Sunglar’s Savage House Rules!

I first became interested in Savage Worlds when I read a reference to it in a message board. Can’t remember which one now, but I do recall the poster praised the system on the ease of prep and how smoothly it ran. I was running a high level D&D 3.5 campaign back then and that sounded like music to my ears! This was in 2004 or 2005. I finally got the Savage Worlds revised hardcover in 2006 at The Compleat Strategist during a business trip to New York City. I remember reading the book that night at the hotel, and not quiet grasping the game. “It uses playing cards for initiative, and what the deal with the damage system?” I never figured it out, had other games to run, so the book just sat on my shelf.


In 2007 I went to Gen Con and visited the Pinnacle Entertainment Group booth and saw Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition. It was $10 for a complete game, how can you say no to that! I got 2 copies. I read the book, got a better idea how the game worked, and I tried running a one-shot using it but the shaken/wounded damage mechanic was not intuitive, the initiative was strange, I didn’t get how all the different bits worked together, so we didn’t play it again.

Fast forward to 2011, the Deluxe Edition was coming out, and I’m nothing but stubborn, knew this game had something I liked, and I was going to play it! I pre-ordered it and since I was going to Gen Con arranged to pick it up there. I also got to play in a Savage Worlds game run by David A Miller (who is one heck of a guy BTW!); you can read about it on my post here. I think I finally grasped Savage Worlds during that game. David did a great job of teaching the system, using all the different mechanics, it all clicked.


I truly believe Savage Worlds is one of those systems that play better than they read. On paper there are some confusing bits, but once you see it all working it makes sense. I ran with it from there. After that I ran a short mini campaign zombie game, the MARS Project, and the sci-fi campaign Wanderers of the Outlands. I blogged about both and you can find out about them by clicking on the previous links. The sci-fi campaign lasted a total of 77 sessions, from May 2014 to February 2016. I’ve run a few one shots at PRRP Geeknics, also ran the Wild Hunt, the adventure that comes with the free Test Drive rules, at fandom conventions on six occasions, probably will do so again. Guess what I’m saying is that I’ve played a few sessions of Savage Worlds. Here are some general observations.

As much as an improvement as the Deluxe Edition was, the rule-book could be much improved (same goes for the Companions), both in terms of organization, internal references, and consistency. I would reorganize the book, consolidate rules and add some more examples. That said, I think the same of MANY RPGbooks, it’s not an problem exclusive to Savage Worlds.

The system is also an interesting mix of complex and simple, showing its origins in a skirmish game, but with many cinematic mechanics. A combination of light and crunchy that works most often than not, but gets clunky sometimes. Despite all this, I love the system, it is a breeze to prep for, easy to run, and once you pick it up, simple to GM without endlessly referencing the books. I had a blast running it!

Not so my players… It wasn’t universally hated, but there was a lot of disappointment. In some cases it was resistance to change, for others no desire to learn a new system, but for others it didn’t have the granularity and complexity they craved, plus the math in the system drove them bonkers. I consider the campaign a success, and believe the players had a lot of fun, but after the campaign, about half of the group was less than enthusiastic about playing the system again, and one player outright refuses to. He has stated that if I run Savage Worlds again he will come to the sessions to spend time with his friends, but he will NOT play the game. He compared playing the system to getting kicked in the nuts! Strong feelings I know…


So how do you deal with this divide? Currently I’m not planning on running any Savage Worlds immediately for my regular gaming group, but I love the system and would certainly love to use it in the future. These are my friends first and foremost; more than simply players, telling them to just sit out a game is not an option for me. I want to play a game everyone can enjoy. So short of getting four new players, what are my options? I listened to their complaints and figured some of them had real merit. While some stem from different expectation, or lack of knowledge of the system, others were valid claims about what we collectively enjoy in a game and how we play RPGs, so I tried to address them by putting together a house rules document.

So basically all the preceding explanation was my way of justifying my credentials for actually fiddling around with the rules! House rules by definition are meant to satisfy a very particular group of players and are not for everyone. I’m still working on these, hoping they can win over the majority of my players. Will it convince the one hold out? Who knows! But here is my attempt.

I welcome your feedback on the rules, and apologize ahead on any mistakes or omissions that crept in. I put together many of these ideas since February, not really thinking about sharing them beyond my gaming group. Once I talked about it with Michael and decided to post them here in the blog I went back and tried to credit any idea for which I could identify the source. I apologize in advance if I left anyone out! Savage Space by Chaotic GM was a big influence for my sci-fi game and for these house rules, a big thanks to him for all his work.

Check out the PDF it’s titled: Savage Worlds Sunglar’s House Rules. Leave your feedback or observations in the comments. Thank you in advance!


Welcome reader, thanks for taking the time to find out just who I am! My name is Roberto, although in the Internet I usually go by the name of Sunglar. Long time pen & paper RPG player, mostly a GM for the better part of that time; some will say that’s because of my love of telling a good story, others because I’m a control freak, but that’s debatable… I was born, raised, and still live in Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean, with a small but active gaming community.

I’ve played RPGs for 30 years, and for most of that time I played D&D in all its various permutations, including Pathfinder and I'm currently playing D&D 5th edition. Other games my regular gaming group has played over the last few years include Mutants & Masterminds and Savage Worlds, but I have played many other games through the years, and plan to play many more. I am a compulsive homebrewer and rarely play a campaign I have not created myself.

You can follow me on Twitter as @Sunglar, and find me in Google+ also as Sunglar. I'm very active in Facebook where you can find me posting regularly in the Puerto Rico Role Players group. Looking forward to hearing from you!

17 thoughts on “Sunglar’s Savage House Rules!”

  1. Nice one Roberto. Not knowing much of Savage Worlds, I cannot really add to much value to your house rules but I will give them a read at some point as I got my hands on Savage Worlds Rifts which may finally be the way to delve into this gonzo-crazy but weirdly fascinating setting without getting eviscerated by the loose collection of hellish rituals also known as the Palladium rules.

    I vaguely recall that you had a love-hate thing with Rifts as well eh? Fancy looking at Savage Rifts and writing up some of your thoughts?

    1. I’m reading the Rifts Savage Worlds because I intend to run it at a local FLGS. I love the setting, but you are correct, I have developed a dislike for the system.We’ll see how it goes…

  2. Great to know you got use out of Savage Space! I downloaded your houserules for later perusal, but skimming over it there is some neat ideas in there I like. Keep it Savage!

  3. Like you, I fled 3.x/PF for Savage Worlds; similarly, the group eventually kinda went “Eh,” about it. As much as I loved the simplicity of prep, the character building and actual play at the table ended up feeling lackluster.

    Currently we’re running on D&D 5E and I love it. It won’t let you play anything but D&D without serious work– I’m working on a Ghostbusters system bash and I have to create all the classes from scratch– but it is fast and fun and easy to prep for once you’ve got the groundwork out of the way.

    -The Gneech

    1. I think you encapsulate how some of my players feel when you wrote play at the table felt lackluster. I think we as a group spent so much time in the D&D 3e/Pathfinder paradigm that taking all the tactics, maps, bells and whistles was a sharp change for them.

      We currently play D&D 5e as well, but at least three players, who currently play in PF games also find 5e too simple. They put up with it and it’s not a burning hate, but not their favorite.

      Thing is I ran 3e and Pathfinder with ease because I was so used to it, but I ‘m not sure I can go back to all the prep it takes, because it simply does!

      1. I’ve occasionally heard the “too simple” comment about 5E, but I’ve never really understood it. I have yet to come up with anything I could do in PF that I couldn’t do in 5E and probably faster/easier, especially if you’re open to homebrew/3rd party items for corner-case builds (such as the talking winged cat bard in my current game). We still use miniatures and tactical play, there’s still a variety of characters, etc.

        But it’s one of those “can’t argue taste” things, I expect. I experimented with a “giant set piece” combat that emulated the sort of thing you might find in a PF encounter, with lots of terrain zones, a high CR boss and two dozen lower-CR supporters being buffed by an environmental effect, and so on. It played out just like a PF encounter would have… which is to say it was a long slog for what you got out of it. The archetypal “45 minutes of fun packed into 2 hours” moment.

        5E -can- totally do that. XD I’m just glad that most of the time, it doesn’t!

        -The Gneech

        1. I think 5e does most of what we need fairly well. If I understand their complaints is mostly character options, which Pathfinder has a lot of at this point of the game. They also like all the fiddly rules, like power attacks and such. Of course there are 3rd party products that add this complexity, but I like the simplicity. I’m not saying I WON’T play PF. But I’d love if they do a new edition and clean up the rules, I’d buy that!

          1. As you level up, things like power attack do start showing up in feats and class abilities, but at low level an option might be to adopt a “third party allowed with approval” approach for character options. 5E’s math is loosey-goosey enough that it’s hard to really break it unless you go crazy with the flat bonuses (i.e., stay within the +1 – +3 range) or the action economy (see also the various kerfluffles about ranger companions).

            That said, I don’t want to derail your Savage Worlds post with a lot of 5E talk. XD I just like 5E and get into it, is all.


  4. Interesting house rules. I am all for adding house rules to make the game more fun for your table.
    I am not sure about the defence /evasion mechanic. Trying to dodge bullets isn’t a great idea unless you are running a matrix/jedi game.

    1. Bill, Evasion was probably the one I went back and fort about the most, ultimately I think it may fit the expectations of the players. It affects the game because enemies are also now harder to hit. I had a friend mention that the cover rules work wonderfully, but I ran a lot of theater of the mind encounters and the lack of maps meant my players did not look for cover and such. I think they really didn’t embrace the system, exploring builds and combinations, like they do in other games, because the things that bothered them turned them off… Thank for the feedback!

  5. Thank you for the kind words.

    It’s actually been a while since I played Savage Worlds myself. I like it, though, particularly for pulp-style games. The shaken/wounds system is supposed to be simple but with soaking and bennies can actually be confusing until you’ve played through it a couple of times.

    One thing I didn’t like about the Deluxe edition was that they changed the chase system. I much prefer the chase rules from Explorers edition. In fact, I’ve adapted it to other games.

    1. I read both but really didn’t examine both, and have mostly used Deluxe version of the chase rules. Will look at them again. David you’ll always be the guy who made me understand SW! We have that… Hope we can meet again at Gen Con or somewhere else again.

  6. Hey Sunglar! Big Savage Worlds fan here guys, its basically my go to system for everything thus far.

    I’d say the reason it works for me, is yes there is simplicty and I think a lack of book keeping compared to other systems where each “Class” has pages of contents and information to have to reference. I think this system works for GMs who wants to get through more content and have a good pace in a game. For me pace+tempo is everything and in other systems it can really bog down for newer players especially. I’ve had nothing but sucess with Savage worlds for both 1 shots and campaigns over the years. Fast Furious Fun really does sum it up and thats why it works for me…. i hate the ebb of more complicated systems, makes me want to fall asleep!

    As for your house rules, I like them! But I woudn’t really consider them house rules as much as it reminded me of reading someones own setting rules. Savage Worlds encourages variation with different settings and the attached really just seems like your own take which is awesome!

    I am going to be running a pulp 1930’s one shot at my store next week until we start a campaign, most likely Weird Wars or East Texas University until Rifts comes out!

    1. +1 to this comment. My players and I are more interested in telling stories than running combat simulators with characters sheets that fill a binder. That’s not roleplaying for me.
      If you need “crunch” to play a character, you aren’t playing a character. You are playing a board game.
      Further, I don’t feel like I can tinker with heavier systems, because I know I’m upsetting some delicate balance. The fact that you can come up with so many pages of house rules that you like is exactly what makes Savage Worlds a great game. You can make whatever house rules you want, knowing you aren’t messing with the cosmic Feng Shui of a system. It’s the same reason I love Call of Cthulhu.
      Our group just finished it’s first Pathfinder game at the end of 2016, and the system was a total flop with every player. It was one formulaic combat after another, and leveling up our characters felt like a homework assignment.

      1. Admittedly, the general attitude of our group is that a system should just get out of the way, and let us play our characters.

        1. i couldn’t agree more. I think everyone has a different style. A lot of the players are my store are really about just that, system getting out of the way. Savage worlds is unique and has an odd curve. BUt once you learn it, the general game rules are so versatile that the game really falls into the background. Also the quick task resolution allows for a good narrative with some crunch still.

          Thus far we are doing a new campain, sandbox sci fi allowing everyone to have input and just running it with the savage worlds deluxe and sci fi. We did our session 0 and session 1, really well received everyone loved it.

          Savage worlds is even displacing D&D in our FLGS. Change can be good!

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