How to Find Out Stuff in Savage Worlds

Mitten Gauntlet for the Left Hand c. 1563During last night’s Savage World’s game session, there was a bit of confusion about how to figure out the special power of a gauntlet once worn by a Legendary Wild Card (and now wielded by one of our Novice adventurers). We were pretty sure the item was magical — but without actually testing it out fifty different ways, was there a way to figure out what it did?

This is a good opportunity to go over how the rules work for finding out information in Savage Worlds. The rules are flexible enough to allow different solutions for problems, depending on Skills and context.

How We Could Have Figured Out What the Gauntlet Did

Common Knowledge. Are adventurers in this fantasy land constantly digging up magical items and selling them on the open market? Are the legends surrounding the place where we found the gauntlet so famous that just about anyone from this area could have figured out the gauntlet’s heritage? Is some glow or magical effect coming from the gauntlet familiar to our adventuring party based on several encounters?

If so, maybe we could have tried a Common Knowledge roll with our Smarts with a standard success roll of 4 — maybe even a bonus if someone in the party had particularly specialized Knowledge (eg. Knowledge: Enchanted Items of Midgaard).

Unfortunately, none of those conditions seemed to apply (or at least, as Players, we weren’t aware of them) so stacked penalties of -2, -4 or worse from our varying levels of ignorance would probably not have made this a viable option. We didn’t even bother.

Smarts. Maybe. Smarts is partly an indication of a Player’s ability to problem-solve, not just an indication of their general knowledge level. It would seem to be up to the GM to allow this. But I’m a bit fuzzy on the logic here.

Is figuring out what a magical item does analagous to clicking a single button on a garage door clicker (while you are fortuitously right in front of the garage door) and seeing what happens? Or is it more like using a television remote control that has 68 different options, only five of which you actually might want to use — possibly having never before seen a television set? I lean towards the latter.

I also think that if Players are allowed to just roll Smarts to find out anything, what’s the point of even having specialized Knowledge Skills or a Detect Magic Power? Even a guy with a Smarts Skill of 12 shouldn’t be able to operate a nuclear power plant without special Knowledge Skills — I think the same reasoning ought to apply to a magical device. In other words, we can’t just use Smarts to figure everything out.

Notice. Actually, no. The Notice Skill is for hearing, spotting or otherwise detecting stuff. But we already knew where the gauntlet was. Our archer was wearing it. No dice.

Streetwise. This could only have worked if the following conditions applied:

  • We were in a town or some place with more people who were willing to chat with us instead of automatically attacking us on sight.
  • Someone (ideally, several people) in the town knew about the gauntlet and its special power, so we could talk the information out of them.
  • At least one character had the Streetwise Skill.

None of these conditions applied. Next.

Investigate. This could only have worked if…

  • We were in a library, archive or other location filled with records.
  • That place actually contained the right information (eg. The Library of Midgaard’s section on Enchanted Items).
  • At least one character had the Investigate Skill.

Foiled again.

Persuasion. This is a bit indirect. The Persuade Skill is usually used to get people to do things (eg. “Give me the gun” or “Help us put out that fire”), but it’s possible to persuade people to tell you things (ie. “Tell me what this enchanted gauntlet does”).

It is indirect, though. A successful roll only determines how friendly someone will be to you. A friendly NPC will be more inclined to give you information, but they may not actually have it. The GM decides what they can reveal.

There was no one else around who wanted to talk to us, so this wasn’t an option.

Intimidation. Normally we use this as a Trick to Shake opponents in battle or turn entire gangs of foes on their heels (by Intimidating their Wild Card leader), but we’ve also used it on occasion as an alternative to Streetwise (which, now that I’m looking in the rules, seems to be not exactly kosher. Oh well). Basically, you’re frightening someone into telling you what he knows.

There are other disadvantages with this approach. Just because someone is willing to tell you anything to save their skin doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re telling the truth. Also, they’re going to resent being Intimidated, so they’re going to try to sabotage you later on. They’re certainly not going to be friendly towards you.

Again, we were stumped. There were no people around to try a test of wills with except Undead… and you can’t Intimidate the Undead. Usually, it’s the other way around.

Detect Arcana. This Power would have been just what the doctor ordered. You can sense effects. Bam. Done.

Sadly, my Wizard character didn’t have this pretty basic spell.

Knowledge: Magical Gauntlets. Nobody but an NPC or a Pre-Generated Character that was essentially a walking plot-point spoiler for the campaign would ever even think to take this Skill. We didn’t… but boy, would that have been sweet.

How We Actually Figured Out What the Gauntlet Did

Our archer first tried shouting defiantly at a Lich while pointing his magical gauntlet at it, hoping magical bolts would blast out.

The Lich just laughed at him.

Next, the archer ran up to the Lich and punched him in the face with his covered hand. The GM gave the archer a +4 bonus to hit and damage for that strike — not enough to damage the Lich with his unarmed smack, but at least now we knew the gauntlet’s power. Next time, our archer tried shooting the Lich with an arrow, still getting a +4 bonus… which was aaaaalmost enough to actually damage the thing.

Sometimes you have to figure stuff out the hard way.

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