Sunday, 1 July 2012
I had a SW period a while back, both running and playing in regular campaigns, and enjoyed it for a while, before the siren's call of old-school D&D lured me back to my roots. So it was very interesting to return to my once-regular gaming system, and to look at it with fresh eyes.
I guess I have a weird relationship with Savage Worlds now. On the one hand I basically really like the system. I find it clean and well designed, without being bland, complex enough for some nice character options, without the number crunching that comes with D&D 3, and it comes in a nice slim rulebook. I also really like the concept of a core system -- which can be expanded and tweaked for each campaign -- as opposed to generic / universal system -- which is supposed to cover everything out of the box.
However, playing the game again yesterday brought up two really major things I don't like about it:
1. The dice system. On paper I find the dice system in Savage Worlds really cool. Roll your trait die (a d4 to a d12) and a wild die (a d6). Take the highest then apply any situational modifiers. If you get 4 or more you succeed. Higher results in multiples of 4 (so a result of 8, 12, etc) are called "raises" and sometimes get you additional levels of success. All dice "explode", meaning that if you roll the highest number on the die then you roll again and add.
A nice system. The trouble I have with it is that it can take so bloody long to resolve a single action! There's lots of different die types involved, lots of adding, lots of re-rolling (which leads to more adding), lots of comparing (the wild die and the trait die can explode separately). This is, of course, especially problematic with players who are new to the system, but even for experienced Savage Worlders the fact is that it's just a slow and pretty fiddly resolution mechanic compared to what I'm now used to (to attack: roll a d20 and look up the result on a table*).
2. The use of miniatures. Of course the use of miniatures is theoretically optional in most roleplaying games, including Savage Worlds, but SW is one of the more mini-oriented games I've come across. There's a lot of talk of things like adjacent squares, blast radii (in squares), squares of movement rate, etc etc. It lends a skirmish / wargame feel to the game (which, if I remember correctly, is actually its origin). This is fine for certain sorts of game (I'd consider using Savage Worlds for an explicitly battle oriented game, for instance), but for general roleplaying I prefer to not use minis at all, and can't be bothered with all this counting out squares of movement, ranges, and so on.
The tagline of Savage Worlds is "Fast, Furious Fun!". I think this is very relative. Compared to basic (old-school) D&D, for example, it's not fast at all. Compared to more modern D&D 3 derived games, I guess it probably is fast. I'd say it's about the same as 1st edition AD&D played with individual initiative, segments, the full monty.
* I'm beginning to wonder whether a simple table lookup is actually faster than rolling a die and adding a modifier. You know, one of the main proposed benefits of the ascending AC system is that it doesn't require a table lookup. It does, however, replace that lookup with an addition or subtraction of the d20 result with the attack modifier. I'm not sure that's quicker.