Savage Worlds Deluxe – Review

Advertised as “Fast! Furious! Fun!” the Savage Worlds tabletop RPG ruleset definitely takes a streamlined approach to the genre.

Player characters, as well as key enemies or NPCs, are viewed as “Wild Cards,” inherently stronger and more skilled than the average mook, who typically goes down quickly in a fight.  Improving characters and developing skills involves raising the level of the die they roll for tests – a low-level or unskilled character might roll 1D4 to sneak past a guard, for instance, while a high-level ninja might roll as high as 1D12.  The sense of progression gained by this system is solid, and relatively easy for newcomers to wrap their heads around.  Complications are added with “bennies,” rerolls awarded by the GM, and by “Wild Dice,” a backup D6 rolled during tests that gives players (and other Wild Cards) a cushion for a bad roll.

Combat brings a deck of cards into the mix as well, in order to govern initiative – higher cards drawn go first.  This system seems like an unnecessary complication, however, and the designers seem to acknowledge that, noting that dice-based initiative rules have been requested by players, but urging them to try cards instead.  Interestingly, combat does not use hit points as a measure of damage, but rather tests damage rolls against a character’s Toughness characteristic to see if damage occurs.  All Wild Card characters have only three wounds to work with before becoming “Incapacitated,” and unable to act.  The result is a system where every solid hit is a very significant event, and the direction in which a fight is going can change quickly depending on a roll.

The way the game handles superhuman powers is also worth noting.  Psychic powers, superpowers, magic and high technology are in many ways viewed as functionally interchangeable, with the power described by itself and the GM encouraged to roleplay it based on the setting – for instance a “Strength” spell, a suit of augmented power armor, a super-soldier serum or a magic ring of en-strengthening would all provide the same basic mechanical effect in-game. This is a very clever solution to the problem of accounting for numerous power types across different settings.

A lot of very interesting settings have been adapted for Savage Worlds, including Deadlands (supernatural Old West), Weird Wars (elements of the supernatural incorporated into the World Wars), Seven Worlds (a sci-fi setting) and the icebound fantasy world of Hellfrost.  Even the classic Rifts setting from Palladium Books has a new version, “Savage Rifts,” run within this ruleset (as opposed to the hilariously abusable D20 system it ran before).

Overall, this ruleset has a lot of potential for library programs due to its flexibility – it is easily adapted to other settings (though perhaps not as easily as the even more simplified Tiny Dungeon), letting GMs tailor a campaign to whatever their players want to see.

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