Designer: Shane Lacey Hensley
Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Category: Universal Rule Set
Mechanics: Dice, Cards
In Brief: Why choose a new and relatively unknown Role Playing system when the likes of Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition is newly released with expansions galore and excellent production quality. Does Savage Worlds have what it takes to compete?
RPGs are many and varied, however most of these games run on a few basic systems - D20 / Dungeons and Dragons, GURPS, Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer Role-Play etc. Most of these systems have been around for a long time, they are tried and tested and in many ways it is hard to see why there is any need for another set of rulebooks sitting on the shelves.
Savage Worlds was first released in 2003 and has since been re-released as a 2nd Edition. The core rules come in a softback, perfect bound, full colour book called the Explorer's Edition. The book is 160 pages, slightly bigger than A5, making it really portable and ensures it sticks to the essentials. This simplicity is just what Savage Worlds is about. This system doesn't bother with the reams of skills, feats, spells and enemy data that is seen in other systems. Instead, 5 attributes (Agility, Smarts, Vigour, Spirit & Strength) a few, well thought out Skills, edges (similar to feats) and hinderances serve to provide all the variety that a vastly more complex system provide. An example of this increased simplicity is 'Driving'. This one skill is a catch all for any vehicle common to the setting, more obscure vehicles will have a modifier applied.
Enemies too are dealt with in a different manner with all but the 'boss' equivalent having only 1 damage and very basic stats. Stats are dealt with using the standard range of dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and sometimes d20) everything runs off a 4+ pass so if you are a better fighter you will still be trying to get a 4 to hit, but you will be rolling a d10 or d12 rather than a d4 that a physically weaker person would role. On top of this, in most situations Player Characters get an additional d6 to represent the 'heroic factor'. Heroes and major villains also get to use Bennies, these can be spent to re-roll dice, dodge hits and the like.
These rules are perfect for those GMs that like to fly by the seat of their pants - most of the rules, modifiers and similar aren't explicitly stated, instead a few examples are provided to give the GM a guide to make their own adjustments. GMs also have the ability to provide additional Bennies to reward good roleplay / creative thinking or whatever else takes their fancy. This freedom is also great when there is a rules lawyer in your group that is willing to bring the game to a screeching halt because the modifier that you have used is one different to how he remembers it being written in this or that supplement to the rules... leading to a long break in play as the rules lawyer checks everything to make absolutely sure. Having got a good grounding in the system, prep time for a session is massively reduced as there is very little reference to other sources needed. Also if you use pre-made campaigns such as those wirtten by Triple Ace Games, a single read-through is all the prep work needed.
Savage Worlds is a rules set designed for fast and fun play, it won't give you the most realistic play, something like Paranoia wouldn't work using these rules. If you are looking to have a cinematic or pulp experience, no matter what setting, this is the ideal rule set. The added GM control is also perfect for newer GMs as there is no need to worry about not knowing all the intricacies of the rules - there aren't any!