Full disclosure: Jodi Black at Pinnacle Entertainment Group was kind enough to send us a copy of the Savage Worlds: Adventure Edition quite some time ago. We dutifully dove into the book, eager to check out all of the whistles and bells to the new edition.
Then we rolled up some characters.
Then we played.
Then we got excited, and started adapting some of our favorite properties to Savage Worlds, like Robotech (we know this is already happening!), and Deadly Class. It all fits. We can play anything we want now…
…and that's how you end up six weeks late on a game review.
Savage Worlds: Adventure Edition is the latest iteration of the popular role-playing rules system pioneered by Shane Hensley in 2003, and greatly streamlines the entire game experience.
For those not in the know, Savage Worlds is a generic rules system that can be adapted to any setting, and pretty much any genre. Pinnacle Entertainment Group has published numerous settings for Savage Worlds, and expansions that help game masters adapt games into science fiction, fantasy, and horror systems.
It's frighteningly easy to adapt just about any idea into the Savage Worlds system, so if you wanted to create a game set in, say, Victorian England, but with robotic swordsmen that ride dinosaurs into battle against the machine hordes of the Mecha-Kaiser, you could do that without taxing your brain too much.
Oh, wait, gotta write that one down…
Characters have statistics, just like in the majority of role playing games. The major difference here, though, is that the better a character is with their statistic, the larger the die they will use for success rolls. The unmodified target number to succeed in most tasks is 4, so a character with a d8 in a certain attribute is far more likely to succeed in that roll than a character with a d6.
Player characters will also have Hindrances, Edges, and Traits that help flesh them out in play. Skills round out character creation, adding additional dice and modifiers to help characters succeed in trait or opposed rolls.
The game developers did away with the specific modifiers to die rolls from previous editions, and wisely implemented comprehensive modifiers that allow game masters to assess the overall situation, then add modifiers or penalties. This takes a lot of the "math" out of the game, and really adds to the overall efficiency of each game session!
Character creation is really involved and a lot of fun, and we lost a lot of time just coming up with cool new characters from a variety of settings. The weapon and equipment charts read easily, and it's not difficult to outfit unique and interesting characters.
One really unique element to Savage Worlds is the Exploding Die, which means that player characters and boss non-player characters get to re-roll any die that lands on its maximum number. The new roll is added to the score, and if the maximum number is rolled again, the character can roll yet again, and continue to add that number to the total. Every 4 numbers over the target number needed to succeed in the roll is a Raise, and each raise in the score adds bonuses to the successful action.
We're also big fans of the Bennie mechanic, which is a token or trinket awarded to players for good role playing. They can then cash in this "Bennie" to influence something that is happening in the game. This really helps players get into their characters, and pushes a much more dynamic game session!
Combat is easy to remember, and builds of of the Fast! Fun! Furious! Mandate established in previous editions of Savage Worlds. Once you factor in exploding dice and raises in your total score, combat resolution can be swift and brutal.
Setting rules vary from quick encounters to encounter specific details, allowing game masters plenty of room and assistance in creating adventure scenarios, no matter the setting.
The NPC section towards the end of the book is nicely detailed, and generic enough to fit most settings; after all, a zombie is a zombie is a zombie, regardless of the setting. Wild Card NPCs are easy to dress for your setting, and creating compelling NPC's is quick and easy.
There have been a few changes to this new edition of Savage Worlds, but they all appear to be for the better. The chase rules have been streamlined, as have the grappling rules. Clunky mechanics like Charisma have been removed, instead focusing traditional charisma based modifiers onto Edges like Attractive, which makes their use far more intuitive.
One of the biggest changes that we noticed was the amalgamation of the Climbing, Swimming, Grappling, and Throwing skills into the Athletics skill, which makes a lot of sense in practice.
The layout of Savage Worlds: Adventure Edition is easy to navigate, with great art, easy to understand examples, and rules that don't take a PHD to understand. There was also a clever idea to make most of the art focus on Red and Gabe, two characters that appear throughout the book in different settings, highlighting the versatility of the game system.
Overall, we're really impressed with the changes to Savage Worlds, and recommend it highly to anyone looking at getting into role-playing games, or to those of you who are looking for a fast, fun, and reliable RPG system that can fit any mold.
Savage Worlds: Adventure Edition is available in digital format from Pinnacle, where you can also find great supplemental settings like Eric Powell's The Goon, classic pulp sci-fi from Flash Gordon, wild-west horror from Deadlands, and so much more!
Now if you'll excuse us, the Mecha Kaiser awaits…