Posted in Tools & Techniques

Savage Worlds with Aspects

EDIT: I revisited this article in 2012, and made some revisions.

In the Demonsea campaign I’m running for my wife, we’re using Savage Worlds. It’s a great system, and one of my new favourites. I like the Hindrances and Edges, but we found that choice there can sometimes be a bit limited and the ones my wife had picked for her character ended up not being very relevant. I know we could have changed them or made up our own, but that didn’t really excite us.

Instead, when we went to advance her character again we decided to try ditching Hindrances and Edges and incorporating Aspects, from FATE-based games like Spirit of the Century and The Dresden Files RPG. Now, I know this may be blasphemy to some, but we wanted to give it a shot. I’ve read a lot about SotC and DRPG, but haven’t yet had the chance to run either, so this was also like a test-run for using Aspects.

Below are my house rules for adding Aspects to Savage Worlds. I took a lot of inspiration for these house rules from posts herehere and from Strands of Fate, here.

Savage Aspects

  • Remove all hindrances and edges or use the same names, but treat them as aspects.[1]
  • During character creation, every character receives 5-10 Aspects.
  • Each session, players start with 5 Bennies, no matter how many they ended last session with.
  • Bennies can only be used in the following ways:
    • Gain a Bonus – A benny can be spent to add 1 to any roll of the dice (except damage)
    • Invoke an Aspect – If appropriate, an aspect can be invoked, allowing the player to:
      – Re-roll all the dice just rolled, using the new result, or
      – Add 2 to the final die roll (after any re-rolls have been done).
    • Tag an Aspect – A benny can be spent to invoke an aspect other than the characters’ (this could be an aspect on another character, the environment, a weapon, or other things of dramatic importance)
    • Make a Declaration – A benny can be spent to declare a fact. If the GM accepts it, it will be true.
  • Bennies can only be earned through accepting compels. The GM can compel one of the character’s aspects by offering the player a choice: the player can act in accordance with the aspect to gain a benny, or the player can spend a benny to ignore the aspect. The only other way to gain bennies is through the refresh to 5 bennies at the start of each session.
  • Persistent Aspects are aspects that are “free-taggable”, are considered “always on” and cover such things as deep darkness and taking cover. Aspects like these impact so heavily on a situation that they are considered always in effect and bennies do not need to be spent to invoke such aspects.[2]

Notes:

[1]  Alternatively, remove all hindrances and edges that do not give a mechanical benefit or penalty, and those that only give +2 or -2. If you wish to use such hindrances or edges, treat them as aspects. Also treat those hindrances and edges that remain as aspects. For example, someone who is Filthy Rich receives extra funds, but also has Filthy Rich as an aspect. The Lucky aspect should not grant an extra benny.

[2] Persistent aspects in Savage Worlds may add more or less than +2 to a roll depending on the situation. For instance, invoking Dim Light gives a +1 to Stealth checks, while invoking Pitch Darkness gives a +4 to Stealth Checks. Persistent aspects can also be invoked by the GM. For instance, if a PC is attempting stealth while running, the Running persistent aspect should be invoked by the GM to grant +2 to opposing Notice checks (mechanically equal to granting a -2 penalty to the PC’s Stealth checks).

So, those are the rules we’ve started using. It’s only been a few sessions so far, but the aspects have been invoked and compelled a lot more than the hindrances and edges were ever used. Furthermore, the aspects say a lot more about the character and what the player wants from the game and story. It’s working for us so far. She has aspects like “But I’m Pregnant!”, Skin of My Teeth, Black Sheep of the Noble Merricks, and Tough & Sexy. We’re getting a lot out of them, so far.

I want to now talk a little bit about the removal of Hindrances and Edges and give some explanation about the Persistent Aspects. Hindrances and Edges are fairly well linked into Savage Worlds, but I think they are pretty easily ignored, too. I’ve never found a problem with not using them.

I favour stripping out the entire sub-system and replacing it with Aspects, rather than keeping some of the aspects there. If you do that, you get things like the Filthy Rich aspect granting you extra funds and working just like a normal aspect. It’s not game breaking, but it certainly could be seen as a much more advantageous aspect than others.

Persistent Aspects are an idea I only encountered recently, in Strands of Fate. I searched for and discovered the idea after running into a problem early on. In our game, my wife’s character has a shadow demon inside her. It’s powers only work when in the dark. She also sneaks around in shadow a lot now. She asked me whether she had to spend a benny every time she rolled to get the benefit of the darkenss.

Now the answer is, not really. If she rolled high enough, she wouldn’t need to spend a benny. But if she didn’t roll high enough, then, yes, she’d have to spend a benny so that the darkness would shroud her from view. We both found this very jarring, especially for this character.

I like the idea of persistent aspects and feel like it gives you something to play around with. If she’s fighting pirates during the “Darkest Hour of Night” on a “Stormy Sea” then every PC and NPC is going to be able to tag and invoke those aspects, as well as have them compelled against them. To me, that makes a lot more sense for the way we like to game. Rather than the pitch darkness and thrashing sea only impacting on the characters when they spend points to make it so.

That said, I’ve never played a FATE-based game before, so I might be missing something. But in our current Savage Worlds game, persistent aspects make the most sense for us, so we’re giving them a shot. So far, so good.

I like the idea, too, of having a pile of bennies in the middle of the table for players to gift each other (like Primetime Adventures’ Fan Mail), but in a one-on-one game that’s irrelevant, so I haven’t done that yet.

We’ll keep playing using this system and I’ll update you on how it works out (or doesn’t) including any tweaks we add to the system.

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I live in Canberra, Australia. I love games and stories.

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