Is Pathfinder for Savage Worlds right for you?

January 24, 2023 Dungeon Master 98 No Comments

Does Pathfinder lose that loving feeling in the shift to a new ruleset? Is Pathfinder for Savage Worlds our savior from OGL 1.1? Let’s take a look at the book!

Here at the Exploration Society workshop we see a lot of new and old tabletop role-playing games. And sometimes, these are amalgamations of areas we’ve explored before. Such is the case with today’s find!

Pathfinder for Savage Worlds, or more colloquially, Savage Pathfinder is a little nugget of joy that blends the fast, furious and fun system of Savage Worlds with the venerable Pathfinder setting by Paizo. Now folks new to the Exploration Society may not realize that we got our start teaching Pathfinder first edition way back in 2014 – in a series of wonderfully goofy and, at times, if the comments are to be believed, cringe-inducing but nonetheless informative tutorials. And we’ve covered a variety of Savage Worlds settings extensively since then as well. So this mix hits our nostalgic sweet spot quite nicely. But is it right for you? Well, hang tight – I’m getting there!

So, how can Pinnacle Entertainment, the folks behind Savage Worlds, get away with producing Pathfinder material in their game system? Well, it should be noted that Savage Pathfinder is based off of first edition Pathfinder. Yep, the same one we did tutorials on all those years ago – and NOT the second edition Paizo is currently publishing. And so some of the advances made in the Pathfinder system from 1st to 2nd edition don’t make their way here. Pathfinder 1e uses the Open Gaming License because it itself was a byproduct of D&D’s 3.5, and through a unique partnership between Paizo and Pinnacle, they were able to bring the Pathfinder setting and concepts over to Savage Worlds.

How is this affected by OGL 1.1 from Wizards of the Coast? Well…not at all! Paizo is essentially licensing the lore, setting and name. Otherwise everything is converted over to Savage Worlds and the Wizards OGL has no jurisdiction.

If you’re looking for the latest and greatest Pathfinder, however, you’ll want to check out Paizo’s Pathfinder Second edition books which we hope to cover in the future. But back to Savage Pathfinder!

With WotC’s recent adoption of the OGL 1.1, many folks are likely looking at D&D alternatives especially since Pathfinder 1e was based on the previous OGL and may suffer should drastic changes take place. Pathfinder for Savage Worlds skirts around the issue as the driving mechanics are no longer based in D&D but instead are rooted in the Savage Worlds system.

In a bit of a departure from their other setting books, you do NOT need the Savage Worlds Adventure Edition core book (commonly referred to as the SWADE book) to run Pathfinder. Everything you need to get up and running is completely within the Pathfinder for Savage Worlds core rulebook! That’s nice if you’re looking to quickly and efficiently get started!

Thankfully you also do not need any of the Paizo books unless you want to do some of your own conversions down the road. But they aren’t needed for standard play! And Pinnacle has stated that they intend on creating conversions of most of the major Adventure Paths and supplements in the future, including the Advanced Player Guide.

Let’s take a closer look at the mechanics and just how much Savage Worlds feeds back into the setting.

Character Creation
If you’ve watched any of our Savage Worlds content, then this character creation is familiar territory for you. All of the basics are here from choosing Hindrances to assigning points for Traits and Skills. Where we get a little departure is in the Ancestries portion – which, to be fair, Savage Worlds easily accommodates. Playing as different species is a lynchpin in many modern RPGs, so there’s not a huge shift here. It’s interesting, however, seeing how they adapted the races of Pathfinder into Savage Worlds mechanics. It’s all pretty self explanatory with not much is gained in the system shift. The introduction of Hindrances and Edges really helps separate the two systems, though, and provides a great avenue for role-play alternatives rather than the min-max style Pathfinder often leans into.

So now the biggie – how does Savage Worlds handle CLASSES? Savage Worlds notoriously has a class-LESS mechanical system. Anybody has the propensity to do nearly anything. That’s part of what makes Savage Worlds, well, Savage Worlds!

But there is a mechanic for giving your character a class in the form of an Edge which can be taken at creation. To note: you don’t HAVE to take a class Edge and can, in fact, substitute it for a Background or Professional Edge instead. But in this little ingenious move they’ve provided an avenue to still follow the Class systems many are familiar with, without giving up character freedom. Multi-classing is also still possible, but only once per Rank, rather than per level as in Pathfinder. This means you can’t jump from Paladin to Bard every other Advance, but that might actually be a good thing. This could, however, lead to a bout of analysis paralysis as you gauge which Edges and Skills you need for an advancement goal down the line – but I think it overall balances quite well.

I also want to mention – where does the Fantasy Companion – Savage Worlds’ book for adapting any fantasy setting – come in? Well, there are some stark differences especially where it comes to ancestries. The core Pathfinder book only has the core ancestries, but it also includes the original Pathfinder abilities with each ancestry. Whereas the Fantasy Companion has a lot more options for ancestries – but the core Pathfinder races are represented more as base guides without their Pathdinder abilities. So you can still mix and match if you like, but I reckon there will be more ancestry choices coming down the pipeline in the Pathfinder line.

Basic Rules

As I said earlier the Pathfinder for Savage Worlds book contains everything you need to get rolling. No need to refer to other Savage Worlds books for core mechanics. And we’ll cover most of the Savage World basics in later videos

The layout, by one of my favorite designers Karl Keesler and Thomas Shook, is divine. Everything is easy to find in both the PDF and print copy. The PDF is accessible as well, meaning you can select text for speech-to-text applications or translation services as needed. Nice touch!

Gameplay

Let’s look at some Pathfinder specific tweaks. They use Conviction here, which is also present in other Savage Worlds titles but is usually an optional setting rule rather than an overall edict. Players can spend this Conviction to add a d6 to any Trait and damage rolls until their next turn, and they can be maintained from turn to turn by spending Bennies. It’s a nice way of acknowledging when a player makes a tough call – ultimately rewarding role-play beyond just telling a great joke at the table. This can help players to potentially tell deeper and more impactful stories. 

With the move to Savage Worlds, this Pathfinder has a much faster combat system than its progenitor. But before we get to that, a word on our sponsor – Hero Forge!

One thing that’s made a helpful appearance is the Wound Cap. Like Conviction, this is usually an alternate setting rule in Savage Worlds products, but in Savage Pathfinder it’s hard and fast – and that makes things a bit more exciting and may hopefully help folks coming from other d20 systems worried about the lack of a pool of hit-points.

This version of the game also incorporates the optional setting rule of combat Tests to make combat a little more interesting for characters to have more options in a fight. If you’ve ever been in a pitched battle within D&D or Pathfinder where it just comes down to who has the most hit points, and your short sword can only do so much, the move to Savage Worlds is going to open up a whole new combat world for you!

So just how does this edition stack up? And who, exactly, is it for? Well let’s answer the second part of that question now:

NEWBIES

If your only experience with RPGs is D&D or O.G. Pathfinder, it’s going to take some getting used to with the Savage Worlds system. But thankfully Savage Worlds is a relatively easy system to learn with just enough crunch to keep the game mechanics flowing without players getting mired in the minutiae. This is translated well in the book and, I feel, really carries the Pathfinder setting a bit further. Cinematic play, a core concept of Savage Worlds, is on full display here – and in my experience it really helps get new players more comfortable with role-play aspects just as much as they get used to lore.

GROGNARDS

If you’re coming to this from either a Pathfinder or Savage Worlds background already I don’t think you’ll be disappointed either way. The core elements of each system are well-represented here. If you’ve been looking for a more cinematic approach to your Pathfinder games this may be the avenue to go. If you’re looking for a more nuanced and rich fantasy setting for Savage Worlds you could do worse than Pathfinder. But this is not a substitute for Pathfinder 2.0 – if you’ve lived and breathed Pathfinder you might want to stick with that eco-system.

If you’re looking to jump into a fantasy setting but wondering whether you should get Pathfinder for Savage Worlds or the Fantasy Companion – my recommendation would be to go with Pathfinder if you’re new. Since the core book includes all the core SWADE rules as well it’s just a far more complete system. But if you’re looking to zusz up your established fantasy world and you already have SWADE then the Fantasy Companion will give you a lot of options without relegating you to the lore and setting of Pathfinder.

It may be no surprise that I freaking love the Savage-fication of Pathfinder. All the lore and concepts behind Pathfinder with all the mechanical grace and role-playing chutzpah of Savage Worlds. It’s clear that designers love Pathfinder as much as they love Savage Worlds and it shows in how they bring all the details lovingly into the fold.


But let me know what you think! Have you played Savage Pathfinder? What do you think of the shift? Let me know in the comments below! And leave a rating on our RPG Review site.

Until next time – LET’S DUNGEON!