Savage Worlds Primer: Part 1

Many of you come here for our general content and have asked about this Savage Worlds thing we go on about. We want to tell you, not just because of our love for the game, but also because we intend to make our fortunes selling games based on Savage Worlds.

So, what is Savage Worlds?

Most RPG rules systems are slow to play and require bookkeeping. These aren’t problems until your get older and have limited free time. So the fine folks at Pinnacle Entertainment Group set out to build an elegant rule system that required little work to adapt to various games, was easy to understand, and that played very quickly at the table. The result was Savage Worlds. The slogan? FAST. FURIOUS. FUN.

Removing the Barriers to Entry

The core rulebook, Savage Worlds: Explorer’s Edition, costs $9.99, is 160 pages long, and is the only book you need to play. It contains all the rules, has a section on Game Mastering, and provides guidance for translating any game or setting over to Savage Worlds. For the cost of a single D&D Player’s Handbook, I have purchased four copies of Savage Worlds and freely given them away to interested players.

For those who want more, there are a variety of tool-kits or companions for playing particular styles of game, such as fantasy or superheroes. There are also a number of first and third party settings that cover a range of play styles, from the wild west of Deadlands, to the 30′s serial science fiction of Slipstream. Most settings come with a complete campaign to introduce the world so that groups can hit the ground running.

A Core System to be Built Upon

The Explorer’s Edition book is a core system. It’s usable for many a game without additional rules, but it’s meant to be tweaked and added to for individual settings. The book gives advice to help you do this, but the best resource for creating your own rules is the Pinnacle Web Forums. These people are friendly and helpful.

The Core Mechanics

In order to show you the basics of the game, and how it’s different from most systems, here are the core rules:

  • Each character has a set of attributes and skills, rated from d4 to d12. To use a skill, you simply roll the associated die; roll 4 or higher and you succeed, and for every multiple of 4 above you get a raise, improving the result. There are occasional modifiers to a roll, but they are kept to a minimum.
  • Combat initiative is handled by dealing from a deck of playing cards, counting down from highest to lowest, making it easy to see a player’s initiative from across the table.
  • To remove bookkeeping, players don’t track hit points, but instead take wounds for each raise on a successful attack. A player can take up to three wounds and remain conscious. A fourth renders them incapacitated.

What is this good for?

Savage Worlds is not the end all, be all of roleplaying, but it’s good for many things. Obviously, if you don’t have a lot of prep time, and gaming time is precious to you, than this is your game. But it’s also fantastic for home-brew games, where building a complex rule system isn’t worth the time and effort. Similarly, it’s great for groups who want to try out many different games, but don’t want to learn new rules every time.

The fast nature of the rules makes it a breeze to run larger combats with dozens of characters, or to play games with a large number of players.

Lastly, it’s a game worth trying out simply because it’s fun. This part is difficult to get across just reading the rules. You have to see the system in action to understand how it plays differently at the table than anything you’ve previously tried.

Getting Started

Before you even buy the Savage Worlds: Explorer’s Edition, head on over to the Pinnacle Downloads page and grab a copy of the Test Drive Rules, as well as the Training Wheels Character Sheet and the Combat Survival Guide. When you do buy the book, keep the survival guide around, as it’s an invaluable tool.

Have we convinced you to at least give it a look? Check out the Playtest Rules and let us know what you think in the comments! For more information check out our Part 2 of this primer.

Savage Worlds Primer Articles