Back in 1980, Chaosium published Basic Role–Playing (BRP), the first “generic” role-playing game. Six years later, Steve Jackson Games released the Generic Universal Role-Playing System (GURPS), which would popularize the idea of having a single system designed to be independent of setting and genre, allowing players to have “one game to rule them all”. Since then, several other generic systems have made their way onto the market: Grey Ghost Press’ FUDGE, Eden Studios’ Unisystem, and the subject of today’s recommendation, Pinnacle Entertainment Group’s Savage Worlds.
Savage Worlds is a role-playing game designed by Shane Lacy Hensley and loosely based upon the system used in his previous western game, Deadlands. Savage Worlds, like other generic games, is designed to be used with a myriad of different settings and genres. However, the game also emphasizes speed of play and reduced preparation over realism and simulationist play. Savage World‘s tagline is “Fast! Furious! Fun!” and I believe it delivers on that promise in droves.
Unlike 13th Age or Dungeons & Dragons, Savage Worlds doesn’t use a class-based system. Instead, players build their characters from the ground up by spending several points to generate their traits and skills. Because characters aren’t limited to belonging to a constructed archetype or class, players can what they want and make sure the final version of the character remains true to the original vision they had within their head.
Savage Worlds also utilizes several different sizes of dice instead of the numerical scores most other games use. This means your character has a d8 in their Strength trait instead of a 14 and a d10. This might seem like a minor, slightly weird change, but I feel like it’s the main reason why Savage Worlds is fast, furious, and fun.
When someone attempts to do something within the game, they will roll the die associated with the appropriate trait or skill and an additional d6 called a “wild die”. The player keeps the die with the higher result and if that result is equal to or higher than a 4, they succeed at the task. That basic resolution system represents a majority of the game’s mechanics, keeping things simple and to the point.
Because the game utilizes that basic idea for the majority of its mechanics, the Game Master has more freedom at the table, not worrying if they’re forgetting a minor rule that’s hidden somewhere within a massive rulebook. Instead, this task resolution system allows the GM to simply have the players roll a dice and see where it falls, keeping the game going and moving at a brisk pace. While combat changes this somewhat, but the fact that the dice explode if they land on their maximum result and allow you to roll them again, adding all the results together keep the changes introduced within that corner of the rules under control.
Savage Worlds’ system really is lightweight and flexible, making it relatively easy to modifier and twist to work with the specific genre and idea you want to use. Want to run a superhero game set in an alternate, steampunk version of the 1800s? You can do it with Savage Worlds. How about a science fiction game set within a galaxy reminiscent of Flash Gordon and the serials of yesteryear? Savage Worlds is got you covered. What about a horror campaign set in a small college located just outside a small Texas town? That’s a piece of cake with Savage Worlds.
There’s a reason why Savage Worlds is quickly becoming one of the most popular generic role-playing games on the market. It’s fun, flexible, and simple. The fact that the rulebook (Deluxe Edition) packs so much content into a small page count and can be had at a relatively cheap price is just icing on the cake. Get your hands on Savage Worlds today. You won’t regret it.