Introduction to the Introduction
Original SA post
I figure I owe a real F&F to the thread. This won't be as interesting as Eldoru, but I think it'll be fairly useful.
Introduction to the Introduction:
Savage Worlds is a universal system developed by Pinnacle Entertainment Group, particularly Shane Hensley of Deadlands fame. Indeed, the system is in many ways a descendant of Deadlands by way of The Great Rail Wars.
It's a fairly simple, fast-paced RPG, though it's not without its flaws. I'm fairly partial to it; I had some good games with friends, and most of my professional RPG work has been in Savage Worlds.
Pinnacle has published a number of settings in this system, including Deadlands Reloaded, Slipstream, 50 Fathoms, and Weird Wars, as well as licensed games like Lankhmar, The Goon, RIFTS, Flash Gordon, and Solomon Kane.
While it's not published under an open license, they're very open to other publishers using their system, leading to many third-party settings like Accursed, Shaintar, Frostburn, Thin Blue Line, and Low Life. These vary in quality, but they give a lot of variety in the sorts of games you can run with the system.
Broadly speaking, Savage Worlds does well with pulpy, action-based games. It's more on the crunchy, tactical side of things.
I'm reviewing Savage Worlds Deluxe, which is the current edition of the game (at least until Savage Worlds Black comes out in a few months).
As a side note, I broke two of my fingers this week, and as a dedicated homerow typist, this is causing me all kinds of grief. While it's a nice, relatively light system, this might take a while.
In barbaric worlds of fantasy and far-flung galaxies, great heroes battle for gold, glory, justice, or mere survival. Some wear mithril armor and wield massive swords glowing with magical energy. Others are commandos in the latest ballistic vests spraying lead from their submachine guns. Some aren’t even human.
The book starts off by talking about the sort of adventures you can run with the system. It promises to focus more on action than bookkeeping. It also mentions the Setting Rules from later in the book that let you focus the game for a specific setting.
It also talks about what's changed in the current edition. Refreshingly, it has designer notes scattered throughout the book explaining the reasoning behind certain decisions.
It then tells you what you need to play the game: Dice, the action deck (a regular deck of playing cards with two jokers), a setting (either published or one you make yourself), and optionally, an adventure deck and miniatures.
Next it talks a bit about settings and plot point campaigns. Plot point campaigns are essentialy the Savage Worlds answer to Pathfinder's Adventure Paths. Instead of being fairly rigid, linear adventures, a plot point campaign is a series of related adventures that take characters through the main "plot" of the setting, but with lots of gaps where GMs can insert other adventures, called Savage Tales, or adventures the GM develops. When done well, PPCs give GMs a structure to follow while keeping things relatively loose to allow players to decide their own routes and plans.
Finally, it plugs the Pinnacle website, letting you know you can get settings, companions (genre books), adventures, accessories, and help on their forums. This is followed by full-page ads for various settings, like Deadlands, Weird Wars 2, Rippers, etc.
Next up is Character Creation.
Chapter One: Characters
Original SA post
Sorry this is taking me a while. Like I said, I've got a couple of broken fingers I'm typing around.
Savage Worlds. Decent system, godawful layout and organization. Seriously, why is character creation before what any of it means? And equipment is very early for some reason too. And just... agh, it takes forever to find anything in Deluxe edition.
Partly, I think this comes from tradition. Savage Worlds has adapted a lot from its nineties RPG roots, but you can definitely see the signs in parts like this and equipment.
Chapter One: Characters
Here we get into character creation. To its credit, the book does
try to explain what certain terms mean as it goes through, but I'd prefer if it had also laid out things like the core mechanic of the game before asking you to pick stat points
The first step is picking your race. It lets you know what humans get--one free edge--but otherwise tells you to check the race section.
The next step is picking your traits. Traits are your attributes (think ability scores in D&D) and your skills. They're measured in die steps from d4 to d12. Attributes start at d4 and you get five points to start with (unless you take hindrances). You could put them all at d6, raise one to d12 and one to d6, or however you want to go.
Skills start at d4-2, and it costs a point to raise them to d4. You get 15 points to spend. Like a lot of games, skills have linked attributes; for example, Intimidation is linked to Spirit, and Fighting is linked to Agility. This just affects how much the skills cost. It costs one point per die type to raise a skill as far as its linked attribute, and two after that. So if you have a d6 Agility, it costs two points to raise your Fighting to d6, but four points to raise it to d8.
The attribites are fairly balanced. Agility and Smarts don't do a ton compared to the other attributes, but they have the most skills. Strength affects how much you can carry, what weapons you can use, and your melee damage. Spirit helps you recover from the shaken condition, resist fear, and has a smattering of useful skills. Vigor us straight up your "don't die" skill. There really isn't a single god stat. On the other hand, thanks to the math behind the game, you're not completely gimped even with a d4 Vigor.
One thing I wish they would do in Savage Worlds Black is to talk about the math of the system. It would help people making their characters to understand what those numbers actually mean. I'll talk about it more once we get to the mechanics.
Next we get derived statistics. These are things you don't buy directly, but which are affected by other parts of your character. Charisma is a bonus to persuasion. It's 0 unless a hindrance or edge modifies it. Pace is 6" for humans, again barring an edge or hindrance affecting it. That's 6" on the game mat; you're assumed to be using minis, figure flats, or some other sort of marker). Each inch represents 2 yards in-game. Parry is half your fighting die plus two (so a d6 gives you a 5 parry), and it's how hard it is to hit you in melee. Finally, Toughness is half your Vigor plus two, and it's how much damage you can take before it affects you.
The next step is Edge and Hindrances, though Hindrances go first. They're the sort of flaws and feats you see in other systems. You can take up to one major and two minor hindrances at character creation. Taking all three gives you four points to spend. Two will buy you an edge or an attribute increase, one will give you an additional skill point or $500 in spending money. I have some issues with this system which I'll talk about when we get to the individual hindrances and edges.
We now come to the gear step. It refers us to the gear section and tells us we have $500 to spend by default, unless our GM or setting book says otherwise. There are also edges and hindrances that affect this.
Finally, you come up with a background for your character. There follows a section on roleplaying that amounts to "Play interesting characters and try new things every so often; that goes for GMs too." It also includes a plug for Andy Hopp's Low Life, which I appreciate. It's probably the single weirdest setting in Savage Worlds.
There's a section on Archetypes, which are 0-XP pre-built characters. These are a nice spread of different concepts from ace, to mage, to investigator. The only thing they need the players to fill in are their hindrances and background. They're all built under the assumption that the players will pick all the one major and two minor.
There are eleven races in Explorer's Edition, though these serve more as examples than anything else. They include the standard fantasy races (elves, dwarves, etc.), androids, atlanteans, and the very on-the-nose avions, rakashans, and saurians. These are followed by a guide for making your own races, which is really what they want you to do. There are abilities that range from +3 to -3. They're kind of like the hindrances and edges, but they're mostly mechanical and don't have quite the problems that that system has. It's helped that the races are generally designed with a setting in mind. Races are supposed to balance out to a net +2.
As an example, dwarves get a free d6 in Vigor (+2), low-light vision (no penalties for anything less than complete darkness, +1), but are slow, with a 5 pace instead of 6 (-1). You can have more extreme abilities, like a d8 in an attribute (which can go up to d12+2 in normal advancement).
Next we have Skills. Generally, you don't roll for regular stuff. You don't roll to drive your car or to change a lightbulb. It's only when you're under a time crunch ir there's a significant chance of failure that you should roll.
There's a note that if a character is using a skill in a way that they're not familiar with and it's dramatically appropriate, they might take a -2 to their rolls. I don't necessarily hate
this rule, but I'd like some examples of how they intended it to be used. Regardless, I've never seen it in play.
Common Knowledge rolls are for things that don't really need skills. Things like basic geography, operating a common piece of equipment, etc. The player just makes a basic Smarts roll. They may get a +2 or a -2 depending on how well it fits their background. The actual knowledge skill should only be used for things that will have impact on the game.
There are 23 skills total. The list could probably do with some changes. Boating, driving and piloting are all very campaign dependant. Gambling is a descrete skill mostly because it was in Deadlands. As written, it's useful for making money with a minigame. Throwing is generally not that useful outside of settings with regular access to grenades. Notably, they removed the old Guts skill, which was used to resist fear. This is another artifact of the Deadlands setting. It's now been relegated to an optional setting rule, with Spirit doing the job.
Persuasion's the primary social skill. It can improve how people react to you. You add your Charisma when you roll it. Charisma's a bit of an issue. It's possible to boost it to a ridiculous +6 as a first level character (and +8 one advance later). Even a +2 is pretty huge in this system, so it can make the Persuasion skill effectively automatic.
Overall, the skill system isn't bad. It can do with a little cleaning up, which they did in Flash Gordon (combining for example, climbing, swimming and throwing into Athletics), but it's overall serviceable. I like the way they linked the skills to attributes. A high-strength, low-agility character can be as good as anyone at lockpicking, but it costs them more. It also lets you come out of the gate already really good in your chosen field. It's perfectly possible to start off with a d12 in your primary skill, even if the attribute isn't that high.
We've reached Hindrances, and this is probably my least favorite part of the system.
The big issue with Hindrances is that they do completely different things. Some are basically things players are going to do anyway, while others are really harsh mecnaically.
For example, Heroic means you like to help people out and generally act like a good guy. It's worth the same as being Blind, which gives you a -6 to nearly all physical tasks (any that rely on vision) and a -2 on social tasks (from not being able to read people). You also have Enemy and Wanted, which are basically "This either doesn't do anything, or makes my character the focus of the game for a while."
You can also get Bennies for roleplaying your Hindrances. We'll talk about Bennies later, but they're basically your Fate Points, so this is kind of a big deal. You can roleplay being Loyal to get a Benny, but you can't really do the same with, say, One-Armed or Lame. The roleplaying Hindrance is only ever an issue when you want it to, and you get rewards when it is.
To be fair, the game is up front about this, acknowledging that some hindrances are just there as roleplaying aids (you'll play a character differently if he has Loyal instead of Mean on his sheet), but it doesn't really offer any solutions for the issue.
Personally, I just give everyone the points and ask them to pick a couple of personality flaws. If they create complications in game from it, great! I'll give them Bennies. Otherwise, it's just background.
Edges are basically feats. You have Background, Combat, Leadership, Power (associated with the magic system), Professional, Social, Weird, Wild Card, and Legendary Edges. Edges have prerequisites. Generally these are based on your Traits (Agility d8, or Stealth d6, say) and your Rank. Rank is like your level. Every 20 XP you get, you reach a new Rank. Starting characters are Novices.
Background Edges used to only be allowed at character creation. However, they're now allowed at any point. These are things like being Rich, Noble, Ambidextrous, or a naturally Fast Healer. You also have the Arcane Backgrounds, which are basically how you do magic.
Combat Edges are your "I Fight Good" options. These range from being harder to hit, getting extra attacks in a round, being harder to hit, or ignoring penalties for certain actions.
Leadership Edges generally give bonuses to "people under your command." Expect to have a talk with yous players over exactly what that means. It doesn't need to be an issue, and shouldn't be, but it can be. Personally, I turn it into a bard or warlord style "buff your friends" thing in my games.
Power Edges give you more magic powers and points to spend on them.
Professional Edges are generally ones that make your skills better. These are things like Assassin (get more damage when you sneak up on someone), Ace (get bonuses for handling vehicles), or McGyver (rig little devices from scrap, grow a terrible mullet). They technically tend to be more "expensive" in terms of prerequisites, but those are generally things you'd want to have anyway if you were taking the edges.
Social Edges are about getting along with others. You can become more Charismatic, resist Intimidation or Taunt, pass out Bennies to your friends, or have Connections to lean on.
Weird Edges are things that verge onto the supernatural or just plain strange. Get an animal companion, become tougher when you're drunk, or always have just the right tool for the job.
Wild Card Edges are only available to Wild Cards. Annoyingly, this comes before the book explains what Wild Cards are. For now, just know that all Player Characters and particularly important NPCs are called Wild Cards and get certain benefits. There are three Wild Card Edges, and they all get special benefits when a player draws a joker for their initiative. Did I mention that initiative is card-based? Well, it is.
Legendary Edges require a character to be Legendary. This is basically the Savage Worlds equivalent to Epic Level, though the power level's a lot lower. You can get followers or a sidekick, increase a trait pasts d12, or boost derived trats past their associated trait.
Finally we come to advancement, where the whole "rank" thing is explained. As I said earlier, every 20 XP is a new rank. You start at Novice, then comes Seasoned, Veteran, Heroic, and Legendary at 80 experience points.
Every five XP you can get an Advance. That lets you do one of the following: Buy an Edge, raise an Attribute, raise two Skills up to their linked Attribute or one up above it, or buy a new Skill at d4. You can only raise an Attribute once per rank.
You can, of course, start at higher rank if the game requires it. If you die, your replacement character is supposed to start with one fewer Advance than the previous one. I've never had a GM who actually used that rule, but at least it's better than the previous one, where you started with half the XP.
Once you hit Legendary, advancement slows a little. You get an Advance every ten XP, and you can raise an Attribute every other Advance. At that point, you're fairly incredible at whatever you specialized in, and you're just getting broader in your abilities, so it still feels pretty good being a Legendary character.
Finally, there's a summary of character creation, lists of the Skills, Hindrances, and Edges, and that's it.
I generally like the character creation system for Savage Worlds, but I agree with gourdcaptain that it would be far better done if they'd explain the basic game rules first so players knew what they were getting into. I also wish they'd just dump the hindrance system in favor of something more like FATE aspects. The big thing I like is that it's very difficult to make a character who outright sucks. Even with a d4 in a skill, you've got about a two in three chance of succeeding at basic tasks. It does a good job of providing baseline competency.
While I slowly type up the Gear section, why don't I get some character suggestions so you can see what this looks like as a process? For that matter, suggest a race and I'll show that system off as well.
Chapter Two: Gear
Original SA post
Chapter Two: Gear
The Gear chapter is probably the worst organized in the book. We start with an assortment of special abilities weapons have, like high explosive, armor, minimum strength, cost, etc. These are in alphabetical order. This means that basic, essential parts of the rules, like how armor works, come after 3RB (three round burst).
The most relevant bits: Armor increases a character's Toughness in the areas it covers. Generally you're looking at torso, head, arms and legs. If a hit isn't a called shot or covered by a special rule, it goes for the torso. This means that if a character is wearing a plate corselet and no other armor, it takkes 3 more damage to Wound him, but if you try to hit his arm instead, you ignore it.
Remember how I said you get $500 to start with? The game sets all of the prices around that. It assumes you aren't actually paying $300 for a sword in Merry Olde England, just that that's a reasonable equivalent. This is probably a reasonable solution for a universal system.
Some vehicles and creatures have what's called "Heavy Armor." This means things that count as Heavy Weapons can hurt them. This is so you can't stab a tank to death with a switchblade.
Ranged weapons tend to have a fixed damage, like 2d6. It can explode, but two characters both shooting the same gun will deal the same damage. Melee weapons, on the other hand, tend to do damage based on strength. For example, an axe deals Str+d6 damage. Notably, the weapon's damage die cannot be higher than your Strength. So if you had a Strength of d4, you would only deal 2d4 damage even if you were using a Str+d10 Great Sword.
Some ranged weapons (mostly machine guns) have minimum Strength scores. You take a penalty to your Shooting if you don't meet them.
If you fire a weapon at full auto, you make more attacks, but take a -2 penalty to shooting rolls.
After the special notes for weapons, we have Encumbrance. You can carry five times your strength die before you take a -1 to Strength, Agility, and associated skills. It increases by another -1 for every multiple of that, until you get to -3. That's as much as you can carry. This is why you don't want to just dump Strength, even in modern settings.
Next, we have more special abilities for armor and weapons, like kevlar, shields, scopes, flamethrowers, missiles...
It's all a bit of a mess. It makes it hard to find exactly which note you're looking for. Now, there is a nice index in the back, so it's not impossible to get what you need. But it's a lot more difficult than it needs to be.
We then get to Hand Weapons, which basically means melee weapons. They're organized into Medieval, Modern, and Futuristic. Some weapons have further notes, like warhammer having AP 1 vs. rigid armor. That means it ignore a point of armor from things like the plate corselet, but not a chain shirt.
You have your favorite medieval weapons here, plus things like billy clubs, brass knuckles, and laser swords.
Next, we get armor. It's organized like Hand Weapons was, going from medieval chain and plate up to futuristic power armor. Nothing terribly out of place here.
Now we get to ranged weapons, and here I have some issues.
First off, why do we go Weapons, to Armor, to Weapons? It makes it a bit of a pain when flipping through.
Next, you have an issue that there are way too many kinds of gun. The Ranged Weapon table is longer than the Hand Weapon and Armor tables combined. It adds in Black Powder to the table, which is probably fair, but the modern firears are just way too granular for this kind of game. Worse, you have some guns that are just straight up better versions of others. The only difference between an AK47 and an H&K G3 is that the AK47 does +1 damage and has more shots before you have to reload.
You could dump a good 2/3 to 3/4 of the modern weapons and improve this section greatly.
You also have a section on vehicle-mounted and anti-tank guns and a section on special weapons like mines, rocket launchers, catapults, and other big weapons.
Finally we get to mundane items. Unlike the weapons and armor section, this isn't organized by time period, so you have cellphone coming right after canteen (waterskin).
None of it really goes beyond modern day tech, and there's no real description of what any of these things do. I get that not everything needs mechanics, but it could be useful to give some indication of how players can use some of these things.
Weirdly, ammunition is just under mundane items. The organization in this chapter is the worst.
We close out with vehicles. Vehicle combat is a bit different than regular combat. Facing matters more, with different toughness values for the front/sides/rear, and values for acceleration as well as speed. Aircraft have a climb value, but it only really matters when using the Chase Rules, which are in the next chapter.
We'll get into the vehicle rules next chapter. They're actually decently abstracted, but they do require you to learn a slightly different system.
Overall, this is the worst chapter in the book. The guns are too fiddly, the chapter is horribly organized, and the it's tough to find exactly what you're looking for.
Old Man Henderson
Despite the fact that he's Old Man Henderson, I'm not going to make him Elderly. For one thing, he'd only be around 56 (he was 12 in '74). For another, he won't be kicking in any front doors with a d4 Strength. It would also interfere with his ability to haul around firearms and lawn gnomes.
We'll give him the following Attributes:
Honestly, this is underselling him but we're working on a starting character budget.
We'll go with the following skills:
Knowledge (Physics) d4
Knowledge (Portuguese) d4
Notice is in there purely for Edge qualification.
We'll give him the full complement of Hindrances. He'll have Overconfident as his major Hindrance, with Quirk (Incomprehensible accent) and Delusional as his minor Hindrances.
Next, we're giving him McGyver, which lets him make little gadgets and tools from random crap he finds around, and Brave, which helps him succeed on fear tests.
That leaves us with enough hindrance points to raise the Vigor back to a d6 so he's tough enough to take a hit or two.
He ends up looking like this:
Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Fighting d8, Intimidation d4, Knowledge (Physics) d4, Knowledge (Portuguese) d4, Notice d8, Repair d6, Shooting d8
Delusional (Minor), Overconfident, Quirk
When he fires a gun, he succeeds about 80% of the time, and gets extra damage 25% of the time. Shotguns get a +2 to hit, making that 98% to hit and 48% to get extra damage. He's decent in melee, and he can scrounge up random things to help out, and Delusional should let him justify all sorts of stupid crap to derail horrible railroads.
Going forward, I'd raise his Agility and Vigor a bit. Agility to help with raising Shooting and Fighting, Vigor so he can qualify for the Liquid Courage edge (become resistant to injury when you're drunk). Then I'd go for some nice combat Edges like Rock and Roll, Quick Draw and Marksman.
I'm going to go with Warforged, since most people should be familiar with them.
First off, they're constructs. Normally, that gives the, +2 to recover from Shaken, no Wound penalties, no extra damage from called shots, immunity to disease and poison, and the need to be repaired instead of healed. However, they're living
constructs, so we'll let them suffer the called shot damage, but allow Healing to work on them. That ends up being a +2 ability.
They're tough, so they'll get a d6 in Vigor. This is also a +2. However, they don't have a great sense of self, so their Spirit takes two points per step to raise during character creation, and two advances to raise in play. That's worth a -3.
They'll get +2 Armor, at another +2, since they're pretty tough and effectively covered in armored plates.
Finally, since a lot of people don't trust them, they're Outsiders. This gives them a -2 to Charisma when dealing with non-warforged. As a minor hindrance, this is a -1 ability.
This ends up at +2 overall, making them a reasonably balanced race
Since I was asked, here's an example of a race from a setting book for Savage Worlds, the Cremefillian from Andy Hopp's Low Life setting.
First off, I was actually thinking of the Boduls when I said they break character creation rules. That said, despite the decrepit, slightly pathetic bent of Low Life, the races are actually more powerful than most regular SW races.
Instead of the normal racial abilities, the Low Life races have their abilities presented as free Edges. Cremefillians get two.
Spongy Flesh means they've absorbed all kinds of poisons from the environment around them. This makes them immune to poisons and radiation, while making anything that tries to eat them sick. It also gives them +1 Toughness for their "muffiny brawn."
Tweenking lets them carry a lot more than their strength would normally allow. They can carry three times their normal limit and ignore the strength limits on hand weapons.
They don't have any negative abilities or Hindrances they have to take.
So, obviously you don't really care about Strength too much as a Cremefillian. Let's give him a starting array of Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d6. We'll call this fellow Medium Debbie.
We'll go ahead and boost his Fighting all the way up to a d12, taking 7 of his 15 skill points. We'll round it out with Boating d6, Climbing d6, and Intimidation d8.
For Hindrances, we'll go with Funny Looking, Hoardosaurus, and Innumerate, all from the Low Life book. Basically, Medium Debbie is a weird-looking hoarder who can't count.
Low Life characters all get one free Professional Edge, in addition to what their race gives them. We'll go with Price-o-corn, which gives Medium Debbie a d8 Wild Die instead of a d6 when on a boat, and a +2 to rolls against getting seasick or drunk.
With our Hindrance points, we'll take the Weird Edge Animal Magnetism. Once per day, Medium Debbie can attract a bunch of animals that stick to him and act as armor for a few hours. Also, animals don't like attacking him. We'll also give him Trademark Weapon for a +1 to his fighting rolls when using his favorite weapon.
Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Boating d6, Climbing d6, Fighting d12, Intimidation d8
Funny Looking, Haordosaurus, Innumerate
Animal Magnetism, Price-o-corn, Trademark Weapon.
We'll give him a Big Ass Cleaver. This weighs 20 yorts (pounds) and does Str+d10 damage. As I said earlier, normally a Str 4 character would max out his encumbrance at 20 lbs and couldn't deal more than Str+d4 damage with a melee weapon. However, as a Cremefillian, Medium Debbie can carry sixty pounds without breaking a sweat, and will deal d4+d10 damage. With his d12+1 to hit, 8 Parry, and the 7 Toughness he gets when covered in woodland creatures, he is a snack cake to be reckoned with.
Chapter Three: Game Rules
Original SA post
Chapter Three: Game Rules
Now we get into the mechanics.
First, we get into the difference between Wild Cards and Extras. The big things are that they can take multiple Wounds and they get a Wild Die, an extra d6 they roll when they make trait tests. We won't find out how Wounds work for a bit, but trait tests are rolls for your attributes and skills.
Basically, you roll whatever die you have as well as the Wild Die. You apply any modifiers to both and take the higher of the two. Unless otherwise specified, the target number is four. Some exceptions include Fighting rolls (which go against the target's Parry) and opposed rolls.
The dice can explode, which the game calls Acing. That is, if you roll a 6 on a d6, an 8 on a d8, you roll that die again and add it up. For every four above the target number you get, you have a raise. What that means depends on what the roll is, but usually it means you get some additional effect.
If you try a Skill you have no dice in, you roll a d4-2. Wild Cards also roll the Wild Die, but the penalty is applied there.
The downside of being a Wild Card is that if you get a 1 on both your trait die and the Wild Die (called Snake Eyes, because they weren't going to let a gambling metaphor go), you have a critical failure. Basically, you fail and the GM has something bad happen to you. This is a place where I would like to see some suggestions and guidance, but the book doesn't go into any more detail than "something rotten."
The book doesn't go into the math, but here are some numbers: An unskilled roll works out to a 32% chance of succeeding on a basic task. A d4 gives you a 62% chance. A d6 is about 75%, a d8 is 81%, a d10 is 85%, and a d12 is 88%.
Now, there are some other peculiarities thanks to the exploding die. If you have a -2, or are trying to hit a TN of 6, a d4 is slightly more likely to hit than a d6. You also see this with d6 vs. d8 at TN 8, d8 vs d10 at TN 10, etc.
This puts a lot of people off, but it matters a lot less than you might think. First, the difference is less than 1%. Second, the odds of Snake Eyes go down and the odds of raises go up as you increase a die. You've got a 4% chance of Snake Eyes on a d4. It's 2.7% for a d6. That doesn't seem like a lot, but those critical failures can have a pretty big impact.
You also have what looks like diminishing returns as the die goes up. A d4 to a d6 gives you 13% better odds, while d10 to d12 only gives 3%. But the odds of getting Raises helps a lot. A d6 only has a 26% chance of getting a Raise on a basic roll. This is 40% on a d10 and 50% on a d12. On a Shooting roll, say, that's an extra d6 damage.
The math of the system is a little obscured, but once you get into the actual numbers it hangs together pretty well. Even an unskilled character has good enough odds to make it worth trying at least some of the time, and a d4 still gives a baseline competence. Despite the peculiarities of the exploding dice, there's never really a situation where you don't want to have a bigger die.
I've mentioned Bennies before. By default, players start a session with three. They can get more for good roleplaying, especially involving their Hindrances. They can be used for re-rolls, to Soak Wounds, and to recover from Shaken. We'll get to those last two when we get to damage.
The GM also gets Bennies they can use for their NPCs. Wild Card NPCs also get two Bennies of their own.
Now we get to gameplay. First off, the game assumes you're using some sort of map. Everything is measured in inches. An inch on the gameboard represents two yards in-game.
Just like D&D, each round lasts six seconds, with ten rounds a minute.
If there are allied Extras, the players should control them. Distribute them between the players as needed. Even if the characters aren't commanding those Extras, the players still control them.
Initiative is dealt with playing cards. You use a normal deck of cards with two Jokers. Deal a card to each Wild Card. Any allied Extras go on the initiative of the player controlling them. Other Extras are dealt in as groups. So, if you have the players fighting a vampire, three skeletons, and a half dozen zombies, you'd have a card for the vampire, one for the skeletons, and one for the zombies.
Once the cards are dealt initiative counts down from ace to two. Ties are resolved by Suit (Spaces, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs).
If you draw a Joker, you can go at any time in the round and you get a +2 to all Trait Tests and damage. Jokers are great and you really feel powerful when you get them. You feel scared when the enemy gets them. Small, static bonuses are actually really, really good in this system, something a lot of new designers don't realize when they start working with the system.
Keep in mind that a basic roll succeeds on a four. That means that if you have a +2, you don't fail unless you get snake eyes.
The deck is reshuffled anytime someone gets a Joker, or when there aren't enough cards left in the deck to deal everyone in.
If you want, you can delay and go on Hold. You basically get pulled out of the initiative order and can go when you want. However, if you want to interrupt someone, you have to make an opposed Agility roll.
If you decide to go after someone has taken their turn and before the next person goes, you don't have to roll Agility. But if the second person has already started doing things, you do.
There are some suggestions for running without minis. They actually make an effort to way theater of the mind tends to help casters (the "Of course I can hit all the enemies and exclude my friends!" issue). Basically, you roll to see how many enemies are hit, based on the size of the power (or grenade, or other area-based effect).
You can move your Pace during your turn, and this doesn't count as any sort of an action. The book doesn't explicitly say it, but you're able to move both before and after taking an action, so long as your total movement is less than your Pace.
If you want to move more than your Pace in a turn, you have to run. You roll 1d6 and you can move that many more inches. This counts as an action. This die can't Ace, so no getting sudden bursts of speed when the die explodes five times.
Conveniently, actions are next on our itinerary. Generally, an action is one thing you do, like making an attack, making a Test of Will, or using a Power.
If you take multiple actions, you have to declare it beforehand. You can't perform the same action more than once in a round (conveniently, attacking with your right hand counts as a separate action than attacking with your left). For each action beyond the first, you take a cumulative -2 to all your rolls that round.
So, let's say Dirk Gunnarson wants to shoot with a revolver in his right hand, stab with a dagger in his left hand, and then make a Test of Will with Taunt. He would take a -4 to all three rolls. He'd get his Wild Die on all three rolls.
If he wanted to move while doing it, he could have each action happen at a different point during his movement. He could even run, but he'd take a -6 (which would apply to the running die, rendering it rather pointless). There are things you can do to mitigate these penalties, but you generally don't want to be doing more than two or three things at once. You're usually better off just doing one thing at a time. As Ron Swanson said, "Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
There are some things, typically attacks, that let you roll multiple dice for one action. For example, the Frenzy attack lets you make two attacks with one weapon. You roll two Fighting dice and one Wild Die, and take the best two. Automatic Fire has you roll a number of Shooting dice up to the weapon's Rate of Fire with one Wild Die. These also count as one action for the purpose of Multi-action Penalties.
As stated earlier, melee attacks are Fighting tests vs. the target's Parry. Ranged attacks are Shooting or Throwing rolls against a 4, with ranged penalties applied as necessary (-2 for medium, -4 for long).
If you get a raise on the attack roll, you get +1d6 damage. Only the first raise counts.
We next get some rules on small bits like Rate of Fire (how many shots you get with automatic fire), cover and light.
Now we hit Damage, and we can explain a few more important terms.
So, when you roll damage, you're trying to hit the target's Toughness. Damage dice are added together. So if your damage is 1d4+Str, and your Strength is a d8, you roll 1d4+1d8 and add the results together. Keep in mind that those dice can Ace.
If you get a Success, the target is Shaken. A Shaken character can't take actions (though they can still move). If the target was already Shaken, they take a Wound instead. They remain Shaken until the start of their next turn. Before anything else, they roll Spirit. If they succeed, they recover. If they fail, they have to wait until their next turn. Or they can spend a Benny and recover immediately.
It used to be the rule that if they succeeded but didn't get a raise, they recovered but couldn't take any actions that round. This made Shaken much nastier, and led to stun-locks. Now, so long as you get a success, you can act immediately.
Every raise gives you one Wound on a target. Extras are incapacitated as soon as they're Wounded. Wild Cards can take three Wounds and still be standing, but they take a -1 penalty for each Wound.
Note: If you get a raise on a target that's Shaken, it's still one Wound, not two. Also, if you try to Shake a target with something non-damaging like Taunt, it can't cause a Wound. I, too, am disappointed that you can't insult a man to death in this game.
If you would take a fourth Wound, you're incapacitated. You then have to make a Vigor roll to not die. Wound penalties apply to this roll. If you get a 1 or less as the result, you die. If you fail, you're bleeding out and you get a permanent injury (which can include permanent Attribute loss). Success means you have a temporary injury that goes away when you're healed up.
If you're bleeding out, you have to make a Vigor roll every round. Fail and you're dead. Succeed and you're still bleeding out. A raise stabilizes you. A successful Healing roll from a buddy also stops the bleeding.
I mentioned Soaking Wounds. When you have Wounds incoming, you can choose to spend a Benny. You make a Vigor roll. For each success and Raise, you cancel out a Wound. You rolled with the punch, dodged at the last second, or just stood there and took it like a champ. Wound penalties aren't applied until after you make the soak roll.
Next we get to situational rules. I won't go over all of them, but a few should be pointed out.
Called Shots let you take a penalty to your attack to hit a specific part of the enemy. A -2 lets you hit the arms or legs. This is good because a lot of armor only protects the torso. If an enemy has three points of armor, that's effectively three extra damage on the attack. A -4 lets you hit the head, which also grants extra damage. Anything much smaller than that is a -6.
The Drop is when you get a sneak attack in, basically. You get +4 attack and damage. This is really
good. I generally won't let players get this more than once per combat unless they come up with something extra clever.
Ganging up is always a good tactic. For every ally that's also adjacent to your target in melee, you get +1 to your attack, up to a +4.
Innocent Bystanders is a rule that makes it a gamble to fire into melee. If your attack misses and
you get a 1 on the Shooting die, you hit a random target next to the target. Could be one of your friends, could be one of his friends, or the horse he rode in on.
Tests of Will are Taunt and Intimidate attacks, basically. You pick the target you're trying to get an advantage against and roll your skill. The enemy rolls either Smarts (against Taunt) or Spirit (against Intimidate). On a success, you get a +2 on your next action against them (which could be another Test of Will). If you get a Raise, they're also Shaken.
Tricks work similarly, but they use Smarts and Agility, and the enemy defends with the same Attribute. Think of these as throwing sand in their eyes or yelling "Look behind you!" Instead of giving you a +2, it gives them a -2 to their Parry until their next action. A raise also Shakes them.
Tricks and Tests of Will were a lot better before the change in how Shaken works. You could lock an enemy down, since a regular success still took away their action. By the time their next turn came up, you might have them locked down.
It's good that the stun locks are gone, but Tests of Will and Tricks are a bit underwhelming right now. The new edition has some changes to fix that.
Wild Attacks let you get a +2 to Fighting and Damage, but gives you a -2 to your Parry. It's good on its own, and it can help you succeed on Called Shots or Multi-Action penalties.
Withdrawing from melee gives enemies a free attack. You can move around an enemy all you like, but the second you try to get away from his melee range, he gets an opportunity attack.
Non-magical healing is done through the Healing skill. It takes ten minutes in-game. You can only try it once for that particular wound (though another person can give it a go). The patient's Wound Penalties apply (and if you're healing yourself, you apply them twice).
After an hour, Wounds can't be fixed with the Healing skill anymore. This is called the Golden Hour. Only magic or natural healing can help you.
Natural healing takes five days. At the end of five days, you make a Vigor roll. On a success, you heal a Wound. I've never used this rule as written, because having to wait five days to get rid of a global -1, -2, or -3 to all your rolls sucks. I generally either make it one day to make the roll, or just have all Wounds go away after a night's rest.
That's pretty much it for the basic rules of the game. It would have been really nice to have this at the start before character creation. Next we'll get into situational rules.