Savage Worlds: Pathfinder

IN SHORT…  I sometimes say that “I can play any game, but just not with everyone”. I think that statement applies to SW: Pathfinder for which I am a player in a campaign ran by some old-school players who tend to play the way I used to in the 90s. Crude jokes, PvP à gogo, coarse language. And I love it. Put me in the same game with a pick-up group on Roll20, and I would have trouble staying engaged for a full adventure.

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3-hour game (with 1 hour of pre-game chat and banter), 5 players and the GM, voice/video on Discord, VTT on Roll20.

There is something special about this table or group. I play reasonably often with fun people who are also great players, but it’s rare that the group burst in laughter as often as this one. It’s irreverent (but respectful), the OOC jokes and banter enhance the experience, instead of distracting it. It really is the closest experience I have found to my high school games (without some of the drama) and it’s tough to understand what makes it work. Some of the group members have known each other for decades. It’s video mandatory. New players have to come in and play an NPC for a few sessions before entering the campaign fully to test the fit. It just creates something pretty unique that I haven’t replicated in my own game as a GM.


We are playing Hollow’s Last Hope adventure in the Pathfinder setting of Savage Worlds. So pretty typical setting, and folks are not too wedded to the details of the world, and rather use the more general ethos of the med-fan setting as we build our own universe through play. The DM is pretty light one setting, setting the scenes well, but letting the fiction develop itself, which I appreciate (vs. a “top-down universe firehose”).


  • Glee (me) — Lukas “Glee” Whitewind is a human bard in this thirties on a personal quest to write the great epic chant of his generation — always on the lookout for helping others and bringing cheer to his present company — people may view his inexhaustibly good nature, optimism and naivety as verging on delusion, except in rare occasions when they can briefly catch him lost in a melancholic thought about a darker past — he has heard of a group of adventurers on a quest to save the town of Falcon’s Hollow and has decided to offer his healing and marksmanship skills, and chronicle their heroic deeds
  • Lini — a larger-than-life gnome druid with a foul mouth, who often prefers animals and nature to his own team mates, and yet is the center of gravity and glue of the entire group
  • Sam — a focused and somewhat introvert sorcerer, controlling potent arcane forces of fire, and untroubled by going in first if others are not up for it
  • Fahad — a paladin in heavy armor wielding an enormous sword, unafraid of stepping into the fray of any situation to take on the heat for everyone
  • Hobrin — a quiet and deadly halfling rogue, always a few steps behind everyone in situations of danger, and conversely a few steps ahead of everyone when riches may be found — yet providing cover to all

In this session, the group is searching for the third ingredient necessary to the fabrication of a remedy to a strange disease that threatens to wipe out the town of Falcon’s Hollow. They explore the ruins of a monastery for some special mushroom. The monastery is abandoned, and seems to have succumbed to some attack or cataclysm.


In two hours of active play, and a general pace of taking our time, after a short recap and intro, we really have time for one scene in two segments — which is fine.

The entrance to the monastery is deadly. It takes only a few minutes for Sam to be attacked by a deadly spider that the group dispatches easily. Exploring a bit further the scene, discovery of collapsed rooms, corpses of prior adventurers and dark corridors lead to an armory. Hobrin quickly finds a secret door to a cell block. Lini steps in to investigate, and is caught off-guard by the corpses of dwarven prisoners coming to life and encircling him. A difficult battle with little room to maneuver begins, in which Lini falls under the relentless attacks of the undead — and not particularly helped by a critical failure from Glee who manages to shoot a bolt in Lini’s head while he is already unconscious. The group starts trying to drag away the undead in the armory, and planning how to get to Lini quickly before he dies…


Savage Worlds for Pathfinder is ok as a system. If it’s to play the generic med-fan setting with a fun group of folks, I can do anything… D&D 5E, Dungeon World, Savage Worlds, BRP, no matter — conversely, if the group doesn’t click for me, no system can save the experience.

I do enjoy the exploding mechanics in SW. There is something exciting about rolling and having a potentially unbound result. And the dice seem to have exploded a lot last night, which is always fun. Goes both ways of course. But the DM and players of this game are pretty old-school. If we explode damage on a big villain, that’s the way it goes and the villain goes down. If we explode damage on a friendly fire or enemy attack, the wounds are there, and the character may die. That’s part of it. And it’s a bit refreshing for me in contrast to a more modern ethos that I sometimes see of “bad things happen to a character only if the player really wants it”…

6 responses to “Savage Worlds: Pathfinder”

  1. Hello Denis, I have a question regarding a point about the table’s social contract that emerged from your actual play.

    “New players have to come in and play an NPC for a few sessions before entering the campaign fully to test the fit. It just creates something pretty unique that I haven’t replicated in my own game as a GM.”

    It seems to me a form of gate-keeping. I.e. You don’t have a full character until the other group’s members or the GM decides so. Am I wrong? Does the group has a way so that it doesn’t transform into a form of gate-keep?

    • You are totally right. This is a gate-keeping process. Goes both ways. It is also a way for a player to be able to say quickly “this is not a table I’m interested in” after playing 1, 2, 3 sessions with an NPC. And that doesn’t disrupt the table if it happens. Before the very first game, the GM takes 15 minutes to do a video with a potential new players also to explain how it’s going to work, so up to say “thanks, but no thanks” if you don’t like it.

  2. So is this a case of using Savage Worlds with setting material found in Pathfinder? Is Savage Worlds lightly or heavily modified to provide a more Pathfinder- style experience? I am not familiar with the specifics of this particular system. I am familiar with Savage Worlds in general, however.

    • There is a specific SW: Pathfinder core book that mimics the general archetypes and mechanics of Pathfinder with the SW system. I have to admit I don’t know Pathfinder well at all. But it does seem to be pretty effective at laying out some of the same mechanics with a light system, albeit without the ton of customization options that I understand Pathfinder is all about.

  3. Hi Denis,

    do you think that you could find other ways to see if the group is compatible with the new players?

    Be careful, I’m not expressing a moral evaluation on the procedure the group is using. I’m rather asking if you think there is another way to check the player’s compatibility without such form of gate-keeping. If I’d been the player playing the NPC as a probation, I would have been bored by this part of the table’s social contract. I’m looking for a more egalitarian way to make such evaluation.

    I mean, if you are looking for a new musician, you play together and then decide whether to continue and form a band. You don’t stand there and just help sometimes.

    • To be clear, I’m not the GM of that game. I was the player having to play an NPC for 3 sessions before joining full-time. (Perhaps it was clear, perhaps it wasn’t.)

      I don’t run a process like this for my own table as a GM. So I do think there is another way to do it. I generally ask a few questions. And often I’ll do a quick 5 minute call to make sure the way we play is interesting to the player. I have sometimes been disappointed in the player (and vice versa I’m sure).
      But not often. Each method has pros and cons I guess.

      I was completely warned that this would be the procedure as I expressed interest in that table, and decided to go along with it. It didn’t bother me at all. The NPC I played for a couple of sessions wasn’t my favorite character. But I got a feel for the game and the table. And then I was happy to create one that worked well for me, committing to a campaign and a group that I knew was going to be fun for me.

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