As some of you know, we've been using 4e to run a ".hack//" based game where players get trapped into an online game by an evil cotrporation that plans to use the data of the virtual world to end and re-create the real one. As one can expect from an "Online Game" and a D&D one, there are dungeons, lots of them.

We switched to 4e because we wanted "longer" battles, traps, puzzles, dungeon exploration, etc. However we've noticed how 4e is one long Piñata Party Raid, and in order to make traps work, we need a lot of homebrewing; we get together at arround 4:00 PM to start playing, and in between roleplaying, delving, and combating, we usually return home at around 12:00 AM.

So, I was thinking on Savage Worlds to make things faster since yesterday one of the players fell asleep on his chair; that's a bad sign.

All of us are fans, BIG fans, of Savage Worlds.

I've only used it, however, to run urban and horror settings since the combat is brutal, and SW can be quite roleplaying-heavy. I own the Fantasy Companion, but there's nothing on Dungeon Delving which is what we want and like; also, there are no examples on traps for SW Dungeons, and Treasure Parcels on SW Fantasy Companion seem pointless since SW is a game where a player can go from the most basic tier to Legendary with the most basic equipment.

So, has anyone ever done a dungeon crawling game with SW or knows any place where I can learn about it?


2 Answers 2


You're right that Savage Worlds itself gives very little material to construct a dungeon-exploration game. There is no guidance for treasure, opponent challenge and frequency, no material for adjudicating how long torches last, and etc.

Take advantage of Savage World's strengths

To fill that in, you can lean on one of Savage World's greatest strengths: it is ridiculously easy to translate material from other games into Savage Worlds mechanics on the fly, and to use Savage Worlds' basic mechanics to handle arbitrary challenges without preparation. This makes Savage Worlds really effective as the "engine" for running a pre-made material from any game system, and this is exactly what I've done with it to great effect.

I ran Stonehell using Savage Worlds last year, although any other old-style dungeon would have done just as well. It was a "two-shot" as a filler and to teach the system to new players. (Ironically, everyone enjoyed it more than the campaign setup that followed, which never got past the first session.) Stonehell was ideal for this because it presents an environment to explore and interact with, rather than a set of combats strung together by hallways, so there was a wide variety of things the players could do. This suited Savage Worlds really well because it used all the flexibility of the game system, with lots of out-of-combat action drawing on its non-combat mechanics, and a few fights that showed how SW can move fluidly from non-combat into combat and back to non-combat again, according to the choices of the players.

Seek material for your toolbox, not rules for dungeon adventures

This environment-based dungeon design isn't unique to Stonehell, so although I can recommend that particular dungeon as being very useful for using as-is or stealing pieces from, any old-school dungeon can be used as raw material to fill in the gaps Savage Worlds leaves around dungeon-crawling.

Instead of looking for rules for how to construct and run a dungeon in Savage Worlds, look for pieces to use. Find old dungeons, and cannibalise them for their treasure placement ideas. Take map layouts from anywhere you can find them (although the more "Jaquayed" the dungeon is, the better). Use random encounter tables—either stolen from existing dungeons or from lists you can find online—to populate the map, and use Savage World's ease of translation to just make up stats or refluff some creature stats from the core book or Fantasy Companion. Find some treasure tables and use those to tell you what sorts of treasure a creature or trap might be guarding. Collect some random trap generators to surprise both your players and yourself with what dangers lurk in the dungeon. A few dungeon dressing tables can bring colour and variety to otherwise empty rooms and corridors.

Essentially, if you construct a "dungeon toolbox" that you can take things out of at any time, slap together, and have a fully-functioning dungeon or piece of dungeon environment as a result, then Savage Worlds will happily provide mechanics for it. Use these resources either randomly or as pick-lists, and you'll quickly discover that you have more material than you can ever play through in one campaign. Having a toolbox likes this means you can quickly build interesting dungeon environments, either beforehand, during play, or a mix of both.

And that is really how any dungeon-crawling game that is equal parts roleplaying and combat can be constructed: build a varied environment out of convenient pieces, then explore it with your rules system of choice. From direct experience running "savage dungeons" like this, I can say that Savage Worlds is particularly well-suited to this method of GM preparation because it is so quick to stat up new ideas, fast enough that you can do it in a few minutes before play, or even during the game and the players will hardly notice. The system is just very good at quickly providing that kind of mechanical support for any situation that can come up in a dungeon, not just combat. Just spend some time finding a bunch of tasty dungeon morsels to feed into Savage World's mechanics, and you'll be ready to run a dungeon-crawling campaign in less time than it takes for the players to make their characters.

A few notes on handling specific types of dungeon pieces

Traps are easy enough, once you decide what a trap is and how it works. Roll appropriate skills to interact with it, according to what the players say they do. If their skill rolls succeed, they're making progress in learning about, avoiding, or disarming the trap. If they fail, they might trigger it, or put themselves in a spot that might be dangerous to move out of. Again, all depending on how they're describing their interactions with it... assuming they notice the trap in the first place, of course!

Treasure, both monetary and magical is, yes, kind of pointless in Savage Worlds... if you think of it as only a source of personal enhancement. Bonuses are dull in Savage Worlds, especially because the power of a mere +2 means you can't afford to hand out bonus-laden treasure more than once or twice in an adventurer's career. Instead, make magical treasures a source of new options and neat little special effects that players can get creative with. Which is more interesting, a Sword +1 or a ring that can be used to telekinetically move up to a kilogram of material within two feet of the wearer's hand? The sword is just a "here, have a mechanical bonus" treasure. The ring is of limited power "objectively", but begs for a player to think of creative ways to turn it to their advantage.

Monetary treasure can seem useless when it's not needed to power-up a character, but this again just asks the players to get more creative. What is a pile of gold good for, why would they want a sackful of jewels? Maybe they have other reasons for adventuring that aren't motivated by money. Maybe they have expensive taste in wine between adventures. Maybe they want to buy back the old family home that their parents lost to debt. Maybe they aspire to build a stone fortress in the wilderness and create a new barony of their very own. Maybe they need it for rare materials and books for their magical research into immortality. Maybe they just like expensive furniture and tapestries and decorating their house with riches. The lack of system-level use for money means that a literal world (a fantasy world, even) of possibilities opens up for the players to become creative about their characters' motives for seeking treasure.


The big thing is that extended dungeons require extended HP. So Benny flow becomes important. I give a Bennie anytime a scene ends, you can also do this when an encounter is resolved, essentially giving them at least one soak or reroll for the next encounter (But I get one too as a GM hehheh). The setting rule Joker's Wild can also keep the Bennies flowing for the players. Make sure to give out Bennies to the player, I tend to give one Bennie per session for every Hindrance when it comes up.

As for traps in Savage Worlds, finding traps or attempting to avoid them as they trigger is typically a Notice roll with the Lockpicking skill used to disable the trap.

Shallow Spiked Pit
Notice –2
2D6 damage
10 feet fall into spikes (1d6 for the fall and 1d6 for the spikes)

An example trap. The player must roll a 6 on Notice to see the trap or a 6 to dodge it once it triggers. If he fails, he falls into the pit and is impaled on spikes, taking 2d6 damage. If they notice the trap, feel free to make the Lockpicking DN a 6 as well to disable the trigger on that inch of the dungeon. Lockpicking is the character's general ability to disable mechanical devices in Savage Worlds.

Or you can rewrite it to

Shallow Spiked Pit
Lockpicking/Notice 6
2d6 damage
10 feet fall into spikes (1d6 for the fall and 1d6 for the spikes)

Another idea is to use defining interests. Shaintar uses them, and they give a +1 general to +2 specific to particular tasks that the character is good at. Like say picking pockets could be a Stealth roll that they get +1 on. Or disguise. Or concealing weapons. Or skulking around. Or a +1 to picking locks or disabling traps with Lockpicking. Or a +1 to Noticing traps with Notice. Or more languages if the game has a lot more of them than common.


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