So today I just finished reading the new Savage Worlds Adventure Edition. In short, I think it is a great update to the system. The rules are much easier to find including such rules as firing through cover to attack someone. While I don’t see all of the rules changes as being needed, none of them seem like they will cause problems1, and many of them improve the balance of the game or are just good changes in general. So in brief I would recommend anyone who likes the Savage Worlds system to get it as soon as it becomes available, and for a more detailed reasons why, continue reading.
Any Time, Any Place
This is just a brief section on the history of the system and covers what all styles of play it can cover. I tend to use miniatures and maps when I play, but that is not necessary if you don’t want to use them.
This is just a brief two page section on what a role-playing game is and what all you need and what is optional for playing the game. The needs are short:
- Dice D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20, and different D6
- Deck of Cards
- These rules
The optionals are not much more:
- A Setting (50 Fathoms, Deadlands, etc)
- The Companions Fantasy Companion, Horror Companion, etc
Again there is nothing surprising in this section and so we will move on2.
This is the first chapter of the book and it covers all the things that are needed to create characters. For those coming from the previous edition, the process and the names mostly the same, though there are a few skill name changes and consolidations. The differences are mainly in the details. The big changes are few skill points, but everyone also gets a set of core skills at d4. This ends up giving you a net extra skill over what the previous edition did, and the charisma secondary attribute is gone. In addition while you are still limited to 4 points of hindrances, they are no longer prescribed as one major and two minor, so you can take 2 major or 4 minor if that better suits your concept.
There are a lot of minor changes to previously existing hindrances and there a lot of new hindrances3. One of the bigger changes is to the Young hindrance. Some of my favorite new hindrances are Driven, Tongue-Tied, and Suspicious.
From a skills point of view, most of the changes are things being grouped under a new broad skill such as Athletics (replaces Climbing, Swimming, and Throwing), consolidation of Knowledge skills into Academics, Battle, Electronics, Hacking, Healing, Language, Occult, and Science.
For edges again there a lot of little changes. Some of the edges got split, some of them got a bit of a bump (Extra Power became Extra Powers giving you two powers instead of one). Also it is clearly defined as to how Quick and Level headed combine so you don’t empty a deck quite so quickly if multiple characters have those edges. Some of the near automatically taken edges like Elan and Acrobatics got power reductions that were probably needed. Also, the Marksman edge no longer provides a blanket +2 to hit, but instead reduces shooting penalties. Anyway there are lots of minor changes here, so I would recommend reading any edge you take carefully and not rely on your knowledge of what the edge used to do.
The last section in this chapter covers advancement. The big change here is that Savage Worlds is no longer and experience point system, but an on decision advancement system. So if you are like me you just declare an advance every other session or at whatever pace you decide. The other change is there is no longer a penalty for buying a skill you don’t already have, so buying the first d4 in a skill is also a half of an advance. The last change is there are now official rules for buying off hindrances.
This is probably the longest chapter of the book and I would recommend reading the hindrances and edges especially multiple times just to get all of the minor tweaks in this edition.
This section covers equipment and encumbrance rules. The rules suggest that you don’t count all of the weight of a character’s gear for encumbrance, but just use the minimum strength column to figure out any penalties, but it also does include rules for calculating the encumbrance by weight. They also got a little bit more generous with the weight you can carry based on your strength die before suffering from encumbrance.
Some of the big changes here are how shields work, how area of attack effects work (mostly which ones you can try to jump out-of-the-way of), and the stat blocks of vehicles.
This chapter starts off with the base rules like what a test is, how to roll it, what an ace is, the difference between a wild card and an extra, etc. We also have a new feature called “Retest” that some edges and abilities give you. The default rules use what was called “Joker’s Wild” setting rule, but with a minor tweak for the Game Master. We also get some new rules on what you can use bennies for including re-rolling damage (was a setting rule), drawing a new action card, regaining power points, and to influence the story (probably inspired by some of the story focused games like FATE).
After that we move into the section on combat. This section is actually surprisingly short it is all about how much movement you can do, how to attack, damage effects, order of action, soaking the damage and healing. The situational rules and special actions are in the next section.
In the situational rules we get things like Aiming, area of effect attacks, new statuses like bound and entangled, breaking things. There are a number of minor changes in this section, I am not sure that I caught them all on my first read through, so I will probably be reading this section again as well. One of the important things though is the change to multi-actions. You can now take up to three actions and they can even be the same action with the same weapon, so you can attack someone three times with your sword or shoot them three times with one gun.
Another significant change was made to the rules around Suppressive Fire which actually make it more useful than it was previously.
In my mind the last big change was to include both support and test rolls in combat. Support rolls provide help to your allies, without doing actually changing the state of your enemies. For example: If I help Jo take out the guard by tripping his feet, all I need to do is beat my target number of 4, this gives Jo a +1 to hit (+2 on a raise), but doesn’t actually change the state of the guard. While a test has to win in an opposed roll against the target, but changes the guards state. A test would change the guards state, making him Prone, Distracted, Vulnerable, or even Shaken.
The Adventure Tool Kit
This section covers optional rules, rules subsystems, and rules that will not be needed for all settings. This is where we find things like Dramatic Tasks, Chases, Mass Battles, Interludes, Networking, Mass Battles, Quick Encounters, Social Conflicts, and optional setting rules. My favorite bits of this chapter are the Chases section with makes so much more sense to me than the rules id the Deluxe Edition ever did and the Quick Encounters. Since most of the rest of this chapter seems to be taken from existing sources (Dramatic Tasks, Social Conflicts from the previous edition and Networking is similar to Deadlands Noir Legwork section) probably with some minor tweaks, I will focus on those two.
Chases begin with laying out a second set of cards to designate relative positions and placing tokens on the different cards to represent the participants. You then play out the encounter with each participant taking one of a set of actions until the chase is over. This can also be used to handle a space ship battle by adding more rows of cards and other. It seems to be a very flexible system and I am looking forward to using it.
A Quick encounters is a way to resolve an encounter without going through it round by round. You do it by having each character state how they are going to help resolve the encounter and making an appropriate trait roll. Then as a group describe how things are resolved based on the results of the different trait rolls. In some ways this reminds me of the Plans & Operations rules in the Freedom Squadron Plans & Operations Manual, and I want to think about a way to mix and match the two concepts when I use these rules.
One other optional rule in this chapter is an optional rule for wealth, that I will probably always use in my games from now on since I don’t find book-keeping money to be an interesting part of the game.
The last section I want to mention are the new Settings rules that are included:
- Creative Combat
- Dumb Luck
- Dynamic Backlash
- Fast healing
- Hard Choices
- More skill points which I will probably always use.
- Wound Cap
Some of these are from existing products, and some of them are new based on the default rules about Critical Failures and Joker’s Wild. I do wish some others were also included in this list from their other settings, but I can always add them on my own if I know of them.
This section covers the arcane backgrounds in the game. Right off the bat there are a couple of changes to note. What was the Super Powers arcane background got renamed Gifted with a recommendation to use the Super Powers Companion if you want to play a supper hero game. Some of the backgrounds get more powers than they used to at start (Miracles and Weird Science). There have also been tweaks to power points with Weird Scientists getting 15 power points to split between all of their devices.
Power Points are now recharged much more quickly at 5 points per hour instead of 1. You can also try to cast the power with fewer power points at a penalty. Another change from Flash Gordon was the inclusion of Power Modifiers4.
We also get a section on Arcane Devices which every Arcane Background can make when they hit Seasoned, but all of the Weird Scientists powers are tied to. One thing of note is that Weird Scientist’s devices don’t blow up anymore on a malfunction, but instead consume extra power points.
After that we get the powers and there descriptions. A couple of powers have been combined such as Healing and Greater Healing. Bolt lost its ability to fire more than one bolt per casting (you now have to use a Multi Action), and Burst went from 2d10 damage with an opposed roll to 2d6 damage with no opposed role. There also seems to be more information gather spells than there used to be, but I can’t be sure of that. We also get a Resurrection spell. One of the nice things about this section is when they renamed the spell for example Armor, they tell you to see the spell with the new name and page (Protection now).
This section covers some generic opponents that can be used in most games. Several of them are fantasy creatures such as Orcs, Goblins, and Dragons. Some are horror creatures such as Ghosts and Vampires, and some are natural animals like Bears, Snakes, and Lions. There is nothing special in this section. The one issue I have with it is there isn’t much in the way of basic people templates for things like Police and Cultist. The only one they have is for a Soldier which I guess would be easy enough to re-skin into most other basic encounter types.
This is the last section of the book and includes tips on running the game. Including the best way to learn the game, how to set up a game, and scheduling play times. It then moves on to different types of games from Hack and Slash to Horror. This section is mostly geared to new Game Masters and if you have been running and playing games for a long time, there probably isn’t much here for you.
We end up with a page of state summaries which will be very useful with the new states and some templates that can be print out (for the PDF).
The book then ends with one of the best indexes I have seen in a role-playing game. It is three pages each with three columns. I haven’t had the PDF long, but so far I have been able to find a reference for anything I have looked for by using it pretty quickly.
I am incredibly happy with and excited to use these rules in future play. While I don’t always see the need or even agree with all the rules changes, none of them seem to make the game worse, just different, and many of them are substantial improvements. I can’t wait until I get the physical copy of this game next year.
- Other than trying to keep the rules change from the various editions distinct in memory. ↩
- Some of the companions will be getting re-writes for the new rules others will be getting tweaks, and it has been hinted that there will be new ones. ↩
- Or at least new to the core rules, some of these probably existed in Pinnacle’s published settings, but I am not looking them up to find out for sure. ↩
- I had hoped for more of these, but it looks like the same list from the Flash Gordon rules. ↩