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Grade the Savage Worlds System

How do you feel about the Savage Worlds game system?

  • I love it.

    Votes: 32 27.1%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 32 27.1%
  • It's alright I guess.

    Votes: 22 18.6%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 5 4.2%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 26 22.0%
  • I've never even heard of it.

    Votes: 1 0.8%


Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
Have you used the Savage Worlds game system? What did you think of it?

I've played a couple of games with it (the flagship game, Savage Worlds), and I think Critical Role did a miniseries for Deadlands that uses this rules system as well. (Don't look for it on their channels, though. It was taken down along with the rest of Brian Foster's content.) The intro in the Wikipedia article is a pretty good summary too, for those who might not be familiar:

Savage Worlds is a role-playing game written by Shane Lacy Hensley and published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. The game emphasizes speed of play and reduced preparation over realism or detail. The game received the 2003 Origin Gamers' Choice Award for best role-playing game
Although Savage Worlds is a generic rule system, Pinnacle has released "Savage Settings," campaign settings or modules designed specifically for the Savage Worlds rules. These have included Evernight, 50 Fathoms, Necessary Evil, Rippers, and Low Life. Pinnacle has also published setting books based on the company's earlier lines, including Deadlands: Reloaded as well as the Tour of Darkness, Necropolis, and Weird War II settings based on the Weird Wars line.
Beginning with 50 Fathoms, the majority of settings released by Pinnacle feature a concept known as a "Plot Point Campaign." In such campaigns, a series of loosely defined adventure scenarios are presented. A main storyline is presented as a series of "Plot Points" and additional side-quests (or "Savage Tales") expand the scope of the campaign. This format allows a group of characters to explore the game universe while playing through (or disregarding) the main storyline in a manner similar to that of role-playing video games.
As I've said before in the other threads, the D20 System is the undeniable favorite for tabletop RPGs today, but there are plenty of options out there for those who don't like D20 or might be looking for something different. It's certainly not the only game in town.

So! If you've played the Savage Worlds system, please let us know what you think of it, what you love or hate about it, and the kinds of games you run with it. And if you've never played it, what's keeping you from giving it a spin? Inquiring moogles want to know! I'll collect everyone's votes and give the system a "grade" from A+ to F.

Grade: B
Of those who voted, a single 1% hasn't heard of Savage Worlds and 78% have played it.
Of those who have played it: 34% love it, 36% like it, 25% are lukewarm, and 6% dislike it. Nobody hates it.

The "grade" is calculated as follows:
  • Votes from people who have not played it will not affect the grade.
  • "I love it" votes are worth 4 points. The highest score, comparable to an "A" vote.
  • "It's pretty good" votes are worth 3 points. The equivalent of a "B" vote.
  • "It's alright I guess" votes are worth 2 points. This is your basic "C" vote.
  • "It's pretty bad" votes are worth 1 point. This is considered a "D" vote.
  • "I hate it" votes are worth 0 points. The lowest score, considered an "F" vote.

The grading formula:
GPA = Σ(PiVi)

GPA = "grade-point average," the grading score used in the Key below.​
Vi = percentage of votes in each category (Love, Like, Meh, Dislike, or Hate)​
Pi = corresponding score for that category (4, 3, 2, 1, or 0)​

Over 3.75 = A+
3.51 to 3.75 = A
3.26 to 3.50 = A-
3.01 to 3.25 = B+
2.76 to 3.00 = B
2.51 to 2.75 = B-
2.01 to 2.50 = C+
1.76 to 2.00 = C
1.51 to 1.75 = C-
1.26 to 1.50 = D+
1.01 to 1.25 = D
0.75 to 1.00 = D-
Under 0.75 = F
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For pulpy action adventure in any genre without a lot of headaches, it can't be beat. SWADE (the curent edition) includes so many tools to make it useful for more than just combat, too.


I have a fairly long history with Savage Worlds, but not a lot of actual playtime.

I first picked up the Savage Worlds Deluxe: Explorer's Edition around 2012. The paperback was only $9.99, so what was there to lose?
It was during my first real "wandering period" of my gaming career. In previous eras, I would've been happy just playing D&D, but between tiring of Pathfinder's crunch and 4E's not capturing the feel my group wanted, D&D was no longer an option.

At that moment, we had just bounced off GURPS as a replacement. Savage Worlds seemed like a good, streamlined universal RPG system. But I decided to never run it for my group at the time - because of the Edges and Hindrances system. (I had a player in GURPS who made a pacifist, blind, sharpshooter - who he framed as a blind photographer. And he would argue that any sort of nonsense should be allowed if it was in the book. And there was the potential for a lot of nonsense in SW.)

Years passed, and I was brought back into Savage Worlds with Savage Rifts. I have a friend who is a big fan of the Palladium worlds (but not so much the rules). Here was a way to read about the setting and play a game with a more modern system. So I got the first boxed set and enough copies of the Explorer's Edition to pass around the table. After all, it was only $9.99, so what was there to lose?

After running a group through Tomb of Annihilation, we decided to try Savage Rifts. Even though I struggled a bit with the math (there are some big numbers involved in that setting), we all seemed to enjoy the over-the-top setting and cool characters. The group did fall apart after some changes in job schedules and another player moving, but we had fun while it lasted.

Around a year later, I was running a 4E game, and the players just weren't consistent in coming - which made planning group tactics very challenging. I converted the game to a vanilla fantasy setting (using the Deluxe Fantasy Companion). It proved too swingy. The party was able to defeat a pretty major demon I pulled from Rifts (which is a major challenge), but then were TPKed by town guards. That's when we moved on from SW in that group. And I haven't tried to run a campaign since.

Around this time, SWADE was released. I backed it, just because it had a lot of cool stretch goals. My wife and I went to Origins, and we signed up to play Savage Rifts. She LOVED it. She was a Glitter Boy and felt very empowered. She even got a Rifts coffee mug from the Palladium store. She currently rates Savage Rifts in her Top 3 systems (along with 4E and PF2).

I was so impressed with the SWADE Kickstarter, that I backed the SWADE Rifts set - and every expansion since. And then I got the Deadlands Lost Colony, Deadlands: Weird West, Savage Pathfinder (and every expansion), and Holler.

To date, I have run about 5 sessions of Deluxe Savage Rifts for my original home group; 1 session of SWADE Rifts at a one-shot for a gaming weekend; 3 sessions of generic fantasy SW; 1 session of a Savage Pathfinder one-shot when my family was snowed-in last Christmas. I have played in 2 convention games of Rifts and 1 convention game of Rippers.


Mod Squad
Staff member
For pulpy action adventure in any genre without a lot of headaches, it can't be beat.

For pulpy tactical action adventure, perhaps.

I have played and run a lot of Classic Deadlands, the precursor to Savage Worlds. I've played some Savage Worlds, and have had fun each time.

The game I run following my current Witchlight campaign may well be Deadlands: Lost Colony, using SWADE.

Love it! I run alot of Savage Worlds. As @Reynard says it can't be beat for cinematic games. I like Cinematic games.\
I'm kind of fan boy.

Currently Running: Night's Black Agents/Zalozhniy Quartet in Savage Worlds using the Core rulebook and Horror Companion.

Other Games I've run:
  • Masks of Nyarlathotep - Call of Cthulhu investigative horror Savage Worlds style. I ran it using the Achtung! Cthulhu supplement and the Masks of Nyarlathotep books. Game was fantastic. My players loved.
  • Achtung! Cthulhu - Weird War II game using the Shadows of Atlantis campaign for 2d20 A!C. Again fantastic.
  • Savage Pathfinder
  • Rippers
  • Coriolis
  • Deadlands

Savage Rifts is the crunchiest end of the Savage Worlds spectrum, maybe Interface 0 is crunchier, even then with a little practice the game works better than it's native system.

I've run Savage Pathfinder using converted Adventure Paths - Iron Gods, and Wrath of the Righteous. Running book 1 in for each game. I love 3.x D&D. Savage Pathfinder gives me everything I want in a traditional D&D style game.

The game has great tools for Dramatic Tasks (Skill Challenges), social conflict, chases, quick encounters and other GM facing tools to allow the game to run faster.

If you need online tools start at Savaged.us

The Best Parts
(1) If you want to play it, there's probably a Savage Worlds supplement out there for it, and just from Pinnacle. There is a vibrant community of creators for SW developing products. 90% of the time the products play well together too. For instance my Rippers and Deadlands games exist in the same world. RIFTS doesn't really play well but it's for power scale reasons rather than outright mechanical ones.
Savage Pathfinder - licensed PF1 conversions​
Deadlands - probably the definitive Weird Western style game​
Rippers - Victorian Monster hunters with a twist​
Zeta Complex - Paranoia Savage Worlds Style​
Agents of Oblivion - Modern Espionage/Horror/Arcana toolbox​
Titan Effect - Near Future Cyber Super Heroes​
Wise Guys - Goodfellas or the Sopranos style mob goodness​
Necessary Evil - Evil Superheroes have to save the day because the alien invaders killed off the good Supers!​
Sprawlrunners - Shadowrun Homage that actually works and doesn't make everyone wait for an hour while the Decker does their thing.​
Eberron for Savage Worlds - it's the best version of Eberron. Period. Full Stop.​
I could go on all day.

(2) The game scales well. The final episode of my Deadlands mini-campaign had over 60 miniatures on the table acting. It worked.
(3) Conversion is easy. Like I said I've run Masks of Nyarlathotep and Wrath of the Righteous in the system. It's dead simple to convert material into Savage Worlds from just about anywhere. And given the huge catalog of material available it's probably already mostly done.
(4) Great VTT support. The game is well supported with official content on Fantasy Grounds and Foundry, and Roll20 as well (I think)
(5) The game is still Fast, Furious, and Fun. It's not as fast as it used to be, but even in a a VTT, where everything is slower, it's fast to resolve.
(6) It's a game where a non-combat character can still be useful in combat. You can actually built a leader/social character and impact both combat, and the social side of the game. The game also plays well with player cohorts and squads of extras, with Edges (think Feats) support for it.
(7) Savage Worlds gets out of the way. Once you understand it (and the learning curve isn't all that steep) it just faded into the background and let's you chew through content. We get more done in one session of Savage Worlds than we get done in any other system. In a three hour session that's important.

I'm fan 'gasming and I'll stop.

Common Complaints
The most common complaints your gonna hear are

(1) it's swingy. This is either a feature or bug depending on your view point. For me it's a feature. In spite of the swingy nature of exploding dice, it is actually really, really hard to kill a Savage Worlds character. You can put them out of a combat but it's dificult to actually kill them. There are optional rules that can make it easier or harder if you want to utilize them.

(2) High Toughness opponents can be difficult. In some respects this is accurate. There are things you can do to lessen the issue. It can be frustrating for players to swing, hit, and then fail to penetrate the armor/toughness of the bad guy. In my mind it's not different than attritioning meaningless hit points, but I get that it feels different because when hit points are attritioned at least the attacker is doing something.

(3) Math Bugs - there are some interesting corner case issues with the exploding dice. Notably the d4. It's easier to roll a 5 on a d4 in Savage Worlds than it is on a d6 or any other dice. When the the base difficulty number is a 4, it feels funny. I'll grant that it's a real issue, in that it exists. I don't think it matters because so often you're looking for the raise (+4 over the difficulty number of the roll) to gain an extra effect.

Anyhow. I could go on but I'll stop here. It's just a really solid mid-crunch system that plays fast. It's the best convention or one-shot game you are ever going to find and you can teach it in under 10 minutes. Great GM tools, great system support. Lively and creative community. Excellent VTT options and solid digital tools if you need them.


What do I think about Savage Worlds?

  • The base mechanic is super easy.
  • The chase system can handle abstraction pretty well.
  • Interludes are fun opportunities for roleplaying.
  • Bennies are fun for players.
  • Dynamic Tests are a good Skill Challenge replacement.
  • There are rules for quick combats so you don't have to fight every minor skirmish.
  • The Savage Settings are all pretty amazing. Rifts is so cool. Holler is right up my alley.
  • I prefer its roll-to-cast to Vancian magic.
  • You can run almost any setting with the system.
So why am I not playing it right now? Why do I give it only a B?
The fatal flaw for me is that it's poorly balanced. It's impossible to plan around what is going to be a big fight, what's going to be over in a single round. What is going to get stomped by the party and what's going to be a TPK.
And because of that, all the enormous boxed sets and detailed settings are just window dressing around a system that is unlikely to be more than a one-shot.

@Retreater whole I agree that rigorous encounter balance doesn’t exist in Savage Worlds I don’t think it matters.

The wound cap rules mean you can limit the amount of wounds a single target bbeg can take from any given attack. The ability to add extras, especially if the extras have the fanatic rules means you can soak up additional attacks as kobold throw themselves in their dragon overlord.

The ability to add extras on the fly as necessary means you can prolong the encounter if you like. Once it gets boring just pull them off the table as they flee in terror or just die.

There’s a couple of simple encounter rules in the Savage Pathfinder that I tend to use across all genres that have served me well.

Savage Worlds is really good at making characters feel like heroes.


Have you used the Savage Worlds game system? What did you think of it?
Have I used the Savage Worlds game system?
  1. Deadlands
  2. Hell on Earth
  3. Necessary Evil
  4. Rifts
  5. Homebrew D&Dish Campaign
  6. Homebrew Planetary Romance (Science Fiction)
  7. Evernight (their first plot point campaign released around the time SW came out)
  8. Weird Wars
And these are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head, and the only one I didn't care for was Rifts.
So! If you've played the Savage Worlds system, please let us know what you think of it, what you love or hate about it, and the kinds of games you run with it. And if you've never played it, what's keeping you from giving it a spin? Inquiring moogles want to know! I'll collect everyone's votes and give the system a "grade" from A+ to F.

What I love most about it is that I can quickly adapt it for a wide variety of pulpy adventure type settings. The system is so simple, I can come up with enemies on the fly that will appropriately challenge PCs and it doesn't require a lot of time for me to figure anything out. Probably what I most dislike about it is that it's swingy as hell. I've had carefully planned encounters end on the first round because one of the PCs rolled so well and killed the big bad evil guy with one hit. And on the flip side I've had encounters I expected the PCs to easily win turn into near TPKs because I kept rolling phenomenally well.

It's not the best game for everything. If I want to play a game of Vampire I'm going to play Vampire not bust out Savage Worlds. But for some types of games, it's great.


Of the published settings I've run:

50 Fathoms (my favorite)
Frozen Skies
Regime Diabolique

But I've also run a Bureau 13 campaign and some one shots.

I love the system. I feel like I can approach almost any setting with confidence that the system will do what I want it to do. The trappings, the mooks, the wound system, all of it falls into place very well. I like that sometimes the big bad goes down quickly; I can say without reservation that the few instances where that's happened are still talked about triumphantly by my players, and to me that's an excellent result.


I love Savage Worlds. It’s my system-of-choice personally. At its heart it is a pulp action game, and then you can layer on top different flavours of pulp action - sci-fi, fantasy, horror, supers and so on. Pulp action is the type of game I want to run and play, almost exclusively, so that is why SWADE resonates with me so strongly.

It feels quite different to D&D-style games, especially in terms of resource management and damage. D&D largely has an attrition-based model where it is expected that your resources will be whittled down over multiple encounters and this means that the party will be suitably challenged in the climactic encounter. That’s cool, unless a group’s play style doesn’t match that assumption. In my group we don’t tend to have long sequences of encounters like a dungeon or raid and this can make it difficult for the GM to assess the ability of the party for any particular fight and so getting the challenge right is tricky. Since in SWADE any fight can be dangerous this frees us up to focus on ’just the important fights’ and not be thinking about how to siphon off resources.

If circumstances do demand minor encounters then the rules give you tools to quickly address this (“quick encounters”) which also mitigates the possibility of a minor NPC killing a party members since, while a Wild Card (PC-level character) can die in a ”dangerous quick encounter“ the likelihood of this is massively reduced.*

That is another great thing about SWADE - it gives you great tools for a range of encounters and activities beyond just regular combat. Dramatic Tasks are a great evolution of skill challenge encounters. There are rules for information gathering and social influence (but these are not ‘social combat’) and also mass battle rules in case you want to go really big on fights (SWADE handle big skirmishes great with the core combat rules - this is just for the really big stuff).

Characters in SWADE come in two broad groups - Wild Cards and Extras. Wild Cards are PCs and major NPCs. Everyone else is an Extra. Wild Cards get to roll a second dice on trait checks (in Savage Worlds skills and stats are rated as dice from d4 to d12 and you usually roll against a target of 4) giving you much greater chance of success (each die is assessed separately - you don’t add them together for checks). Wild Cards can also take three wounds before being incapacitated where as Extras lack this buffer. This means that even starting PCs are pretty capable and tough, and the relatively flat (but meaningful) progression means they never reach the heights that you might in D&D. I kind of think of it as matching roughly the spread of levels 3-12 in D&D terms. In my experience it works pretty well for campaigns of at least a year - we have run several of that length but we rotate GM duties so campaigns of any kind don’t tend to last longer than that for us.

I spent decades looking for a genre-flexible game that genuinely supported pulp action rather than just claiming that in the product description. With Savage Worlds and SWADE in particular I finally feel my search is complete.

* Fun fact - quick encounters were created when the lead designer Shane was invited to demo Savage Worlds at a convention in Europe (Spain IIRC) and while he was expecting a fairly typical 4 hour slot to do this with, when he arrived he was told that slots were only 30 minutes long… Rather than gut the adventure he created quick encounters on the spot and these have subsequently been refined into a cool tool.

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