Hazards are one of my favorite Savage Worlds Game Master tools, and the key to running more cinematic combats. They also happen to be the most overlooked rule in Savage Worlds.
Reason #1: Hazards Are Easy To Use
Some hazards, such as falling, cause direct damage. Most result in a level of Fatigue that add a -1 to all rolls, and may lead to incapacitation and death. Recovery depends on the individual hazard, but takes far less time than Natural Healing.
Characters typically make a Vigor roll to avoid Fatigue caused by a hazard. And yes, they may use their Bennies to re-roll.
Thanks to the Bumps and Bruises hazard, characters can suffer a level of Fatigue instead of actual wounds. This is useful when a character crashes through a plate glass window, or finds him/herself being dragged over rough terrain behind a horse or vehicle. A Vigor roll is required to avoid the level of Fatigue, and it automatically resolves 24 hours later.
Reason #2: Opportunities For Hazards Are Everywhere
Be it fantasy, pulp, or futuristic sci-fi, the environment the characters occupy is fertile ground for the use of hazards. Characters on a forced march up a mountain pass should expect to make at least one Vigor roll, unless they stop for frequent short rests.
Don’t forget climate and weather! Pulp heroes should make a few Vigor rolls versus extreme cold and heat in the course of their adventures. A hero chased by tribal warrior may have to resist knock-out or paralysis poison in the form of blow darts. Don’t forget strange tropical diseases.
Reason #3: Hazards Add Excitement To Your Story
Adding hazards is a great way to amp up a mundane combat or scenario. A fight on a dilapidated, rickety rope bridge spanning a forty foot chasm over a raging river is far more challenging and interesting than a fight on dry land. The characters must make Agility checks every round to avoid falling through a rotten plank.
This can also be a tool to challenge player characters at higher ranks. Using the example above, falling into the water halves the 4d6+4 damage. If the damage is insignificant, or they manage to Soak it all, they must avoid the drowning hazard (a successful Swimming roll each round in white water to avoid Fatigue and Incapacitation).
Question: How many of your player characters have a die type in the Swimming skill?
Putting It All Together
Get creative about applying hazards to your Savage Worlds games. If it makes sense for a something to catch fire, don’t forget to apply the “smoke inhalation” hazard rules.
Perilous Places & Serious Situations by Triple Ace Games. Grab your PDF copy on DriveThruRPG.com. It is filled with great ideas. There are also rules for building traps for you fantasy dungeon enthusiasts.
Until next time…
Keep rolling, and stay Savage