Savage Worlds is a universal role-playing game system published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. The purpose of the system is to provide a unified mechanic for fast-paced game play and a relative lack of preparation compared to most other systems at the expense of realism. This is in direct contrast to games such as GURPS, which focus on detail and simulationism. The current version of the game is the Deluxe Edition, which costs about $30. However, a "perfect paperback" version of the core rulebook exists, which is basically the core book but physically smaller. It's $10. Seriously, 10 bucks for the core rulebook, and its under 200 pages no less. Unheard of, right?
A "test drive" version of the rules is available for free. The Savage Worlds community is well known for its abundance of free material as well as setting and system conversions.
Why would I play this?
The system is designed for fast task resolution, including fast combat. The fights aren't slugfests to see who runs out of hitpoints first. The free rules are enough to get a generic game going, and there are metric shitloads of free scenarios and splatbooks being published. A fair chunk of the free stuff is actually meaty, not the usual "let the DM fill in the details" crap.
It's a very easy system to 'pick up and go' with; many generic profiles for enemies, weapons, and vehicles can be tweaked very slightly on-the-fly to give them a unique feel and shoehorn them into the setting. This goes without saying as reducing the illusion of complexity, for those who are into that sort of thing, but the trade off is worth it for those looking for a more 'cinematic' game.
People are converting so many settings to Savage Worlds. They won't be as detailed as GURPS splatbooks, but you probably don't need the level of detail that GURPS provides anyways.
Characters have Traits, derived Stats, Edges/Hindrances, Gear, and Bennies. If you're playing a game with supernatural events, characters may also have Powers (whether they are magic, psionic, weird-science or divine miracles is fluff; supernatural Powers have the same mechanics).
Traits come in two types: Attributes, which everyone has, and Skills, which only some characters have. Traits are rated by the size of a single die used for rolls when testing that trait: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12. d6 is considered average. If a character is attempting to use a Skill they do not have training in, they roll d4-2. If a character is made from scratch, a point-buy system is employed: Attributes start at a d4, and players get as many points as there are Attributes to spend. Each point must be spent to raise an Attribute Trait one step to the next die size. (ie. 2 points would raise d4 to d8). Similarly, the player gets 15 points (or 3* # of Attribute Traits?) to purchase Skill Traits -- the first point raises (or 'trains') the skill to d4.
Attribute Traits for most plot points are Agility, Smarts, Strength, Spirit, and Vigor. Skill Traits are too numerous to list here, and will change depending on the setting. Derived stats do not have points assigned to them, but are calculated based on the character's existing Attribute and Skill distribution. They are Charisma (positive or negative modifiers to an NPC's arbitrary disposition towards you), Pace (12 yards/turn by default), Parry (2 + 1/2 of Fighting skill, for a total of 2 if you a character doesn’t have ranks in Fighting), Toughness (2 + 1/2 of Vigor attribute + armour bonuses). Setting books may also add another derived stat to characters, such as 'faith', 'grit' or 'honour'.
Edges and Hindrances are what other systems would call merits & flaws. They give the character advantages and disadvantages, which often pertain to how the character is portrayed and are not always numeric modifiers. Normal Human player characters get one free Edge, and may take two minor Hindrances and a major. Minor Hindrances may be 'cashed' for extra starting funds or an extra skill point; two minor Hindrances or one major Hindrance can purchase an Attribute point, or an additional Edge.
Examples of Edges and Hindrances include being illiterate, attractive, more difficult to wound, or dramatically heroic, though there are many more.
Gear is starting equipment. Characters start with $500 in the setting's currency by default, and equipment lists are in the setting handbook as well as the main rulebook. Equipped Gear can alter a character's derived stats; ie: a shield to improve Parry, or a kevlar vest to improve Toughness. It also includes incidental items, such as flashlights or torches, rope, and other useful adventuring ephemera.
Bennies, short for benefits, are hero points. Each player gets three at the start of each session, and they can be used to re-roll any skill or attribute roll, attempt to quickly recover from wounds, or use very specific advantages from Edges. Each important NPC also gets two bennies at the start of a session, and all the NPCs get a pool of (# of players) bennies to draw from. Bennies cannot be saved for the next session, although they may be spent at the end of a session to get an opportunity for more experience.
A trait die (either an Attributes or a Skill) is rolled to determine the outcome of character actions and interactions in the game. If asked to roll a skill your character doesn't have, roll d4-2. Player characters and important NPCs (called "Wild Cards" and marked in scenarios as such with a macabre jester icon) will roll an extra d6 for Trait tests; this "wild die" can be used instead if it has a better outcome. The trait die and the wild die can also explode; called "Acing" in Savage Worlds.
Usually the die is rolled against a target number of 4 (i.e. 4-6 is success on the wild die). If the roll equals or exceeds the target number, the action succeeds; otherwise it fails. A '1' on the trait die may, depending on the trait used, result in negative effects, and a '1' on both the trait and Wild Die is a critical failure, per the GM. If the result exceeds the target number by 4 (i.e., rolling 8 or better in a typical test), it is called a 'raise' and may have additional positive effects. A roll may be raised multiple times, for each multiple of four it is exceeded by.
Combat initiative is determined by a dealing from a standard deck of playing cards (with two jokers). Each character and important NPC receives one card; mooks use the card dealt to their leader, or get one card for the entire group. Characters act in sequence according to the fall of the cards from highest (ace) to lowest (deuce). Ties are broken by suit: first spades, then hearts, diamonds, clubs. A character can "hold" their action, waiting to act after anyone else, or even interrupt someone if they succeed in an Agility contest. A joker card allows that character to act at any time during the round, interrupting without needing a test, and giving bonuses on rolls during their turn. The deck is shuffled at the end of every round in which a joker card was seen.
Characters in Savage Worlds don't have "hit points" that must be eroded to defeat the opponent. Instead, a contest is made against the target's Toughness stat. In the case of mortal combat, on a successful attack the attacker would roll the weapon's damage dice versus the target's Toughness as the target number. A success means the target has the "Shaken" status. Characters (and groups of mooks) that are "Shaken" can take no action other than moving at half-speed and attempting to recover by rolling Spirit trait (default target number of 4). Getting hit again while "Shaken" will incapacitate mooks and wound important characters. Each raise on the damage roll will instantly wound (or kill a mook), as well as Shaking the target. Important "wild card" characters suffer a -1 penalty to all rolls for each wound, up to -3. The next wound after that incapacitates them and they're removed from the fight. "Wild card" characters can try to avoid being wounded by spending a benny to make a 'Soak Roll' (Vigor trait test), with each success and subsequent raise dismissing a wound.
Pinnacle Entertainment releases periodic 'Plot Point' books that contain all of their official game settings, in addition to other game materials like GM screens, custom bennies, and adventure cards. The Plot Points cover various standard genres, though usually with some twist; 'Space 1889: Red Sands', for example, is a turn-of-the-century-era adventure that takes place on Mars. Most setting books now follow the hardback form factor of the Deluxe Edition rulebook, and retail for $20 - $30.
Reaper Miniatures now also makes an officially-sanctioned line of Savage Worlds-esque figures in the 28mm scale, though they seem to have a penchant for the Deadlands theme.
Games Using the Savage Worlds System
- Monster Hunter International Roleplaying Game (second version)
- Pirates of the Spanish Main
- The Sixth Gun Role-Playing Game
- Space 1889: Red Sands
- Official site
- Triple Ace Games, Spin-off company started by former Pinnacle employees.
- Test-Drive Rules
- Savage Heroes (Fansite, central hub of conversions and free material)
- Savagepedia (Community wiki)