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Savage Worlds Observations 
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Joined: Sat May 23, 2009 9:05 pm
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Post Savage Worlds Observations
My friend, Jocelyn, posted these thoughts on the Roludo forums. I thought they were dead-on. They may seem obvious to a Savage Worlds gamer, but I'm not sure I have ever heard them stated so clearly. So I am going to echo him here.

Quote:
On Aces (exploding dice)
One needs to take a lot of different factors into account when judging that mechanic.

(1) Active scores versus passive scores. Suppose that two characters are fighting it out. Character A has d6 in fighting. Character B has a d10. What happens if you take out exploding dice out of the equation? Character A attacks, rolling d6/d6... and never ever hits, because Character B has a Parry of 7 (2 + (d)10/2). In combat, a lot of the tougher opponents will have passive scores that can't be beat without exploding dice. Like it or not, Ace-ing is not an aftertought but rather part of the whole set of odds for Savage Worlds. Thus, it can't be taken out just to adjust the flavor... at least, not without some major scaling back.

(2) Ace-ing caps. When you play around with SW a lot, you also eventually realize that ace-ing packs a much smaller punch that you would expect it to, and that a lot of its cool factor is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. When someone rolls, I dunno, 37, the first reaction around the table is one of awe. That's a good thing, and it adds a lot of excitement. But... what's that 37 worth, exactly? If you were doing a basic skill check, you can bet that you won't reap mechanical effects beyond one or two raises, and that the rest of that 37 will either be cosmetic (a description of how awesome you just were) or narrative (the task taking a significantly shorter amount of time, for instance.) Nothing in this is a game breaker. If you were doing an attack, that 37 nets you one single extra d6 on damage. Again, not a game breaker. That leaves us with damage rolls. 37 kills an extra outright, just like with a much smaller score. If you were attacking a Wild Card, you most likely incapacitate him, meaning that he's at -3 plus a chance of dying. Or is he? The character can spend a benny to get a soak roll (and the penalty for the new wounds don't apply.) If he rolls 4+, he's not dying but he's at -3. With 8+ he's at -2. With 12+, he's at minus one. AND, don't forget that you can spend another benny if you want to reroll that soak roll. The bottom line is that the chance of an instant kill is pretty low, unless you've run out of bennies - and that's pretty rare.

So... Ace-ing is a much smaller deal than you would think it is, and it's a bitch to iron out of the system. [This last was in response to the idea that you might hack SW to be more gritty by removing Aces.]

On Bennies
So... bennies. It's funny, but when you first read about them, they read like ye olde Fate points mechanic. In play, subtly, I found that they're basically the backbone of Savage Worlds.

So here's the thing about bennies. As long as you have them, you can steer the narrative your way. If you fail a roll that you really needed, spending one is smart since SW is skewed towards success (i.e.: you're more likely to succeed than not). If you really needed to act and you're shaken, spending one allows you to go on with your plan. If a character lays the pain on yours, spending one lets you mitigate that pain so it doesn't hamper you too much.

GM bennies are super important, because if you forget about them, the PCs will walk all over you. They're easy to forget about, because their most obvious function is the re-roll. Re-rolls, I've found, are far less often crucial for the GM, because as controler of the whole wide world, you always live to fight another day. But, in the scene to scene management of the game, your NPCs will become shaken and/or will fall like flies in the face of dice that ace. Being able to unshake a character or stop the insta-kill of your main opposition is super important for dramatic tension. This is why part of your bennies, as a GM, are not assigned to specific characters. You get to spend them to manage the flow of the scene.

Bennies matter. Players can't stop the GM from winning a conflict unless they've managed to force him to spend all of his bennies. Conversely, players won't feel in true danger until they're either badly wounded (say, -2) or until they've run out of bennies.

The true conflict in Savage Worlds is one of attrition. It's about which side runs out of bennies first, and about what they do once that happens (usually: keep on going even without the safety net, or retreat to fight another day.) [I added the emphasis in that last sentence.]


Any thoughts on those statements?


Mon May 07, 2012 5:56 pm
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Post Re: Savage Worlds Observations
Simply this. PEG should give Jocelyn a bag of money to use this in their own books.

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Tue May 08, 2012 11:19 am
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Post Re: Savage Worlds Observations
Never had any particular interest in Savage Worlds.

-clash

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Tue May 08, 2012 11:47 am
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Post Re: Savage Worlds Observations
MountZionRyan wrote:
Simply this. PEG should give Jocelyn a bag of money to use this in their own books.


Truth. He really pegged the heart of the system. Everything else about Savage Worlds is somewhat pedestrian. Meaning it's your general, predictable stew of skills, edges/hindrances, modifiers, etc. I suppose the other major "thing" in Savage Worlds is the Wild Die/Heroes vs. Extras. Maybe I'll prod him into saying something intelligent about that too.

Clash. So many systems, so little time. SW is worth playing, though. Especially if you want a grid-based action RPG without too much weight.


Tue May 08, 2012 5:36 pm
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Post Re: Savage Worlds Observations
doomfistmonk wrote:
Clash. So many systems, so little time. SW is worth playing, though. Especially if you want a grid-based action RPG without too much weight.


I'm usually all happy to look over new systems - hey, I'm a systems guy - but for some reason, descriptions I read of SW do nothing for me. Maybe it's the 'grid-based' bit. I tend to avoid griddy stuff...

-clash

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Tue May 08, 2012 5:51 pm
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Post Re: Savage Worlds Observations
flyingmice wrote:
...for some reason, descriptions I read of SW do nothing for me. Maybe it's the 'grid-based' bit. I tend to avoid griddy stuff...

-clash


I started out "off the grid" and then played "on the grid" for about six years, then I quit again. I vastly prefer to not play WITHOUT a battlemat/minis. I find them constricting to the imagination and that they focus the game too much on things I don't like (or at least don't like when they take over the game). I make an exception for Savage Worlds. You really could do it without a grid, but it seems to want minis pretty badly.


Tue May 08, 2012 7:08 pm
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Post Re: Savage Worlds Observations
doomfistmonk wrote:
I started out "off the grid" and then played "on the grid" for about six years, then I quit again. I vastly prefer to not play WITHOUT a battlemat/minis. I find them constricting to the imagination and that they focus the game too much on things I don't like (or at least don't like when they take over the game). I make an exception for Savage Worlds. You really could do it without a grid, but it seems to want minis pretty badly.


Yeah - I agree with everything you say about grids, Troy. Just not for me.

But Everyone Else in RPG land seems to love 'em, so go ahead! I didn't mean to derail things here!

-clash

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Tue May 08, 2012 9:29 pm
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Post Re: Savage Worlds Observations
I agree about bennies, but disagree that aces' emotional impact is so small. Those become very memorable moments even if system-wise they are nothing special. Same principle as any critical hit/miss mechanic.


Wed May 09, 2012 12:14 am
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Post Re: Savage Worlds Observations
JDCorley wrote:
I agree about bennies, but disagree that aces' emotional impact is so small.

[Emphasis added.]

I didn't get that he was saying anything about the emotional impact. In fact I think this is exactly why they work so well. Aces are pretty much only about emotional impact, as mechanically they are often color.

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Wed May 09, 2012 7:59 am
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Post Re: Savage Worlds Observations
Exactly. They create a big emotional moment. "F'yeah! I rolled a 67!" But for the purpose of lopping off an extra's head, a 9 would have been just as effective.

Surprisingly, the excitement doesn't really tail off that much even when people can observe that super-large numbers aren't any more meaningful than more reasonable large numbers. It's a bit like a critical hit. People just love the idea that they get the chance for their character to be over-the-top awesome for a moment.


Wed May 09, 2012 10:13 am
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