So here is the long awaited (or not) second part of my Savage Worlds appreciation posts. This one started out as a section of part 1 that I wanted to wait to write until we could play a little more with a group of characters of mixed experience levels. We've now gotten several sessions in that way and I feel ready to write about it.
The short answer: Having characters of (wildly) varying experience levels works just as well as I'd originally hoped it would! I'm not terribly surprised by this of course. In our last Savage Worlds game (set in Ancient Greece) we had several low level NPC followers who don't even get the advantage of a wild die (PC's and major NPC's usually get to roll a d6 in addition to whatever other die they're rolling and take the higher of the two results) who were nearly as effective in combat as the PC's. If they can be just as helpful as high level PC's it's no surprise that low and high level PC's can coexist together in battle and other situations just fine.
We've had a few close calls (the GM is pulling no punches just because the group is now composed mostly of lower level characters), but we've all pulled through battles and it hasn't felt like anyone was totally out of their league at any point (and most of those close calls have involved players doing things that'd probably be crazy no matter what character they were using). The game is working just as well now as it did when the group was made up of much more experienced characters.
This is not to say that there's no reason to gain experience. Higher level characters have a lot of cool options and can get pretty good at different tasks, and are just generally a more powerful. But they aren't SO MUCH more powerful as to make it unfun for anyone else playing with them.
What this also means is that experience points can be given out to the players who are at any given session and there's no real need to worry about those that missed sessions falling behind. Falling behind on experience and levels just isn't that big a deal in this system. There's still an incentive to gain XP and to gain new abilities and such, the draw of getting better at things is still there, but you aren't going to break the game or leave anyone totally out of their depth by not awarding experience to everyone equally. If someone new joins the group there's no need to have them roll up a higher level character just to "keep up" with everyone else. This is especially good for folks who are new to the game system as they can start with simpler characters and learn the basics before jumping into a character with a lot of extra options.
As always this system continues to impress me the more I play it.
That being said, we've had some good interlude sessions (in the same world but using different characters) using different systems that I'll talk about soon.
-The Duke of Brandonshire