The third act of Andy Slack's gaming blog

TL:DR

The latest edition of the Savage Worlds core rulebook, the Adventure Edition, formerly known as the Black Edition. 210 page PDF from Pinnacle Entertainment Group, $10 at time of writing.

You will not be surprised to learn I was an early backer of this on Kickstarter… I reviewed the last edition here, so let’s look at the changes since then.

As usual, I backed this at a high enough level to get all the PDFs, so expect reviews of those later.

If You’ve Never Played Savage Worlds…

It’s a multi-genre roleplaying game with a point-buy character generation system, best suited to pulp action adventure.

To succeed at a task, you need to roll the target’s Parry score (when rolling to hit someone in melee), or the target’s Toughness (when trying to wound them), or a 4+ (for anything else). More experienced characters roll dice with more sides, giving them a better chance of success. If you beat the required roll by 4 or more (called a “raise”), you get a better result. Any die which rolls its maximum (an “ace”) allows you to keep that score, reroll the die, and add the new result to your total.

PCs roll a d6 as well as the die for their skill or attribute whenever they roll, except when rolling damage; you can choose to use the result from the normal die, or the d6. PCs also start each session with three “bennies”. You can use a benny to reroll any one die, try to recover from wounds, or influence the narrative. PCs have 3 wounds, NPCs have one.

The combat system encourages swashbuckling and teamwork. You can attempt multiple actions per turn, although the more you try, the worse the penalties to your die rolls. You can also taunt or intimidate foes to reduce their chances of success, or support friends to increase theirs, meaning a PC can play an important part in fights even without combat skills.

Do I Need This?

To be honest, only if you want to keep up to date with Savage Worlds. There are no dramatic content changes from the previous (Deluxe) Edition, just a number of tweaks for speed and clarity, and the incorporation of a few rules from the key settings. I expect Pinnacle to release a free-to-download conversion guide at some point, but even without that you could carry on playing previous editions without much trouble.

What sold me on it were the changes to the Situational Rules, now renamed the Adventure Toolkit – essentially the improved collection of GM tools.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

The most immediately noticeable change is the format; Savage Worlds will henceforth only be available as a PDF or as a hardback with the “graphic novel” form factor, i.e. 6 5/8″ x 10 1/8″ (168 x 257 mm if you live anywhere except the USA). I shall miss the old Explorers’ Edition softbacks, which were extremely portable and great presents for fellow gamers; but they’re no longer commercially viable, and nothing survives that for long. The new format works well on modern smartphones and tablets, with their “letterbox” screens.

The artwork and layout have been completely overhauled. I especially like the illustration of a couple of kids in chemotherapy being cheered up by a roleplaying session. That is an excellent idea.

There have been a lot of mechanical changes from SWD to SWADE. Individually, none of them are dramatic, but together I expect them to change the feel of the game significantly.

General mechanical changes – shifts in philosophy, if you will:

  • There’s been a shift from the specific to the general. A lot of things that were scattered and repeated in the rules have been abstracted into more generic statements; status conditions and power modifiers are good examples. At first glance, it looks like the rules have become more complex, but actually they haven’t, they’ve just been consolidated and clarified.
  • There are now options for more narrativist play styles. The rules for Networking and Quick Encounters show this best; if you think of your SW sessions as movies, you now have options for montages, in which hours of (say) relatively unimportant legwork is condensed into a single skill roll.
  • There’s more scope for player creativity. Want to change your power trappings on the fly? There’s an Edge for that. Want to use your Persuasion to support your buddy in defusing a bomb? Go ahead.

Specific rules changes worth calling out:

  • A few subsystems have been deleted; Charisma is now subsumed into specific dice roll modifiers, experience points have been replaced by guidelines on how often PCs should advance. We’ve also lost the archetypical PCs (boo!) and much of the World War II gear (meh).
  • Some rules have been rewritten; chases are the most obvious example, but there is now a hard cap on how many actions you can take per round (namely three), power points recharge more quickly (5 per hour) while powering spells for longer (usually 5 turns rather than 3), and there are a couple more things you can do with bennies.
  • Some things have been added; an abstract Wealth system for those who don’t want to track every last coin, and (at last!) a summary sheet of powers. All PCs now begin with a d4 in five specific skills, and have 12 points instead of 15 to buy others.

Conclusions

I think this will take a little getting used to, but once I’ve internalised the changes the game should play faster at the table – mind you, this means it will chew through plot even faster than it already did.

Game masters and players alike have more options now, and more scope for creativity.

I have always wanted Savage Worlds to have options for solitaire play, and with the new options in the Adventure Toolkit, it’s getting very close to having them. I’ll have to try that and see how it works.

Overall? I will adopt SWADE, but not with a feeling of “OMG I have to play this right now!” more with a nod and a comment of “Yeah, some solid incremental improvements here.”

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