wizard-sleeve-04One of the hardest things about playing rpgs is breaking into the hobby. Without a knowledgeable hand to guide you, deciphering the myriad of terminology, niches, and reviewer biases can be absolutely mind-boggling.  And don’t discount this problem to apply to just gaming newbies.  Even the experienced gamer may have to do a whole lot of research on what he needs to get to play or run a certain game.  Finally, the whole thing is complicated by the fact that not every rulebook is, to put it gently, complete.

Well, I’m here to help.  As someone who spent years looking for the Holy Grail of games (and later realizing the truth about that conception) I have a good grasp of far too many game systems I’ll never play.  So I’m going to help you sort it out in what will be a regular feature of this column: “What Should I Buy?”   Today, we’re going to cover Savage Worlds.

What type of game  Savage Worlds?Savage Worlds is a  cinematic game that’s designed to play very quickly while still maintaining tactical depth.  It’s a generic system that is easily adapted from everythign from fantasy, to sci-fi, to horror.  Everything from character creation to conflict resolution is designed to be extremely quick.  The system excels at being versatile and handling epic battles in minimal time.  The only caveat is that any genre that you decide to play really needs to be rooted in pulp action.  There’s nothing stopping you from running deep social encounters, but there’s nothing to support it either.

Anything special I need for play? – Yes, you’ll need a playing card deck to resolve initiative.  I’ve heard complaints that some people don’t like using the cards, but I’ve found it to be one of the easiest initiative systems ever.  No need to write down order, just count down the cards.  Dice resolve everything else.

Anything else I need to know? – Most books for the system, particularly by Pinnacle, are in what’s called a “Plot Point” format. The first half of the book is the player section with background, special rules, equipment, etc for that particular setting.  The final half of the book is a complete campaign.  Adventures are given in skeletal format that does most of the work for the GM while still leaving plenty of room to tailor specifically to your group.  It’s a good setup. The quality of the campaigns vary wildly from book to book, though.

Essential books for the player:

  • Savage Worlds Explorer’s EditionIt’s ten bucks and it’s all you’ll ever need to play the game.  Seriously.

Recommended books for the player:

  • “Plot Point” book – It’s good to have the book for whatever campaign the GM is running, though not necessary. A cheap way to do this is to buy the “Player’s Guide” PDFs online. They give the entire player section from the book for cheap.  That way you’re not paying for the campaign info you won’t be using.

Essential books for the GM:

  • Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition – As above
  • “Plot Point” book – If you’re running a plot point, you’ll need the book. For the record, Fifty Fathoms was the first of the plot point books and is widely regarded as being the best of the bunch.
  • Sci-Fi Gear Toolkit – Okay, it’s not essential if you’re running a plot point campaign. If you’re homebrewing, it’s invaluable no matter what genre you’re using. The big draw here is the rules for creating different vehicles, mech, and weapons.  Those can be extrapolated to cover designing almost anything for any campaign. It’s PDF only.

Recommended books for the GM:

  • Sci-Fi Worldbuilder’s Toolkit – Lots of great advice and rules for running a sci-fi or time travel game. PDF only.
  • Fantasy Worldbuilders Toolkit – Not as useful as the Sci-Fi Worldbuilder, but still nice. Has lots of new spells.
  • Necessary Evil Explorer’s Edition – Even if you don’t plan on running supers, this book really lets you peek behind the curtain to see what makes the system tick and just how far you can push it. Mind you, it’s not presented that way, but a good GM will see a million uses for the powers.

Recommended Web Sites:

  • Pinnacle:  The publisher.  Download the Test Drive, sample characters, and a one-sheet adventure for free to try the system out.
  • Savage Heroes: Looking to do a conversion or adaptation? Chances are someone has already done it and posted it here.
  • Shark Bytes:  A  free fan-made ezine that’s been around almost as long as the system has. Lots of good tidbits within.

That should be more than enough to get you all started.  Now get out there and game!

If you liked what Lucias had to say, head on over to The Podge Cast where you can hear him jabberjaw about all manner of geeky things on a weekly basis.