first impressions from savage worlds

I want to do a spinoff of Tabletop that is a season-long RPG show, with the same group of players and one campaign. I’m trying out different systems to see what I enjoy the most and what would work for the show. Last night we played Savage Worlds, and I really enjoyed it. I can’t imagine another system that would let us get in 5 satisfying combats in one session, and the thrill of exploding dice was really great (except when we were trying to subdue some bad guys, aced three times, and ended up killing them. Oops.)

My friend Martin ran it for us, in a post-apocalyptic setting he’s been working on for a long time. It says a lot about the system, I think, that he could just drop something into it that he developed entirely on his own and Savage Worlds supported it without any weird hacking.

My general impression of the system is positive, though I think using a wild card die with a d4 skill for a trait test is a little broken. We didn’t run the math, but it seems like it turns a lot of those trait tests, which should be very difficult to make since you only hit a success one in four times, into a little better than a coin flip. We talked about making a house rule that a d4 skill doesn’t get a wild die, but I need to do more research on it before I commit to the change.

We felt that the allies were a little overpowered, though I think we were running them wrong (I had 5 grunts with me, and instead of rolling once for them, I rolled 5 times, which I think was a mistake). Again, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a little tweaking to get better balance.

When I run Deadlands, I’m going to use a modified Zones system that John Rogers told me he lifted from Fate, which seems really great: an area is broken up into zones, and it costs one movement to go from one to another. If you’re in a zone with an enemy, you can melee, and you figure close/medium/long by counting zones between you and your target. Rogers told me that he puts each zone on an index card, and encourages his players to describe what each zone looks like (for example: in a nightclub, the stage is one zone, the tables another, then the bar, and the balcony. The players describe the area, so they’re building it in their imaginations and making it come to life). This lets you keep track of combat and gives a sense of spatial awareness without making it about minis on a map and counting squares, which I really don’t like. I don’t mind minis when I’m playing Warhammer, but otherwise, they just aren’t for me.

Overall, I liked it enough to play the system again, and I got enough of a handle on it as a player that I feel comfortable running it for my group next time we get together. I have an idea for a Deadlands campaign that should be pretty fun for everyone involved.

80 thoughts on “first impressions from savage worlds”

  1. I’ve only played Savage Worlds a few times, but I’ve had a positive experience each time. Either way, I LOVE the idea of doing a RPG spin-off. I can’t decide if I would rather watch a season long campaign type of thing, or one where you try out different RPGs throughout the season. Obviously by doing multiple RPGs throughout the season you would expose people to more RPG goodness, and maybe show some people that role-playing isn’t just people pretending to be elves in a dungeon fighting a dragon (not that there’s anything wrong with that scenario).

    Of course doing the season long campaign would be awesome too. Seeing a story unfold and getting attached to certain characters sounds geektastic. Also allowing people to see that story and character development can be as rewarding as gaining xp and loot. And maybe showing people positive examples of GMing could be awesome.

    Either way I’m stoked and will be subscribing.

    1. Will I definately think Tabletop should include more PNP RPGs. Watching yoy play Dragon Age was a lot of fun.

      I would suggest you check the following systems out:
      - BRP (RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu)
      - Savage Worlds (heaps of campaigns and settings out there)
      - FATE (Spirit Of The Century, Legends of Anglerre, etc)
      - True20 (Caliphate Nights)
      - Shadowrun 5th ed
      - Eclipse Phase
      - Mutants & Masterminds D20
      I’ld love to see you try any of these out on your show!

    2. Will I definately think Tabletop should include more PNP RPGs. Watching you play Dragon Age was a lot of fun.

      I would suggest you check the following systems out:
      - BRP (RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu)
      - Savage Worlds (heaps of campaigns and settings out there)
      - FATE (Spirit Of The Century, Legends of Anglerre, etc)
      - True20 (Caliphate Nights)
      - Shadowrun 5th ed
      - Eclipse Phase
      - Mutants & Masterminds D20
      I’ld love to see you try any of these out on your show!

  2. I can’t believe you don’t like minis in your role-playing, but you like D&D 4E. My poor brain simply can’t wrap itself around that dichotomy.

    1. I’ve had lots of fun playing 4e, but its reliance on minis and the way it’s basically a minis game with a little bit of RP attached has made it something I hardly ever play.

  3. Wil, please bear with me as I tell you about my last month and a half; I swear it is relevant to the topic of Table Top and RPGs. I’ve felt the need to tell you about this for a few weeks, but just now saw this a a good oportunity to do so.
    On March 6th I saw a post by Monte Cook on my Facebook newsfeed about something called “Torment: Tides of Numenera”. I didn’t know anything about this until I went to the Kickstarter page for it. Last I knew, Monte was taking a break from RPGs, so I was more than a little awed when I found out that there was going to be a new CRPG that was to be the spiritual successor to one of my favorite games ever, with much of the same team, and set in an awesome new gameworld designed by Monte. After asking my wonderful wife, I jumped in as a backer.
    Pumped and wanting to spread the word I posted about it in the off-topic forum of a browser game I play called “Fallen London.” While there I saw a post about Felicia Day liking FL, and went over to watch the FLOG for the first time, as well as my first time watching G&S.
    A few days later I was lokking for stuff on Torment and Numenera and found a couple of videos of Monte talking about Numenera at Gencon last summer. After watching those, I noticed the videos that Youtube suggested to me, and I ended up watching a series of videos of you reading from your chapbook at Gencon 2010. I then watched more videos of you, thinking ‘Wil Wheton, sure seems like a cool guy.’ I watched Star Trek panels and Table Top episodes. I watched the entire run of “The Guild.” etc.
    At some point I was in the T:ToN KS comments section when I see people talking about trying to get more writers on the project. The name Patrick Rothfuss came up; I had never heard of him before, but would remember it, because a few days later Youtube suggested Storyboard, episode 8 to me in which Colin McComb worried about how the Torment KS was going live the next day and practically begged Pat to come write for Torment, and Pat was reluctant because he had obligations. A few days after that he became the $3.25 million stretch goal.
    Now this is all just weird synchronicty stuff, but nothing that I really needed to tell you. Until I saw another video of you, that is. You were in a G+ hangout with eyes all over your face. Thank you for that video. I’ve struggled with depression, ADD, and social anxiety since I was a kid, and it was pulling me down at the time I saw that. Unfortunately, therapy is not currently an option due to recent changes in my employment impacting my income and insurance. This is doubly unfortunate because I’m now a stay-at-home Dad and I’m terrible at relating to my kids. But thank you all the same.
    Now to relate this back to the original topic. For the last month, I’ve really wanted to see you do a Table Top 2-parter (or more) where you get Patrick Rothfuss and maybe another Torment writer like Colin McComb or Chris Avellone, plus one of your old TNG co-stars (preferably Levar Burton or Brent Spiner) to play some Numenera with Monte Cook as GM. I think that all of the writers are getting together soon for a weekend long meeting soon, so that would mean that Patrick, Colin, and Monte would all be in SoCal at the same time. Maybe you could get them to come over for filming afterward? What do you think?

  4. Savage Worlds is best thought of as playing out like a movie instead of a story.
    The PCs and major NPCs are the Wild Cards, so they get the Wild Die. All other npcs are, by most, affectionately referred to as “red shirts” :D They don’t get to use a Wild Die and go down with a single wound. So, take Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for example:

    The Turtles, Master Splinter, and Shredder are Wild Cards, and Foot Soldiers are not, so no Wild Die.
    The 4 Turtles can easily handle 20+ Foot Soldiers with little more than bumps and bruises, but then Shredder shows up and it’s a much more difficult fight.

    As far as the Wild Die with d4 and untrained (d4 – 2), it emulates situations where, say a squire who has not had formal training with a sword can manage to run one through a Wild Card villain because of a luck (exploded Wild Die).

    Also, I have a soundtrack that helps get me into a Deadlands mood:
    The Humbling River – Puscifer
    Bartholomew – The Silent Comedy
    God’s Gonna Cut You Down – Johnny Cash
    Hurt – Johnny Cash
    O Death – Ralph Stanley
    Sound of Madness – Shinedown
    99 Problems – Hugo
    Too Old to Die Young – Brother Dege
    Save My Soul – Blues Saraceno
    Devil’s Backbone – Rearview Ghost

  5. Would definitely watch an RPG spin-off. Love the Acquisitions Inc. podcasts and videos and always wish they were longer. I think it’s a great idea. Engage!

  6. would absolutely love to watch a spinoff with long campaign, im completely new to tabletop gaming – have always loved it in theory but my friends have never been into it – after watching tabletop and the aquisitions inc podcasts (which are just brilliant) i have now gone out and bought both munchkin and the DnD redbox…. i intend now to find new people to start as a n00b party with me (have found a couple of tabletop meetups -yay :)

    seeing you guys play -really gave me an understanding of what is possible in the games, the amount of creativity – its the most valuable aspet of the show for me – to see how the game really works when its played well. its brilliant and im making sure all my friends watch the munchkin ep before we play – so thankyou!

  7. Firstly, I love the idea of the spinoff show. I enjoy Tabletop immensely, but a to see a show devoted to an RPG campaign and of such quality would be a dream come true.
    I play and like a lot of different games, but these last few years Savage Worlds has become my go to system. It has everything I want from a game: variety, speed of play, low prep for GM and enough flexibility to be played in different genres. I wouldn’t worry about the d4 + Wild Die issue as it’s smooth and works great in play. And SW does assume that players are “big damn heroes”, after all.
    As for setting choice, if you plunge into Deadlands, you’ll find Hell on Earth and newly published Deadlands Noir as other tasty morsels.

    I’m really looking forward to the show!

  8. I would really like to see a single campaign but with a different system each episode. Might be interesting to see you guys convert the characters and setting material to a new system every episode (would also allow for a small segment discussion the mechanics).

    If you go with a single system, Savage Worlds is a great choice because it is fast and I think that will work on screen.

  9. Will, I think the concept that you are exploring is outstanding.

    I would like to broach the topic of a game with you – HackMaster. You may have heard of the original HackMaster, which was a parody of AD&D 1st Edition, but the new game is entirely different and is really a joy to play. It is very serious, potentially quite deadly, and has mechanics that are quite unlike a lot of the Fantasy RPGs on the market today. (For example, combat occurs in real time, meaning that you are constantly active and busy doing stuff while the fight is going on — you never have to “wait your turn.”)

    If you don’t know anybody who can run for you, I would happily volunteer my services via Roll20, MapTools, Skype, Google Chat, or whatever program you are most comfortable with. I have been running a HackMaster campaign for more than 2 years. In my personal life I am a teacher (which means I might just be well-suited to teach you the system), but I love the game so much that I have actively pursued writing and publishing materials for the game. It’s just THAT fun, and THAT inspiring.

    Please keep HackMaster in mind, whether you want to tap me to demo it for you or not. I am also certain that Jolly Blackburn, the creator of Knights of the Dinner Table and one of the game’s designers, would willingly tell you more about the game and demo it for you were you to contact him.

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