Savage Pathfinder – Basic Rules, Part One

February 19, 2023 Dungeon Master 983 No Comments

In Savage Worlds, most characters are separated between two categories: Wilds Cards and Extras. A simple way to think of them is roles in a movie. Wild Cards are the named characters, featured roles that the plot revolves around or large creatures and enemies that are the focus of a climatic action scene.

Extras are the background players, hordes of enemies that the stars mow down, or the average citizens in a village.

All player characters are Wild Cards, and even important allies or NPCs may be as well.
What separates a Wild Card from your average Extra are a couple things:

  1. They can take 3 wounds (or more) as opposed to the 1 Wound most Extras can take.
  2. Wild Cards roll an extra d6 for most Trait rolls – this is called a Wild Die. More on that later.

So it’s important to know the distinction, especially if you’re a GM behind the screen. The town militia may be made up of cannon fodder, but the Queen may well be a Wild Card with Edges, Hindrances, and a bit more narrative ability than your standard citizen.

Extras make up the bulk of non-player characters in the game. But make no mistake, they do not need to be “average” and identical! It can certainly make prepping for combat far easier because you don’t need to worry about challenge ratings, or even numbers of Extras. All Extras have just 1 wound to reflect how far advanced our heroes are, and how easy it is for them to take out the standard mook.

Wild Cards are usually named characters, or unique beasts that are a bit more powerful than their brethren.

But whether you’re dealing with a Wild Card or an Extra, those characters will all make trait rolls.

TRAIT ROLLS
In Savage Worlds, all traits are related to a die type. A d6, or six-sided die, a d10, d4, etc. In the previous episodes on character creation we assigned a die-type to each Attribute and Skill. And any untrained skills are made with a d4 -2 – meaning we roll a d4 and subtract 2 from the result.

TARGET NUMBER
Now, in Savage Worlds we have a Target Number. You can think of it like a Difficulty Rating. It’s the number you must meet or beat in order to accomplish your goal. This number is generally a 4 for most tasks. But the GM may modify the dice roll depending on the situation either given a bonus or a negative to the roll.

In addition, if you’re a Wild Card, then all Trait rolls are made with an additional d6 called the Wild Die. Extras would just make the Trait roll without the extra Wild Die.

BASIC ROLLS
So, for example, if you’re attempting to find a clue in a room, your GM may have you roll a Notice check. Our dwarven wizard has a d6 in Notice, so we would roll a d6 for Notice (the Skill die), as well as an extra d6 (the Wild Die).

Or, perhaps our arrogant dwarf is trying to Persuade someone. They have a d4 in Persuasion, with an additional -1 due to their Mean Hindrance! So they’d roll a d4 as well as the d6 Wild Die, and subtract 1 from both dice.

For the total, and this is important, you do NOT add the two dice together! You take the highest of the two! The Wild Die could be ignored (if it’s lower than the Trait die) or it can replace the Trait die.

ACES
[Link to Savage 60 seconds]
If you want a quick 60 second explanation on Aces (or “exploding” dice) check out this video we did a while back.

For those sticking around let’s dive in a bit more on Aces. All Trait and damage rolls have the opportunity to ACE or, in other words, a die that rolls the highest number possible on the die (a 6 on a d6, a 4 on a d4, etc.) is an Ace – and you can roll that die (and only that die) again and add the following number to the total!

It’s always possible that both your Trait die and your Wild die will Ace at the same time – in which case you roll both again, adding each die roll’s number to the former for that die. So you still do NOT add your Trait and Wild die together, but rather you add all of your Trait rolls together OR all of your Wild die rolls together. Again, taking the highest die roll.

For example, let’s say our wizard casts a spell using his Spellcasting ability. He’s got a d8 in that, and he’ll roll his d6 Wild Die of course! He rolls and gets an 8 on the d8 – it Aces! He also got a 6 on the d6 – that also Aces! So he’ll reroll both. This time he got a 4 on the d8 and a 5 on the d6. He’ll add the 4 to the 8 he got previously for a total of 12 on the Trait roll. Adding the 5 to the 6 he’ll end up with an 11 on the Wild Die. So in this instance the Trait die rolled the highest so he’ll keep that – an impressive Success with two raises!

On the subject of Raises, let’s explain what happens when you get more than the Target Number for a task!

RAISES
A raise is every 4 points over the Target Number. Again, in most cases your TN will be a 4. So 8, 12, 16, etc. But a TN could also be a 5 or 6 or just about anything. Regardless, 4 above the TN is a Raise. Additionally you count the Raise AFTER adjusting for any modifiers. So it doesn’t matter if you rolled an 8 on your d10 Trait die if you had a -1 modifier. It’s just a 7 and you’re now one shy of a raise…but maybe you could reroll? We’ll cover those in a second!

UNSKILLED ATTEMPTS
In some cases, a Raise is a necessity! For instance, if you’re attempting something unskilled and you’re rolling a d4 -2, the only way you can succeed (without any other modifiers) would be to Ace on the d4 and get at least a 2 on the next roll. OR get a 6 or higher on your Wild Die. Yep, that -2 on an Unskilled roll applies to both the d4 AND the Wild Die (unless you’re rolling for an Extra, in which case you wouldn’t have the Wild Die).

CRITICAL FAILURES
Perhaps the last important bit about rolling dice is the prospect of a Critical Failure. A Crit Fail happens when both dice on a Trait roll roll a one. Double ones, bay-bee! Snake eyes!

Unlike the O.G. Pathfinder, there is a mechanical effect that happens if you roll double ones and it’s basically all up to the GM and depends a bit on what you were trying to do at the time. Trying to outdraw a cowboy with a crit fail could mean you drop your gun or worse! But crit failing a notice roll to find a missing set of keys may have little effect.

A Critical Failure only happens on Trait rolls where your Wild Die is in play. So you cannot critically fail a running or damage roll for instance. This brings me back to rerolls and the allure and danger of using…

BENNIES
A unique Savage Worlds mechanic is the beloved Benny. Represented at the table often by poker chips, but really anything small and easily counted can suffice. Coins, pebbles, you name it!

Each player gets three of these Bennies at the start of a session unless they have certain Edges, Ancestries or Hindrances which may add or subtract from this number.

Bennies can do a number of things at the table, specifically they can:

  1. Recover from being Shaken (we’ll cover this rule in an upcoming post)
  2. Recover Power Points – something our dwarven wizard will need to do, no doubt!
  3. Soak damage from attacks (again, we’ll cover this later)
  4. Draw a new Action Card
  5. Influence the story!
  6. Reroll Damage OR a Trait roll!

Bennies may have a myriad of uses, but they are simple to use! You simply state “I’m using a Benny to…” and choose the action you’d like to do. In most cases this needs to be on your turn or at an appropriate time deemed so by your GM. And you can only use Bennies on your OWN character unless you have an Edge which allows you to share Bennies!

CONVICTION
Lastly in this episode, I want to touch on Conviction. This is another tool similar to a Benny but it has its own unique purpose.

Conviction is given when a character has experienced something meaningful – victory or defeat. These are learning moments, good or bad, and they should be granted a token that symbolizes the character growing and pushing themself to the next goal.

Conviction tokens may be spent to grant an extra d6 to a character’s Trait rolls until the beginning of their next turn. The die can also Ace and is added (yes! Finally!) to the totals.

So let’s say you received a Conviction token for defending a town with limited supplies. In the heat of another battle you draw your token out and play it on your turn giving you that extra d6 on any and all Trait rolls for this turn for you! You go to attack with your sword, so you roll your Fighting skill die, your Wild Die, and your Conviction die! Then you add your Conviction die total to whichever die is highest at the end!

Both Bennies and Conviction tokens are given by the GM and at their discretion. Aside from the Bennies you get at the start of a session you’re not guaranteed either of these things. However, GMs take note – it only helps to build your world and reward your players for good play. So give freely!

Bennies do not roll over to subsequent sessions, but Conviction tokens CAN! And you can take that to the bank!

I hope this helped you as you prep your next Savage game!

Join me next time as I cover COMBAT in Savage Worlds! Thanks for reading. If this helped you, please consider liking and sharing. And check out the 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 Hindrances? Are you building a character along with me? Feel free to share in the comments, I’d love to see your builds!

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