Long campaigns in Savage Worlds – a few ideas

Savage Worlds

I must thank the guys on the Savage World Italia Fan forum for suggesting the topic of this post.
They are not, of course, responsible of anything I’ll say – but they started the ball rolling.
There was this discussion, the other day, because some people – outside of the forum – observed that Savage World is not suited for long campaigns.
One shots – great.
Four-or-five-scenarios campaigns? Sweet.
But anything longer?
Naaa, the system does not support that.
Which is simply not true.
So we talked about that a while with the guys, and here’s my thoughts.

dnd35I think the real problem is not Savage Worlds, but the way some people handle experience points.
In many games XPs are counted in hundreds, and leveling up requires thousands of points – one thousand, actually, to get from First to Second Level characters in D&D 3.5, if I remember correctly.
[goes to check on his brother’s handbooks]
Yep, one thousand from First to Second, ten thousand from Tenth to Eleventh Level.
You get the picture.

Savage Worlds is much more tight-fisted when it comes to XP.
Five points will get you an advance, twenty will get you to the next Rank.
Nice and smooth.
The guidelines in the SW handbook suggest three XP for a brilliantly played game session.

Now, doing the math it is pretty obvious that it takes something like 30 sessions to bring a character from Novice to Legendary.
And here’s the rub, probably – how many scenarios is 30 sessions?
I’d say, based on my experience, 10 to 15 scenarios.
That’s a pretty long campaign.
But maybe there’s teams out there that play slower than mine, or play games that ask for slower going.
Say five sessions per scenario – which means our character development from zero to hero would require just six scenarios.

But here’s two things worth considering.
First – not all sessions are 3 XP sessions.
If the players spend a whole evening planning their next move (it happens a lot, with former Call of Cthulhu players), well, that’s not worth 3 XPs in my book.
I might give the guys 1 XP fr the effort, possibly on condition – let’s see how the plan works out.

And notice that a long campaign featuring high-reward sessions and low-XP ones is not a cynical manipulation, but just plain old good story design – stories (and a campaign is a story) need rhythm, need mood and tempo changes.
Hence such game dynamics as Interludes, or just the occasional low-XP, relaxing (or not) scenario.

fagioliSecond – bennies!
Players tend to grumble when they are handed a meager single XP point… but they can get a lot of bennies for great gaming choices, good roleplaying, fun ideas or just plain in-character silliness.
Bennies are a boon for those keepers (and players) that grew up with the sort of 10-points-a-goblin XP rewards, and now feel shortcharged when handed two XP for a combat-intensive gaming session in which tons of goblins got butchered.

In the end, for me a good way to make sure that a long campaign can be handled with SW is to keep a tight control over the XP rewards, and possibly get a little more liberal with the bennies.

But I guess that others handle the situation differently.
How do you handle long campaign, Savages?
Or do you?

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