View Full Version : DM Help Savage Worlds vs. CJ Carella's Witchcraft vs. D20

2017-10-24, 07:50 PM
So, I'm porting my campaign setting away from Pathfinder. D&D 5E might sound like the most logical choice of new games, but it won't work for me. It doesn't have official PDFs of the rulebooks available, and I have so many possessions I literally need to get around to purging because I live in a gigantic mess. Also, dead tree rulebooks are really expensive compared to PDFs. and I'm on a student budget and am throwing a lot of money into a trip to Europe, leaving not so much for RPGs right now.

I'll start by telling some stuff about my campaign setting, because I want to look at rules that'll be easy to fit to the setting. Pathfinder wasn't always the best fit, and I'd like a better one if I'm changing games, anyway. The basic idea was that I took that standard chaotic Dungeons and Dragons melange of faux medievalism with massive anachronisms and no real conception that the Middle Ages were a thousand year period with tons of change in culture, politics, and technology, and hurled that into the mid-to-late 20th Century. I initially wanted a Sixties setting, but it didn't stay that way for long at all. Seventies politics and media had too much cool stuff, the Forties have the coolest planes, Eighties music gives the Sixties some serious competition, and fashion doesn't know whether it's the Sixties, Seventies, or the Nineties. Plus, the space tech available would make even the 2017 NASA explode with envy (we got moon colonies and asteroid mining, yo), because magic, and at that point a bit of Eighties sci-fi is creeping in. Also, I like some older anime. It's really just "The author went from the Forties to the Nineties and just started flinging everything that looked good into the pot, chucked a few more things in there as well, and then resolved to figure out how to make it blend together later". Which doesn't really sound any different than how the "Standard Medieval Fantasy World" was conceived, to be honest.

As to the content of the game itself, it takes place in the Thyressan Commonwealth (your friendly neighborhood United States of America expy, if Britain had won a very pyrrhic, and largely ceremonial, victory during the Revolution and America ended up politically like Canada by the modern day). The player characters belong to the Enforcement Bureau, which is the arm of the Ministry of Magic which handles the dirty work. Essentially, magic FBI, but significantly more violent. You got a D&D monster wrecking stuff and it's too powerful for cops or soldiers to handle? The Bureau will come kill it. Some powerful wizard has gone rogue and has some sort of evil plot? Bureau work. Any hint of a Lich or Dragon? Bureau. Undead more powerful than Romero zombies? Bureau. If you don't know how to kill a zombie (pretty common, because zombie just means magically reanimated corpse that eats people, and they can be created many ways, which means a huge variation in what their traits and powers are, how they create more of themselves, and how to kill them), get professionals down there to figure it out. This goes double with vampires, because they have the same wide level of variation as zombies (a vampire is defined as a humanoid bloodsucker with magic powers, and that's an extremely loose and variable concept), but tend to be significantly more powerful. Essentially, agents of the Bureau are one part monster hunter and one part elite mage cop. One thing I was toying with was that, since the Bureau is specifically intended to handle magical threats, and spellcasters are much more versatile and powerful than non-spellcasters in Pathfinder, the Bureau likely only hires magic users as agents. Makes sense. You use people intimately familiar with magic to keep it under control. This is something I intend to port over to whichever game I end up using. There should be plenty of options for martial combat, and Bureau agents certainly use firearms, but Fighter-type characters aren't really a thing.

A key issue for me is how popular a given game is, because I need to find players. I'm much more likely to recruit for a campaign than to play with people I already know, and I don't have physical boots to lend out. Savage Worlds is, IIRC, pretty popular, and I own several books, such as the core rulebook and the fantasy and horror companions. I haven't really had time to sit down and read them, though. I do have Weird Wars 1 and 2 (both books in the case of Weird War 1), and I have Tour of Darkness (also Rome, not that the book would be useful), so I have plenty of modern weaponry/vehicle rules. Basically, Savage Worlds comes with the advantage that, while I haven't really read the books, I do own them, so I would have to buy very little. On the other hand, it really lacks utility and battlefield support magic, which is the big thing D&D spellcasters do. That's a discussion all on its own, though, and I made another thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?540108-Utility-magic-for-Savage-Worlds). I'm also not sure how good Savage World combat mechanics are, to be honest, or how common or popular it really is.

Second option is CJ Carella's Witchcraft. This one is free, which is a massive advantage in terms of getting players to buy in, and it doesn't seem too complicated. I've heard it floated as a replacement for D20, too. I've flipped through it a bit, and I like it so far. It supports that concept of mine that everybody knows magic from the get-go, the Bast look like they could very easily be retooled to allow werewolf player characters, and I like the way magic really requires you to study and learn specific concepts. I wouldn't require players to find teachers (the government really should have that). The one thing is, I've heard Witchcraft is deadlier and less powerful than the Buffy RPG, and I do want something of a higher power level, but I really don't want to invest money in Buffy. Could I just increase some numbers for players to make the game more survivable, or are there other things that go into it? I see there are some supplements for Witchcraft I could buy. Are they worth it if I'm using my own setting instead of the game's? If Witchcraft is the base game, would using some mechanics from Ghosts of Albion be doable if I purchased that, given that they are different systems?

A third option is a D20 game that isn't Pathfinder, 5E, or 3.5. Maybe True20 or something. Advantage here is that I own Spheres of Power and Spheres of Might, which I was excited about, and which would form a good basic of the magic system. On the other hand both those products and True20 are fairly niche, and I don't know how many players I could even get interested. I've also never seen the True20 class system, and if it's like D20 Modern (attribute based classes), that's not something I'm personally fond of, and I wouldn't be interested. Another advantage of D20 is that I have so many D20 compatible supplements, including basically the full D20 rules lines for Deadlands and Weird Wars, which contain many usable mechanics. On the other hand, we're again getting niche. And I'm worried about feats, too. I think feats are just a really problematic system that encourages locking up so many things a player should already be allowed to do, especially martial combatants.

2017-10-25, 02:58 AM
If Witchcraft is the base game, would using some mechanics from Ghosts of Albion be doable if I purchased that, given that they are different systems?

Unfortunately I can't really help you with most of your questions, but on this point: Unisystem and Cinematic Unisystem seem reasonably close in my view and GoA itself dedicates a few pages specifically to conversion between the two systems.

2017-10-25, 09:06 AM
Of the three based on what you've written I'd say go with Witchcraft. I don't have any experience with it, but I was terribly confused about Savage World's combat system when I read through it. If loaning out books is an issue then maybe a session 0 where everyone builds characters together and figures out the rules is in order? That could open up your d20 options a bit more.

I of course recommend Monster of the Week, but you're not likely to find many players who are immediately familiar with it. The magic system is something anyone can take part in, and supports damage, healing, and other support stuff, but is fairly bare bones (unless you want to focus on Big Magic, in which case you can do whatever you want). The system is pretty easy to master as well.

2017-10-25, 09:26 AM
Savage Worlds - Is your RPG group also a table top wargaming group? Do you have a heavy investment in minis, 3D maps, and wargame rules? Then Savage Worlds really is fast, furious fun (relative to heavyweight wargame rules).

But coming from Pathfinder you'll find it just another D&D-ish system: there's skills, there's feats, there's initiative (which is the one significantly divergent & interesting mechanic), there's rules for how you can move on the grid, etc.

Savage Worlds is not a light game.

GURPS can handle magic + space + 40s noir + 90s spy thriller. GURPS is big and heavy. There are PDFs -- lots and lots of PDFs.

In addition to the games mentioned, you might consider the recent forum darling Dungeon World meshed with one of the other genres from that publisher (search for Powered by the Apocalypse). You'd have to do some work to get all the elements of your setting into a coherent whole, but in play it's a lot lighter than most systems, and as a bonus it has a smidgen of name recognition thanks to its recent forum darling status.

EDIT: For an investigation game, I'd recommend looking at Gumshoe, also. Between Esoterrorists and Ashen Stars you'll probably have enough to build your space-magic setting.