Varsovian
 member, 1444 posts
Tue 9 Oct 2018
at 21:45
Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
So, I keep thinking about Savage Worlds and there's one concept I have trouble wrapping my head around: the Wildcards mechanics.

Why would some characters (PCs, notable NPCs) get this kind of rules, while others character don't? These rules make the Wildcard characters tougher and more effective than other characters with similar stats. Isn't it giving these characters a kind of unfair plot armour? What do these mechanics represent?

Could you help me conceptualize it?
nauthiz
 member, 583 posts
Wed 10 Oct 2018
at 05:50
Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
Pinnacle actually has a design document of sorts that will probably answer your question the best since the answer is based on what sort of game they were trying to make when designing (and then revising) Savage Worlds.

http://www.peginc.com/freebies/SWcore/MakingofSW.pdf
BFink
 member, 52 posts
Wed 10 Oct 2018
at 06:56
Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
IIRC the idea behind Savage Worlds was that it was meant to be Fun, Fast and Furious, so, effectively, the PCs were to be given that unfair advantage over the other characters, similarly to the majority of literature/movie heroes. Characters are HEROES and, as such, they are better at dealing with any redshirts they encounters. Hence the additional d6 and extra rules.
NowhereMan
 member, 252 posts
Wed 10 Oct 2018
at 07:32
Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
Notably, Wild Cards are the only characters that can critically fail as well.
Varsovian
 member, 1445 posts
Wed 10 Oct 2018
at 16:52
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
BFink:
IIRC the idea behind Savage Worlds was that it was meant to be Fun, Fast and Furious, so, effectively, the PCs were to be given that unfair advantage over the other characters, similarly to the majority of literature/movie heroes. Characters are HEROES and, as such, they are better at dealing with any redshirts they encounters. Hence the additional d6 and extra rules.


See, this is something I have trouble getting behind. Yes, in some scenarios, it's expected that the characters are larger-than-life, are able to deal with many opponents easily etc. But I feel that it should be solved by the GURPS approach: if the characters are supposed to be more impressive than average people, they should just have better stats and skills. It makes sense to me - while giving the heroes a set of rules that give them advantage over characters with similars stats doesn't.

Also, what about scenarios where the characters aren't supposed to be so lucky, competent etc.? In other words: can you play a scary horror game with SW, which has this built-in mechanism for giving the PCs advantage over dangers, monsters etc.?

I don't know... I'd really like to GM this game, because I like the simplicity. But the Wildcard concept just ruins it for me :(
nauthiz
 member, 587 posts
Wed 10 Oct 2018
at 19:56
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
The primary mechanic behind Wildcards, the extra D6, is to maintain the fast and streamlined mechanics, while also adjusting the success probabilities in a way that maintains a specific feel that just increasing the dice size does not.

Wildcards are also supposed to be important compared to the mooks, minions, and other fodder in the world in order to keep combat streamlined while still being able to have large scale battles that don't bog down with lots of bookkeeping.  This also allows some level of tactical gameplay using all the units/characters in a fight without that large scale battle taking hours, or the group focusing in just on "our heroes" while ignoring what's going on around them for purposes of time expediency.

That's why Wildcards have health levels (as opposed to the tri-status of "Up", "Down", and "Out" for mooks/minions) and get the extra D6.

Savage Worlds is a universal type of system in that you can play a wide variety of genres under it.  It is not a universal system in that you can play every type of scenario you want.  Savage Worlds characters always have a certain feel to them whether they're in a Western setting, Fantasy, or Sci-Fi.  Additional mechanics introduced in certain official/licensed Settings as well as in various genre Companion books help adjust that feel to a degree, but the core of the game was still built around a system designed to be "Fast, Furious, and Fun" and that tends to shine through no matter what.
Varsovian
 member, 1446 posts
Wed 10 Oct 2018
at 20:27
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
Okay, and what does "Fast, Furious and Fun" actually mean in the SW context? This phrase is often cited to explain the game's feel, but it doesn't really explain much...
NowhereMan
 member, 253 posts
Thu 11 Oct 2018
at 03:26
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
It means that the rules were designed specifically to keep gameplay fast, not bogging down in complex combat or other complex situations, keep it furious, attempting to keep players on the edge of their seats as much as possible, and fun, well, fun.
Boomcoach
 member, 79 posts
 Gaming since 1975
 Bluffton, IN
Wed 17 Oct 2018
at 17:03
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
I have played some enjoyable SW horror themed games, Cthulhu-ish and otherwise.  If you want the characters to be more "normal", it is perfectly possible to have them not be wild cards, this will limit the edges they can select and they will not get the wild die.

I don't know of many games where the players are not a "cut above" the common folk, but I see no reason it wouldn't work.  I also played a con game with SW, where we were max-minned (as opposed to min-maxed.)  All characters were seriously flawed and we had a great time!

I prefer my characters to be a bit better than the average mook, even in horror games, but that doesn't mean it has to be that way.

I remember someone comparing Robert Howard's horror works to HP Lovecraft's.  In both instances the protagonist is caught up in a desperate struggle against a horrific situation.  HPL's protagonists feel overwhelmed and attempt to find a way to escape, RH's protagonists feel overwhelmed and it really ^%$#es them off! I usually prefer the latter, but a good GM can make the former work as well.
DarkLightHitomi
 member, 1421 posts
Sat 20 Oct 2018
at 02:53
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
Here is how I look at it,

Remember in Harry Potter when Ron gets poisoned? Slughorn was there and considerably more skilled than Harry, yet it was Harry that saved Ron. Why? Well, because Harry had the ability to act, where-as Slughorn was dumbfounded and shocked.

That difference is what makes Harry a wildcard and Slughorn not. Slughorn is more skilled, but Harry has an extra something about him that allows him to step up and go that extra mile when it really counts.

This is why simply adding extra skill is not the answer, because the difference is not about extra skill.

I've seen the same thing in the real world, professionals who know the facts and figures of their profession and yet lack the ability to improve upon the tried-and-true even when they have more skill, training, and even experience.

I've even seen it in doctors, which is downright terrifying when said doctor is about to perform surgury on you.
Varsovian
 member, 1447 posts
Wed 24 Oct 2018
at 15:52
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
Hm. That's close to my thinking, yes... Thanks for your input!
Varsovian
 member, 1455 posts
Wed 21 Nov 2018
at 21:58
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
Alright, I've been thinking on this for a month and I still don't think I understand it completely. :\

I mean, let's take a basic encounter in a fantasy setting: a novice PC fighter vs an experienced NPC fighter. Who has the higher chance of winning? Stat-wise, the NPC has a bigger chance - but with the Wildcard rules added, I... actually have no idea how to predict the outcome...

Also, I still don't know what kinds of games it makes sense to run in SW. Does it make sense to do a low fantasy, gritty RP (think Game of Thrones for example) in SW? Or investigative, brooding horror? Or is SW a game only for epic fights, intense action etc.?

This game is really giving me a headache...

This message was last edited by the user at 21:58, Wed 21 Nov.

GreenTongue
 member, 834 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Thu 22 Nov 2018
at 00:51
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
A novice fighter should not be fighting an experienced fighter without using "every trick in the book".
PC or NPC.
This is supposed to be what make SW better is that you "actually have no idea how to predict the outcome" so, stack the odds in your favor or come up with a non-fighting solution.
=
DarkLightHitomi
 member, 1430 posts
Thu 22 Nov 2018
at 03:55
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
Firstly, rp not a boardgame. That means that analyzing an rp in the same way you analyze a boardgame is and shoukd be doomed to failure.

In the real world it is said that the world's best swordsman fears a novice more than the second best swordsman. A properly made rp (at least for a narrative world with human beings comparable to real life) should follow that concept.

You are not supposed to be able to run numbers and find some percent chance of success, rather, the players should be deciding factor, do they blindly rush into a killzone like fruit tartd, or do they use the environment, deception, and good tactics to win?

A rpg is not a game in the sense that chess us a game, rather, a rpg is a language to communicate about the narrative first and foremost, with secondary goals of adding uncertainty and tension, and reducing the impact of gm fiat on success/failure outcomes.
GreyGriffin
 member, 245 posts
 Portal Expat
 Game System Polyglot
Fri 23 Nov 2018
at 07:07
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
The person who's "supposed to" win in a battle between the novice and the expert depends on a lot of factors.  But the keywords there are "supposed to."  In the real world, we'd expect the better equipped, better trained, more experienced, or more numerous foe to overcome.  "Realistically," a dragon would just fly overhead and roast a column of mounted knights or a slightly past his prime Gothic hero with nary a care.

But in our narratives, our stories, the plucky novice, the well-meaning amateur, or the lone powerful hero can stand against professionals, monsters, and armies.  Any dice mechanic that isn't either simulating or streamlining is putting its hand on the narrative scales, encouraging a certain kind of story to be told.

Specifically, games with mechanics like the Wild Card mechanic, or games with Mook mechanics like Feng Shui or Exalted, are saying explicitly that some characters are more important than others.  A Wild Card can take risks a non-Wild Card can't, because the story allows and encourages him to take risks.  It allows the important characters to stand out, to be more adventurous, and to survive improbable odds, not because of their peerless skill or their sweet gear or their higher level, but because they have some element that makes them stand out.  They are chosen by the gods (Exalted), they are explicitly the main character in their own story (Feng Shui), or they have a certain inexpressible grit that elevates them above the common man (Savage Worlds).

This expressed preference loosens the mechanical grip on character creation that a purely simulationist system would have.  It allows players to make characters who are imperfect, or incomplete, who still have something to learn.  It also (perhaps especially) allows characters whose skills don't match up well to the challenge at hand, and to still participate in the story meaningfully.  They can be in the scene and taking pot shots at ninjas from a balcony or desperately fending off assassins with a desk chair, even though they are the group's hacker and have no business being there, without just melting into a pool of blood.

These kinds of "participatory" mechanics can help prop up characters who have huge deficiencies in a system with limited resources to emulate basic human competence, where NPCs don't have to worry about points budgets and power creep, and skeptical guards who have to be fooled can "afford" to have decent Social and Combat skills.

This message had punctuation tweaked by the user at 07:16, Fri 23 Nov.

Samus Aran
 member, 413 posts
 Author, game designer
 Part-time Metroid fighter
Fri 23 Nov 2018
at 07:22
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
GreyGriffin:
The person who's "supposed to" win in a battle between the novice and the expert depends on a lot of factors.  But the keywords there are "supposed to."  In the real world, we'd expect the better equipped, better trained, more experienced, or more numerous foe to overcome.  "Realistically," a dragon would just fly overhead and roast a column of mounted knights or a slightly past his prime gothic hero with nary a care.

But in our narratives, our stories, the plucky novice, the well-meaning amateur, or the lone powerful hero can stand against professionals, monsters, and armies.  Any dice mechanic that isn't either simulating or streamlining is putting its hand on the narrative scales, encouraging a certain kind of story to be told.

Specifically, games with mechanics like the Wild Card mechanic, or games with Mook mechanics like Feng Shui or Exalted, are saying explicitly that some characters are more important than others.  A Wild Card can take risks a non-Wild Card can't, because the story allows and encourages him to take risks.  It allows the important characters to stand out, to be more adventurous, and to survive improbable odds, not because of their peerless skill or their sweet gear or their higher level, but because they have some element that makes them stand out.  They are chosen by the gods (Exalted), they are explicitly the main character in their own story (Feng Shui), or they have a certain inexpressible grit that elevates them above the common man (Savage Worlds).


This is pretty much it. The discrepancy exists because the player characters simply carry more weight in the narrative than the NPCs. As well they should. The game, these stories, they're not about random NPCs. They're about the heroes. Which isn't to say a PC should just be able to go and singlehandedly wipe out an army because "I'm a PC and they're not!" but more that they get the benefit of the doubt because this is about them. You're not writing non-collaborative fiction, where you can make any character of equal importance.

Perhaps fate smiles upon the hero, and the ground slips beneath the NPC's feet, or she is saved by a passing sensei, or the sun suddenly glares in the guard's eyes from a reflection, etc. Or the PC is clever and manages to use the battlefield that has been torn asunder by their conflict to her advantage and maneuver the NPC into a decisive strike. This sort of thing happens all the time in fiction.

Wild Cards get these mechanical benefits because they're just more important than the NPCs.
NowhereMan
 member, 259 posts
Fri 23 Nov 2018
at 10:31
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
I think it's important to restate that "Wild Card" does not necessarily mean "Player Character". While the default assumption is that all PCs are Wild Cards, not all Wild Cards are PCs. All major GM characters are likely to be Wild Cards, and many of the more significant minor GM characters will be as well.

For instance, in a Savage Worlds Star Wars game, Darth Vader would definitely be a Wild Card, as would Grand Moff Tarkin, Emperor Palpatine, etc., but so would a stormtrooper commander. Wild Card status is not just reserved for PCs and main villains, but for any GM characters that need that little extra bit of oomph. Heck, in the Bestiary section of Savage Worlds Deluxe, a Giant Worm is a Wild Card, and unless that giant worm happens to be named Jim, it's probably not expected to be a major character.
DarkLightHitomi
 member, 1432 posts
Fri 23 Nov 2018
at 21:27
Re: Savage Worlds: Wildcards mechanics
It is interesting to note that some look to narrative milieu for what mechanics represent (see my post, msg #12) while others look to the meta (the two saying wild cards are such because they are important to the story, rather than because of something about them in the milieu).

This split appears in game design as well, with some games having rules on who gets to define results based on a mechanic.