SW versus DnD
Note – this is not a bash on D&D. Rather, SW has things that are different than D&D. I am collecting these concepts to remind myself that while SW is cool, D&Disms can hamper ones thought process and keep one from fully enjoying SW.
Something I have been thinking about is what D&D 3.x did to adventure design. They made the logical move of awarding XP based on monsters defeated, away from treasure gained (at least in 1e, I did not play much 2e). In addition, most 3.x monsters have defenses (HP) comparible to their offensive threat (compare this to a minion in 4e – high offense, easy to kill).
The combo of these, in my opinion, narrowed the number of opponents. If you look back at some of the 1e modules and basic modules (Keep on the Borderlands/Caves of Chaos), you see rooms packed with monsters. In 3.x, you usually see 4-8. I was flipping through my RttToEE module, and it was pretty consistent at the count. I think the system drove the change – you just cannot throw a horde of creatures at the PCs that have a CR that will give you experience. If you throw a ton of low CRs at a group, they tend to blow them up but not get XP. So, you lower the number and raise the CR (exceptions for battlegrounds custom to allow the low CRs to be effective, in which case you give XP). 4e addressed this issue with Minions. You can now have a room full of mooks and a BBEG again!
So, I would postulate that if you are using anything from 3.x or Pathfinder, you are likely to use less creatures and compensate by making them Tougher or more Wilds. The better answer might be to ignore the old module monster count, raise the number of extras, and save the Wilds for more key moments.
So, release the 1e in you – throw hordes of extras!
Why SW is awesome
- I’ll put it this way – there is $1000 of lovin’ in a $10 package.
- First off, read the development document. It is what convinced me to give SW a serious look
- The core book is $10, AND there is a free Test Drive document. Now, I am not cheap when it comes to the gaming habit. But its nice to say “hey, give this a try, at most your out $10.” And the $10 is a complete toolkit. Everything else is just extra spend because you like to spend money on gaming.
- The system plays in a tighter power range. Some will hate this, but for many people the old “Level 3 to Level 10” game is what they played in D&D anyway. This allows the system to play well across genres.
- If someone has range weapon, get your butt to Cover! This game grew out of a western setting. So you are not just going to stroll across an open field, shrugging off piddly 1d6 damage arrows.
- The combo of Bennies (used to roll or soak damage) and Hindrances are fantastic. Roleplaying your hindrances can get you more Bennies. I love telling a player who is low on Bennies “you better start roleplaying better!”
- Although I love combat, you do not have to be a combat monster to be useful in combat. Tricks and Test of Wills are build into the game. You can play an old, forgetful scientist or a plucky young kid and not feel useless when a fight breaks out
- Its opened up new genres to me. I am a system mastery guy. In reality, that held me back from running/playing in other genres. Yes, d20 claimed to be able to do it, but each required heavy rewrite to make it work. Players can switched between genres with little learning curve in SW.
- Magic rocks. Trappings makes your spellcasters unique, and good players will extend them to skills and attributes. For example, my psionist does not just Notice (Perception) what is going on, he senses it through picking up on surface emotions and thoughts.
- Prep time is nothing. Once you are comfortable, you can almost convert on the fly. So adventures from other systems are still useful to you.
- Bang for the Buck. When I buy any SW book, I get ideas, and tons of them. I am not buying the latest player options, I am getting Day After Ragnarok, Space 1889, Deadlands, and Weird War II. Even if I got sick of SW and did something else, those books would still have value to me due to the ideas. All my Complete X books from 3rd edition are useless to me (but Eberron and FR still have value).
- The system is easy to adjudicate. I still value my 3rd edition GMing experience as that experience combined with SW system makes rulings a breeze.
- No tracking HPs! The Wound/Shaken system is very smooth and allows me to spend my time working the table, not being a screen jockey tracking HPs. This is huge, in my opinion. Having more time with your eyes up allows you to read the table, get reactions, and modify your pace as needed.
- Acing/Exploding dice are fun. Yes, the game has more “swing” than many are used to, but the Bennies help the players stave off the worst of it most of the time. There is a shared excitement when you see a player continue to roll the dice and know that something really cool is about to happen.
- I can tell just about any story with the system. Its sweet spot is Pulp, but settings like Realms of Cthulu show you how with minor adjustments you can change the tone of the game without having a stack of rule changes.
- A wide number of playstyles is supported. As an example, I personally like 4e, but it did not fit with a couple of groups I hang with so I do not play it. I have seen players that have been perplexed by 3.x and 4e take to SW very quickly. I have also seen system mastery guys (like me) squeeze a ton out of the game. Roleplayers have both a great hooks (hindrances) and mechanics to support them (Test of Wills, Tricks, plus some additional tools in the new Expanded edition). The occassional dice tosser to the hard core gamer can get a lot out of this system.
- Chase scenes and mass combat open all kinds of stories (chase rules work much like skill challenges and can be adapted to cover many of the same types of scenarios).
- The Explorer’s Edition is a fun read. The writting style is layed back and it made me want to play it. I’m not looking to be mean or bashing anyone, but I got the 4e PHB about the same time as I got SW. One was fun, the other was exciting as sandpaper.
- You get to call yourself a Savage. That’s worth the $10 right there.
A couple of new ones:
- Easy to learn – Just played with a buddy of mine that has played at most 5 times in the last year (and not for 6 months). He is a long lapsed gamer. With little guidance, he had the mechanics down and could focus on what we wanted his character to do (and roleplay)
- Scalable, both player numbers and combat scale
- For players – you can run with only one or two players. Just give the players Extras (like minions in 4e). The beauty is that Extras are so easy to manage that the players WANT to run them vs. them being a burden to the group or the DM. Again, my buddy, a n00b to the game, had no problem running his character and 4 extras
- For combat – you can run from individual PCs, to a squad (PC with a few extras), to decent sized skirmish (where unitsize:fig is still 1:1), to Mass Combat (note that Mass Combat is abstract and NOT a wargame).