My world just got a bit more savage

My very own copy of Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition plopped through the mailbox today. This is a game that I’ve played once or twice, read Vulcan Stev‘s and Uncle Bear‘s posts about the game with interested curiosity (or should that be curious interest?), read the Test Drive and soaked up as much information as one body can possibly take without actually owning the game.

And now its mine! Bwahahahaha, etc.

These are my first impressions of the game, looking at it with a completely clean “new book” mind.

It’s so small!
It’s half the size of the 4e D&D Player’s Handbook in every way. If you could fold the PHB in half top-to-bottom, you’ve got the dimensions of the SWEE, and it weighs in at just 160 pages. That’s about a squillionth the size of the D&D Core Books put together. True.

It’s so big!
Despite the lack of stature, it’s also feature complete. This one teeny tiny bookette includes character generation, combat, special abilities (magic, super-powers, psionics), mass combat, GM information and even an adventure. Phew!

What’s more, none of it feels rushed or crowded. The layout is superb, especially if you’re an…. ahhhh…. older gamer whose eyesight is starting to fail. Big font, clean layout, and a wide variety of images from various genres. I like.

It might be complete, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s comprehensive. As a superhero RPG fan, the super-powers section was one of the first I turned to, and there’s more than enough abilities to tickle the imagination, but Mutants & Masterminds this ain’t.

I’d say it compares very well to both GURPS 4e and d20 Modern, and could easily replace both as either a solid generic engine and/or as a modern-day game for episodic action. That’s my first impression anyhow. I’ll let you know how that translates right at the game table.

Novice means just that
When I’ve played before, we used pre-generated Seasoned characters, so creating my first Novice baseline guy was a bit of an eye-opener. Your starting character in SWEE is very, very low-powered, to the point where I actually feel constrained by the character generation rules. That’s not a Good Thing, imho. In M&M terms, this feels roughly on a par with Power Level 3, but with just 30 points to play with. Or, to put it another way, take a 4e D&D character, remove all the powers and deduct 5 from all the stats.

I know the Wild Dice mechanic makes a big difference between your heroes and the rest of the world in play, but that doesn’t help at chargen where what you want to be able to do is create a character with options right there on the sheet.

Do people actually play at Novice level? Even the Pregenerated Characters from Pinnacle’s Downloads section are all Seasoned or higher.

Hopefully, that feeling is something which will go as I learn my way around the system some more. Any help or advice appreciated!

With that in mind, here’s my first SWEE character, just for y’all to pick apart.

Damn this image turned out dark. Ah well. Let’s call it ‘moody’.

Brett is a Chicago homicide detective with a chequered past (don’t they all?). His refusal to help the local Mafia led to his wife’s murder, and he’s more than a little obsessed with finding her killer once and for all. He’s convinced that his bosses know more than they let on, and his curious nature has got him into trouble more than once. He’s not the brightest ‘dick on the force, but he’s the one you want by your side when bullets and fists start flying.

Detective Brett Gudrun
Agility d4, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d8
Pace 6, Parry 5, Tough 9 (Kevlar Vest), Cha 0

Driving d4, Fighting d6, Guts d6, Investigation d6, KS:Law d4, Notice d6, Shooting d8, Stealth d4, Streetwise d6
Brawny, Curious, Deathwish (Find wife’s killer), Delusional (Minor:Convinced superiors know more than they let on)
Glock, Kevlar Vest

Now….. what would you do differently?


22 Comments on “My world just got a bit more savage”

  1. All the games I’ve run have been at Novice level.

    I think Novice level is a good place to start any character who is not an adventurer by trade. I stated myself out as a novice level character and feel it is a more than fair interpretation. I didn’t really need any more skill points because the Jack of all Trades Edge and Common Knowledge rules cover most everything that wasn’t covered by the skill list as is. I use a couple of house rules on most of the characters I run on my blog, so YMMV.

    With your detective I count one extra attribute (covered by the hindrances) and four extra skill points (also covered by the hindrances I presume, but I’m not looking it up). I like it. I would have gone with Agility and Spirit d6; you’d have to adjust the skill points accordingly.

    I have a post going live on the sixth that will feature four more novice level characters.

  2. @Dr Checkmate Thanks! I see you gave your character an additional Attribute bonus. I guess that’s the equivalent of starting with 5XP, right?

    I like how advancement is handled in SWEE – every 2 adventures (roughly), gain a benefit. Simple, fast and neat.

    I wanted my detective to be tough and strong-willed first and foremost, and as I also wanted him to be at least average intelligence and strength too, per the rules something had to give, so Agility it had to go. I could have spent all of the Hindrances to gain 2 attribute bonuses (rather than one), but that sacrifices choices when it comes to Edges. Hmmmm…………

  3. Bear in mind that the SWEX (as it’s known by Savage Fans) is just the baseline rules. Nearly every setting expands and tweaks them to some extent to better capture the flavor of the setting. This is relatively simple to do, with new Edges, Hindrances, Professional Edges and Powers. The Hellfrost setting has an expanded list of spells, eliminates Power Points, but introduces potentially dangerous (to the character) spell failure mechanics if you roll a 1. Necessary Evil, a supers setting, has a full range of superpowers on par with M&M.

    The joy of Necessary Evil is that it’s on the SWEX format, but with a higher page count, and not only contains all of the superpowers but a complete campaign.

    There are also the Genre Toolkits, available as PDFs, that expand the rules for use with Fantasy, Pulp, and Science Fiction. There’s rumor of a Supers Toolkit in the works as well. And there’s rumor that each toolkit is going to be published in a SWEX-format book. This is teh glee.
    .-= Berin Kinsman´s last blog ..A Brief Hiatus =-.

  4. Great first impression — We’ve started games with both seasoned and novice adventurers, I’ve just started running the Sundered Skies plot-point with novice characters, although they could have started with up to 3 xp for filling out background cards (idea I stole from a comment on gnome stew) My personal preference is to start at novice and see how things work out.

  5. @Berin Must remember. SWEX, not SWEE! But I like Swee….. but I also like the idea of being able to write a blogpost entitled “The Joy of SWEX” too. Ok, SWEX it is :D

    It certainly looks like a system that’s very well designed when it comes to expansion and general hackery, but what’s impressed me the most is just how much the Explorer’s Edition contains all on it’s own. This neither reads nor feels like a cut-down trial version of the system; it’s the real deal, and it shows. I’m most interested in the Fantasy and Pulp toolkits further down the line, though I’ll definitely wait and see if they’re released in the same sized format. That rocks.

    Thanks, ‘Bear!

    @Weezoh Thanks! I’m a big fan of rewarding cool background too, and will likely implement something like that too.

  6. I play in Weezoh’s SS campaign. I also run Triple Ace Games (same company that put out the Hellfrost campaign Bear mentioned) Daring Tales of the Space Lanes.

    We started on Savage Worlds when Weezoh started a Savage Freeport campaign. 4E hit, we left SW and messed with 4E for awhile and are now back to Savage Worlds. Let me tell you that SW is the game to play. From a GM standpoint, you actually have fun during the session as you feel more like a participant because there is so much less record keeping than in other RPGs. That is a huge selling point to me since I run about half the time for our group.

    The biggest advantage I have discovered for using Savage Worlds is, Weezoh and I love to play different genres. That used to mean having to switch games on our group, which became annoying to them or play GURPS which really was way too much of a learning curve and time investment for our aging group. So, with Savage Worlds, Weezoh and I can switch genres without switching systems which I believe has really improved the morale of our group.

    If it seems like I am gushing, it is because I am. I really love Savage Worlds.

    You can follow our exploits on our group website and wiki. Welcome to the Savage Worlds.

  7. @magehammer Thanks for stopping by! Mutants & Masterminds fills a similar need with us; that’s our go-to system of choice for everything, not just superhero gaming.

    From my own (limited) experience of Savage Worlds and what I’ve read of it so far, it’s every bit as solid a game as M&M. It’s less crunchy, and that means it’s an ideal pick-up game, but also has more than enough depth to hold a long-term campaign too. It’s certainly a game I’m happy to add to my repertoire :D

  8. Clarification.

    The toolkits, I suspect, have about run their course. They were released under the revised rule set. The ones coming in dead tree format are the companions which are sort of best of the toolkits collections. As I understand it. Also, I believe, they will be in the same format as SWEX and the SWEX edition of Necessary Evil. NE should probably be the next thing you pick up, Wulf.

  9. I really love the SW settings. First played Necropolis 2350 and am currently enjoying reading Shaintar. Slipstream and Hellfrost were great. Planning to grab Solomon Kane and Sundered Skies as well.

    Each setting is quite unique and brings a lot to the overall game.

  10. Yeh. I’ve added Necessary Evil to my wishlist, and Hellfrost, which looks awesome. For now though, I’m trying to see just how far I can push just the one book. Lookin’ good so far!

    Quick question: apart from spaceships, is there anything you feel is missing from the Explorer’s Edition? Just curious.

  11. Aside from the templates and character sheets?

    Speaking of character sheets:

    Uhmmm… The vehicle section is some what abbreviated. Gone are the WWII fighter entries. But, I still have my copy of the revised book around.

    Uhmmm… The section on creating new races could have used a bit more meat. I think the best one for that is in the sci-fi worldbuilder toolkit, btw.

    And… Yep, I think that’s it.

  12. Thanks for the link. The world needs more gorgeous character sheets! Bookmarked.

    I’d have liked more vehicles for different genres in there – just a line or three of spacecraft would have made me happy, and I agree about the races section.

    All in all, there’s not a lot to fault in such a small rulebook though :D

  13. One thing to keep in mind with SWEX, is that although it is a complete system it is a very bare-bones rule set. Shaintar will customize SWEX for a D&D setting. Pirates of the Spanish Main will give youa swashbuckling setting and Necessary Evil will handle just about any super-hero cliche you want to throw at it.
    .-= Vulcan Stev´s last blog ..Vulcan Stev Family Movie Review: The Spirit =-.

  14. Welcome to the Savage Worlds cult! I gotta say that the community on the PEG forums is great. Shane, Clint and the licensees are all very supportive of the fans and the game. And the fans are very civil, something you don’t see all that often online.
    .-= Chuck´s last blog ..RPG’s that should go to the screen =-.

  15. Wow.. Crazy! Wulf, I was gonna do a blog post today on starting Savage Worlds myself^_^ I just got the book on Wednesday and have been tearing through it and loving every minute of it!

    I can see that their tagline will hold up, “Fast, furious, and fun!” I agree with you that the book is just so full of info for such a little package. They didn’t waste time. It is short and to the point.

    I really wanna get the deadlands reloaded campaign book. I’ve been itching to do a western.

    Btw, are these toolkits everyone has been mentioning on the pinnacle website?

    As far as races go, the thing that popped in my head is, if you were converting say DnD, you would just up a die and low a die level (ie- Elves in 3.5 get +2 Dex -2 Con. I would up their agil 1 die level and lower their vigor one die level). Just a thought.
    .-= wrathofzombie´s last blog ..Happy 4th of July!– If you celebrate it.. If not.. Happy Friday! =-.

  16. The toolkits are for sale at Studio 2 and RPGNow.

    As far as fantasy conversions, there is the Wizards and Warriors supplement downloaded for free from Pinnacle’s website, bundled with the Tomb of Terrors One Sheet

    Or there is a great conversion of AD&D and several other D&D-like conversions over at Savage Heroes

    For my money, though, if you really want a Savage Worlds high fantasy campaign, Shaintar is the way to go.

  17. @Stev I’m trying really hard to stick with just the Explorer’s Edition for now and resist the temptation to get more supplements and settings. Don’t know whether I’ll succeed or not!

    @Chuck Agreed. From what I’ve seen so far, Savage Worlds players are a pretty friendly bunch, which makes a change from all the negativity and inane number crunching all too often found on D&D boards these days.

    @wrathofzombie Good to know I’m not the only one dipping a toe in the water. I’m impressed so far, and it looks like a great system for running micro-campaigns. More on those in a mo’.

    @magehammer Saw those, but I’m going to stay away from the Toolkits for now and see if there’s any truth in the rumours about Explorer Edition versions coming out. Necessary Evil sure looks tasty though.

    What I want out of SWEX is a system where I can sandbox campaign settings. I want to say (for example) “Demons versus Vampires – in Space!”, and be able to run with it for a few sessions without having to worry too much about inventing new rules mechanics or dive into a bookcase (or hard drive) full of supplements to be able to pull off. It’s the kind of thing we used GURPS for, and now use M&M, but even they are too crunchy when you’re just kicking around ideas. I want players to be able to make characters in 15 minutes at the start of a session and hit the ground running.

    To do that in M&M I have to prepare Archetypes, work out what powers are allowed/essential/etc, and have a lot of legwork complete before the session. Either that, or we spend one session building characters ready to play the next. Which is all fun, but sometimes I just want to have an idea, and play it NOW. Can this be done in Savage Worlds? We’ll see.

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