It’s one of the systems that seem to have been adopted somewhat broadly, and people say good things about it. I downloaded the 16-page Test Drive v6 and read through it.
I definitely have opinions. But . . . I’ve never played, and you can’t usually fully judge a system without playing it.
I’d be very interested in actual play anecdotes, pro/con style feedback that’s constructive and well informed. If you think it sucks, fine – but please tell me why, and tell me where you ran into issues in actual play (or if it’s a mechanics issue that can be underpinned with math, that’s OK too).
Most people respond on Google+ instead of commenting on the blog; no problems there. But I wanted to collect these in one place, as well. They’ll get long, so I’ll put a “below the fold” break in there for readability’s sake.
I’ve never GM’ed it, but I’ve played it a few times under a very good GM expert in the system, and the games were excellent because we had a very good GM who was expert in the system. The system mostly stayed out of the way except in combats, which (despite the exclamatory claims) weren’t notably fast (slower than most systems we were used to at the time), and were conspicuously fiddly, with cards and stuff yanking us pretty hard out of character perspective compared to what we were used to with other games. Overall: A good, but basically unremarkable, multigenre rulekit with some fiddly bits.
I have called it “B/X to GURPS AD&D” more than once. It has some really interesting design ideas that I like a great deal, but sacrifices a great deal of granularity for speed of character creation and play.
The use of playing cards, which was thematically awesome in Deadlands, feels off in almost every other genre (though a nice tarot themed deck might help with a fantasy game).
The community around the game is very active and very creative.
It serves best in a game of cinematic heroes doing awesome things right out of the gate rather than remotely a “start at level 1” style of play.
I’ve played it a lot and run it a lot. In fact, I gave up on GURPS for SW. Mostly, this is because of prep time. GURPS is wonderful at detailed world building, but I have kids now; no time to build anymore. I DO find SW faster in combats than GURPS. And the cards don’t seem to get in the way. It’s not my end-all, be-all system, but it is my go-to when I want to hit the ground running. Plus, the support is amazing, with creators being available to answer queries online and many, many choices of games to play (some amazing, some terrible, most at least okay). The community is also very friendly and the games tend to fun. I still reference GURPS books when I GM, I just use the ideas in SW nowadays.
It’s a point build system like GURPS but greatly simplified. It is light, loose, and great for pulp style adventures. You are meant to be bigger than life and do awesome things. The initiative system works great especially with large numbers. But if you want a lot of crunch, this is not the system for you. Every thing from skills to abilities are archetypical and as light as possible. But if you want to play a Firefly style game, Indiana Jones, high fantasy, works great for all of those.
It’s not my go to system, nor likely will be, but it is a good system for what it wants to be.
It is fast on the table, with huge swings in momentum, but assumes you are playing with miniatures. There is no good way I’ve come up with to play online or in the “Theater of the Mind”. Prep super easy! That is probably one of the biggest advantages. It is also a little quirky for players who cut their teeth on other games. Lots of small rules that have a large effect. The shaken rules always seem to stump new players. The dice mechanics are fun. I heard Shane was asked one time why they added the “wild die” and exploding die mechanics and his answer was simple; “players like to roll dice, and it is fun”.
Simple to teach generic system that’s pretty much good at anything. Great for con games and new gamers.
Rules: You need a 4 or better. The better you are at something the bigger the die you roll.
I’m always amazed by how well it handles a variety of settings. I’ve seen ghostbusts, cthulhu, spys, Tron and Transformers and all worked just as well.
My personal experience: I had been hearing about it on and off for about a year, poked through the book at the local game store finally and it looked interesting. So I said “heck, it’s only $10, why not?”
It sat there for about 6mo untouched (time constraints, real life, what have you)
Finally picked it up a few (2, maybe 3) months ago, gave it a quick read through (maybe 2 hours tops). Unfortunately my group was already running a game and had 3 more games lined up, so their interest was basically non-existent.
Last month I decided to heck with my gaming group and asked my GF (who’s got only about a year of tabletop experience) if she was interested in running a small game to test out the system.
15 min later we had her character finished. Note, that this is with neither of us having any of the skills and whatnot memorized, so there was quite a bit of flipping back and forth in the book and we STILL had characters done that fast.
Then we dove into a game, we had a blast playing for about 90min and had a fulfilling and complete adventure that left both of us wanting to play more.
We played a 4-adventure fanatasy SW-introduction-campaign (that unfortunately is available in German only).
It is an expansion of the Socath-adventure (the old starter-adventure).
This campaign showcases all rules – from skill checks (first adventure) to combat (second) to chases and mass-combat (third) to a full dungeon adventure including a “boss fight” (last). Boss fights do not always “work well” in SW, though.
SW indeed plays fast and fun – we especially loved the initiative by drawing cards and the benny-concept (already integrated in other systems we play right now). “Exploding dice” (i.e. re-roll on max number and add the numbers up) also are a fun concept, if you are not used to it from other systems.
The mass combat rules blend seemlessly with the rest of the system, with the player characters actions really making a difference (if you want).
We’ve used SW as system for a setting we wanted to play, but where we didn’t like the original system.
We also will replace Shadowrun’s system with SW next time we play Shadowrun.
SW’s rules are actually quite “slim” – no huge number of rulebooks required (although there are some available, like the Fanatasy- and SciFi-companion).
There are also countless “savaged” settings to be found on the internet – Fallout(!), Shadowrun, you name it.
It’s a good system. It’s a fun system. It’s just not a system for me.
Savage Worlds is designed primarily for pulp, action movies, etc. and it’s really good at that. It’s not so good at gritty, low-powered gaming. It’s difficult to strip away enough of the plot armor to give PCs a more-than-minimal chance of dying. Because of exploding dice, there’s always a non-zero chance of death, but it remains minimal even when the PCs are outclassed.
It does extremely well with situations where the PCs are supposed to be blowing through mooks with minimal (but not zero) resistance, and even more so if the PCs have a squad of good-guy mooks beside them. It can also do enemies that are nigh-untouchably tough who you have to set up just the right situation with all the advantages on your side, plus have some good luck (or enough bennies to spend on rerolls) to be able to beat them. It has trouble with anything in between, though, because the margin between these two extremes is rather thin. Because of this, standard advice for Savage Worlds is not to even try to do “one big boss”-type fights – someone will get a lucky roll and one-shot him, so give the important bad guys a bunch of mooks, too.
Most importantly, it’s an inexpensive game. If you think there’s any chance you’ll like Savage Worlds, buy a copy (or I think there’s a free quickstart version you can download) and try it for yourself. Even though I ended up deciding that it doesn’t do what I want from my RPGs, I’m glad I tried it and I had a lot of fun in the process of determining that. (I ran SW for about a year before finally realizing that my differences with the system were too deep to easily houserule around them.)
+Charles Saeger (from the comments section)
It plays fast and has loads of options. It’s kind of a rules-lite GURPS. It has a good selection of foes in the main book, which is something SJG should have heeded. I played in a fantasy game that had converted from Labyrinth Lord (B/X retroclone) and the characters all had sweet powers fast, with good characterization. I wouldn’t go for it as my main system (obviously GURPS) or anything really serious, but it would work great for things that are fast. Star Wars springs to mind as a good fit. You don’t have a lot of tactical options, unlike GURPS; it’s kinda like D&D here. Like D&D, no defense rolls.