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Better Late than Never: A Long Overdue Review of Savage Worlds Deluxe

Given how many new RPGs and supplements are published in any given year, it’s far too easy to overlook reviewing a system that has a profound effect on the RPG community. But it’s never too late to go back and take a look at a product line that should have been featured here.

Given how many new RPGs and supplements are published in any given year, it’s far too easy to overlook reviewing a system that has a profound effect on the RPG community. But it’s never too late to go back and take a look at a product line that should have been featured here.

Back in 2012 at GENCON, Savage World Deluxe won a Gold ENnie for Best Game of the Year, and the system had been lauded with a GAMA Award a few years before then. Over the years, many small press publishers have created a wide range of products under the Savage World license, touching on nearly every RPG genre imaginable.

With Pinnacle Entertainment Group’s recent release of two new Savage World CompanionsScience Fiction and Super Powers – and it’s relevance to the RPG community, a review of Savage World Deluxe is long overdue on this EN World Review column.

[FYI – Check back next week for a review of PEG’s Savage World Companion: Science Fiction.]


Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer’s Edition

  • Creators: Shane Lacy Hensley, with Clint & Jodi Black, Matthew Cutter, John Goff, Joel Kinstle, Piotr Koryś, Jordan Peacock, Teller, and Simon Lucas
  • Illustrations: Cheyenne Wright (cover & graphics); Joewie Aderes, Chris Appel, Nate Bell, Leanne Buckley, Richard Clark, Storn Cook, Lecuona Esnaola, Bartłomiej Fedyczak, Gil Formosa, Carl Frank, Jesus Garcia, Andy Hopp, Emmo Huang, Jon Joseba, Tomek Jedruszek, Todd Lockwood, Chris Malidore, Carlos NCT, Magdalena Izabela Partyka, Jordan Peacock, Marta Poludnikiewicz, Daniel Rudnicki, Christophe Swal, Tomasz Tworek, and Cheyenne Wright (interior)
  • Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment Group
  • Year: 2012
  • Media: PDF (194 pages)
  • Price: $9.99 (Available for purchase from RPGNow.com)

Savage World Deluxe is a “generic” role-playing game system, designed to allow GMs and players to utilize any genre and campaign setting of their choosing. The Deluxe rulebook comes complete with rules for character generation and advancement, including races, skills, edges, hindrances, and powers, along with a wide offering of Gear for fantasy, science fiction, and modern settings. Complete rules for game play and combat are provided here, which include rules for hazards, mass battles, social conflict, and vehicular combat. For the GM, Savage Worlds Deluxe offers tips on game mastering the system, writing adventures, and creating world settings. There is also a Bestiary of creatures, both natural and supernatural, and a collection of five sample adventures from five different genres.


Production Quality

The production quality of Savage Worlds Deluxe is excellent, providing both exceptional writing and a solid layout of the contents of the book. The writing style is engaging, and the contents are imparted to the reader in an enthusiastic tone – one can certainly feel the excitement the authors feel about this product. The font style is easy to read, and the designers use white lettering on bold blood-red boxes is used to separate sections and introduce chapters.

The PDF is well organized, possessing a set of PDF bookmarks, a table of contents, and an index. All these navigational resources are page linked, so that the reader is a click away from finding the rule or section they need. Special text, such as design notes and tips, is simply done in italics text under a bold section bar, which can get a little lost sometimes amid the rest of page text.

The PDF is both printer-friendly and fully enhanced – at the same time! With a simple click in Acrobat, background images are hidden to allow for printing, and it can be displayed to allow multiple pages per sheet to conserve paper.

The artwork and illustrations in Savage World Deluxe is frankly spectacular. The cover, while certainly excellent, is a bit understated when compared to the collection of full color illustrations and diagrams found inside Savage Worlds Deluxe. Like the game system itself, the images cover a multitude of genres, from pulp adventure to heroic fantasy. And the Bestiary section even include “pog” images with each monster, which could be printed and cut out for use at the table.


Fast and Furious

“Fast and furious” are two words tossed liberally throughout the entirety of the Savage World Deluxe rules, and seems to form the motto of this generic RPG system. Certainly, the goals set by the designers was to create an RPG that resolves combats and situations quickly, without interfering with role-playing, and can be adapted to limitless genres – and they have appeared to have succeeded here, and then some!

The Savage Worlds Deluxe rulebook is divided into seven chapters, with an introductory section, and three sections containing the sample adventures, templates for AoE effects, and a collection of charts and table to have handy at the gaming table.

The Introduction sets off with a discussion of the changes in this latest rule edition, along with a list of items needed to play the game. There’s a section explaining the concept of Plot Point Campaigns, the Savage Tales adventure products, and suggestions about using PEG’s settings (such as Deadlands and Space: 1889), Companions, and accessories. It’s a rather unabashed promo plug for Savage World products, but it does demonstrate the wide range of genres already available for use, and the support Pinnacle Entertainment Group has for its SW gamers.

Chapter 1 is entirely devoted to Character Creation, although it should be noted that Powers – whether magic or super or something else altogether – is not discussed until Chapter 5. This section takes players step-by-step through the character creation process, and provides some hero archetypes and races from various genres for quicker generation.

For those unfamiliar with Savage World Deluxe rules, the process of character creation is actually quite streamlined. The player picks a Race, spends 5 points raising their five Attributes, 15 more points buying Skills, calculates four Derived Statistics (such as Parry and Toughness), selecting a balance of a few Edges and Hindrances (think perks and disadvantages here), and some starting Gear. Of course, the Races, Gear, and some of the Edges and Hindrances are subject to the genre of the campaign, but examples are provided of several different types, along with rules for the GM to use in making a new Race for a setting.

Attribute and Skills, collectively called Traits, use a single dice to represent their power level, ranging from d4 to d20. Some Races, Edges, and Hindrances modify these power levels, as well as provide other abilities such as Low Light Vision (negates Dim and Dark lighting modifiers) for Dwarves, or the Bruiser Edge which grants a d8 instead of a d6 for hand-to-hand damage. The Skill list has about 23 different skills and covers just about every skill common to all adventure genres. Skill checks for most skills have a target number of 4 before any situational modifiers, so bigger dice mean quite a lot.

This chapter also includes rules on Advancement of characters, which is handled through experience points spent to increase traits or buy new ones, or even add new Edges. Player-characters gain 1 to 3 experience points per session depending on how much they accomplish, and aggregate experience gained increases the Rank of the characters, from Novice to Legendary over a course of five stages. Increased Rank grants access to more powerful Edges, and usually additional goods, services, and gear as decided by the GM for a setting.

In Chapter 2, there are lists of Gear available ranging from armor and weapons to vehicles and mundane items. Most of the equipment is designed for the pulp adventure to modern settings, but there is a solid list of basic medieval fantasy gear, and a smattering of futuristic items. More detailed lists of items seem to appear in the Companion books, such as the Science Fiction Companion – which will be reviewed next week.

Chapters 3 and 4
cover the rules of playing the game (Game Rules and Situational Rules), and is written to be read and understood by both the players and the GM. Player-Characters and certain evil villains or boss monsters are called Wildcards, and get to roll a d6 along with any trait test or attack roll. This Wild die roll can be selected if higher than the trait die roll, giving a little extra advantage in outcomes. Dice can also Ace if they roll a maximum result, and can be re-rolled again with the second result being added to the first. Characters also have three Bennies per session which can be spent to get a re-roll, or to absorb a wound. Bennies can be awarded each session by the GM for great moments of role-play or other actions – and it should be noted that Wildcard NPC villains also have Bennies too. Unconsciousness and dying occurs for Wildcards after three wounds are taken, and all other creatures (Extras) are taken out of combat after a single wound. These two chapters also include rules for handling healing, chase scenes, hazards, mass battles, and other important concerns when running a campaign setting. A final interesting note is that a standard deck of cards, with jokers, is used for initiative and turn order. Dealt each round to the players and the GM, they are counted down from an ace to a two, with jokers allowing for initiative whenever the player or GM so chooses.

Chapter 5
is devoted to Powers in Savage Worlds, and there are around 50 different powers to choose from in the game. Characters must take an Arcane Background Edge to be eligible to use powers, which can range from Magic and Miracles to Psionics and Superpowers. Each offers a number of Power Points which are spent to activate and charge powers up, a starting number of powers, and determines the Arcane Skill used to activate them. Power points regenerate over time. Several Arcane Backgrounds have a disadvantage for rolling a 1 on their skill die, such as magical backlash for wizards or brainburn for psychics. The powers listed in this section are generically designed to fit into many different genres, and Trappings (Acid, Darkness, Heat, etc.) can be added to make a power like Bolt varied in different settings.

The GM is given a wide range of Game Mastering tips in Chapter 6, including getting the player-characters together, handling friction at the gaming table, and just generally running a game of Savage Worlds. The section on creating worlds has some very nice world-building advice in it, although it does give an “elevator pitch” for using one of PEG’s stock game settings.

The Bestiary in Chapter 7 covers a good selection of monsters and animals one would expect to run across in a fantasy or modern setting. Bears, dragons, lions, orcs, snakes, vampires and many more creatures are all here for use with the Savage World system. And there are rules included to allow monsters to be modified or to be created as needed, and a long list of monstrous abilities they might possess.

The rulebook concludes with five adventures for the GM to use with new characters, along with a selection of handy charts which can be printed on four sheets. The adventures include a horror-detective story, a Viking adventure, a space opera horror situation, a high fantasy battle, and a crime drama.


Overall Score
: 4.5 out of 5.0


Conclusions


Savage Worlds Deluxe
is a remarkable generic role-playing game system, and really emphasizes the importance of keeping an RPG “Fast! Furious! Fun!” as their motto recommends. The character generation system, skill resolution, and combat system are easy to understand and quick to learn, yet have a decent level of complexity once the players and GM get to know it well. The rulebook for Savage Worlds Deluxe is very complete, covers a lot of rule situations, and still works for almost any genre one could think to use in a role-playing game. The artwork and illustrations are gorgeous and inspiring, and the writing style projects a sense of fun while explaining the mechanics of the game.

Savage Worlds Deluxe
is well worth considering for almost any GM or gaming group looking for a system which can fit both their style of play and the setting of their choice. The price for the PDF rulebook is dirt cheap considering the amount of content and gaming material found in this generic RPG product.

Editorial Note: This Reviewer received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which this review was written.

Next Week's Review:
Savage World Companion: Science Fiction.

Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

  • Presentation: 4.5
  • - Design: 4.5 (Fantastic writing; lovely layout; amazing navigation options in the PDF)
  • - Illustrations: 4.5 (Very good cover; exceptional interior art and illustrations!)
  • Content: 4.0
  • - Crunch: 4.5 (Great generic system; solid rules covering nearly every RP situation)
  • - Fluff: 3.5 (Decently fluffy; more of a rules book than a setting book)
  • Value: 5.0 (It’s a steal – go buy it!)
 

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amerigoV

Guest
Great review!

A couple of items:

Attribute and Skills, collectively called Traits, use a single dice to represent their power level, ranging from d4 to d20.

Traits go from untrained (d4-2) to d12+2 for most normal characters and races. The d20 is only used in Really Bad Situations (Fear table result). The d20 is not used for Trait checks.


Also, the newer frameworks such as Dramatic Challenge and Social Conflict are great additions to the existing Mass Battle Rules and the revamped Chase Rules. They are great as they are, but their underpinnings are similar such that you can mix and match them together to really make a memorable scene. Last night I had two Dramatic Challenges going on at once (the PCs trying to free their crew before the crew drown while the evil Warlock was trying to complete some evil ceremony), and using aspects of the Mass Battle rule as PCs decide where to lend their weight (free the crew or stop the ceremony). Then, when the BBEG place collapsed because of the failed ritual, I broke out the Chase Rules to see if they made it out alive (close!).

These really help create some fun story/narrative scenes since they are more abstract - more of a framework - instead of just having figs on the table doing normal combat.
 

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