To Savage or Not to Savage

Savage Worlds FanWhen you convert an existing campaign setting or game to the Savage Worlds rules you have “savaged” the setting. But there’s one important question: does it make sense to savage every setting?

Savage Worlds is currently a very popular system. There’s almost no day without a post about Savage Worlds on our own RPG Bloggers Network. There are currently over a dozen campaign settings available for SW and a lot of fan conversions are floating around on the internet. I recently even thought about running an Eberron campaign using the Savage Worlds rules.

But is this always the best way to go? No, I don’t think so. I like Savage Worlds because it really is “fast, furious, fun” as the creators claim it to be. You can run SW with almost no preparation, especially when you use a “plot point” campaign like Rippers or Slipstream. The rules are easy to learn and still allow you to use them in almost every genre. The killer argument is the price. I don’t think you can get any other multi-genre roleplaying game for just 10 bucks (aside from a few free ones of course).

SWEE CoverSo, why do I advise against using SW for everything? There are a few things you have to keep in mind, before you convert your favorite campaign setting to SW. Sometimes you can’t separate rules from the setting completely. One example is how magic works in the official D&D settings. For a long time we had Vancian magic where magic users had to memorize their spells for the day. When a spell was cast, the magic user had to rememorize it the next day to be able to cast again. This is part of the D&D rules but nevertheless it affected how magic works in the campaign worlds. If you use the Savage World rules, the magic system is vastly different. If you don’t mind that your version of the campaign differs in that respect, you’re fine. But if you want to bring the feel of Vancian magic back, you will have either to create your own magic system or stick to D&D. An in my opinion problems arise whenever you try to convert rules and not the setting.

A few days ago we had a talk on Twitter about playing a Fallout pen & paper game. My first idea was to use Savage Worlds. But there are a few things to consider first. A lot of the feel of the computer games comes from the SPECIAL system used. I have to admit that on a second thought a SW conversion might actually lose some of the games’ appeal. But on the other hand, the SW rules would probably work just fine in a post-apocalyptic setting. Tough call…

You also have to keep in mind that the SW combat rules don’t use hitpoints like a lot of other systems. When you are used to long drawn-out combats where the players slowly reduce their enemies hitpoints, you’ll be shocked when you realize that you won’t have that experience using SW combat. The whole combat dynamic of SW is different from most other roleplaying games I’ve played. This is of course not a bad thing per se, but if you prefer killing your dragons one hitpoint at a time, you should avoid using Savage Worlds.

So, when should you think about converting an existing setting to Savage Worlds? If you ask me, you can convert everything to SW as long as you can live with the fact that the rules will definitely have an impact on the feel of the world. Especially the combat and magic rules will probably have a big impact. If you don’t mind these changes, go ahead and give it a try. In most cases using the Savage Worlds Explorers Edition will suffice. If you are going to play in a fantasy setting, you might pick up the new Fantasy Companion or at least have a look at the free Wizards & Warriors supplement.

Converting settings to SW is less work than probably expected and could be great fun, but you have to accept the consequences. Especially when the setting you want to convert is tied to certain rules to make sense (like D&D’s Vancian magic), you will either have to create variant rules or just accept that some things work different, when “savaged”.