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House Rules for Savage Worlds

January 29th, 2009 · Joe · No Comments

As I’ve mentioned a few times on the show, I run a fortnightly home campaign set in my own setting, the Third World. While my players all had experience with D&D and its various editions, I chose to use Savage Worlds instead. There were a few motivating factors, the first being that I did not want to dedicate the time necessary to create NPCs using 3rd edition mechanics (I’ve done that and then some). The second, and the deciding factor, was that I wanted to provide a more cinematic, rules light experience. Savage Worlds was the obvious fit (of the systems I felt confident with enough to run). Other reasons like the opportunity to introduce new players to Savage Worlds, etc., only cemented my decision.

While I openly profess to an aversion to house rules, there were a few modifications I wanted to make. I’m listing them here with an explanation as to why I did so.

1. Healing: There is no magical healing in the Third World. Skills like Healing and edges like Nerves of Steel are essential to a dedicated warrior. But the amount of time necessary to heal wounds is often longer than the amount of down time adventurers have. For that reason, the target to soak damage is simply a success and not a success and a raise. This allows the players to soak more of their wounds and leave battle with none or one wound rather than two or three.

2. Skills: While Savage Worlds consolidates skills into their fundamental roots (i.e., stealth), I found myself inconsistently incorrectly using the Investigate skill. When searching a house, I have the players use Investigate even though the rules say to use Notice. After consideration, I decided to continue down that path, separating these much like the separation of Spot and Search in 3rd Edition. Searching a house is investigating a house, thus the Investigation skill is used. Certainly Notice still applies in a lot of other situations.

3. Bennies: The party averages three xp per session. I base the adventures on this expected rate of advancement. I also think bennies should be used to help the players do awesome things. For these reasons, I do not allow remaining bennies to be used to gain additional xp.

4. Hero Points: A benny may be spent before a roll to add a +2 to the roll. A benny may be spent after a roll to add a +1 to the roll.

5. Twist of Fate: Spend two bennies (not from the same character) to get a clue from the GM. It may be pointing out something the party missed or even something the party got but didn’t pursue. The effects of this are wholly at the GMs discretion. This ability is generally only available if the party is honestly stuck.

6. Bravery: A character receives a +1 bonus (cumulative) to Guts checks for each rank above Novice. (Seasoned characters receive +1, Veteran +2, and so on.)

6. Racial Skills: The only playable race is human, but among the humans there are 13 different nationalities. I added two Bonus Racial Skills based on the nationality chosen at character creation. These focused on skills that are so common in those nations that anyone raised there would have a d4 in the skill by simple exposure. I wanted these skills to reinforce the national identity of the characters. Sure they’re all human, but they are still very different. If you were creating a character raised in the wastelands of Aman, you could assign 15 skill points as normal, but would begin with a d4 in Repair and a d4 in Survival in addition (so 17 skill points total).

7. Racial Edges: For the same reasons, I also added one Racial Edge. This was also distributed based on nationality and in some circumstances ignored prerequsities. Certain nations were better defined by edges than by skills. If you were creating a Skivndian character, you would get the Brawny edge for free. (This is in addition to the bonus edge the character already receives for being human, as per the standard Savage Worlds rules.)

Number 7 is the only one I consider a mistake. Racial bonuses were meant to help establish national identity for the players at character creation. This wasn’t really the case. The characters were new are still evolving as our sessions continue. What I’ve found is that the racial bonuses have helped establish that identity as we continue, instances where the party has not focused on a particular skill but the racial affinity allows a character the knowledge needed. The edges have not been effective in this or any other manner. They are simply bonus edges. And while the Brinish character’s bonus Charismatic edge may not be game breaking, I did not want to give extra abilities just for the sake of giving them.

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