Savage Worlds is a robust universal RPG system with some clever mechanics. The game has been designed in just about every aspect to be easy to use at the table. This includes the book, being both paperback and about half the size (or smaller!) of your usual RPG coffee-book tome. You won’t be breaking your back lugging the Savage Worlds core book around, and it will easily fit inside the glovebox of a car, a briefcase or backpack, and even most purses.
Like just about all RPGs, your character’s abilities and attributes are modeled as mechanically simplified stats and skills. Unlike most RPGs, instead of these being represented by a number, in Savage Worlds they’re represented by dice types. These range from the lowly d4 all the way up to the d12. Not sure what die to roll? No problem; just look at your character sheet and roll the type it says to. And because your character is a hero-type person, you’ll also roll a d6. Take the higher roll and if you match or beat the target number (generally a 4), you succeed.
The rules have a number of neat little wrinkles that make them fun and easy at the table. Initiative, for instance, is handled with playing cards. Each player is dealt a card which they place face-up in front of them. Highest card goes first (from ace to deuce), and with everyone’s card in front of them, it’s easy to see whose turn is next.
For such a small book, Savage Worlds is shockingly complete. It’s got rules for chases, exertion in the heat, arcane or Science! powers, and even a nifty mass-combat system. The rules for vehicles are slick enough to tempt me to use it for a Mad Max game. The weapons range from simple daggers to 20MGW pulse lasers. Gun-nuts will enjoy the distinct stats for the AK-47, H&K G3, M16, and Steyr AUG. (Whether or not those stats accurately reflect each weapon’s strengths and weaknesses I’ll leave to the gun-nuts more hard-core than me to decide.)
Where older versions of the rules assumed you were going to use miniatures, the latest edition goes a lot more into how to handle “theater of the mind” play. It also includes material specific to certain genres (such as designing races for fantasy settings) as well as numerous notes from the designers explaining why certain rules work the way they do. The book is rounded out with a handful of adventures, each from a different genre, including weird west, high fantasy, and modern crime.
And in spite of all of that, the book is priced for impulse buys. If you’re looking for a new RPG, a first RPG, or universal rules to translate your favorite TV show or movie into RPG form, Savage Worlds should definitely make your short list.