Time to take on one of the more popular game systems out there: Savage Worlds. Like FATE, SW has a lot of adherents who talk the system up incessantly, and being adverse to hype, I’ve found myself trying to avoid both the systems (especially after FATE started creeping into other systems like Cortex. “You’ll like it, it’s just like the system…but with all the good bits of FATE added!”) I finally decided to do a review after reading this piece on Savage Worlds.

I finally got a chance to play in a Cortex game a few months back and posted the character I’d made on the site (search Trapp Sommers — I’m too lazy to link today.) Here’s my first impressions: it’s quick and stripped down, and I tend to like that. That said, I hate the single die and “wild die” mechanic; I hate the exploding die mechanic (that’s where, if you roll a 6 in this case, you get to keep rerolling that die. Every 6 allows you to keep doing it…) I also find the attribute or skill test makes no sense if you have  better trait than skill. Why roll a d6 for my firearms skill, if my Agility is a d8? (And that is my response to the criticism of Cortex in the above linked blog post — you’re rolling just as many dice and often different types. Your criticism seems based on a cursory read of the rules. Now that I’ve defended my current favorite system like some pathetic fanboy…which I guess I am…onward!)

I suspect most of my disdain for the single die is that most of the systems I’ve played either have you roll your attribute+skill in some combo — either a die rating for each, or a die test onto which the combination of attribute+skill add. So take that as you will; it makes for a swift test resolution…until you hit combat. Then Pinnacle adds a deck of cards for initiative. I love the James Bond system as anyone who reads this blog knows. The d6 for initiative but d100 for everything else always felt clumsy; this is more so.

However, outside of those two complaints, the SW experience was fairly solid. As a generic system, it’s pretty good — you can easily build the characters you want, if you take “experience” at the creation point. there’s enough examples of things to do almost any genre on the fly. and it is certainly less math and rule-intensive than GURPS, lacks the die step mechanic of Cortex that some find difficult, and it’s not d20. And for $10 for the Explorer’s Edition, it’s worth a look.

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