The Joy of Savage Worlds
I should probably get this out pretty soon: I love all sorts of game systems, but there is one that I consistently turn back to: Savage Worlds. It’s certainly the game system that I’ve spent the most money on and I am constantly amazed by its simplicity and expandability.
One of the great things about Savage Worlds is that it isn’t tied to one sort of genre. Instead, it can be used for anything, from Pulp to Sci-fi, Fantasy to Supers, Westerns to Cyberpunk. Generally it favors cinematic action and it tagline is that the system is “Fast! Furious! Fun!” Personally, I’ve run it with pulp, pirates, zombies, Stargate SG-1, Deadlands (a western/horror setting), and Necessary Evil (a supers setting). In fact, there are only a handful of settings that I think wouldn’t work for Savage Worlds (someday I’ll write about that).
Pinnacle Entertainment Group calls Savage Worlds a “core system” rather than a universal system. The idea is that anybody running Savage Worlds will need a copy of the core rulebook. The current version is the Savage Worlds: Explorer’s Edition, although Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition should be coming out in the coming months, which has more explanations of the rules and a few minor changes.
The biggest strength is that combat works well and is fast. Initiative is done by dealing out playing cards each round and going from high to low. Combatants are generally divided into “Extras” (the generic mooks who are there to be cannon fodder) and “Wild Cards” (the people who are important enough to have a name). All the players are Wild Cards, as are the big villains, and they are more competent than the Extras. Combat also scales well for many combatants: I’ve had characters raid a Home Depot with 30 zombies without it bogging down badly.
Many officially published scenarios or settings add new setting rules, gear, Edges, or Hindrances to better express the setting, but additional material from one setting is usually not intended to be combined with another. Most of the time though, the core stuff is good enough. For the Stargate SG-1 conversion I wrote, I only added 2 new edges and 2 new races. The rest was already sufficiently covered in the rules. The only thing I really needed to do was create the gear, which took me about an hour to stat out all the weapons and gear from SG-1 and Atlantis!
One of the greatest things about Savage Worlds is that it not only covers standard combat, but also includes rules for magic, vehicles, chase scenes, and even mass battles. Rather than having a rule for everything, its intention is to create enough rules to provide a strong groundwork that is fairly realistic and relying on the GMs to handle the rest. The rules are streamlined to allow for quick and easy gameplay.
At the risk of sounding like a salesman, I’m going to point out that the best thing about Savage Worlds is probably its value: Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition is a mere $9.99! An entire system, able to cover most settings, and containing rules for combat, magic, vehicles, chases, and mass battles, all for less than a meal at Applebees! I’ll admit that the price was the thing that hooked me first. And at that price, why not give it a try?
Savage Worlds isn’t perfect (another blog post topic for another day), and I don’t think that it’s the “system to rule them all.” But it does what it plans to do very well. I use it a lot and plan to talk about my experiences with it frequently here on this blog.