Monday, February 4, 2013

Savage Worlds Combat: How Swingy Is Too Swingy?

With Savage Worlds being one of my three purported "go-to" systems of the moment, I've been endeavoring to run more of it. Previous experience with the system had been limited to one-shots, and I wanted to take the system for a longer spin, something I was able to do over the holidays with a brief fantasy campaign set in S. John Ross's Uresia: Grave of Heaven setting.

Now, I've read about the "swingy-ness" of the SW combat system--that combats can and do either end really quickly or drag on for a long time. It wasn't until the third session of the campaign that I experienced this for myself. I posted this tangential comment in response to a post on RPG Blog II, but I thought I'd put it up here as well to open things up to any Savage Worlds afficionada who might be reading and care to comment:
I was running a two-player fantasy genre campaign (a rogue-type and a mad scientist, so granted they weren't combat monsters). In the first combat against four zombies, the mad scientist's "magic missile launcher" took out three in one shot, but it then took about 15 rounds to finish off the last one. The second zombie fight was easily the most excrutiating combat I've experienced in recent memory--I believe it took 28 rounds to kill three zombies. That pretty much killed interest in the campaign for all of us right there.

Out of curiosity, we ran through the "boss fight"--an evil priest who was going to summon a giant undead spider on the first round. The first combat, the rogue one-shotted the priest on round one (before he could summon the spider) and it was all over! We did another refight and this time the priest was able to summon his spider and the PCs went down to defeat in 11 rounds.

All in all, that's two "average length" combats (one victory, one defeat), one excrutiatingly long combat, and one ridiculously short combat. Granted, it was a small party and not one optimized for combat, but the extreme nature of the swingyness in both directions bothered us greatly.

I really love the SW system and what you can do with it (did I mention the rocket-launching mad scientist was a talking rat?), but if such swingy combats are a regular occurance, that might be a deal-breaker for me.

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