All posts by DM Freewolf

Podcast: MoL Episode 8 – The Highs and the Lows

This week on Savage Tales of Eberron: Mourners of Lhazaar, Rus blows off some steam after an adrenaline high and Trucco reaps the benefits of his efforts, while Daina learns a thing or two about Grok and Torlan delivers a eulogy for Narwhal. Later that evening, Rus lets his guard down a little and joins Daina in a song, unexpectedly revealing something about himself in the process.

Background question: 01:45
Housekeeping and Advances:
The action starts:

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Special thanks to Kristian Serrano for the intro narration!
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Podcast: MoL Episode 7 – Blow the Man Down

This week on Mourners of Lhazaar, a fierce winter squall and an unfortunate accident finds one of the party’s new friends fighting for their life as everyone’s mettle is tested in the face of enormous pressure.

Background question: 01:35
Recap: 08:35
The action starts: 11:02

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Special thanks to Kristian Serrano for the intro narration!
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“Leveling” in Savage Worlds

Mourners of Lhazaar is heading towards their first advancement and so I thought I would talk about advancing your characters. This article builds on the Character Creation article, since it is the next step of your Savage Worlds character.

The title of this article is a bit of a misnomer. In Savage Worlds you don’t level in the way that you might be used to in other d20 systems. You take Advancements, and each 4 advancements are organized into a Rank. You start in the Rank of Novice, then move to Seasoned, Veteran, Heroic, and finally Legendary. I kinda think that the names of the ranks really convey the types of adventures and tales that are engaged with by the characters. With Savage Worlds Adventure Edition, the whole system moved to just milestone advancements. So advancements happen when the GM feels it fits with the story. Which has already been my long standing method of leveling. I prefer the players chase the story, not XP.

But with each advance, you as the player can do one of the following with your character:

  • Bump one of your Attributes up one die type per Rank. An important distinction is that this can only happen once per Rank, not once per advancement. 
  • Bump two skills lower than their attached Attribute by one die type. For example; Athletics and Fighting are tied to Agility. I could bump a Fighting and Athletics from a d6 to a d8, if my Agility is a d8.
  • Bump one skill that is equal or higher than the attached Attribute by one die type. Using the above example, for my next advance I would only be able to bump my Fighting to a d10 since my Agility is still a d8.
  • Take a new Edge
  • Remove a Minor Hindrance, or change a Major Hindrance to a Minor one (if there is a Minor available.) You can also save up two advances to remove a Major Hindrance completely if there is no Minor version. Generally it is encouraged that this is done with a strong story component to make sense.

So I wanted to present this as a background to get to my main point. One of the best things about Savage Worlds characters is the sandbox of options for advancement. You can truly create whatever you want for a character. Any path is truly available for your character to take. This is one of the best strengths about Savage Worlds. I mean any path. You can have a master swordsman magic blasting wizard, or commander of the guard that is a great fighter but better at directing the group and allies tactically, or that tinkerer who is a parkour pickpocket on the side. The options are truly endless. 

There is no right or wrong in making you character. There are even multiple paths towards the same direction. I have made a barbarian type character that is a drunken dwarven berserker, one that is a shifting pugilist, to one that is a focused warforged juggernaut killing machine. These were all different takes on the classic berserker that looked nothing like each other, all taking different paths towards the same general goal.

This level of choice and openness, while amazing, creates a problem when advancing. The problem being, there are too many choices.

The main point I want to present is that planning the advancement of your character is hugely important. Whenever I create a character, I definitely start with the concept that I am looking to play for the campaign, then I hop into and plan my character out to 14-16 advances. I don’t go fully up to 20 as not all campaigns go that length, and to leave room for new ideas based on how my character grows and interacts with the campaign. I have NEVER been able to create a character plan that has all the advances that I want to take. 

I have witnessed more than one player stay into a campaign with no plan of where they want to take their character. What happens is that the player generally picks advances that solve the most recent pain point in a campaign. Then towards the end of the campaign the player is not having as much fun as their character doesn’t really do anything well in the way they would have hoped. One of the other things that I have seen happens is that a player suddenly wants a particular edge to deal with a certain pain point, but they do not meet the requirements of the edge because they did not plan to be able to take it. Often when this happens, they will then even abandon trying to get that edge or path in the future through planning further advances. Overall this lack of planning reduces the enjoyment of the campaign by the player in question.

I never see a character plan as a hard path. I will often tweak the path, taking a different advancement as the character grows in personality and develops a role in the party. Or maybe the campaign takes a different direction than I anticipated, and I will tweak my path based on that. It is easier to make tweaks to an existing path than to wander down a path with no direction.

There is no right or wrong in what advance to take, or when (outside of requirements for a particular advance). While an attribute bump can only be taken once per rank, with a plan I find that some ranks I will skip the attribute bump because I find something else more important. You can not make these kinds of decisions on what is really important for your character arc, if you are just now picking the latest advancement.

My main goal in this article was to first explore the importance of having a vision for your character in Savage Worlds, and then explore how to help make sure that vision will play out in a satisfying way over the course of your campaign. I hope this helps you enjoy the Savage Worlds system even more by increasing the enjoyment you have playing your character.

Podcast: MoL Episode 6 – A Call to Arms

On this week’s episode of Mourners of Lhazaar, Torlan’s continued quest to defend the honour of Clan Kolladron hits a snag as Daina steps up to make sure her old uncle gets his due – with a plan that places her squarely in Mister Lagraa’s sights once again. Later, the gang finds themselves beginning preparations for a mutiny while Trucco wonders if there isn’t more to life than trying to make some quick coin and looking out for number one, and discovers that Owlbear is an excellent listener.

Background question: 01:15
Recap: 12:27
The action starts: 17:07

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Special thanks to Kristian Serrano for the intro narration!
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Podcast: MoL Episode 5 – Getting to Know You

This week on Mourners of Lhazaar, the gang repays Sandara Quinn for her help by continuing to question her insistence that friendship is vital to their survival, before taking her advice to heart.  While Torlan befriends yet another fellow artist, Trucco chats up the quartermaster and Rus improves his own standing with Grok by leaning into a lie while Daina opens a window into Fishguts’ past.  Later, the return of a familiar face puts Rus in an awkward position as he waits to learn Owlbear’s fate.  

Background question: 1:32
Recap: 11:37
Bookkeeping: 19:10
The action starts: 21:33

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Special thanks to Kristian Serrano for the intro narration!
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Podcast: MoL Ep. 1 – Caught between the Keeper and the Deep Blue Sea

Session One of the Mourners of Lhazaar. Meet our newfound pirates and see what trouble they get into as they find themselves press-ganged on the Storm Reaver under Prince Mika Rockface.

Special thanks to Kristian Serrano for the intro narration!

Also available on Spotify, Amazon Music, and Podbean.

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Why I Play Savage Worlds

Hi, your friendly neighborhood Savage DM Freewolf here (AKA Phillip). Yes, I have been playing RPGs long enough that I still call myself a DM, not a GM. So being the Eberron Campaign Setting nut that I am, I of course started listening to the Manifest Zone podcast when it got started up. Of all the things that I listened to, there was something about the way that Kristian and Scott talked about this system called Savage Worlds that really struck a chord in me.

You see, while I was immensely happy not to have to map top math calculations to determine bonuses to hit or AC or whatever, and I was grateful that 5E really launched me back into the hobby after a long hiatus, there really was a lot about 5E that I really had trouble with as a DM. I have been a DM long enough (and I have grown personally enough) that I don’t DM just to DM. I DM because I am having fun. 

What is the most fun for me in a TTRPG is the collective story that we tell together. I am not the storyteller at a table, we are the storytellers. I was starting to have trouble with how the 5E system would limit our thinking in how we would tell the story, particularly in combat and with the lack of ways to handle complex abstract encounters. But the whole, the first swing at a sack of hit points was no different than every other swing at a sack of hit points, was kind of wearing on me. Not to mention I often played with some creative thinking players, and the best I could say was “ok you have advantage.” That just didn’t seem to capture some of the creative thinking my players dished out. And don’t get me started on the extreme difficulty in creating challenging encounters that don’t involve a hoard of mooks, for higher level players.

So I guess I was hungry for something a bit different when I was listening to Kristian and Scott on the original episodes of Manifest Zone. I can neither confirm nor deny that I have a problem with Kickstarter, when Pinnacle Entertainment had their next version of Savage Worlds (Savage Worlds Adventure Edition or SWADE) up on Kickstarter. After my four year campaign ended, I began looking at the next adventure in Eberron, being run with Savage Worlds. I can say that I have not, and can’t see myself, looking back.

Savage Worlds is a system that really allows a table to tell a great narrative, cinematic story at the table. Combat is not really bogged down with a bunch of difficult or complex mechanics, yet it has more options. I just love that in SW, I can have a mook throw a platter of food at one of the players and it can actually have a combat effect. These kinds of actions are known as Tests. Extending that, you can create a character that is useless at fighting, but can honestly be a real contributor to combat through Support Actions to others and Tests. In fact the more that I have played SW the more that I have seen, fighting big baddies in SW is far more of an exercise in teamwork than it ever was in 5E.

Eberron is a setting that is meant to be very pulpy with lots of noir. The players are epic heroes that can do epic things. SW have dice that “ace,” known in other ways as “exploding”. I have a d6 in a skill and roll a 6, I get to keep rolling ’til I don’t get a 6. This is all the time. I have seen players one shot the big baddies with a dagger and they weren’t the rogue with sneak attack. Epic times. 

SW also has some really cool mechanics to handle those other more complex and abstract situations. There are Dramatic Tasks that are akin to the Skill Challenges from 4E. Instead of handling a situation in a turn by turn type way, you abstract the idea out rolling a series of skills to collect tokens. The more dangerous or complex a dramatic task is, the more tokens you need. But overall it is handled narratively, with the dice assisting the story. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy running for freedom after stealing the idol, that is a dramatic task. In our very own Seekers of the Ashen Crown, the party had to distract a crowded market square with patrolling guards. This was done as a dramatic task, that the players found epic and fun.

There are Social Conflicts, which allow a more nuanced and complex way to influence a large group or judge or something similar. These are like dramatic tasks but the mechanics are slightly different. The goal is to gain success tokens over three rounds by making a good argument for your particular case or cause.

Hands down one of my favorites is the chase mechanics in SW. I was constantly frustrated with how any kind of chase in 5E generally amounted to who had the highest movement and the best athletics checks. Now with some mechanics that support it, we can tell an awesomely narrative chase scene like the chase scene from Casino Royale. No kidding, I have now run those kinds of chases at my tables.

There are also Quick Encounters, which allow me as the DM to run an encounter, but do it narratively with one roll to resolve everything. I mean have you as a DM or player found your game bogged down in constant encounters, not because they furthered the story, but because they were needed to whittle down the resources of the party so an encounter down the line could actually be challenging? Yea I don’t have to do that anymore in SW. 

I think this is a good place to leave my thoughts for now. In future articles, I’ll get more into the weeds of specific game mechanics in SW or conversions to Eberron. But overall I am in love with Savage Worlds because it is a lightweight system that allows me and the players at my table to tell a fantastic story. The kind of story that we turn around and end up telling each other over and over again for years to come. Isn’t that the best part of TTRPG’s?