So I'm a new GM, we're playing Savage Worlds. Admittedly, I've probably allowed too much customization in my game. We have a player that really wants to be able make a very specific character. To give you the gist of this character he's playing. He fights with a shield, a shotgun, a pistol, grenades, a knife, and last advance he took the Beast Master edge so he has a dog now, as well.

Now, admittedly, he has worked with me to customize the weapons and things so that he can do what he wants without overpowering the guns. So for example we'll reduce the ROF or Damage or something so that he can do something flavor-specific with it. There hasn't been a single time in combat that his customization has swayed the tide of a fight, and I would argue because he's spread himself so thin he's not really good at anything.

My issue is that there's so much for me to track as the GM already, I'm having a really hard time keeping up with all these customized weapons and making sure he's using them appropriately. He approached me tonight about making a melee weapon that's basically a bang-stick staff. But to me...a bangstick already exists in the game, buy one and use that.

My question, I guess is: how much is too much? I'm all for customization and the players getting the experience they want, but I feel like this is a major detriment to our game at this point. Am I just being a baby, and it's because I'm a new GM? If not, how can I curtail this correctly? Thanks in advance!


4 Answers 4


General advice for any issue with a trouble player is to talk with them and clearly explain the trouble that you are facing. You should definitely explain the problems you are having with trying to keep track of all the custom stuff and see if the two of you can find a solution. However since this is a question specifically about Savage Worlds, I figured I'd address your specific concerns in relation to the system.

You mentioned that you are both a new GM and new to Savage Worlds. One thing that the creators of Savage Worlds often say is that although it's tempting to play with customizations right off the bat, you should really try to play "by the rules" first. There's a great section in the GM section about Edges and Hindrances that encapsulates this pretty well:

For the most part, we’ve found you really want to keep the selection to less than a dozen powers, and half that number of new Edges or Hindrances. A lot of new Game Masters go crazy creating scores of each, but at the end of the day find that most of the stuff people actually take is already covered in the main Savage Worlds rule book. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have some cool new powers, Edges, or Hindrances—just that you should think them through very carefully, and add them mostly for flavor or to cover some very unique feature of the setting that the rules don’t currently cover. —Savage Worlds Deluxe, Page 128

Replace "Edges and Hindrances" with "Gear" in that sentence and I think the same advice applies. It's tempting to add all sorts of new gear, but at the end of the day you're probably just as well taking the stuff from either the core book or a published setting book for the setting you are playing in.

You didn't say what setting you were playing in, but since you listed some modern weapons, I'm going to guess you're playing in that time period. In that case, there shouldn't be any real reason to create custom weapons because there are so many in the core rules. But notice that there are very few "unique" weapons", especially in the modern era category. All of the guns have roughly the same damage, rate of fire, shots, and special notes. For instance, all assault rifles deal either 2d8 or 2d8+1 damage, have a rate of fire of 3, have 20 or 30 shots, and have AP 2, auto-fire, and possibly 3-round-burst. If you want a new assualt rifle, all you really have to do is pick one of the ones on the table or mix a few of their stats and slap a new name on it, then pick a cost and weight for it.

I've worked on some third party Savage Worlds products and in all honesty this is exactly what most Savage Worlds writers do for anything that isn't groundbreakingly different (and if it is, we usually just add an extended notes section explaining what it does). We do this because we know the numbers already work and because we want to match player expectations. Say that I was creating a setting that had an LSAT rifle (a potential replacement for the M16 used in the US Army today). I'd just pick the M-16 stats and change the weight to be lighter. That's it; there's no real reason to customize further. You seemed to have the same idea for this with your bangstick you mentioned at the end. Just have him buy a bangstick for a price that seems reasonable for the setting, then change the weight and any essential trappings and you're good.

It sounds to me like there might be a bigger problem too in that your player is trying so many different things. Shields, shotguns, pistols, grenades, knives, bangsticks, and dogs. Again, I don't know what your setting is, but it might be appropriate to start enforcing consequences with all that. How is he hauling all this stuff around (if you want to use the encumbrance rules, what penalties is he taking)? Does he freak out every person in town when he comes armed to the teeth with these weapons? Do people not take him seriously when he has a pistol and shield? How much in debt is he to pay for all these different weapons each with their own ammo? Where the heck did he find a shield in a time when people are toting around guns?

You did note that he was starting to be spread out pretty thinly, so you might also want to encourage the player to start specializing in a more limited set of gear and stick with it, saving his other ideas for a different character. Moreso than in Dungeons & Dragons, there's not much point to continually upgrading gear since those in the same category have basically the same stats and there are tradeoffs between different types. Also depending on the setting it may not make sense to switch weapons (if you're playing a military game, you're probably staying with whatever you were assigned by the higher ups).

Also one last thing: you said that the character had a shield and guns. Having a shield is pretty much worthless in a modern game because all guns have armor piercing. He can carry around a Medium Shield for an extra 12 weight to get +1 Parry and +2 Armor vs. ranged attacks, but it's unlikely that he'll get into melee combat (why bring a knife to a gun fight?) and all rifles have Armor Piercing 2, which will go straight through it as if it weren't there. It would provide 1 point of Armor against pistols, which generally have Armor Piercing 1, but is it really worth carrying a shield around, not to mention tying up a hand that would prevent you from using a shotgun or rifle, just for that? There's a reason that soldiers historically quit carrying around shields once gunpowder weapons were invented.


You are the best judge of how much you can handle; If it's too much, it's too much. Talk to your player; Explain that the complexity of his character is increasing your workload to unsustainable levels, admit that you overestimated how much you'd be able to handle, and discuss possible strategies for reducing complexity.

I'm not familiar with Savage Worlds, so I can only speak in generalities, but if your player is really set on keeping all these different unique weapons and doesn't want to use the as-written alternatives you suggest, see if you can convince him to take care of some of the complexity and bookkeeping involved so that you can concentrate on running an awesome game.


The balance between player and GM is a delicate one. The bottom line is that everyone is there to play a game; everyone is there to have fun, including the GM. While the GM takes on more bureaucratic responsibility and rules as the general arbiter of play, ultimately it defeats the purpose of the game if nobody is having fun.

If that balance has been broken take some time before the session to talk about it with your players. Let them understand where you're coming from, and use the discussion to set a new precedent and make the expectations of the entire table clear. Let your players tell you what they expect and try to find some common ground. At some other time, probably beforehand, talk to this specific player about the problems you're facing. Bringing it to the group afterwards will make it seem less like you are singling him out.

One of the biggest mistakes a new group can make is to not have this discussion before play starts. Expectations should be known, on both sides, before a die is ever rolled. It is by no means, though, a dealbreaker. Just sit down and have a talk.

  • \$\begingroup\$ We've all put lots of time into discussing things, but it's gotten to the point now with this particular player that it has completely railroaded an entire session. I appreciate the advice Jason. \$\endgroup\$
    – James
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 22:52

There's some excellent answers in here, so I'll try to avoid labouring points that have already been covered very well.

Obviously, this player is having, or going to have, an impact on the other players. Even if they're fine with what's happening, it's causing problems for the GM, and that will affect everyone's game. This trend needs to be stopped, or at least mitigated.

My first instinct would be to try to bring the player back onto the regular rules. Let him encounter people using the non-customised versions of their gear, and find places where the stock stuff is or would let him do the flavourful stuff he wants. If necessary, talk to the player. A good player won't want to impact the game for everyone. Explain that all this custom stuff is making it hard for you to run the game smoothly, so they need to find a way to make it easier on you. Give them the option of dropping some of the custom stuff to stick to the normal rules, or making it easier for you to keep track of.

One thing my GM does is to insist that players with complex powers or special gear write the important info on flash cards, so that when we're in the middle of combat and a player wants to use something, they can just say "I use [ability], dealing [damage] and causing [effect]" and pass the GM the card. The GM can then see very quickly the lines for damage dice, effects and durations etc, allowing them to verify what the player is saying. It also lets the GM think about how that affects the NPCs and general flow of what's happening, without having to tip his hand by asking "does that affect [creature]?" or "what if they have [ability]?", which would let the players know stuff about what's about to jump out at them, or that this enemy has an ability they haven't shown yet, or whatever. I'd suggest getting this player (and perhaps the others, in the interest of fairness and not making this player feel singled out) to write flash cards for anything custom or complicated.

(Some players (myself included) like to take the opportunity to go a step further with the cards. For our D&D game I have playing-card-sized cards for each of my spells and magic items. On the front, name and key stat line (spell/item level, type etc), beneath that a small picture (no more than half the card) and one line of flavour text, and then the main stats - eg. for a weapon: damage type and roll, range, crit range/mod. On the back is other stuff like weight, sell value etc. It indulges the need for RP and flavour, which may be what this problem player is trying to do with custom gear.)

As a final point, from here onward I'd try to keep a tighter rein on the amount of customisation. If the player requests anything custom, consider how much it actually differs from a regular item. If the answer is "not much", tell them to get the regular one. You mention a custom bang-stick and your instincts there are spot on. It sounds like this player gets easily attracted to cool stuff; I'd start ramping up the tempo a bit so that this jack-of-all-trades approach doesn't work any more. Force them to specialise in one area a bit more, and at least their customisations will be confined to one area. After a while you may be able to point out that they haven't used a certain item in a long time, and persuade them to trade it, or sell it, or at least leave it behind so they're not carrying so much weight.


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