08 December 2006


Or Savage Worlds, at least.

Savage Worlds (SW) is a roleplaying game of rare brilliance and beauty. The reasons for this are twofold: first, SW is a generic system, thus equally suited to any genre. Secondly it is wonderfully straightforward and intuitive, yet maintains a level of tactical depth that many rules-light games lack.

Between these two facets, SW is a system with broad applications and appeal. It is also the system with which the next game our group will be undertaking shall be run.

Last night the X-com game (powered by Unknown Armies) wound up, with the PCs managing to convince the alien society resident inside the Earth's core to at least postpone their "Final Solution" - the lobotomisation and enslavement of mankind. This finale was both satisfying and unedifying in one stroke. Satisfying because it set up what might be a very interesting second season at some future time, but unedifying because the path to the finale was far from smooth and involved a lot of player frustration on my part as it seemed to hinge on finding exactly the right thing to say at one point with no real indication what that may be. Thankfully once that step was bypassed the rest of the session flowed more intuitively and built up nicely. The actual point at which proceedings were brought to a close serving to highlight future possibilities whilst allowing the season to end with the knowledge that the humanity was safe, at least for now.

What followed was an hour of preparatory discussion aimed towards finalising the next game to be played. After a little discussion it was between myself and one other for who would GM, and then thrashed out that he would run the next game and, provisionally, I would do the one after that which works for me - since I was (and am) jazzed about the ideas this coming game has generated, whilst still having a hankering to run something myself. Now, at least, I have a mandate and can work towards it even as the other is running - including (I hope) getting character generation done well in advance so I have a source of ideas and knowledge to frame my game around the characters central to it - but that's for the future.

But in the meantime we're going to be playing Savage Worlds Fantasy: more heroic and fast-paced than we have been doing of late and indulging the wilder aspects of imagination. The early setting discussion set off at high pace and the ideas kept flowing all day yesterday - for me and for others (to judge by the sheer volume of email traffic). Part of the reason for this is just the creativity of the group and the very fact that ideas were being bounced around in the first place, but for me a not insignificant part of it can be attributed to the intuitive nature of Savage Worlds as a system and the ease with which it can be moulded to fit ones desires.

Because SW is so simple there are virtually no barriers to shaping it to fit ones desires perfectly - new skills, edges and so forth are simple conceptions and additions. In a way the system has to be open to easy modification in this way by virtue of its generic nature: it would be impossible for the designers to cover absolutely every angle from every genre in the core book (although several published (and purchasable) settings for SW exist and presumably expand on the core lists with setting-specific additions). Another prime example of SW's mutability is the magic system - the core Powers and backgrounds are limited in number and, as written, differentiation respectively in the game. Yet both are written to be wide ranging and applicable in a number of different settings; the powers themselves are especially limited in number and very generic as laid out but it is clear from their layout that they are generic in order for players to provide their own unique descriptions. The general spell design is also simple so it is easy not just to add new spells, but whole arcane backgrounds and it was this that had the ideas flowing back and forth most freely yesterday. At the end of the day, between us, the GM and I had hammered out a whole new arcane background by email that was a perfect match to the concept I had been playing with even before we settled on the game: a Jedi-like (I hadn't realised the parallels before we started moulding the new background and the GM pointed it out to me!) mage who uses his powers to boost combat effectiveness.

Could this have been jury-rigged with the default rules? Sure it could - SW is generic and open to a lot of interpretation. Is it a better match for taking and extending their simple formulae? Yes, it certainly is. But that it is so is in no small way down to the way SW is written and the simplicity of the system and the intuitive nature of making moderations to get it right for you, the player/GM.

The upshot of all of this? I lost a whole day just playing around in glee - with the system, with modifications, with concepts and with creative ideas. Great for enjoyment and passing the time; awful for getting any work done!

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