February 15, 2010

How to Get Started Playing Fantasy RPGs With Savage Worlds

There's been a lot of continued rumblings about Savage Worlds in the RPG blogosphere over the last year or so - especially for some reason around the time that 4E D&D was first released. Although Savage Worlds has been out for a couple years now it seems like it has picked up a lot of steam - I mean, just check out the list of 3rd party publishers who are supporting it as a game system. Top this off with all the great products that Pinnacle has produced using Savage Worlds, and you have a huge list of nearly 250 games, supplements, and adventures to play using SW.

But players can't experience everything - so you are forced to choose. My first games with Savage Worlds were using Deadlands Reloaded, which I've been playing in for almost a year. It's been great fun - and a very different feel than D&D. Combat is faster, and the story seems to progress faster as a result. The players all seem to be (at least in my group) more engaged or connected to their characters as well. But Deadlands is a completely different genre than D&D - cowboys and zombies, Indian shamans and steam punk mad scientists. So - the obvious question I had was "How much of the fun is due to the genre, and how much is due to the game?"

I've decided I want to make a closer comparison to D&D by playing a 'fantasy' style game using the SW rule set. I then discovered I was once again faced with a huge number of options, the first of which was should I play a packaged campaign setting (e.g. Hellfrost, 50 Fathoms, EverNight, etc) or play even closer to stock D&D where the setting is a generic one such as Nentir Vale. I decided on the latter choice, which is what led up this post and this important question:

What Savage Worlds resources would I need to get started playing a stock fantasy campaign?

Well, here's the list of things organized by FREE and followed by things that will cost you something.

  1. Download the Savage Worlds Test Drive Rules (link to version 6 PDF) from Pinnacle. The Savage Worlds rules are generic, and the Test Drive Rules provide a free way to get started with the game regardless of what genre you are playing. It gives you most of the core mechanics of the game, along with plenty of options to start a campaign without the infamous "buy in".
  2. Pick up the (incredibly awesome) Tomb of Terrors Bundle (also free and available here). It that bundle you'll get
    • The (excellent!) Wizards & Warriors PDF - a set of options to play fantasy using Savage Worlds. A couple of new races and edges are included.
    • Tomb of Terrors adventure - a spin off of similarly named classic D&D adventure. Visit Grognardia for more about that.
    • Fantasy Character Sheets
    • Treasure Cards (magic items) for players to use in the adventure
    • Figure Flats (paper minis) to use with the adventure
    • Miniature Tiles for combat
  3. Grab the Fantasy Shark Bites Fanzine. Shark Bites is a free, community developed fanzine aimed at supporting all the variations of Savage Worlds. Two important PDFs were released that support fantasy genre games:
    • Shark Bites Volume 4 - Fantasy Issue. In this bundle you'll get  two PDFs - one for players and one for GMs. The GM's PDF (pictured at right) is 36 pages and includes four short adventures, a collection of magic items,  a bunch of awesome NPCs to pit against your players. The Players version of the PDF includes rules for Wuxia Kung-Fu Fighting Styles,  new powers, spells and rituals for sorcerers, a gallery of new magic items and trinkets, a generic system for fantasy religions and gods, and several new (but strange) races.
    • Shark Bites Volume 4 - Fantasy Extras. This bonus bundle includes a 21 page adventure and a collection of stock NPCs (called Extras in SW parlance). 
  4. Bookmark the Savagepedia - and poke around for new races, powers, monsters, and everything else!
Now, if you are willing to spend a little cash on the real game - then you'll need the following:
  1. The Savage Worlds Explorer Edition ($9.99 from Amazon). For people coming from D&D - this is like "the core rules". It includes all the base material needed to play SW for any genre, and for less than 10 bucks - it's hard to say no. You can also pick up the PDF version of this from RPGNow.com for the same price, so you're better off just buying it in print.
  2. Savage World Fantasy Companion ($19.99 from Amazon). Now, here's thing - I don't own this book myself (or the PDF version). Instead, I picked up the SW Fantasy Toolkits (see below) which have a fair amount of overlap with the slick printed Fantasy Companion Book.
  3. Savage World Fantasy Toolkits (available as PDFs only). There are three toolkits: Character Generator (read:Players Handbook), Bestiary (read:monster manual), and World Builder's Guide (read:DM's Guide). You'll spend about 10 or 15 bucks on each of these - so if you are a player, just pick up the Fantasy Companion in print instead.
So, next to nothing $30 you can be well set up to create whatever fantasy campaigns you want using Savage Worlds. You'll also have a fair number of adventures to kick off your campaign. 

But wait - are you unwilling to try it because you just love your existing fantasy campaign setting so much? Well - fortunately for you there's a huge list of conversions that people have been working on. Just hope over here and check it out!

If you decide to play a fantasy style game using Savage Worlds - like I have - then leave a comment and let me know! How does it compare to D&D for you?

Once I get my SW fantasy campaign up and running in full (perhaps set in Loaerth) you can be sure I'll be blogging about it here on TCM. So, stay tuned!


  1. Great Stuff --

    I've been very curious about Savage Worlds . . . so I look forward to more reports.

    I'm playing Pathfinder lately (and loving it) . . . but the more games the better.

  2. I just wanted to plug the book I'm currently using for fantasy Savage Worlds. Apart from being a great setting, Shaintar offers all the crunch I'll ever need to run standard fantasy in SW. I keep the Fantasy Companion nearby, but I never need it unless I'm doing setting hacking or creation.

  3. I did one session of a fantasy game loosely based off of The Noble Dead series, my player (completely new to Savage Worlds) loved it.

    To back up the previous poster, not only is Shaintar awesome, but Sean Patrick Fannon is writing the new Shaintar book which is meant to shatter everything we know about epic, high fantasy in Savage Worlds.

  4. @LastRogue - you should grab some of the free resources and just run a one night session. From Pinnacle's website they have these super short 1-page adventures you can download for free as well, that's how I got hooked into SW.

    @d7 / @Tommy -- you all have a link for Shaintar? I suppose the same one available from RPGNow? or is there a print version available somewhere?

  5. also check out the one sheet adventures from the pinnacle website download section, they are complete adventures that can be run ussually in 4 or 5 hours. most genres such as fantasy, pulp, etc have pre mades already made so your players can start the games very quickly to determine if they will like them,in the Fun Fast Furiouse way, or sumething like that lol

  6. Thanks for the info - I'm currently running Deadlands, but we can only stay away from our roots for so long!



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