Savage Pathfinder, aka Pathfinder for Savage Worlds Adventure Edition is a game that I kickstarted and now it's available for sale and it's about time for me to do another review so here we go. In addition to this book there's also the Rise of the Runelords adventure path and a monster manual and some other miscellaneous stuff but I'm not including those here.
I'm going to be assuming at least basic knowledge of both Pathfinder and Savage Worlds but if this book gives us a basic overview of the Savage Worlds rule-set then I'll include that here (and I don't see why it wouldn't). Otherwise you're on your own if you don't know something (or I guess someone could bug me to review Savage Worlds but it is popular enough that I don't see that as required).
We're back to reviewing blind here, I haven't looked at the book yet because I've been waiting for all of the revisions and pre-release errata to get out of the way as I think I've done enough editing and proofreading just for the people around here.
The pdf is 260 pages long (including covers and blank pages and whatnot) and the index goes as follows:
- Any Time, Any Place (Probably a story)
- Getting Started
- The Adventure Tool Kit
- Magic Items
- Game Mastering
- IndexAny Time, Any Place
I was wrong, this isn't a story. Thank god, I always skip the stories because I really just don't care. Instead, it is a one page chapter about Savage Worlds in the most general meaningless way except they mention some of their other product catalogs in case you want to go buy more Savage Worlds stuff.
Moving on...Getting Started
Okay here we go, I'm going to teach you the basics of Savage Worlds and not skip to page 8 as the book advises me to since I already know what the hell I'm doing. Oh, and there's "What's a role-playing game" which honestly I don't even want to read anymore because it's the same damn couple of chapters in every book.
What? I should read it because I'm reviewing the book and am not allowed to skip around? Fine, one second.......there, done. This game uses GM terminology (Game Master) and advise you to go watch some "actual play" videos on the internet if you don't know how to play an RPG.
Anyway, Savage Worlds uses the standard set of dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20). You will in addition need a d6 that is different from your other d6's which will get rolled a lot and is called the Wild Die (I'll explain it more whenever the book actually talks about it). You will also need a standard deck of playing cards (including the jokers), this is used for initiative. You'll also need some sort of easily trackable tokens which are used to track "bennies" (kind of like action points in 3.5). Then there's the whole optional battle map thing which they explicitly call out as optional.
We then get a pretty extensive section on where things are now in the game world (the god of humanity died in the relatively recent past and things are kind of fucked up), general knowledge items like days of the week and months of the year and coinage terms in the different countries and more. Oh, and there's a map.
Lastly we get a one-pager explaining some differences between Savage Pathfinder and regular Savage Worlds for those of us who are familiar with the rules. It explicitly says that this isn't a direct conversion from Pathfinder to Savage Worlds and that you won't find any conversion documents because the spirit of everything thing needs to fit along with the rules content. In addition, while most Savage Worlds settings have a section specifically for rules of the setting Savage Pathfinder does not because it is such an extensive overhaul, therefore all setting specific rules are in the general rules section of that chapter. It looks like this book is a standalone book instead of also requiring the base Savage World rules and I think that is neat is it makes it more accessible to people.
As a general overview, there are some general changes with edges, skills, arcane backgrounds, weapons, combat, enemies, and powers. One of the biggest changes is that class edges are a thing to capture the spirit of PF classes. Everyone gets a class edge for free (if they want, other options are available) so while Savage Pathfinder is still a classless system you can get the feel of PF classes if you want to.Characters
We’ve got eleven “core character concepts” with a pregenerated character for each if you just want to play the damn game, which includes suggested advancements. These “core character concepts” are based off of the eleven core classes in Pathfinder and are basically the iconic characters if you ever paid attention to those. However, I expect everyone here to not be a lazy bastard so we’ll review this chapter anyway.
So the first thing you do when making a character in Savage Pathfinder is come up with a concept so you know what character you’re going to make. Surprise! The second thing you do is wait for the GM to tell you what rank your character is. You know how people have sat down and broken up the levels in 3.5+ D&D into different ranges that encompass different game archetypes based off of the power levels of the characters? This is built into Savage Worlds (and by association Savage Pathfinder) with Ranks. Each rank is associated with a specific range of advances your character has had (you don’t go up a level, you gain an advance and there are no experience points) and certain advances also have a rank as a prerequisite. It’s an easy way to eyeball the power level of a character.
The third thing you do during character creation is actually start creating your character. Ancestry selection is the name of the game (I’m not surprised about Ancestry replacing Race here since Ancestry is the words Paizo has moved on to and Paizo’s name is slapped on the copyright page). Once your ancestry is chosen you pick hindrances. This is the standard “pick a negative trait to gain a positive one” but it’s all relatively restricted in terms of what you can get out of it.
Next you figure out your traits, traits include both attributes and skills. Here’s where things get fun (at least to me). Savage Pathfinder is not a d20 system, it’s not a dX system at all. All attributes (and skills that you are proficient with) start at a d4. If you want to be stronger you spend a character creation attribute point to increase your strength from a d4 to a d6. When making a stat check you roll the die that your stat is at, and there’s a general cap at d12 although some things can raise it higher (to a d20, this is very hard to do). There are also some things that grant a static bonus to the die roll. Skills work the same except there are five skills that everyone starts trained in (such as stealth) and you start with a d4. All skills have a linked attribute, and the die type of the attribute is a soft cap for the die type of a skill (it costs more points when raising a skill above its attribute). Your smarts attribute also defines your languages.
Once you’ve got your traits you figure out your derived statistics. These include your tactical speed, parry (Savage Pathfinder is a system that supports deflecting damage as well as soaking it), and Toughness (damage threshold to be explained more in the combat chapter most likely).
Almost lastly, you figure your your edges which are sort of like feats. Second to lastly you buy gear (everyone starts with the same baseline gold piece budget but this can get adjusted during character creation). Lastly lastly you figure out your background and alignment and religion and all of that fun stuff. One thing of note is that alignment has been simplified to Good, Neutral, or Evil. The chaos-law axis is not here.
Now on to the nitty gritty.
For ancestries we have the seven races I would expect: Dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, half-orcs, halflings, and humans. Everyone gets a bonus die increase to a stat (even humans, we’re using the standard Pathfinder baseline here which makes sense) and then some other bonuses (such as an extra edge for humans which is the feat analogue). Also we get pictures of every race in their underwear because nothing tells you what a half-orc looks like like seeing one in its underwear. For some reason the gnome is a purple-haired punk rocker.
Hindrances are either Minor (worth 1 point) and Major (worth 2 points). You can only get bonuses from 4 points of hindrances but you can take as many as you want for no benefit at all. Some are purely mechanical but others are personality and role-playing based so the expectation here is basically don’t be a dick about taking things that you’ll then ignore during the game.
When it comes to traits, there are five attributes (Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength, and Vigor) and twenty-six skills (with no sub-skills, Academics means you maybe know all academic smart people stuff that isn’t explicitly covered by another skill). There are skills for spellcasting so here’s a heads-up about that.
Edges are like feats. They can grant bonuses to skills (but a +2 to a skill here is a lot more significant than a +2 to a skill in a d20 system), make you faster, better at combat, etc. In addition, you can take class edges (and yes, both “multi-classing” and “prestige classing” aka prestige edges are a thing). As an example, lets say you want to be a bard because you’re an edgy memelord. What do you do? Why you take the Bard edge (which only increases your edginess) after meeting the Spirit attribute and Common Knowledge skill requirements. In return you gain spellcasting, penalties if using medium or heavy armor, and the ability to taunt with the Performance skill (instead of the taunt skill) with some bonuses. As you go up in rank you can take more Bard edges such as Inspire Heroics. Each class has one base class edge and three additional edges.
Some things of note here before I move on: there are no proficiencies (everyone can use everything and some class edges get penalties if wearing specific armor types with the exception of druids still can’t wear metal armor), everything is attribute and skill based so fighters are not automatically better at hitting things than wizards, and there are no class skills because technically there are no classes. Traditional Pathfinder class feature choices still exist (cleric domain, sorcerer bloodline, wizard arcane bond, etc).
Just like classes are edge based, so are prestige classes (and again we’re given the traditional core prestige classes to work with). Each prestige class edge has a rank requirement and some other requirements and gives you bonuses as expected. Assassin gets Death Attack, Dragon Disciple gets Breath Weapon, Loremaster gets a free reroll on a list of knowledge based skills, etc.
Okay, earlier I mentioned that Savage Pathfinder is “advancement based” and not “class based”. Generally an advancement is given after one or more game sessions (which here is defined as 4-5 hours of play, lucky bastards). This can be adjusted as needed of course (for example, the official adventure paths tell the GM when to grant an advancement to make sure that player power levels stay appropriate). An advancement can increase an attribute, one or more skills, grant an edge, or buy off a hindrance point. There is also a limit of one class/prestige class edge per rank (so multi-classing is a slow process).Gear
Everyone starts with clothes, that’s the first actual rules text. I’m not surprised it’s first, a lot of people tend to forget giving their characters clothes.
Here is some basic gear rules information since I’m not going to go item by item. Instead of a proficiency system there is instead a minimum strength system and if you’re not strong enough for your weapon/armor/whatever then you get penalties. Also you can’t deal more damage with your melee/thrown weapon than your strength die. Also anyone can use a two-handed weapon with one-hand at a penalty. Encumbrance does exist but it is implied to only be used when players are being ridiculous (or if your DM believes that you can not have a meaningful campaign if strict encumbrance records are not kept). We’ve also kept the special materials such as mithral and adamantine, as well as the masterwork equipment designation (although that is implemented differently). Weapon Sizes are still around (if needed from a logical perspective) but no longer impact damage and is just about weight and minimum strength requirements.
Armor increases toughness which helps you not take damage. Shields increase parry so you can parry better (and also protect you from ranged attacks although facing comes into play here). Weapons roll your strength plus an additional die for damage unless they’re projectile weapons (such as a bow or crossbow) which have fixed damage dice all the way. Some weapons (such as the longbow or crossbows) can pierce through armor negating their toughness bonus.
There are also rules for cannons and siege weapons, vehicles, regular adventuring gear, tools (but not masterwork tools), and alchemical items.Rules
Remember way back when I talked about how you’d need a d6 that you could tell apart from your other d6’s? That’s because all PCs (as well as special unique NPCs/monsters) are known as Wild Cards. Everyone else is an Extra. Wild cards can take three wounds until they’re incapacitated (instead of one like extras) and also roll a Wild Die alongside every trait roll that they make (and take the higher out of the wild die and regular die). A wild die is always a d6 unless you somehow have something that changes it. This means that even if you have a d4 in a skill you still will be rolling a d6 (because you get a d4 plus your wild die) but obviously 2d6 take the highest is better.
Rolling a trait roll is the pretty standard roll a die and compare it to the target number (in Savage Pathfinder the target number is usually a four). Circumstantial modifiers can be added (or subtracted) but those are usually pretty low as (once again) this isn’t a d20 system. If you roll multiple dice intending to use all of them (such as using an edge to fire two arrows so you roll two attack dice) the dice are tracked independently. However, you roll one wild die per action so if you roll two dice for two arrows you only roll one wild die in that attack and can replace only one of your attack dice with the wild die.
In addition, Savage Pathfinder is a game with exploding dice (not dice with bombs). Here they are called Aces, and this means that if you roll a d6 and you get a 6 why you roll your d6 again and add the result. Did you roll 6 again? Now your result is 12 + your third roll of the d6.
This mainly matters because of a rule called Raises. For every 4 points your result is over the target number you get a raise. Raises always provide an addition effect, for example extra damage when attacking. This means that raises are, among other things, the critical hit system.
Speaking of crits, critical failures happen when both your normal trait die as well as your wild die both roll a one. You can’t reroll a critical failure ever no matter what, period. If you’re rolling multiple dice (such as that two arrows scenario), a critical failure occurs when more than half of the die results are a natural 1. Critical failures always include something bad happening in addition to just outright failure, and spells even have their own rules for critical failures (I did warn you earlier that spells are skill based).
Lastly, if you aren’t trained in a skill at all you still roll a d4 and the wild die but subtract two from each die roll. This means that it is theoretically possible to perform any normal skill result (since target numbers are normally a 4) but it is not the most likely outcome.
That’s enough about dice rolling, let’s move on.
Another rule in Savage Pathfinder is Bennies (which are sort of like Action Points as I'm sure I already said). Every PC starts each game session with three bennies (usually tracked with a physical object like poker chips or other tokens) and they are discarded at the end of the session so you can’t hoard them. Bennies can also be awarded mid-session if the GM feels it is appropriate as a reward (and if anyone draws a joker card using the playing cards I told you that you would need then all PCs get a benny). The GM also starts each session with one benny per PC and the GMs wild cards have their own bennies in addition to the general GM benny pool.
Bennies can be used to do the following: reroll a trait, prevent wounds, recover from being shaken, draw a new card from the deck when cards are being drawn, reroll damage, or influence the story in some way (such as find a clue if you’re stuck or nudge an NPC into being more agreeable). That last one is entirely up to the GM but can be prompted by a PC.
Another special rule, similar to but different from bennies, is Conviction. Conviction is also tracked by a physical token and is a special award granted during great and meaningful victory or misfortune (and unlike bennies it can be hoarded between sessions). Conviction can be spent to gain an additional d6 to all trait and damage totals
until the beginning of the character’s next turn. This die can ace like any other (but since it is added it doesn’t contribute to crit fails). It can instead be used to trigger or refresh abilities that have a per-time-period use restriction. Powerful stuff, but entirely GM dependent.
But wait, there’s more! Combat rules galore!
The assumption for combat is that you’re using minis (and it gives minis rules as inches and not squares so you can go full on wargaming if you want to) but the game supports not having them. Combat initiative is done using normal playing cards called Action Cards (I kept telling you that you’d need a deck of cards, and yes you can buy special Savage Pathfinder Action Cards) with the ace going first and the two going last. Groups of NPCs that aren’t wild cards share an action card. The deck gets reshuffled every time a joker is dealt, and the joker can go whenever they want with a +2 to all trait and damage rolls that round (in addition to other joker bonuses). There’s also a tie-breaker list for the different suits.
When your card comes up it’s your turn. Action types are split up between move, regular, and free. Regular actions can be taken at any point in your movement and not just before or after moving. There are also a special sub-type of actions called limited actions, you can only perform one limited action during your turn. You can perform up to three regular actions on your turn but each addition action beyond the first applies a penalty to all actions
that round and so multiple actions have to be declared before any dice are rolled. This means that if you declare actions that are dependent on other actions then they might not happen but you get the penalty anyway.
Remember the parry derived stat I mentioned way back? That’s the target number for melee attacks (basically it is your armor class). Ranged attacks normally have a target number of 4, modified by range. When rolling damage, compare the damage roll vs the toughness derived stat. Damage less than the toughness has no game effect (but the target is “beaten up a bit”). Damage greater than the toughness makes the target shaken (if they are already shaken they take a wound). Each raise on the damage deals a wound on top of the base effect. When you’re shaken you can only take free actions (which does include some movement so running away remains an option). At the start of your turn you make a spirit attribute roll to remove your shaken condition (or just spend a benny). Wild cards can take three wounds before being incapacitated (and wounds also give penalties). When incapacitated, make a vigor roll to see if you die (which happens on a critical failure), take a permanent injury and start bleeding out (failure), take an injury that goes away when all wounds are healed (success) or take an injury that goes away in 24 hours or when all wounds are healed (raise). As long as you aren’t already dead you are unconscious regardless of the result. Oh, and if you’re bleeding out you might die so failing vigor rolls isn’t the best thing to do. Bennies can also prevent wounds.
Oh, and if your wounds remain untreated and you depend on the natural healing rules to get better, those also require vigor roles and a critical failure there means your wound is infected (or similar) and you take another wound.
There’s also extra rules for aiming and grappling and breaking things and called shots and disarming and all of that extra stuff you love to hate. Oh, and rules for hitting innocent bystanders with ranged attacks when you miss.
Good stuff.The Adventure Tool Kit
This is basically the GM section of things you can add to your game. I won’t go into detail here because there’s not much of a point, but it does cover the following topics.
Allies: NPC extras are designed to be controlled by the players (and not be DMPCs) and this also helps keep a split party from being bored if they actually have allies. How to run that is in this section.
Creative Combat: An optional rule to have tests between combatants with varying results (tests are things like throwing sand in someone’s eyes or trying to stare them down or kick him in the balls, normally they just do specific things).
Downtime: What it says on the tin.
Dramatic Tasks: Add drama to tasks when the PCs are rescuing people from a burning building (or more likely something a little less heroic but just as dramatic such as climbing a rock face while being shot at).
Fear: For creatures with the fear special ability (or if the GM just thinks you should be terrified).
Hazards: Cold, heat, hunger, thirst, falling, high altitude, etc.
Interludes: When you want to force your players to actually have to roleplay their characters during downtime.
Mass Battles: Also what it says on the tin.
Networking: For the people person in the party.
Quick Encounters: When aint nobody got time for that.
The Planes: This is Savage Pathfinder so planar travel is a possibility. This is a one-page section so don’t expect as much detail as actual Pathfinder.
Social Conflict: Because sometimes words can cut like knives.
Travel: If it doesn’t matter how long the trip takes then this section doesn’t matter, but if the group is on a time crunch here is how to ruin their day.Powers
It’s magic time! So, just to confuse everyone the way to get magic is to have an “Arcane Background”. Yes, clerics have an arcane background. Different sources of magic with different rules isn’t a thing (although the standard eight schools of magic from Pathfinder still are), the edge that grants your magic gives you any specific restrictions you might have and otherwise everyone follows the same rules. One thing to note is that in Savage Pathfinder all powers are spells (at least so far), but savage worlds is a generalist system that you can build on (like GURPS) which is why it uses general language like "powers".
Rule 1: Activating powers requires an arcane skill, this is defined in your arcane background (for example, clerics use the faith skill).
Rule 2: Everyone has a list of starting powers, this also comes from your arcane background. Want more powers? Take the New Powers edge.
Rule 3: Everyone has power points for their powers. No vancian casting here!
Rule 4: Every arcane background has a different list of powers that they can take so there are different caster lists even if all magic basically functions the same.
Do you have powers? You can automatically detect magic for free as a regular action (but you need the detect arcana spell if you want to do it further than 30 feet away or get specific information more than the simple is it magic yes/no). Identifying magic items is a skill check.
Another basic change from what you might be used to, your spells can look like whatever you want but this look is locked in. This functions kind of like energy psionic powers in 3.5 D&D, the power itself does damage but you as the player decide what kind of damage (except that the selection is permanent so if you shoot things with fire then it is all fire all the time). Flaming skulls once is flaming skulls forever but this a per power decision. You can however add trappings to powers you know instead of learning new powers so you can learn ice bolt and fire bolt. You can also add limitations to your powers as part of their trappings to make them cheaper (but not free, and this is also permanent). Also powers have rank requirements just like edges.
Activating a power requires a skill check and you lose a power point on a failure. Critical failure invokes backlash and you become fatigued and all of your active powers instantly end. Addition power points can be spent to double power duration on a per-target basis. Every hour spent resting regains you 5 power points but resting doesn’t have to equal sleeping. Bennies can also be spent for power points. Interestingly enough, you can also try to activate a power by spending fewer than normal power points in exchange for getting a penalty to your casting roll, however a failure on this roll automatically counts as a critical failure. There is also a list of power modifiers that are selected during power activation and everyone can use to increase the power point cost in exchange for additional effects. Individual powers have additional modifiers that can be used for that power. This is also similiar to D&D 3.5 psionics. One thing to note is that damage doesn't scale much, it is x damage or x damage on a raise or spend some power points to instead do x damage or x damage on a raise. Savage Pathinder doesn't support the Pathfinder bags of hit points playstyle.
Cantrips are also a thing in Savage Pathfinder. These also require a skill roll and the effect must be based on a power that you already know (so if you shoot fire bolts you have the cantrip power of matches for example). Cantrips are free but have specific restrictions on how they can be used with GM veto power spelled out right there (and they can’t directly hurt people).Magic Items
I don’t really know what you’re expecting here but I’ll give the same general rules information as I did with Powers. Magic items are magic items after all.
Some magic items require a trait roll to activate, like any roll this can crit fail (and some items have powers that only activate on a raise). If an item grants an edge that you already have, it instead grants the improved version of that edge if it exists. Magic item effects don’t stack with themselves or the same effect from anything else (such as a power). Magic item slots exist and are as follows: head, eyes, shoulders, neck, chest, belt, wrists, hands, feet, two rings.
Magic items shops exist but are much more limited than you might be used to, a large city can have (in the whole city) 1d6+1 potions and scrolls (the roll is split in half between the two), 1d6+1 healing potions, and 1d6 total of any other type of magic item. Walmart for magic items does not exist if following the rules laid out here. There are however rules for crafting magic items, both temporary ones that tie up your power points until they are used as well as permanent ones.
Other than that, things are as you’d expect (for the most part). Armor and weapons can be enchanted but can only have five points of echantments total, each enchantment has how many points it takes up and a specified cost that is not directly tied to the point cost (and some things like the glamered enchantment that makes your armor look like regular clothes costs zero points although it still costs gold). There are no pluses, if you want more damage on your weapon you take the damaging enchantment.
Otherwise everything is fairly standard Pathfinder. You have specific magic weapons/armor/shields and rods, staves, wands, rings, wondrous items, etc with all of the basic staple items being there.Game Mastering
This isn’t the GM rules chapter, this is the general how to GM chapter that you all know and love (from my previous reviews if nothing else). We have sections on gathering the party, campaign types, enemies and encounters, and running the game. It’s all there if you need it and short and to the point if you don’t.Bestiary
It’s the monster section. It has monster special abilities and monster size categories (I like this part, “normal” size goes from halfling to stone giant/war horse but is five different sizes in that “normal” category and each size has a toughness modifier), creature types, and alignment if you’re a GM and skipped over character creation. Other than that it is all stat blocks but the blocks are all small and easy to read so they compact well. However there aren’t a whole lot here because they want you to buy the bestiary book. It’s pretty much just animals (for animal companions), swarm, human skeleton and human zombie (for powers) and townsfolk and town guards (to round out the group).Final Thoughts
I like it a lot, a hell of a lot more than I liked PF2E. I personally see it as a great blending between Savage Worlds and Pathfinder (both of which I’ve played and am well familiar with). It’s not perfect, but there is nothing here I see as explicitly bad or wrong. All-in-all it's a good system, although Savage Worlds has always been aimed at a lower power than Pathfinder so if your goal is to single-handedly conquer worlds and fight gods this is probably not what you want.
The only real downside that I see is that who knows how much additional content the game is going to get, on the one side it is being done by the actual company who makes Savage Worlds and isn’t just some random offshoot but on the other side they sometimes make Savage Worlds settings that pretty much get abandoned without much supporting content. However, if all they do is convert the different splats and adventure paths they have a lot of material to work with so here's hoping.