I've run a few rounds of Savage Worlds, and I like the quick character generation and minimal bookkeeping. I'm a little frustrated with a phenomenon which is hardly unique to the system: in combat, the d8s and d10s are merrily hacking up goblins, CHUDs, and zerglings. But the characters with d4 or d6 Fighting or Shooting can't hit, and can't hurt anything they do hit, especially against big targets. The lack of hitpoints compounds this, because they can't wear down the enemy.

The most obvious alternative is for them to use Intimidate and Taunt to shake opponents. However, it's mostly the fighter-types who have Intimidate. Taunt makes me a little queasy, I just can't see much in-game justification for it without descending into absurd camp, especially against non-human opponents. The Explorer's Guide uses the example of a character flashing her cleavage as a Taunt... that sounds like something that stereotypical basement-dwelling D&D nerds would think of; I thought we'd evolved past that!

Many characters with low combat skills will have some kind of arcane background, but this may not be an option for newbies. I feel like the game works well with characters which are min/maxed for either kick-ass fighting, or shooting, or fireballs, but leaves mixed-use d6-heavy characters with little to do. Such characters typically take the lead in social situations, but these are downplayed in SW.

There's a similar question here, but the (really good!) solutions given derive from the details of the game system.

There's a similar discussion here, which addresses the matter of having character with different levels of combat-optimization in a system-agnostic manner. There's good stuff there, but I'm specifically interested in ways to keep low-combat-skill characters mechanically involved when combat's going on. After missing or doing no damage four turns in a row, their attention tends to drift, and I can't blame them.

I'm open to house rules, but I hesitate to start tinkering when I'm so new to the system. Are there Savage World masters here who've had success with this?

P.S., I swear I'm not an agent of Nyarlathotep, sent to pollute rpg.stackexchange.com with open-ended and subjective questions!

  • \$\begingroup\$ You may find this similar question helpful, too: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/7155/how-to-reduce-whiff-ping \$\endgroup\$ Apr 7, 2012 at 22:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Runeslinger: Yes, that is very nearly the same thing, I wish I'd seen it when I searched the forum earlier. You're answer there is great from a color perspective, +1. No regrets though, for I think Phil's hit it on the head in this question, from a mechanics perspective. \$\endgroup\$
    – user1861
    Apr 8, 2012 at 13:50

3 Answers 3


I think there are some suggestions I can offer, but first I wanted to check with one of the comments that you have made.

You say that characters with a d6 in shooting can't hit. This seems a little off because the odds for hitting a TN of 4, i.e. a target at short range with no cover, are 75% for a Wild Card. I certainly have players in my games with d4s and d6s in shooting that have no problems with hitting, especially once you take into consideration how frequently a d4 will explode (1 in 4 chance).

Assuming that you are applying the rules properly, I can suggest a few things that will improve the situation:

Melee Combat

Ganging Up - This gives +1 to hit for every ally in combat with your foe up to +4. Even if a character isn't hitting they can assist with giving bonuses to other people.

Push Manoeuvre - This relies on the Strength Attribute rather than Fighting Skill, and allows you to move the target around, cause damage if you have a shield, or knock the target prone.

Wild Attacks - These give +2 to hit and +2 damage, and are extremely effective. Watch out for the reduced Parry you get though.

Smarts/Agility Tricks - These have a similar effect to Taunt and Intimidate, but are more dependent on good teamwork as the -2 Parry on a simple success only lasts until the affected creature's next turn.

I'd try and be as flexible as possible as GM when players come up with ideas for tricks. One of the best examples I've ever had is with someone who grabbed a can of baked beans and threw it whilst shouting 'grenade!' - as a successful smarts trick it had all of the enemy diving for cover

Ranged Combat

Aiming - Do nothing for a round whilst you aim and you get +2 to hit, which is very effective.

Using a shotgun (depending on the setting) - gives +2 to all shooting rolls if you fire a single barrel. Makes you more likely to hit an innocent bystander though.

You've also got double tap (+1 to hit and damage), and three round burst (+2 to hit and damage) with certain weapons.

Other general comments

There are a few general Edges that can assist with low skill combat characters. One that springs to mind is Elan, which gives +2 to any roll you make as a result of spending a Bennie.

Consider giving non-combat characters things to do whilst others are fighting. Dramatic tasks are good for this, but get a bit old if overused. For example, your computer hacker is trying to break into a security system so you can escape the room you're in whilst the rest of the group are holding back the drug enhanced super mutants.

Also don't forget that a successful trick, taunt or intimidate with a raise will shake your opponent, making them MUCH easier to wound. For high toughness creatures this becomes a hugely valuable tactic.

Also, there are a couple of general resources that you might find useful:

Savage Worlds Combat Survival Guide - which summarises the options you have, along with suggestions as to when each of these might be used. It should be noted though that there are a couple of new options introduced in the Deluxe version of the rules, e.g. pushes, that are not covered on this sheet.

Whispers From the Pit - Expanded Trickery - which goes into details about tricks and how to run them as GM. ... looks like this site has been corrupted


I think it's foolish for players to not consider this at character creation. While I disagree that combat is a primary focus of Savage Worlds (I have one combat every other session), when combat happens, those with an ability to participate can be out of the game for a couple of hours.

Frequently, the computer guy hacks into surveillance systems to provide battlefield intel.

The mechanic identifies the robots' weak points, allowing others to make called shots. Also, he prepares larger, one-shot weapons.

Characters lacking strength can use poisoned or electrical weapons to ensure their called shots do damage.

The negotiator can seed distrust and break the opponents morale.

Remember to reward creativity. It doesn't have to be complex. A simple -2 to defence or other actions can easily turn the tide of the fight.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ As the GM, I don't want to say "you should have thought about that when you made your character, go sit in the corner while the powergamers have fun." I prefer for players to create whatever characters interest them, provided they're appropriate to the game universe of course, and then work together to find things for them to do. Your later paragraphs address this, but a little vaguely; what would these ideas look like in SW terms? \$\endgroup\$
    – user1861
    Apr 13, 2012 at 22:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're right, the players have the freedom to play who they want. I am one to consider enjoyable gameplay over complete freeform. I'm not saying all character should be combat-ready, but should consider how they will enjoy a combat situation. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2012 at 11:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ As you may guess, I've been playing a cyberpunk game rather than fantasy. Hacking can use the Hacking skill, or for a world where that's less prevailent, Investigate. Give a penalty depending on the security. The hacker may need to make it to a terminal or overcome jamming signals. While everyone knows that a human's head is a vital target, it takes a Repair check to identify a robot's weak point, allowing called shots to ignore some or all armour. He can also use Repair to manufacture bombs, rockets and traps from available materials. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2012 at 11:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Negotiators use Persuasion or Taunt to wear away at the foes' morale. Successes provides a one-turn penalties to all actions. A raise either shakes the target or provides a penalty for the encounter. If it suits the story, one foe may turn against his own or flee. For electrical and poisoned weapons, simply make a called shot to avoid armour and allow the special damage to occur. Interesting combat is more than firing bullets and swinging swords. My most memorable moment is the pacifist rigging a fuel bomb and launching it at a helicopter with an anti-gravity gun. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2012 at 11:48

I had a similar thought, especially when succeeding on a Test of Wills without a Raise just gives a bonus to your next action. If you don't intend to do something with that bonus other than another Test of Wills that isn't very appealing to me.

Deadlands Reloaded specifically added an Edge I like: Snakeoil Salesman. In addition to giving bonuses to some social rolls outside combat, it lets you initiate a Test of Wills using Persuasion (as opposed to just Intimidate or Taunt). The benefit is twofold: It opens up what a character can do to initiate a Test of Wills, and it will likely save them from having to invest in another skill or two.

At that point they can also invest in Edges that give bonuses to Charisma to become even more effective, which will be very useful when you're trying to beat an opponent's roll by 4 to get that sweet sweet Raise.


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