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Bennies are a fairly significant part of the Savage Worlds rule system, but it seems difficult to argue that they're a critical component.

I don't like them. (It doesn't really matter why - let's just say it's a premise of the question.) I still want to play Savage Worlds. But I want to get rid of them, or minimise them, or possibly replace them with some other metagame-resource system that I like better.

I'm aware that a simple solution would be just excising them. However I thought there might be some sort of literature on the subject that I could read beforehand.

Have Pinnacle published anything (a book, errata, an article on the subject, a setting-book with setting-specific rules that remove bennies, a designer commentary, etc) that describes variant rules or suggestions for playing SW without Bennies?

If no such rules exist, answers that describe (per Good Subjective/Bad Subjective) how your roleplaying group played SW without Bennies, or replaced them with something else and what the repercussions were, are acceptable.

My primary interest in asking this question is to find out if there are any official rules or guidelines for removing Bennies.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, without knowing what your concerns are with Bennies, it's hard to know what a potential replacement might be. For instance, if you don't like the fact that they can soak wounds, then any viable replacement will have to modify the damage system. \$\endgroup\$ – Thunderforge Apr 17 '17 at 4:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Consider playing a different system. Savage Worlds without bennies is a drastic change to its core mechanics. \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe Apr 17 '17 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not looking for answers that could engage or alleviate my concerns (because I think such a question would probably get closed for being opinion-based) but for official statements about my intended goal, and by intentionally not stating my reasons I'm preemptively discouraging the former. Unfortunately I don't think there's much way for me to get more specific without asking a fundamentally different question that wouldn't be supported by the SE format. \$\endgroup\$ – a computing pun Apr 17 '17 at 17:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as "Too Broad". Without knowing what your concerns are with Bennies, we can't answer with alternative rules. I understand that you don't want answers that try to alleviate your concerns and talk you back into Bennies. However, I think that it is certainly possible to share your concerns while also making abundantly clear that the type of answer you are looking for is a rules alternative. \$\endgroup\$ – Thunderforge Apr 18 '17 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is really 2 questions anyway. The first is are there any official published materials or designer intent around bennies? and the second being a good subjective/bad subjective homebrew rework without bennies following good subjective/bad subjective. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Apr 18 '17 at 21:31
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I am unaware of any published rules for excluding Bennies from Savage Worlds.

Short Answer:

Bennies are not needed in a Savage Worlds game, but because the system and setting assumed they would be present some aspects of the game may have to be altered and the GM should be more forgiving of dice quirks (this goes in both directions, not just in the PCs favor).

Long Answer:

As far as I am aware, the intention of the Benny mechanic has always been to ensure the Wild Cards, including the PCs, are more successful in their ventures than the scores of Extras, serving as an insurance policy when the other Wild Card mechanic, the Wild die, failed. However, the Benny mechanic has, in my opinion, really only been usable for damage-soaking and very occasional Trait check rerolling, and it has always handled those mechanics very coarsely. For example, you aren't allowed to spend a Benny to force the GM to reroll, even though forcing a reroll on an enemy's great attack or damage roll might be far more useful than rerolling your own attack or damage roll, or forcing a guard to reroll his Notice check instead of attempting to reroll your own Stealth check; another interesting use of a Benny might be to have one of your companions reroll their Stealth check because they were the only one of the group to fail their Stealth check.

In my games (both those I play in and those I run) the most common use of Bennies is for damage-soaking and a distant second of rerolling your own rolls; as a player about 95% of Benny uses are for damage soaking, and if I'm not soaking a lot in a session I may end the session with two or even three unused Bennies, and I feel my characters should be able to handle most hits without relying on soaking and a well-formed team will have the means to heal during combat or at least to isolate the wounded to prevent further damage. I should note that in my games the Leadership Edges are rarely employed, so there is never any Benny sharing occurring.

Another strange aspect of the Benny mechanic is some publications make the GM awarding Bennies during the session an important aspect, generally for good actions or for a funny statement or action someone does. I have never really liked these criteria as they are very subjective and run the risk of causing some players to feel the GM is favoring other players because either the player's PC is the type of character who would do such actions or the player is simply a funnier person (or at least the GM thinks so). When I run Savage Worlds I only award Bennies for exceptional in-game, character-appropriate actions, as as such will go sometimes six sessions without awarding a single in-session Benny.

So, in my games I use a lot more situational bonuses which allow the Wild die mechanic to function more effectively. For example, if a character needs to use Persuasion and takes the time to dress in a fashion which the crowd agrees with, I will award a situational Charisma bonus of perhaps +2 (or even +4 in rare instances), or if your character has dissected the enemy's dead and knows their anatomy, I might award a situational bonus if a Called Shot is done because you know better where to hit for a specific effect (a similar analogy can be made for taunting the enemy). I also do not treat a one rolled on the Trait die any differently than a one rolled on the Wild die, and I do not allow critical failures (if you roll a 1 on both the Trait die and the Wild die, but have a +6 bonus on the roll, you clearly didn't do as well as you could have, but also are likely to pass the check because you were so well-suited to the task).

There are some other changes which need to be handled if Bennies are removed. First, the Luck and Great Luck Edges and the Bad Luck and Young Hindrances (all of which modify the number of Bennies a character receives per session) need to have a different manifestation. The Benny mechanic allowed for the expression of luck, Fate, or divine intervention which now has no obvious mechanic to manifest. I don't have a good one-size-fits-all solution for this, but some positive options might be (for the negative examples, reverse the perspective):

  1. The character's patron deity steps in when the character takes a particularly strong hit (or may potentially fail a casting roll) which would reflect poorly on the deity (and effectively the attack or casting roll is rerolled).
  2. The character is gambling and suddenly finds all of the correct cards come to them at the correct time (effectively a Gambling check reroll, or possibly a passive effect from Luck).
  3. The pressure of disappointing the group means the character pays more attention to what they are doing (Stealth, Climbing, Notice, etc) and succeeds where they would have otherwise failed (effectively a Trait check reroll).
  4. The character refuses fall from a blow (or spell effect) because they have long-term personally-important actions to do (and effectively soaks the hit).

All of these options are meant to be GM initiated, but still allow for luck to have an effect in the world even if there is no explicit mechanic (obviously the GM has to be fair and equitable when exercising these).

Second, some settings have a very strong reliance on Bennies, generally because they are difficult for the characters (Sundered Skies comes to mind immediately). The GM has to be aware of the capabilities of both the PCs as well as the enemies and may have to adjust encounters or employ atypical actions (like enemies negotiating or fleeing when the odds turn against them, or having enemies gloat instead of executing a finishing move which allows the character heal or otherwise react). Every situation in the category is situational (so I can't provide detailed guidance), but the players need to have some opportunity to act and do something because they (without Bennies) no longer have as easy a time of saving themselves.

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    \$\begingroup\$ IMO this doesn't really answer the question. It talks about why you don't think bennies are great, but never actually explains clearly whether or not you actually don't use them. For example, no bennies=no Soak roll. Does this mean that when a player takes the occasional massive damage hit, they automatically go incapacitated as you can't soak? How does this affect things? Also, you seem to miss one of the main mechanics for awarding bennies, which is by playing to character hindrances.there is the core of a good answer here, but it needs some work to focus it on what the question is asking \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Apr 16 '17 at 9:01

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