Most of the systems that NEW GAME + has discussed so far have been setting-specific — that is, they were designed with a particular fictional world in mind. While these settings (and the stories they set up for GMs) can be powerfully inspirational, sometimes you just want a springboard for your own original ideas.
Enter Savage Worlds.
A WORLD OF TERROR AND INTRIGUE!
Created by the Pinnacle Entertainment Group and published by Studio 2 Publishing, Savage Worlds offers a flexible core system for all sorts of different settings and genres. Though the system is built more for pulpy, high-flying tales of adventure, it can be adapted to fantasy, horror, sci-fi, or pretty much anything else you can imagine.
Of course, for those who would prefer a pre-defined setting, Savage Worlds offers a wide selection of different story ideas. Deadlands offers a Wild West setting with touches of horror and steampunk, while 50 Fathoms presents an innovative fantasy world with strong piratical elements and Rippers combines Victorian Age penny-dreadfuls with superheroes a la X-Men. There are dozens of different options — but if you can’t decide on just one, there’s always the option to go fully original.
FAST, FURIOUS AND FUN!
Characters in Savage Worlds are separated into two categories: Wild Cards (player characters and important NPCs) and Extras (background characters and disposable goons.) Both have five basic stats (Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength, and Toughness,) and a handful of skills to pick from.
Mechanically, the Savage Worlds is a classless system based around dice sizes ranging from d4s all the way up to d12s. Both character statistics and skills are represented by these dice (starting with d4s and increasing in size over time.) Generally speaking, to succeed at any given task, a character needs to roll a 4 or better. To boost the player characters’ chances at success, whenever a Wild Card rolls a skill or stat check, they also get a “wild die” — a d6 — and can choose the better of the two rolls.
In addition to this, Wild Cards also have access to what Savage Worlds calls “Bennies.” Each player receives three of them at the start of each session, and can earn more if they do exceptionally cool things in-game or roleplay particularly well. These points, usually represented by poker chips or similar tokens, act similarly to “fate points” from other systems — they can be used to force re-rolls, absorb wounds, or bend the narrative towards the players’ whims, but they can also be redeemed at the end of each session for bonus XP. This creates an interesting push-and-pull where players need to make hard choices: I’m just 3 XP away from a level up — do I spend a Benny to try and dodge this zombie’s attack, or do I take it on the chin and save the Benny so I can level up?
GOING IN GUNS BLAZING!
One of the coolest aspects of Savage Worlds is the way that it handles things like magic and super-powers. Instead of a long list of dozens of spells, the core rulebook has a small selection of fairly generic powers, and a list of what it calls Trappings: basically, how your spells look and behave, summed up into a few abilities that can be added to pretty much anything.
These flavorful effects tend to modify spells in fairly significant ways — a bolt spell with the Heat trapping ignores armor but does reduced damage, for instance, while the same spell with the Insect Swarm trapping might instead create a cloud that can split and spread to nearby enemies, inflicting persistent damage over time. Every spell (or superpower, or gizmo, or whatever) that a character takes must have a Trapping attached to it. This means that despite the fairly mundane pieces, spells are far more than the sum of their parts.
IS THIS THE END FOR OUR HEROES?!
Savage Worlds is, in my opinion, one of the best systems on the market today. It’s easy to pick up, flexible enough to deal with whatever kind of story you want to tell with it, and most importantly, is tons of fun to play. If you’re ever in need of a new workhorse system for a pulpy adventure game, I cannot recommend it highly enough.