Savage Worlds: Exploring RPG Options Past the D&D Gateway

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As you play Dungeons & Dragons, several things will enter your thoughts. One of the more common among them is “I wonder if …” A lot of the time those if’s run along the lines of “can I play Star Wars with this?” or “can I do a sci-fi setting?” With any roleplaying game system you can put in some time, make some tweaks and you can do those things. That said, there are many generic RPG systems out there with a variety of source material. Savage Worlds from Pinnacle Entertainment Group is one such system

Pinnacle Savage Worlds RPG system

Savage Worlds of customization from Pinnacle

One of the most common is Rifts or Palladium. Since my last bookcase crumbled under the weight of those books, we’ll take a look at Savage Worlds instead. Savage Worlds is a favorite of mine and I own a few different “settings” we’ll call them. Savage Worlds is a generic RPG system published by Pinnacle. You can also find supplements from Modiphius, Sneak Attack Press, Void Star Games, and Gun Metal games. What is a generic roleplaying system? For those unfamiliar with this term, it means the core book gives you the basic mechanics and rules then you can do whatever you like. Pinnacle offers Test Drives for many of the settings, or quickstart rules for the variations on the Savage Worlds ruleset.

Once you read through the core book, which is small compared to other game systems, you can start thinking about what type of game you want to play. Savage Worlds has my different setting options. Flash Gordon, Rippers Resurrected, Fathom, Deadlands, Weird Wars, and Broken Earth are just some of the options. You can really find a setting for near everything. If you want to make your own setting there are supplements for the horror, sci-fi, superhero and fantasy genres as well. Most recently, the Kickstarter for Lankhmar Savage Seas of Nehwon funded, bringing the world of Fafhrd and the Gray Mousers to life at the gaming table.

Character creation

Pinnacle Savage Worlds RPG system
Savage Worlds gives players depth to create their characters and keep bookkeeping to a minimum for the GM. It’s fast and easy to set up, run, and play.

Character creation is fairly simple in Savage Worlds, though can seem intimidating if you’ve never played a similar system. There are five character stats — Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength and Vigor. Your stats are not represented with a number at this point, but a die. Each ability starts at a d4, and then you have 5 attribute points to increase them all the way up to a d12. Your starting stats cannot exceed a d12.

Skills are set up the same way except you have 15 points to put in but there is a bit of a twist in it. For your skills, they cost 1 point to increase up to the matching abilitiy’s current die, then 2 points beyond that. For example, if you have a d8 in Agility and want to raise Shooting which is a linked skill up to a d10, it’s 5 points — 1 point to buy the skill at d4, 1 for a d6, 1 for the d8 then 2 for the final jump to d10.

Race will vary based off of setting. Everyone is human but there are rules for other races. Charisma is 0 at the start, and everyone gets 1 Edge. An Edge is essentially a feat to compare it to the more standard D&D system. It lets you do something a bit unique. Pace is 6 unless a slower race or you have a hindrance. At creation a character can take up to 3 hindrances, 1 major and 2 minors. These are not mandatory but give you 4 bonus creation points. Creation points can be spent as follows: 2 points for an edge or ability increase, or 1 point for a skill increase or an addition amount of starting funds. Everyone also starts with $500 but that can change by edges or setting. Your Parry Skill is 2 + half your Fighting die, and Toughness is 2 plus half your Vigor die. There is more to character creation I’m not covering because they all have to do with what game setting is chosen. Everything listed above is standard across the board.

Gameplay and mechanics

The game is very fluid as far as mechanics go. Everything is resolved with a combination of ability die + skill die + wild die. The wild die is essentially your dumb luck die. For example, if you’re going to shoot something, Shooting + wild die and take the highest die rolls. So, if you rolled a 4, and 5, you would take the 5. If it were an Agility test, you would roll Agility + wild die and take the highest again. Every time you’re asked to do a check the Game Master has a Target Number that generally starts at 4 but can vary based of difficulty.

Initiative is also done a bit different as well. The primary way to do initiative in Savage Worlds is with a deck of cards that includes the jokers. The cards are dealt to players and GM alike. As a GM you can choose to have it go ace-king or 2-ace in terms of value. The suits gain priority in the following order spade, hearts, diamonds, and clubs, with spade being the highest and clubs the lowest. If a player draws a joker, they can take their turn whenever they want and receive a +2 to their tests that round.

There are a lot of mechanics I’m leaving out right now because they are optional. Between various settings, core book, and expanded rules there are probably 20+ optional mechanics you can use to customize your game. This includes rules for magic, chases, gun and sword duels, gambling, and much more. I’ll leave these for you to explore on your own.

Thoughts on the Savage Worlds system

Overall I really like the system and the settings I’ve gotten for it. I know many of you are thinking I left things out but that is the beauty of the system, everything is so customizable you can pick or choose whatever parts you like. They give you variant rules for any mechanic, settings are numerous and there are more ways to customize things than I can count. I strongly suggest people look into the system. Also, if you’re a Fantasy Grounds fan, they do have content for Savage Worlds as well. If you’re a fan of using miniatures, Reaper also does several Savage Worlds minis for Deadlands, Weird Wars and Rippers. Go out and find yourself a setting and the core book, you won’t regret it. Most of the core books can be found at Pinnacle, Paizo, or Drivethru RPG. If you add some Savage Worlds to your collection through DriveThruRPG remember to use Nerdarchy’s exclusive coupon code DTRPG-Nerdarchy for a one-time 10 percent discount on digital orders $10 or more. Enjoy and happy gaming.

* The article was updated on May 31, 2018 at 12:13 a.m. to correct information for accuracy.

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Follow James Leslie:

Tech Support at Sobeys Inc.

Long time RPG enthusiast, I first started with D&D back when I was 7, then jumped back into it again at 14 when I could understand what I was reading. I've tinkered as a story teller in many different game systems from Gurps, to Vampire, to most recently in Savage Worlds: Rippers Ressurected, though I've never forgotten my love for D&D.

4 Responses

  1. David Brideau
    | Reply

    Few corrections:

    1) In your example for character creation, raising Shooting to d10 with an Agility of d8 costs 5 points: 1 to buy the skill at d4, 1 for d6, 1 for d8, and 2 more to push to d10.

    2) All action rolls are Skill & Wild Die, or (more rarely) Attribute & Wild Die, and take the best one. You don’t roll Attribute & Skill & Wild Die guess unless some special rule calls for it.

    I love Savage Worlds and I’ve been playing for years – and I’m avidly anticipating the new edition coming out this year! So I’m glad you’re putting the spotlight on it.

    • Doug Vehovec
      | Reply

      Thank you! We’ll work on updating this for accuracy. We’ll also try to expand and include more games like Savage Worlds and others on our site. It is a huge help to get this kind of feedback!

  2. Jakub Osiejewski
    | Reply

    You don’t roll Agility+Shooting+Wild Die to shoot stuff, you only roll Shooting+Wild Die. You don’t combine Attributes and Skills in Savage Worlds, you roll Attributes when the rules say so (roll Spirit to become un-Shaken, for example). Attributes also limit Skills (increasing Shooting above Agility level costs double).

    • Doug Vehovec
      | Reply

      Thanks for reading and sharing your knowledge! It is definitely appreciated. We’ll work on updating this for accuracy.

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