Uhm… You’re Doing It Wrong!
I’m a Savage Worlds Game Master with more than two years and forty-some odd games under my belt. That said, I still make mistakes in the application of the rules. Hey, guess what? It doesn’t matter. In fact, it probably goes unnoticed!
The point is, making a few minor mistakes doesn’t break Savage Worlds.
Let’s take a look and the three most common mistakes made by Savage Game Masters….
Mistake #1: Applying Damage
It really isn’t as complicated as it seems. It is, however, the most often confused rule in the book; especially for newcomers from other game systems. Let’s start with. . .
Shaken. All characters have a Toughness of 2 plus half Vigor. Damage equal to Toughness and up to 3 points over Toughness results in Shaken. Once Shaken, you may only perform Free Actions until your next turn; in other words, it might be a good time to run or duck for cover. On your turn, you get to make a free Spirit roll. With a success (4) you are no longer Shaken, but may only take free actions that turn. On a Raise (8), you are no longer Shaken and may act normally that turn. You may spend a Benny at anytime to remove a Shaken status. If spent on his turn, a Benny gains the effect of a Raise on your Spirit roll.
Wait a second! Why are you still limited to free actions until your next turn if you got a success?! If you aren’t technically Shaken, why do you still suffer the effects for another turn?!
Good question. Depending on your turn in the initiative order, it is possible to take enough damage to leave you Shaken multiple times before or after your turn in a combat round. If you are already Shaken when you take enough damage to cause another Shaken, each additional Shaken becomes a Wound.
Wounds. Every four points of damage over Toughness results in a Wound. Player Characters can take up to 3 Wounds and still function, but each Wound reduces Pace by 1″ (minimum 1) and causes a -1 cumulative penalty to Trait rolls. Any time an attack results in Wounds, the character may spend a Benny to make a Vigor roll and Soak the damage. Each success (4) and raise (8) on the Vigor roll removes one Wound from a single attack. If you Soak all Wounds from the attack, you are no longer Shaken.
For example, Grognard the Mighty has a Toughness of 7. Before his turn in the combat, an Orc hits him for 10 points of damage. Ouch! That’s Shaken and there’s another attack coming before his turn. He could drop a Benny now to remove his Shaken status, but decides against it. Now it’s the Orc Chieftain’s turn. He hits for 18 points! That leaves Grognard Shaken (previously) with 2 Wounds! Had the Orc Chieftain only scored enough damage for a Shaken (7-10 points), Grognard would be Shaken with 1 Wound.
Grognard drops a Benny and makes a Vigor roll. Wound penalties for the attack don’t apply, because he gets a chance to Soak the damage first. He rolls and gets an 8 on his Vigor roll. That’s a Success with a Raise, enough to Soak 2 Wounds. Because he Soaked all of the Wounds from a single attack, he is also no longer Shaken.
Incapacitation. Once a player character takes more than 3 Wounds, he or she is Incapacitated. I’m not going to delve deeper, because the setting you play in determines what this means from simply unconscious for a period of time, injuries or death from blood loss.
Mistake #2: Skimming The Rules
Read every single sentence. The rule book does not spend paragraphs reiterating rules and forcing you to pay for a higher page count. It provides the rules as concisely as possible to explain the exact effect. If the rule book is just skimmed through or spot read, important rules will be unavoidably missed. — Clint Black, Savage Worlds Core Rules Brand Manager
This is where I make most of my mistakes. All too often, I read the main paragraph and skim the bullet points.
Mistake #3: Not Playing With The Rules As Written
Play the game as written (making sure to use all the rules) for several sessions before considering changing any of the rules. This is not an insult to your intelligence or years of experience with RPGs. There are aspects of the system that do not become apparent without actual play experience. Trust us, every single one of us has discovered things of this nature, even the professional game designers with multiple decades of experience. We’ve all had the “Duh!” moment where suddenly a rule clicks into place like a final jigsaw puzzle piece only due to playing the game. — Clint Black, Savage Worlds Core Rules Brand Manager
Learn to crawl before you try to walk.
This is especially true when it comes to Chases, Dramatic Tasks, Interludes, Mass Combat, and Social Conflict rules. I often hear new Savage Worlds GMs complain that… “Combat is unbalanced” because the target number for Melee Attacks is an opponent’s Parry, compared to the standard 4 for Ranged Attacks. The game isn’t broken or unbalanced when you include additional rules like Tricks, Ganging Up, Cover, and Range Penalties.
Clint suggests “several sessions”. I’d recommend at least five to ten sessions using the “rules as written”.
Savage Worlds is designed to be a roleplaying game system without a setting. It is meant to be tinkered with, molded and shaped, to fit any setting you can imagine. An in-depth understanding of the rules and ‘how it [Savage Worlds] plays’ at the table is a small investment of time with a huge pay-off .When you eventually decide to write your own settings, or convert your favorite one to Savage Worlds, you are less likely to waste time reinventing the wheel.