Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Wild Die Podcast - Episode 59: CRUNCH!

Just finished listening to the episode that Paris and Eric did focused about the idea of crunch in the Savage Worlds universe.  To me, it sounded less like an episode about crunch and more an episode about Paris getting into arguments while customizing skills for his Sci-Fi setting.  I really wished I was on with you guys to discuss your sci-fi setting more and provide some points for discussion - and I found myself talking out loud in the car as I was heading to the grocery store.  :D  I always enjoy Paris' questions.  They're insightful and demonstrate that he is truly thinking about the system and his game with an eye to both system and self-improvement.  Thanks Paris!

Listening closely, I think I was able to suss out what Paris was mostly concerned about.  I've included Paris' points, with my thoughts:
  1. The Community is Agressively Opposed to System Creep
    Creating new skills can be considered by some to sacrilege, although in the end - its entirely up to you and your setting.  If you feel like your setting would be better served by diversifying the players' skill sets into more specialized skills - go for it!  You are correct - the community should chill out and let you customize your game.  Eric's comment during the episode about people who haven't even played SW trying to jam in the skills of their former favorite system before trying SW as it is was spot on.  I think that's the reason the community jumps all over those kinds of comments straight away with the "DON'T DO THAT!" comments.

    Starship systems (repair, weapons, flight control, piloting systems, shields) are many and varied.  If skills exist for every single system, the party might feel forced to distribute the skills among all of the players (think about how every D&D party has to have a cleric).  If you head down this path, I would recommend lots of testing of the ship handling system/skills to make sure they feel satisfying to the players.  You wouldn't want them to become other dark holes into which players toss skill points for skills don't come up or don't feel satisfying.

    Another note on this, a D&D 3.5 character sheet has 61 unique skills (including 3 for types of crafting, 12 for types of knowledge, 10 for different types of perform, 2 for professions).  D&D 4e has 17 and 5e has 18.  (For the record, SW has 23 without counting specific knowledge types - so, its more crunchy than 5e when it comes to skills I guess?).  The designers at WotC have learned that too many skills is a problem.  Even though 3.5e/Pathfinder fans believe more skills are better - their own system designers disagree.

    So - before you think I'm jumping all over you, I'm not!  Make new skills!  Create!  Share!  Customize!  Savage!  But make sure that you're adding something that actually results in more fun for your players!  If you aren't dial it back a bit, until you figure out the best way to provide the feel you want your players to experience.

  2. Savage Worlds Characters Start out "too" Complete/Powerful as Novice Characters
    This is a "problem" that I've always seen as an advantage.  In games such as D&D which rely on increasing power/hit points frequently in order to show character progression, character backstories make very little sense.  I once played an old greybeard wizard in a campaign where we started at level 1.  My GM made me come up with some weird backstory about why he was only a level 1 wizard even though he was so old.  I always hated that, because my wizard didn't know he was "level 1" - he was just an old wizard who could cast cool spells.  Why did I have to modify or form fit my character's backstory in order to explain the mechanics of the system?  There's another complaint in d20 systems about elves and dwarves who start off at level 1 despite the fact that they are 100-700 years old, but that's another discussion.....

    That leads to this next comment......

  3. Character Progression in Savage Worlds is less pronounced than in other systems (D&D)
    This is an interesting aspect of SW that makes me love the system, but it has made it challenging to "sell" to my friends.   I always felt that a character getting more hit points with levels as in D&D was somewhat silly - so I love the wound system of SW.    Paris made a few comments stating that essentially, SW characters start out incredibly functional and don't get any real increases in power or capability.  He said, "[Novice characters] are just too good, right off the bat...nothing seems impossible, which is fantastic in a one-shot, but in a campaign you really need a more measured approach to developing that character."

    I don't feel like hit point growth, and skill expansion level by level is necessary to play a great game with a great story.  Perhaps I've moved beyond that old-school video-game style power growth....  That said, RPG players do love these little gifts that systems give to them.  Is this why people comment that "Savage Worlds isn't good for campaigns?"  Whenever I hear that comment, I ask why and the commenter is dumbfounded.  They can't put their finger on it, they can't explain why they feel that way but I think Paris is right.  A character's capability progression is flatter than in any other system I have ever played.

    What can we as Savage Worlds fans say when someone asks us:  "What does Savage Worlds give you, advance by advance that acts as a reward for campaign play?"

    I'm currently preparing to run my first longer-term game (6-10 sessions of a Sixth Gun game) with my friends locally and this will be my first experience with characters getting advances.  I'd love to hear an episode about character progression and advances, how those are two different things and how other groups handle them.

Thanks guys for a great episode.  Made me put my thinking cap on about these topics!