Gaming in Savage Portland

New town, new people, new gaming opportunities around a tabletop. I think it’s time to get Savage with Dungeons & Dragons. Savage Worlds Adventure Edition (SWADE), that is.

I’ve been running Dungeons & Dragons 5e since the Starter Set was released. I’ve taken breaks, using the Fate system for short fantasy and cyberpunk adventures, but mostly run 5e using the Phandalin region of the Forgotten Realms or the City-State of the Invincible Overlord as backdrops. While I consider 5e to be one of the best versions of D&D released to date (there will, no doubt, be more), my primary issues with the core D&D system remain.

Points of Light

I experienced the fourth edition of D&D as a player, but never ran the system as a DM. By odd coincidence, I seem to largely skip the even-numbered versions of D&D. I was an avid player of World of Warcraft at that time and the 4e system struck me as too much of an emulation (consciously or unconsciously). 4e seemed to sacrifice the strengths of tabletop RPGs in an effort to ride the MMORPG wave.

What did stand out about 4e D&D, what kept pulling my mind (and feeble imagination) back to that edition, was the official setting. The Nentir Vale and Points of Light concept grabbed me by the short and curlies, repeatedly pulling my head back round, demanding attention. It seemed designed to fire my imagination:

  • Isolated settlements and frontiers
  • Lonely trade routes and travelers
  • Fallen empires, lost cities, forgotten lore
  • Howling wilderness on virtually every horizon
  • Ruins laden with danger, treasures & monsters
  • Endless lure of the unknown

No matter how many man-vs-man conflicts you want to wire into a scenario, in a Points of LIght setting man-vs-environment conflicts can intrude (without violating intrinsic logic) at any point in a story. The setting was obviously created with exploration, combat and interaction top-of-mind. Simply a great backdrop for fantasy adventure. 

Savage Worlds Adventure Edition

The edition title says it all, Adventure. I’ve run Savage Worlds in the past: Savage Solomon Kane and scenarios using the Explorer’s Edition. Once players get past the new dice mechanics, the game moves. 

The Adventure Edition addresses the few reservations I had with the system, particularly with regards to a fantasy setting. It works equally well with miniatures or Theater of the Mind styles of play. It rewards player focus on roleplaying rather than wargaming mechanics. 

SWADE delivers:

  • Character customization without class constrictions
  • A simple, yet robust and flexible magic system
  • Opportunities for foes (human or not) to be mysterious
  • Easier prep for the game master, allowing a focus on scenarios rather than creature stats

Combat is agile and dangerous, no matter your character’s level. Like the magic system, it encourages and rewards creativity. 

The control provided to players, through the mechanics of Wild Die and Bennies (similar to Fate Points or Inspiration in 5e), tends to make players embrace risk and do the unexpected. Speaking for myself as a GM, player characters doing the unexpected is what makes a game come to life.

Savage Nentir Vale

Having moved to a new city, I’m looking at meeting the gaming community in game stores, playing games. My experience is telling me to run the safe, wildly popular D&D 5e. But my subconscious recognizes a bit of burn-out with the system. 

I’m definitely more excited by the prospect (not to mention game prep) of running Savage Worlds Adventure Edition. So I’m forcing my two stubborn halves to compromise: Adventures in the Nentir Vale using the Savage Worlds game system. Hopefully, there will be interest.


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