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Why I switched from DnD 5e to Savage Worlds

Now as some of you might now, I made the switch from 5e to SW not too long ago. I always enjoyed my time in 5e but there were a couple of annoyances/problems that I did not like in 5e. The following list will be some of these problems and how SW deals with them.

1. Setting restrictions

While there is an argument to be made that the fantasy world in 5e is so expansive that you will never get bored of it, for me it is important to try out new settings every now and again. While 5e is moderately easy to homebrew and change, there are still many things that are difficult to implement in my opinion, particular vehicular combat. Savage Worlds on the other hand comes with many already existing settings out of the box. If you want to make your own setting, that is also no problem, as the skills that were picked for the ruleset pretty much work for every setting. Now you might say:”But how, surely an arcana skill would not fit into a gritty modern zombie adventure?” And this is where the genius of SW comes: Instead of having History, Arcana, Religion etc. as skills, they have one skill called “Knowledge” that can be taken multiple times with different suffixes. So you could take a “Knowledge: History” or a “Knowledge: Smithing” skill. This solves both the problem of having knowlege skills that would only work in one setting, and at the same time allows for far more specialized characters. It would for example be totally fine to create a character who has “Knowledge: Ostriches”. Now how useful that skill is, is written on another page, but the possibility is there. There are rules/tables supplied for making your own races where you are supposed to pick an equal amount of good and bad modifiers. This makes it much easier to homebrew new races and balance them. Since there are also no classes, the need for coming up with them is also not there.

2. Spellcasting

One of my pet peeves for 5e is how many “useless” and “mechanically superior” spells there are. Some spells are simply a must have, unless you want to purposefully gimp your character since you create it based on a theme. And when you create your character based on a theme that is not well explored within spells (for example a light based wizard), there is a lot of rebalancing, changing, etc. that needs to be done. Also spell-casting for many classes is not really about balancing resources, as most adventures/campaigns are designed in a way that you maybe have 2-3 difficult combats between rests, so you will pretty much always be able to cast the spells that you want to do. Now how does SW handle spells? Let´s look at “Bolt” for example:

Rank: Novice Power 
Points: 1-6 
Range: 12/24/48 
Duration: Instant 
Trappings: Bolt of fire or ice

Bolt is a standard attack power of wizards, and can also be used for ray guns, 
bursts of energy, streaks of holy light, and other ranged attacks. 
The damage of the bolt is 2d6. 
Additional Bolts: The character may cast up to 3 bolts by spending a like 
amount of Power Points. This must be decided before the power is cast. 
The bolts may be spread among targets as the character chooses. 
Firing the additional bolts does not incur any attack penalties. 
Additional Damage: The character may also increase the damage to 3d6 by 
doubling the Power Point cost per bolt. This may be combined with the
additional bolts, so firing 3 bolts of 3d6 damage costs 6 Power Points.  

Now as you can see, every spell has something called “Trappings”. A Trapping is the way your spell “appears” and the one listed I always see as a suggestion, not as a definitive list. So the mechanics of the spell always stay the same, but the damage type changes. For example I had a insect based caster in my group and for her the bolt would be a stream of locust agressively biting an enemy. This makes a lot of spells very variable to use. Now let´s say you want to play a elementalist spellcaster who has both fire and ice bolt. You can simply take the spell multiple times with different trappings. Another cool thing is, there are different ways of spellcasting, one of which is Weird Science. Instead of casting a spell directly, you have built a machine that has the effect of one spell. You are heavily encouraged to give these machines great names. For example, a shrink spell might be called “Dr. Doctor´s fantastical world enlarger”. Fun for all around. The problem of being able to cast spells pretty much in every combat as much as you want is balanced by being able to cast them for a higher cost as mentioned above. You have 10 Power Points and only very slowly gain more. So you can blow 6 points against a particularly strong enemy, but it might be better to keep some for later.

3. Rolling and Leveling

In 5e you can get very high modifiers, often surpasing 10, by the time you reach somewhere around level 8. This makes a lot of checks pretty trivial. Add the increases of your modifier from multiple sources and calculating the result you´ve rolled becomes difficult. Now common knowledge is to increase the checks in a flat manner, but then it does not feel like your character has improved over time and at the same time, makes it nearly impossible for somebody who does not have the skill, to succeed in a skillcheck. Add to that, that the way your character improves from level to level is such a strong increase, that if one of your players if 2-3 levels behind the group, he is considerably weaker than the rest of the group. Savage Worlds has the following mechanic: For a regular check you need to roll a 4. The DM always has the option to make it easier or more difficult, but in general it will be a 4. This also means, characters need to progress in a different manner. Instead of increasing your modifier, you increase your die size. So you start with a d4, then move on to a d6 and so on, until you reach a d12. If you ever roll the maximum on a die, you get to reroll and add that on top. A 1 is still a critical failure, while a 4 above the target is a raise and there can be multiple raises. Every raise gives you an even better result. This solves 2 problems in one, first you don´t need to handle multiple modifiers. Second, the leveling is far more “level” so a new character can still be useful to a seasoned group, while characters with experience are better overall.

Come back next time, when I will talk a bit about character creation in SW.

This post was written by Flo of FGC. Flo loves SW. Flo also loves everybody at FGC. Except for that Laerun Guy.
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