Friday, December 30, 2016

Savage Worlds Deluxe: Explorers Edition First Impressions

I've long had a fondness for generic systems for as long as I've known of their existence. GURPS 3eRevised was my first, and then on to 4e. I've heard about Savage Worlds on and off, but never done anything, so I looked into a Test Drive demo-lite edition and was mostly impressed. I received the full deluxe explorer's edition for Christmas, and have been eagerly reading it. I figured it'd be nice to have something a bit less terrifying to new players than GURPS to run with.

First Impressions: It's fast and simple, and pretty cinematic. It is well suited to the task I envisioned for it, using it as a sub-system for my game's Ultra-Tech characters to jump in and represent the VR games they'll play on occasion for some variety from being space dickheads across the milkdromeda galaxy. It's quick and easy enough that I can let other people jump in as GM if I want to get in on the action (as one of their many crewmates).

Basics of the system are d4 through d12 for human stats, almost all things have a target number of 4+ to succeed. Every 4+ gets you a raise. d4 is below average, d6 is average, d12+ is ridiculously good.
D4 gives 25% chance of success, failing on 1-3, succeeding on 4 before modifiers
D6 gives 50% chance of success, failing on 1-3, succeeding on 4-6 before modifiers
D8 gives 63% chance of success, failing on 1-3, succeeding on 4-8 before modifiers
D10 gives 70% chance of success, failing on 1-3, succeeding on 4-10 before mods
D12 gives 75% chance of success, failing on 1-3, succeeding on 4-12 before mods
Beyond this you get a flat bonus of +1 through +15 depending on how ludicrous the stat is (Dragons and tanks get pretty beefy, for example).

Opposed rolls are direct, your stat vs the opponent's, whoever gets highest wins. Important Characters (known as Wildcards) get a free d6 roll on all stat checks, because They're Important.

Fighting doesn't have an opposed roll, instead you go vs. a Target Number (TN) of 2+half of their fighting skill. Fighting, unless using special rules that require more specialization by type, covers ALL melee, though there are penalties for unfamiliarity. Shields, cover, and maneuvers can modify this TN. Everyone gets a free shot at you if you try to leave melee, with no rules for breaking off safely. Having trained, this isn't quite accurate (D&D does it better, letting you take your 5 foot step out of reach and then running)

Shooting is just vs. a TN of 4, modified by cover. Some edges for being dodgy can give enemies a penalty to enemy rolls against you, but there's nothing you can actively do against a ranged attack on a successful roll, no agility bonus or anything. You want to keep your bits unshot, you keep behind cover. This is kind of similar to GURPS 4e Harsh Realism rules for guns, in that you can take no active defense against them outside of special circumstances. Still, it drives home the benefits of good armor and better cover, and keeps things moving. Much like GURPS, shooting more than a single round per turn tends to assume you miss a lot.

Damage is weird but minimizes bookkeeping. If you hit but don't get a raise on your damage (targeting their toughness+armor), the target is Shaken, and can't do anything until they manage to get their wits about them again. If you can hit someone for two Shaken results before they shrug it off, it turns into a wound or a fatigue level. Beating their toughness with a raise gives a wound. Anything that fails to shake/wound, is just lost. You connected but were deflected, managed to glance off armor, or whatever.

There's a lot of nice rules for handling chases of all sorts, Dramatic Situations (hacking, disarming bombs, etc), and even pretty quick-and-accessible rules for mass combat. There's something I've tried before that usually works decently for allies, where they're given to the players to keep them engaged (particularly if someone's character isn't present, or has been disabled).

Now, the downsides:
First off, the biggest disappointment is equipment. I know I'm jaded by the glory that is GURPS High-Tech 4e, but still. Deadlands, the precursor system to Savage Worlds, had REALLY GOOD weapon tables. Savage Worlds simplifies everything too much for my tastes. Basic Pistol is still 2d6, but it doesn't scale with actual power. A large man with a big sword (greatsword+d10 strength die) does 2d10, as does a flamethrower/firebreath, as does a goddamn .50 BMG. One of these things shouldn't be in the same neighborhood of damage as the others, even with the decent stack of Armor Piercing. Similarly wrong, .308 is given the same damage/range as 5.56 with just a hint more AP. On one hand, I know why: Melee brawls are cinematic and cool, and not having guns as brokenly overpowered as they actually are keeps close combat relevant. Still, guns are statted simply enough that it wouldn't be hard to whip up a "realism" table.

Next is some environmental stuff; Hunger and Thirst can both kill in a day if you have shitty luck with rolls. This is moderately OK with water, but pretty much inexcusable with hunger.

Final disappointment is the apparent power level. IRL I'm above average across the board because I farm character points like a tryhard. The average character is assumed to be trained-but-green. I'm not sure if I'd qualify for anything beyond Seasoned rank (the first rank above Novice, where characters start), but I can just barely approximate myself in my current out-of-shape-and-practice condition without further EXP. I'm not sure if this is a measure of them making some things worth way more points than they should be (Ambidexterity is a common offender: weapons-only ambidexterity isn't all that impressive, but most systems treat it as a Pretty Big Deal), me being overpowered because I train and study as a passtime, or the system being balanced weak.

At any rate; if you're interested, they have a test drive demo, and a free version modified into a Miniatures Tactical Battle game. The V6 test drive is the one I read, I'm not sure how it compares to the 2015

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