Thursday, September 09, 2010


So, as I said in my last post, I've been reading the Savage Worlds rulebook. I finished through character creation last night, so about page... 50 or so? Out of 160. Many of the subsequent "rules" are actually things like campaign examples and stuff, so I've done more than half of the meat of the system already.

In many ways, Savage Worlds reminds me sharply of The Window. I've always been fascinated with The Window... years ago because it mirrored my own pretentious and arrogant viewpoint. Today, looking back at the portions of it that reflect that attitude makes me cringe, but from a design philosophy standpoint, I still think it's a sound structure. In The Window, you use different die types to indicate how good you are at something, and the point is to roll below a target number (the default which is 6, although obviously circumstances could cause that to be a different number.) So if you had a d4 Strength, your strength would be phenomenal, nearly superhuman, while a d6 would be guys who compete in Worlds Strongest Man competitions, and d20 or d30 (the highest die available) would be way below average.

Savage Worlds reverses this; instead of rolling under a target number, you want to roll over it, so a d4 is basically "untrained, and I suck" while a d12 is "phenomenally good". The d20 and d30 aren't really used, and the default target number is 4.

I like this more open-ended system, because it allows for supernaturally phenomenally good stats. If a really strong human has a Strength of d12, then an ogre might have a strength of d20, a giant of d30 and a dragon, titan or god of d100. For example.

Savage Worlds also has hindrances and edges, which in d20 terms is kinda like feats and anti-feats. While I like the concept, I dislike canned lists, and the implicit assumption that "if you don't have the feat/edge, you can't do this" mentality. While not a bad mechanic, I think I'd rather do away with it in my ideal system--edges could be reworked as stunts, tricks or even skills if a player really wants to capture that on the character sheet. Hindrances, on the other hand, could just be freeform character quirks described on the characters description section or something.

Where both Savage Worlds and The Window are common, again, is in traits and skills. Savage Worlds gives a nicely robust skill and trait system, although I don't know how much I like the correllations between some abilities and skills. The Window, on the other hand, has prescribed traits, but skills are completely freeform and you're supposed to make up your own. Savage Worlds gives you points to spend; The Window assumes that everyone's going to somehow come up with a good character by "working together" or something. I've always been disatisfied with this aspect of The Window, both from a GM and a player perspective, because I think having some direction is helpful on both sides of the table. When I ran a modified Window game for my kids, I came up with my own list of skills, and told the kids which dies they could use. They assigned them to taste, but we didn't end up with something strange or unbalanced. Savage Worlds definitely has the advantage there.

I haven't read combat and task resolution in Savage Worlds yet (and I don't remember it well from The Window) but I'm vaguely familiar with it, and its concepts of bennies, playing cards, wild dice, and a simple condition track. The Window's task and conflict resolution is basically just opposed rolls to be followed up by roleplaying. The Window's system seems too Spartan for my tastes, while Savage Worlds seems too wrapped up in weird novelty mechanics that are somewhat distracting. I'll need to read both again before I can judge which I like better.

If you can't tell, though, the similarities between the two systems have excited me about "kitbashing" the two systems together into my "ultimate rules light" approach. This doesn't mean that I'm abandoning d20, because I still enjoy playing it, but I've struggled with it in a few key areas in particular: 1) teaching it to new players (particularly younger players.) This doesn't reflect on them so much as on me; I don't have the patience to teach them about the game when I would rather just jump in and get playing, and 2) playing the game in unusual formats, i.e. in play by posts and whatnot.

I'd still enjoy it in more "regular" arenas as well, and I don't think it would ever become my go-to system for everything. It could, however, be a go-to system for a lot of different scenarios. So, while I don't see myself as a game designer at all, I'm actually kinda excited to kitbash these two systems together. I'll be posting the results here on my blog as I do it, in sections. So... stay tuned!

I called this post Anti-d20 as a bit of a joke; I don't think that the d20 would actually be used much in this system (if at all) whereas almost all of the other dice would. Plus, it's got a nice symmetry to d20 being my other system of choice.

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