Savage Worlds has intrigued me for years. I finally picked up the most recent edition, the Savage Worlds Adventure Editionfrom DrivethruRPG this summer and was excited about the potential for Star Wars1. The game has a reputation for being a rules-light system for “fast, furious, fun” games that emphasize action and pulp heroes. The system is generic so I thought it handle the sci-fi genre and then also I could use the system for games in other genres without my players needing to learn multiple new systems. It seemed perfect.

I read through the rulebook and my player worked through a character, which was an easy process and took hardly any time. The system relies on a trait & skill mechanic, which is similar to the D6 system for the Star Wars RPG with characters having Edges and Hindrances to give them benefits or penalties in various situations. The characters or “Wild Cards” in the game parlance roll the relevant attribute or skill alongside a single D6 for a Wild Die and then choose the higher number. If the player rolls a 4 or higher then the test succeeds. For harder-than-normal tasks or tasks with situational penalties such as light or hardcover for combat, or antagonists in social situations the Game Master applies penalties to the rolls.

Savage Worlds solves some of the pain points I have the with D6 system:

  • Exploding Dice: Any die that rolls the maximum is then re-rolled and the total is added to the total allowing for high die rolls with enough luck.
  • Raises: When a roll exceeds the target by 4 that is called a Raise and that gives special bonuses (e.g. extra damage in combat).
  • Advancement: Characters advance after every session gaining points to increase skills and also potentially new Edges.

My player and I worked through character creation and built a Mandolorian-type character rather quickly adapting the Benefits and Hindrances to the character’s backstory within the larger Star Wars universe I had run under the prior system. The rulebook has equipment from multiple different eras/timelines so we brought over the Laser Rifle as a Blaster and Power Armor from the futuristic setting.

I built a quick one-shot for the character and we played through two separate sessions to complete the story. The game had combat, social situations, and some discovery skill checks. After the game, we also ran through a sample combat scenario to better try out the rules and test the system.

Overall, I liked the system though there were some points of pain for the game based on some mechanics, lack of rules knowledge on my part, and also system assumptions. The mechanics worked well with skill tests and trait rolls (although we had to get used to rolling single-digit numbers being a success coming from 5e). In combat, though the game uses a standard playing card deck for an initiative that was awkward playing over Discord as my player didn’t see the cards and it is so very different from other systems we’ve used.

During the combat test at the end, we had the Mandolorian fight against four Stormtroopers and through a series of lucky die rolls (see exploding dice above) the Stormtrooper killed them in a single shot. This highlights how “swingy” the system can be (a term of art on the Savage Worlds subreddit), and also how a generic system cannot always be pulled directly into a game without some modifications. I had made a false assumption that a generic game could do anything out of the box and it can’t do that without some thoughtful modification. My experience with Eclipse Phase was so fantastic and the interplay between the system and setting worked some seamlessly I took that for granted. I was watching an interview with the creator of Sprawlrunners2and they referenced how Savage Worlds is more a “framework” that needs to be modified3 I should have spent some more time tailoring the weapons to better reflect the feel/style in Star Wars or looked through some of the other fan-made conversions

My lack of knowledge of the rules let me forget that the player could have spent a “Bennie”, which are points awarded at the start of the session that players can use to get different effects like absorb damage in combat, deal extra damage, or even have some impact on the story.

 Savage Worlds Bennie List

In terms of the cards for initiative, we discussed swapping the card with a die roll though the consensus of the Savage World community seems to be “Don’t touch the cards”, which makes sense given how the cards are embedded in the game and there is no alternative mechanic. When I posted the question on the subreddit they referred me to a Discord botthat handles initiative.

Discord bot for playing table-top RPG online. Supports various dice-rolling, Savage Worlds initiative cards, bennies, tokens, and other RPG stuff.

I will have to see about installing the bot and seeing how that works for managing gameplay. There is also the Savaged.ustoolset that handles initiative as well.

This site aims to be your one-stop application for character, vehicle, power armor, starship, and walker creation as well as other handy tools for the Savage Worlds role playing game (RPG). Here, you can create characters, save them, even share them with a unique, short URL to your online and local friends.

There is of course going the full Virtual Tabletop (VTT) route, which I currently don’t use though I have seen handles initiative as well as character sheets. That currently seems way more than my Discord and Theater of the Mind setup with the occasional Keynote presentation for maps.

In the end, I would recommend investing in the Savage Worlds Adventure Edition due to the ease of use and openness of the rules framework. If you’re looking for a pre-built setting the company behind Savage World, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, has many different licensed and designed settings that cover fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and superheroes.

  1. I can remember when Savage Worlds first came out over two decades ago. I was working in my local game store and it was the early 2000s, which was the height of the D20 craze after the Open Gaming License opened the market to 3rd party publishers. I wondered about a new game being launched then in the face of D&D though the game has grown, evolved, and built a solid fan base across multiple editions. 

  2. Sprawlrunners is cyberpunk rules set for Savage Worlds that adapts the game to a grim and gritty future like those seen in Blade Runner or even a certain magic-infused fantasy dark future like popular 1980s RPG 

  3. The rulebook itself even alludes to this in the “Setting Rules” section has you tailor the rules more to the setting with “Gritty Damage” or “Fast Healing”. I just didn’t apply any additional rules.