Allies are just Extras your players can control. There are Edges to give you more abilities with your ally, and use them as an extension of your own abilities. The GM can help determine who is “controllable” like that – in other words who can become an ally. But the GM does not control allies – that’s strictly up to the player.
Allies can advance as well, assuming they were used and featured in the story. An unused ally is not likely to be advanced!
So players? If you’re given an ally, don’t forget about them!
If you’re tired of combat as the only way to resolve conflict, then Savage Worlds has multiple mini-game systems for nurturing role-play and helping to enrich the story. The first one we’ll talk about is the Dramatic Task.
The Dramatic Task is handled similarly to a combat situation, in fact it can even be done while IN combat! The goal however is not to beat up the bad guys but instead to complete a task – it could be prying a shimmering gem out of a statue’s eye socket, or attempting to destroy an ancient evil artifact or researching how to open a dangerous portal back home.
Each character wanting to participate in the task is given a card and they act on that card using the initiative rules. If it’s part of a combat they draw cards as they would in combat but they’re understood to be focusing on the task at hand and not so much the battle. The cards drawn for the combat portion have no effect on the Task portion, and vice versa.
In a Dramatic Task drawing any card with a Club results in complications for the character. They suffer a -2 penalty to anything they try to do that round AND, should they fail (not even critically fail), the task as a whole FAILS! Yeah! It’s BAD! But all is not lost. A player handed a Club CAN sit the task out that round OR spend a Benny to get a new action card as usual.
The goal for a Dramatic Task is to reach a set number of successes before time runs out. Exciting, huh? So hitting the target number (including any modifiers to the roll) will result in a success, and any raise beyond that would count as an additional success. So it’s possible to go into a Task needing 10 successes over 4 rounds and hitting them all in round 1 with a whole lot of Aces! Or getting all your success in the final round on a Benny reroll – I’ve seen it happen [clip of Meghan ace-ing from Thing in the Corner].
The GM is encouraged to set the number of successes vs. the number of rounds depending on the complexity of the task at hand and the number of characters participating. The more complex the task, either the more successes needed, or the fewer rounds to accomplish it. Or both if it’s really wicked. The easier the task the fewer successes are required or the more time given to achieve them. The book gives good examples of setting up single person tasks.
Multi-person tasks may seem hard to calculate difficulties for, but if you follow the guideline outlined in the book you’ll do just fine – and that is to assume each character will get one success per turn. And then scale the number of turns with the number of successes – usually between 3-5 rounds. So, for example, three characters have three rounds to complete a task. Multiply the number of average assumed successes (1/character, remember?) times the number of rounds and we get 9 successes needed.
Dramatic Tasks are great ways to break up combat and help non-martial characters be part of the action without needing to resort to fisticuffs. In Pathfinder, as we’ve mentioned before, so many combats are just about who hits the hardest and who has the most HP. But with Dramatic Tasks as one resource, GM’s can make combat far more effective for every character type.
It’s worth noting that you can support in a Dramatic Task as well on your turn, which can give a character up to +4 on their trait roll. However, the rules for Clubs apply here too, and doubly so! If the person performing the task has a Club, the supporter ALSO has a -2 on their support roll! And if the supporter also has a Club they suffer another -2! Clubs are bad, y’all.
There is a form of Dramatic Task called the Social Conflict. While these could be handled as asides with a quick opposed roll using a variety of skills, a Social Conflict is meant to handle longer proceedings and interactions that have a greater story effect. Think of it like Social Combat.
In a social conflict players have three rounds to “convince” the opponent of something – take up arms against the amassing horde; my client is innocent, etc. Each round they focus on one point of the argument using a Persuasion roll vs. the opponent’s Spirit. Each success and raise is granted an Influence token to the players (the opposition doesn’t get tokens, they just try to prevent tokens from being given out).
Modifiers are definitely in play if the GM has reason to add them! And Hindrances should also be considered if they’re relevant to the argument being made.
Then use the Social Conflict results table to see what the outcome is. The more tokens, the better the result! Easy peasy!
There are a lot of tools in Pathfinder for Savage Worlds, but one of Savage Worlds’ strengths is being fast and fun. Thus it is with the Quick Encounter!
Rather than RPing a long travel period, with random encounters, etc. slowing down the story and taking up vital game-time, you can use a Quick Encounter to sort of fast-forward through an event while still seeing that event’s toll on the characters.
A Quick Encounter uses no cards for initiative or action. Instead, each player chooses one skill they will use for the given event. So, using the travel example, a warrior could use their Fighting skill saying they are the vanguard for any monsters they may encounter, and the Wizard uses their Research skill as they read their book while walking. Modifiers depending on the situation are encouraged but not necessary (depending on how difficult you want this event to be).
Players then roll in whatever order they’d like (some may be dependent on the result of another’s roll), and the results are tallied. The real key is how it’s narrated after.
A success from one player does not mean the entire event was successful. That Warrior I mentioned earlier might have successfully fought off monsters with a good Fighting roll, but the wizard failed their Research roll so perhaps they lost their book amidst the fighting? Or their concentration broke and they didn’t learn any new spells.
Players can change their skill selection as they go – it’s not hard or fast and is meant to simulate an ever-changing situation.
You can always ramp up a Quick Encounter to several rolls rather than just a single roll if the event is more complex. But at that point I would encourage you to try a Dramatic Task instead!
Interludes are another great way of passing the time in a way that advances the story, but doesn’t involve combat or even a skill roll. Just draw a card, consult a table, and narrate the result. With the prompts given it’s sometimes a good way to ease non-role-players into the concept without overwhelming them.
Spells are a very different beast in Savage Worlds than in Pathfinder. In general the spell mechanics are presented a bit more open-ended which can frustrate folks who want pinpoint accuracy with rules. But I think with practice you’ll find the Savage Worlds way to be both simpler for new players AND feature-rich for old hands!
In Savage Worlds gone is the analysis paralysis of carefully choosing the perfect spell combos. Now all spells operate through Trappings. That is, each spell has a unique appearance to it that the caster can determine. In this way you can take the basic skill – let’s say Bolt – and adjust it to fit the situation. This basically opens up a wide world of spell abilities that reflect a much more cinematic interpretation of magic. No longer do you need to have three different spells for three different fire effects. One spell can do them all – it’s just in the trappings and modifiers where change happens.
So if our Dwarven Wizard decides to light a torch he can cast Bolt but give it a fire trapping at a Cantrip level to just light the torch and not explode his party. Then, perhaps while fighting a fire elemental, he could adjust the trapping to be something the elemental is weak against, say, cold. This doesn’t cost anything extra, he’s just tapping into a different elemental magic but the Bolt spell is the same. He also boosts the power to have a bigger effect, more damage, etc. This, however, costs extra Power Points but it’s worth it!
As such there isn’t a direct 1:1 connection between Pathfinder’s spells and the spells in Pathfinder for Savage Worlds. But it’s a bit easier to parse in Savage Worlds – you’re mostly just looking for the effect you want. You need a wall of thorns? Choose Barrier and give it a thorny trapping! Heck, you could boost the spell to also have damaging pointy thorns! The GM can adjudicate boosts and through consultation with the recommendations in the book can decide how many extra power points it’ll cost to do what you want.
However, all this is within reason. If you want to burrow underground and then burst forth causing mass damage that’s likely two actions, each with its own spell. But by using Synergy the effect of a spell can be increased or decreased. For instance, the burrowing loosened the topsoil which makes it easier to burst forth AND toss a bunch of rocks in the air. Or using electricity around water sources. If you’re a fan of science, you’re gonna love Synergy with spell effects!
Power modifiers can give you a bit more guidance on trappings and how to adjudicate them. Some of these are noted in the spells themselves, but in general you can add a power modifier to any spell (again, within reason).
Running the Game
Encounter balance is often cited as a difficult thing for GM’s to grasp when coming from D&D and similar systems. The Pathfinder for Savage Worlds book includes some common guides for a balanced encounter depending on the party. And in my experience it matches pretty well.
Keep in mind that what was hard at Novice Rank doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy at Seasoned or Veteran. With all the variations in skill rolls, aces and more a single elderly Extra could still score a critical hit on your Heroic level Paladin! So toss things in, see what happens. You can always switch a combat over to a Social Conflict or Dramatic Task if things get too risky.
Bennies do not roll over to the next session – so use them or lose them! BUT, be careful! It’s nice to keep at least one Benny around just in case you need to soak a wound or unshake at a moments notice! This goes for GM’s AND players!
Creative Combat is your friend! No more weapon proficiencies to worry about here, and heck you don’t even NEED a weapon if you want to do harm! Sometimes it’s all about what you say and how you say it!
Join me next time as I cover additional Edges in Pathfinder for Savage Worlds! From the unique Class Edges, to Prestige and Legendary Edges. Plus some other bits and bobs. It’s going to be a fun one.
Thanks for reading. If this helped you, please consider sharing. And check out Saving Throw’s Ko-fi to support more content like this!
If you have specific questions or have a request, please check out our Discord!
What are your favorite alternative game rules? What Pathfinder for Savage Worlds questions do YOU have? Let me know in the comments below.
Til next time – LET’S DUNGEON!