Monday, September 12, 2011

Savage Worlds Deluxe and the Adventure Deck – Power to the Players.

I've had a copy of the newest edition of Savage Worlds for a few weeks now, and having read it and used the rules changes as a GM in sessions of two different campaigns, I feel I can finally give it a proper review. I've talked about Savage Worlds before, so if you missed that article and need the basics on this system in general, you'll find my overview here. First off, I'd like to mention the various editions of the system. None of them are numbered, and the changes between editions are in some cases fairly subtle. No mechanical change between editions is as dramatic as, say, between 2nd and 3rd edition D&D. Savage Worlds Deluxe is the fourth published edition of the system, incorporating mechanical changes and edges from various Savage settings. The four editions of the rules were the first edition (2003,) Revised (2004,) Explorer's Edition (2007,) and now Deluxe published in the summer of 2011. Some mechanics have remained the same throughout (many edges, mass battles) while some have changed with nearly every single incarnation of the rules (the vehicle/chase system.) How does Deluxe hold up for those of us who already purchased two $30USD hardcovers and a $10USD paperback?

Of all the covers, I think I like the new edition's the best.

The basics: we're back to the more expensive hardcover edition after the significantly less expensive small paperback rulebook from Explorer's Edition. The rulebook features a full-color interior, and the binding on the books is solid (something I had an issue with in my Explorer's Edition, which is still shedding pages.) There are a few pages running down a few of the more popular Savage settings at the beginning of the book, so a new player isn't quite so baffled by a book which is generic mechanics without a specific world to tie them to. The various sections of the book are laid out logically, properly indexed, and with sections marked at the tops of pages for easy reference. It is also worth mentioning that there is a lot less recycled interior art than one would expect from a system with so many different books to draw on. Most of the art, I'd never seen before, and it is all top-notch.  At various points there are "Design Notes" explaining the thinking behind a certain mechanic, which is helpful for players considering making adjustments for house rules.

In character creation, many edges that were first introduced in a particular Savage setting book and that would be useful in many settings have been incorporated into the core rules. In addition, there are quite a few new edges and the "sacred cow" of background edges only being able to be purchased at character creation has finally been slaughtered. Many background edges may still require in-game explanation of why someone has suddenly become wealthy, attractive or gifted with magical powers, but the system no longer forbids this sort of character development. Character Archetypes, pre-built to play a particular role with a little room for customization are now included, a bonus for novice players or those in a hurry. There are also many more sample races to choose from, as well as a point-based system for designing new races and ensuring they are at least somewhat balanced.

The race creation rules are pretty much directly out of  the Slipstream
Savage setting, where they were used to create new alien races in a "Flash Gordon" sort of sci-fi.

Many of the mechanical tweaks to the core rules patch over things that didn't quite work in previous editions, such as rules on healing. Characters are now limited to one attempted healing per set of wounds, magical or mundane, per character attempting to heal. Wounds left over after these attempts have been exhausted can only be healed naturally, or with very powerful healing magic (greater heal.) This mitigates the feeling that so long as someone isn't outright killed or crippled in combat, that being beaten badly has no consequence in a setting with any level of magical healing. The other sub-system that was awkward as written in every previous edition is vehicle chases and combats. Designed to handle car chases, aerial dogfights and pirate ships blasting at each other in the same system, the newest chase rules are streamlined and abstracted where appropriate, eliminating a lot of common weirdness in previous chases under old rules. It is much less likely for vehicles to feel like they are "teleporting" about with regard to relative position, and a skilled pilot/driver is no longer capable of instantly escaping a pursuing foe in a faster vehicle with a lucky skill total alone.

The other major change to the system is the addition of interludes. Interludes are moments for dedicated bits of storytelling in quiet moments, when a character is called upon to talk about their background for a bit, based on one of four broad topics based on the suit of a card flip. This allows players to delve into bits about events that made their characters who they are as part of the story instead of only on a sheet of paper that likely only themselves and the GM will ever see. As a reward for the bit of impromptu roleplay, the player who is selected for the interlude gets a bonus benny or draw from the Adventure Deck, something that I recommend be used if you are playing with interludes (back to that in just a bit.) These rules may have to be ignored for groups that have one or more players uncomfortable with the idea of beiing put "on the spot," but in the case of my SW games, players have been eager for the opportunity for a little extra roleplay that is all about their characters with a distinct reward for doing so.

A sample card from the Savage Adventure Deck.

Then there is the adventure deck. I'd toyed with the idea of using this before, as I love the Drama Deck from TORG, and there are a lot of similarities here. Fair warning: some of the advenure deck cards are POWERFUL, even more powerful than legendary edges, and some of the cards bestow extra experience or permanent magic items, so think carefully about incorporating them into your campaign. I printed the deck from PDF, as well as the custom deck additions for Deadlands and Rippers for when I run those games, and have run a session of each with them. We've had interesting magical items, "save our butt" cards played when cruel dice might have otherwise flat killed characters, and interesting and appropriate moments of insight into monster weaknesses that enhanced the sessions I played with these cards. Without a custom edge for a second card play, each player gets one to play per session, and draws one card per rank to choose from. The benefits of using the cards far outweight the power creep or occasional plot short-circuit the more powerful cards make possible.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the newest edition of the rules, and have pretty much converted all of my campaigns to their use. The lone holdout I maintain from earlier editions in my games is the wound table that makes the severity of the "knockout blow" when a Wild Card is incapacitated the most important factor inhow badly injured they are. I don't like that a character that falls to a pile of lesser wounds can flat die from a poor vigor roll (as they are likely out of bennies to even be in that situation) and a crushing blow causing 40+ damage from a giant's club is no more dangerous than a lucky jab with a kobold's pointy stick to an already wounded character. The adventure deck scales nicely with high-level play, and I'm glad to have a working chase system for cars and ships. The new book even has a few sample "one sheet" adventures, though they are the same ones that can be downloaded from the Pinnacle website. To my way of thinking, the new edition was certainly worth another 30 bucks.
Best Blogger Tips
  • Stumble This Post
  • Save Tis Post To Delicious
  • Share On Reddit
  • Fave On Technorati
  • Buzz This Post
  • Tweet This Post
  • Digg This Post
  • Share On Facebook
Blog Gadgets


Post a Comment