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!