Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Tommy's Take on Savage Worlds Adventure Edition

So a new version of Savage Worlds came out.




















I took a look at the Essentials Boxed Set a while back, but I thought I'd take a look at the book now, if it's all the same to you.



DISCLAIMER: I've worked as a freelancer for Pinnacle on a couple of projects. I currently have no relationship with them at this time, aside from a consumer relationship. I have also worked on third party Savage Worlds products in the past. This product was not comp'ed, I bought it with my own money. Affiliate links used in this review may provide me with store credit at DriveThruRPG, which I later use to buy more RPGs with...sometimes to run, sometimes to read, sometimes to review.

ESSENTIAL INFO:

  • PDF is 212 pages (with covers).
  • Full Color
  • Bookmarks
  • Index
  • Clickable links inside the document
  • Fully searchable
  • PDF is $9.99, print is $39.99 hardcover
NEW EDITION?

Yup. Though this game still shares the same DNA as other Savage Worlds editions, it is the most markedly different of any editions. That said, something like 90% of the changes are "under the hood", meaning everything looks the same on the surface, but now act differently in play. Pinnacle released an extensive document breaking this down. That said, it's not that difficult: I was running East Texas University in Adventure Edition (hereafter known as SWADE) by doing my own conversions, long before Pinnacle released an official sheet guiding us through said changes.

As the name implies, the changes largely push the PCs to a more heroic (power-wise) and competent place than they were in early editions, a process that began with the Shaken rules revision several years back (used to be, when rolling to become unShaken, you needed a Raise in order to act on your turn, or you needed to spend a Benny. The rule was revised, with characters being able to act on a simple success, and no longer requiring a Raise).


Many of the changes were field tested at conventions over the last few years, according to Shane Hensley, before being introduced to the public in the Kickstarter. The idea, per Shane, is that this is the version of Savage Worlds we'll be playing for at least the next ten years. This edition also saw the end of the $10 print edition, as Pinnacle announced they are no longer even printing softcovers, so the corebook-as-loss-leader days are done. There was some disappointment, but the Kickstarter was a big success (to the tune of half a million dollars, not counting any post-KS preorders, or guys like me who upped their pledge after the KS), so I don't think it was too risky of a move.

DID SAVAGE WORLDS NEED A NEW EDITION?

Obviously, that's a subjective answer. Some people swear no. I was skeptical as Hell about many of the changes when announced, and already started house ruling in my head. But Savage Worlds and I have always had a complicated relationship. After all, as I said in my review of Deluxe Edition seven years ago, I rejected it out of hand because It Wasn't Deadlands. Now I can't imagine choosing to run Deadlands Classic over Deadlands Reloaded because of how much smoother and faster Savage Worlds is. So I shrugged my shoulders and started running Savage Worlds with the Adventure Edition, converting my ongoing games (East Texas University and Savage Pendragon - my own conversion of the latter, nothing official) and giving it the old college try (no pun intended)...and, honestly? I haven't seen anything in play that I've felt is worse, even stuff I wasn't sure about (like removing Streetwise, or Charisma, or the addition of Core Skills). My players were even more skeptical about some of the changes, but have ultimately embraced them (my players are pretty easy going, though, ultimately...it's a huge part of why I play with them).

So, basically, nothing in Savage Worlds was really BROKEN, in my opinion, but the changes have proven to be smooth in play.

Let's do a little walk through of the book, and I'll talk about the things I feel are worth talking about.

INTRO


  • One thing the book stresses is "Any Time, Any Place". There is a lot of solid support for this, as Savage Worlds has swords and sorcery, weird western horror, science fiction, two-fisted pulp action, and the horror-comedy college hijinks of East Texas University.
  • Plan on needing playing cards (officially referred to as the Action Deck), as well as dice and bennies. If these were things that unsold you on Savage Worlds before, they haven't changed. Yes, you can probably gut the initiative system and replace it with something else, but you're breaking a few Edges when you do so (and, honestly, the card based initiative works *fine*).
CHAPTER ONE: CHARACTERS
  • The five core Attributes are still the same (Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength & Vigor), and have only changed in the sense that you now rarely roll them to perform an action. Instead the onus has been placed almost entirely on rolling skills.
  • Characters now get 5 Core Skills at a free d4: Athletics (which replaces Climbing, Throwing and Swimming), Common Knowledge (which used to be a basic Smarts roll), Notice, Persuasion and Stealth.
  • Hindrances function largely the same (though some specific ones changed), but you can now take any combination of Major and Minor Hindrances to gain 4 Hindrance points.
  • Charisma is no longer a stat. Now all effects that were based on Charisma were shifted to areas where they made the most sense (such as Attractive now providing a bonus directly to Persuasion rolls, where applicable).
  • SWADE does provide Race Creations Rules, as well as a list of common pre-mades, and walks you through making Celestials (angels) and Guardians (empowered humans who serve the angels) to provide examples of how they work.
  • As alluded to above, the skill list got an overhaul, with a few new skills (like Hacking) added. Streetwise being turned into an Edge, the Knowledge skill category being removed and replaced with individual skills encompassing the most common disciplines (like Academics, Battle, Occult, and the aforementioned Hacking).
  • Edges were rewritten for clarity, or to hew to new mechanics. Very few were outright removed or renamed, in order to aid in conversion (if an Edge works differently now, just use the new description and move on).
  • Noble was one the key casualties in the conversion, being broken into Aristocrat and the Rich/Filthy Rich Edges.
  • There are now separate Edges for using two guns at once or two melee weapons at once, when it used to be one Edge for both. An odd choice for an edition that generally pushed the line towards the more heroic and cinematic.
  • Leadership Edges once again require an Edge (Natural Leader) to apply to Wild Cards (this used to be a trait of Leadership Edges in Deluxe Edition). Again, an odd limit in an edition that largely pushed the opposite way.
  • More Social Edges were introduced (like Retort - which allows a hero defending against an Intimidation or Taunt Test to turn the tables on his opponent) that help the characters mechanically impact the world in non-combat situations.
  • Experience points have been eliminated. The suggestion now is for the GM to provide advances when it feels appropriate in the campaign. Want a faster campaign? Give out one advance per session. Want a slower one? Drop it down to five.
  • Allies are now similarly advanced by GM fiat, rather than the old method of rolling a die to see if they get an advance.
  • Two key changes to advances: Skills are now cheaper to buy, in that buying a new skill at a d4 is no longer an advance in and of itself, and is treated the same as raising a skill. The other is that Hindrances can now specifically be bought off with Advances, which was a house rule that some used anyway.
CHAPTER TWO: GEAR
  • An extensive, multi-time period gear list as before, to make the core usable for setting up games in various time periods.
  • Vehicle stats were overhauled, namely removing the Acceleration stat and adding a Handling modifier.
CHAPTER THREE: RULES
  • The core mechanics are unchanged (Trait + Wild Die, taking the higher die). Again, this book is about 90% compatible with your existing Savage Worlds stuff, just make sure you read the entries for Edges and Hindrances and Skills in this book to see if they changed.
  • Awarding bennies is still left a little vague and kinda comes down to "you'll figure it out", but one thing that was codified was everyone receiving a benny when a Joker is drawn.
  • The utility of bennies has been dramatically expanded: Instead of just rerolling traits, recovering from being Shaken, or making Soak rolls, you can now also use a benny to draw a new Action Card, reroll damage (which used to be an Edge), regain 5 Power Points immediately, or "influence the story" (in minor ways...no spending a benny to make a satellite fall out of the sky and kill the Big Bad...but if you need a quart of oil to be laying in the floorboard so you can throw it at the opposing driver in a chase, that's a thing that can happen).
  • A chart was added to (hopefully) explain how damage totals equate into Wounds or people becoming Shaken, as this was apparently a common sticking point for people.
  • New conditions have become codified, like Bound, Entangled, Distracted and Vulnerable.
  • Any skill, if explained logically, can be used to roll a Test, which can inflict Distracted and Vulnerable, replacing the old Tricks and Tests of Will.
  • Another awesome addition is the Support roll, in which any skill (again, logically - see a theme here?) can be used to provide a bonus to an ally before they make their roll. This massively ups the utility of a lot of characters in a lot of situations (like your hero using their Perform d10 to sing a soothing song to their ally who is trying to use Healing to save the life of another hero who is Bleeding Out).
CHAPTER FOUR: THE ADVENTURE TOOL KIT
  • This is a whole list of situational rules.
  • The new Chase rules are, IMO, the most functional and fun yet. We used them twice in ETU, one ending in the PCs escaping by losing the cops, and another ending when the heroes finally had to kill the driver chasing him (don't worry, he was a vampire) because he just would NOT go away.
  • Dramatic Tasks got tweaked a bit, allowing for a bit more variance in difficulty of the task.
  • Mass Battles was also altered. They felt more dangerous to me when we used them, but also had a little more strategy to them, especially when the heroes roll a Raise and get to roll on the Battle Effects table (since this is all treated as a Support roll, meaning the bonus to the Commander tops out at +4).
  • What used to be Streetwise was largely replaced with Networking which, in turn, can be accomplished with Persuasion (the nice way) or Intimidation (the not-so-nice-way). 
  • Quick Encounters essentially boil a task down to a single roll, and can be used for encounters as a way of adding a bit of attrition to the heroes without doing a full combat. (For instance, if they are trudging through a sewer looking for a missing citizen, you may use Quick Encounters to handle fighting oversized sewer rats that attempt to swarm the heroes, before switching to full combat when they encounter the Wererat that the missing citizen has transformed into).
  • Old Setting Rules like Born a Hero (taking any Edge at character creation regardless of Rank), Heroes Never Die (aka The Supers Rule), No Power Points and Gritty Damage (which causes Injuries every time a Wound is suffered) are still around, but new ones such as Conviction (which is a new currency that acts almost like a Blue Fate Chip from Deadlands, allowing the hero to add a d6 to their roll), Creative Combat (which reminds me vaguely of the AGE Stunt System, allowing the hero to maybe get a bigger effect when rolling a Test against a foe in combat, like making them Distracted AND Vulnerable, scoring a benny, or maybe even getting to take an immediate additional turn). There's even a Conan rule (not called that) which allows unarmored heroes to gain a bonus to their Soak rolls (rather than just dying while trying to honor the Rule of Cool).
  • A new Wealth system, in which characters have a Wealth die, is introduced, if you want something more streamlined than counting every dollar.
  • Overland travel is broken down into two methods: Interludes (in which you draw a card, the player tells a story based on it, and you gloss over the travel), or a random encounter table in which the GM draws from the Action Deck, with various events occurring on a face card, based on the suit drawn.
CHAPTER FIVE: POWERS
  • As with Edges, read the entries closely to make sure a power still works the samee.
  • Most of the core powers have been homogenized down to being shades of each other. The expectation is that the settings will continue to differentiate. The new Deadlands setting book for SWADE will really tell that tale.
  • Trappings have largely gone back to being a narrative device with minor mechanical effect. Instead, characters have a slew of Power Modifiers they can use, as long as they have the Power Points to spend.
CHAPTER SIX: BESTIARY
  • As before, this is largely a catch-all buffet of creatures and not too specialized.
  • Excessively large creatures (including Extras) can now have extra Wounds (meaning an elephant might have 1 Wound if it's an Extra or 4 if it's a Wild Card, dragons now have 2 if Extras or 6 if Wild Cards, and a kaiju goes all the way to 3 Wounds as an Extra or 6 as a Wild Card). Up, Down, or Off  The Board is no longer the name of the game for larger Extras.
CHAPTER SEVEN: GAME MASTERING
  • The final chapter of the book, this is nothing ground breaking. Advice on getting the party together, scheduling games, very loose guidelines on scaling encounters (very loose....D&D's Challenge Rating system this is not. For the record, I think that's a good thing).
IN CONCLUSION
  • The general tone of the rules took a step back away from hard numbers and explanations and more towards "if it makes sense" or "you'll get the feel of it". I get that this is frustrating for some people. They need hard guidelines for anything that happens in a game. I appreciate that. I totally do not need that, so I appreciate the lean towards "rulings over rules" that the book stops just shy of adopting.
  • The system can support investigative scenarios, tactical minis combat and social maneuvering, with mechanical support for all the above. It's the most diverse Savage Worlds yet.
  • I still think a couple of the choices were oddly limiting given that everything else seemed to be about making the system more heroic, but if I every truly find those things too troublesome, I'll houserule it.
  • Pinnacle has released a number of setting conversion sheets (1-2 pages) for everything that doesn't have a full blown revision planned (Savage Rifts has been revised, and new Deadlands books are coming), but don't stress out: For as much as they changed, it's still remarkably backwards compatible. The BIGGEST thing to watch for with old material is making sure that the skills line up (given that some have been removed/consolidated/so on).
  • Man, I love Savage Worlds. I've never hidden this. I've bought the core rules three times now, this last time going all-in on the Essentials Box. I did that after having access to the PDF of this edition. I fully believe this is the best iteration of Savage Worlds yet, so yeah, I'm gonna give it a glowing endorsement...even more so after using it in play. Big time recommendation. And don't bother holding out. There ain't a $10 version coming, aside from the PDF. Buy now, get to playing.

2 comments:

  1. The changes to how Multi-Actions function in the new edition have some unfortunate repercussions to the point I find it hard to believe much(if any) playtesting went into them.

    I get *why* they wanted to simplify the kinds of actions you could take(since the old "one action per limb...kind of" restriction so you couldn't fire the same gun twice or swing the same sword twice(barring Edges) was rather obtuse and super confusing to newbies), but this approach without any restrictions ended up far too liberal.

    Point in case, someone with Improved Rapid Fire(and preferably Rock and Roll as well) can grab a minigun and fire it for all 3 of his actions, rolling 20 dice for his attack. Every single round.

    Rolling a buckets of dice every single turn blatantly flies in the face of the game's credo of fast, furious, fun.

    God help you of you have more than one character using(or worse specializing) in automatic weapons(say, in a military campaign).

    They were evidently fully aware of this on paper(the example on page 43 literally deals with a character that rolls 17 dice for firing his machinegun...), but I doubt they actually ran (m)any games where that came up, or surely someone would have said "yeah no, SW isn't a bucket of dice game like Shadowrun or Exalted, we need to stop this immediately".

    Especially considering how they removed the multiple bolts option from the Bolt power, supposedly specifically to prevent people from casting three triple bolts for 9 total.

    It's puzzling how they think that firing *far more* projectiles from a gun(that doesn't take power points to fire and pretty much anyone can use to some degree) is ok.

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