Arcane Background: Supers for free as the NE/SC guide lines.
  • Depending on the concept, Spell Casting concepts may take Arcane:Magic as an edge. This so “line walker” types can spend their supers-related PP to purchase powers and trappings related to Ley-Lines. The GM may grant a reduction in PP cost for restrictions on the powers that limit them to Ley-Line only abilities.
  • Normal concepts like City Rats and Rogue Scholars, feel free to blow your PP on better Skills and rejoice you stand a better chance in a fire fight.
  • Caster types will have more available means of recharging PP in this setting due to Ley Lines.
  • Some concepts, the GM will need to scratch up some powers for. Psi-Stalkers, for example, need a new power to drain PP.
  • Yes, all this PP talk sounds funny out of context.
  • Edit: Also, check out Triple Ace’s Tales from the Sprawl for a good system on purchasable cybernetics.

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