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I had started reading Savage Worlds in an attempt to find a way to get more out of my weekly games. I have started to find that playing D&D 5E is more and more tedious and the role-play and story are taking a backseat to the rules. Partly this is my fault because I made a promise to a player that we would not change a bunch of the rules in 5E to make them make sense.

Overall I have enjoyed what I have read in SWADE. There are issues. I think that Strength should be the stat for Athletics and Acrobats should be segregated again but that is personal preference and can be done for my setting with a bit of effort.

But that same player to which I made that promise of not changing a bunch of stuff in 5E has read (maybe half) the book and got to combat and told me he didn't want to play it. He has made 2 characters one with high agility and the other with high strength and has concluded that agility is a sink and every single person absolutely has to spend points in it to be efficient.

We are both software developers so I don't doubt that the accuracy argument is correct it is just that I don't think he has given the system a fair chance.

I personally think that whereas the agility fighter can hit more often he still has to break the toughness threshold and has a severe disadvantage on that front, especially in melee. These were the numbers I was given and they are accurate but I am sure there is something we are both missing as to a counter to this. I was also a Marine so I know about cover and tactics and have easily wipe parties with seemingly inferior foes before.

The Argument

Agility is simply too good a stat in this system.

Given 2 characters with equal resources the fighter with higher agility will always come out on top.

The target number was a Parry of 7 he posits that you can hit a raise often enough to offset the strength fighter's advantage in damage in the rarer chances that he hits.

He feels that in order to offset the advantages that Agility grants you, it would cost too much and the fact that an overwhelming amount of skills and abilities are gated through Agility that it makes it a stat you can't sluff in.


So looking for how this is not an issue I have read about here or anywhere else for that matter about this RPG system. I have read that Savage Worlds doesn't lend itself well to the Fantasy trope though.

TL;DR

Does the Agility Fighter outshine the Strength Fighter in Savage Worlds at every turn?

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Yes, Agility is primary for fighter-types, but your player’s analysis is fundamentally flawed

It sounds like your player is approaching SW through the theoretical lens of D&D and expecting it to have the same structural characteristics. It doesn’t.

A fighter that dump-stats Agility but pumps Strength is not a fighter. They’re a klutz with strength they can’t control or direct.

Fights are also rarely symmetrical. Doing a whiteroom on a pair of combatants with matching stats is not super informative, and if importing foreign system assumptions, will be misleading.

More generally, SW doesn’t have dump stats. You can’t make a SW character with D&D system assumptions and have it be a functional character. Choices in SW character building are trade-offs, because every stat can be leveraged in combat—and every weak stat can be taken advantage of. A fighter with Smarts d4 is begging to be defeated with Tricks. I know—I’m playing one! She’s fun and effective, but she has weaknesses.

(And that doesn’t even consider that it’s possible to play “non-combatants” with poor Agility and Strength and no Fighting or Shooting skills who are paradoxically useful in combat.)

A solid fighter type will start with decent agility and won’t neglect to Advance it later, because that’s how you get a reasonable starting “to hit” and how you improve it. Agility is the core combat stat. The same fighter will want decent Strength, and won’t want to neglect it either, because you won’t be fighting clones of yourself and being under-powered means you won’t reliably scratch really high Toughness baddies otherwise, even with the dinky benefit of reliable +d6 from Raises.

But maybe the setting doesn’t have bricks as opponents, and a high Strength isn’t necessary after all. SW characters can’t be analysed in isolation from their genre.

A good fighter will also take Edges that give them a literal edge in specific combat situations. These are often worth more than raw stats, so there’s a charop game that can be played—it just has different rules than D&D and doesn’t obey assumptions based on foreign system mastery.

It should also be said that a combat strategy of “walk up and start swinging” is a quick way to lose a fight and be left wondering why afterwards. Analyses of the system based on doing that in whiteroom will fail to give valid insight because the system is designed to reward using the rest of the combat options, and the balance point the system is tuned around is higher than what “swing every round” is capable of achieving by itself.

The system does have its criticisable flaws! But your player has come nowhere near to identifying them. All they’ve managed to do is correctly identify that D&D mechanical strategies are suboptimal in this not-D&D system.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with you that using dnd-5e strategies has to fail, but at the same time you say low Smarts is playable, I know low Strength can be, and complain is that low Agility can't — and you didn't refute this. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Oct 4 '19 at 7:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I admit that one of the reasons I didn't look at this system in detail 5+ years ago when I heard about it from a guy in class was because I was fixated on D&D and its rigidity. I remember from 3.X an option that came nearer to this open system where class features were feats and you started with one of 3 base archetypes. But now even those archetypes are gone, which admittedly will be where some of my players will find the most challenge and many of us have been playing for 30 years and as we all know it is more difficult to change the older you get :). \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Oct 4 '19 at 13:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just out of curiosity, and so we can be prepared for them, can you point to questions or blogs that detail those "criticisable flaws"? \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Oct 4 '19 at 14:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Molot: the argument appears to be a combination of "yes, it's true that if you want to play a fighter, you can't just dump agility. That doesn't mean the system is broken. It means it's not D&D. You don't want to dump strength, either." and "...and you don't have to play a fighter to be useful in combat. There are combat-viable archetypes out there that dump agility. It's just that fighter isn't one of them." This doesn't refute his statement about agility-dumping so much as frame-challenge it. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Oct 4 '19 at 14:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth The short version is that the odds on rolls have gaps because of the exploding dice (but it’s not a problem, though it makes some people really uncomfortable); as a system it’s swingy as all get out, especially against high Parry and/or high Toughness (and this is by design but not to everyone’s taste, and can cause big problems); and the GM using bennies a lot to unshake and soak can drastically change combat balance (and that’s a true flaw, or a powerful dial for tuning, depending on who you ask). I don’t have links handy, but these come up every time SW “cons” are discussed. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 5 '19 at 15:47

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