Review of Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition

Posted: 16 July 2011 in Reviews

We interrupt our usual schedule today to bring you a review of the new Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition from Pinnacle Entertainment. 161 page PDF (in my case), $20 to download from RPGNow.


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, or to try to recover from wounds. PCs have 3 wounds, NPCs have one.

The combat system encourages swashbuckling and teamwork. You can attempt any number of actions per turn, although the more you try, the worse the penalties to your die rolls. Skills like Taunt and Intimidation, and tricks based on Smarts (“Look behind you!”) or Agility (throwing sand in faces) make it easier for you and your friends to damage enemies.

Get the free test drive version here and check it out. Now, read on…


This takes the Explorer’s Edition and tweaks it with the designer’s current thoughts based on the last ten years of play, feedback, and other products. Pinnacle plans to make the changes available on its website for those with the previous edition (a fine plan, chaps).

Deluxe doesn’t invalidate Explorers’, so you can carry on using it. No, really. The gaming police won’t lift a finger against you.

What’s New?

  • The rulebook has the same page count as EE, but a larger page size and a smaller internal font. This means it has more stuff in it, but doesn’t take so well to being printed or viewed at a reduced size. Some of the extra page count is used to advertise other SW products – settings, adventures, accessories etc.
  • Design notes – short paragraphs (they’d be sidebars in most products) explaining why particular rules are the way they are.
  • Character archetypes. These are 16 character templates you can pick up and play pretty much immediately; add Hindrances and gear, spend any remaining skill points, and you’re off. I’ve been doing this in my games for years (I took the idea from the WEG version of the Star Wars RPG), and I heartily recommend it.
  • Races. 11 stock races including most of the stereotypical fantasy and SF ones, plus the rules from the Fantasy Companion on creating new races. I felt this was missing from Explorer’s Edition, and I’m pleased to see it here.
  • A number of new edges. I particularly like Tactician, which allows a hero to draw extra action cards and give them to his NPC allies. No new hindrances that I could see.
  • Rules for firing and evading guided missiles.
  • More guns. Mostly machine guns and tank/antitank guns, it seems.
  • Expanded vehicle rules, including how to calculate vehicle Toughness; statblocks for World War II, modern, and futuristic military vehicles.
  • Rules for gaming without miniatures, welcome because that is how I usually play.
  • Rules for improvised weapons.
  • Extended examples for personal and vehicular combat, and the new “dramatic tasks” such as defusing a bomb.
  • Expanded disease and poison rules.
  • Interludes – scenes between encounters where heroes engage in small talk to develop their characters. I probably won’t use this.
  • Setting rules. These are a selection of rules variants for particular setting types, such as Gritty Damage (in which wounds also incur rolls on the Injury Table rather than just penalties to die rolls), the popular Multiple Languages (speak as many as half your Smarts die) or No Power Points (which replaces power points with modifiers on casting die rolls). I will definitely try the last.
  • Rules for social conflict – these work somewhat like the skill challenges in D&D 4th Edition.
  • Expanded rules for travel, including random encounters. The encounter rules are not very detailed, and would need some customisation.
  • More powers, and rules expanding on power trappings to modify their effects depending on the trapping (I’m in two minds about that one). The new powers include Confusion, Mind Reading, and Slumber (a sleep spell at last!), and Summon Ally. The design notes also stress that players and GMs should rename the powers to add flavour.
  • A couple of new creatures, but in the main the Bestiary stays as it was. House cats are in the bestiary; the powers section has two flavours of summoned bodyguards.
  • Several one-sheet adventures, one for contemporary horror, one for fantasy vikings, one for sci-fi, one for high fantasy, one for present-day criminal gangs.
  • Templates. These were missing from Explorer’s Edition, you had to download them from the website.
  • An index! Explorer’s Edition doesn’t have an index, and I miss it more than I expected.

What’s Different?

  • The page layout is tighter and easier to read than before. Much of the artwork has changed, with fewer of the cartoon-style illustrations.
  • Skill and power descriptions have related rules embedded in them – for example the Zombie power now has the zombie statblock with it, so you don’t need to flip to the bestiary when you cast it; the Climbing skill has the relevant movement rules in its description.
  • More detailed descriptions of some skills – for example, Knowledge (Language) now has examples of what a character can do at each skill level.
  • Background and professional edges can now be taken at any time, not just at character creation.
  • The summary pages for character creation, gear, combat etc are better laid our and more user-friendly than before.
  • Climb ratings for air vehicles are calculated differently.
  • The chase rules. I’ve never actually used these, so although I can see they are different, I can’t say what impact that will have.

What’s Gone?

  • The Guts skill has been removed. It’s now considered a setting-specific rule, not part of the core system. Interestingly, it is not one of the setting rules in the Deluxe Edition itself.
  • The printer-friendly version of the PDF. The background layer on each page isn’t as aggressive, though, so hopefully it won’t matter.
    Update: After some weeks I noticed that one can suppress the background layer using the layers tab in Acrobat, so this isn’t “gone” after all.
  • The Wreck of the Solarah pirate one-sheet adventure, but you do get five others instead.


The Deluxe Edition feels like it has a more military focus than previously, largely because the gear lists have expanded in that direction. The additional powers will also make it easier to emulate D&D and similar fantasy games, because they introduce those common tropes into the game.

I will probably switch from Explorer’s to Deluxe shortly, if only because doing that would eliminate all but one of my current house rules – they wouldn’t be necessary. The primary impact that will have in my current campaigns is to remove Guts from all PCs; I’ll let them spend the points elsewhere.

  1. thetailrace says:

    Savage Worlds strikes me as very flexible, got the EE as pdf and hardcopy now.

    • andyslack says:

      I agree – extremely flexible, and ease of conversion is another huge plus. Enjoy EE! I know I have.

  2. […] up again and again as one of those games I need to eventually check out… Well, check out this review of Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition from Andy Slack at Halfway Station! I love how he breaks things down and starts with “If […]

  3. Robert says:

    Hi Andy!
    I recently got into SW. Having GM’ed Gurps for quite some time. Wow, what a difference! Recently I was watching LotR-1 and during the tomb fight in Moria I started thinking “yea, I could do that with SW in a breeze!”.

    I remember that you did a Gurps SG-13 supplement some time ago. Have you converted it to SW? I would love to run a “SW SG-13” Miniseries. 🙂

    • andyslack says:

      I did start on an SG-13 conversion, and that was when I realised I didn’t need to do worldbooks for Savage Worlds, because I can convert things on the fly in my head.

      If you look in the SG-13 campaign writeups (check the left hand bar over there) you can see how I’ve played SGC using SW. It’s really easy to do.

      • Robert says:

        Yea, your’e right, it can be mostly done on the fly. Oh man, SWDX makes things so much easier. “Dont’ build NPC’s – just give’m what you need”… 🙂

        For example the Zet-Guns. It is enough that you hit the target (was there ever someone who withstood a Zet shot?). First hit – your down, second – your dead, third – no need for a bodybag.

        I would use the following setting rules:
        * skill specialization
        * gritty damage
        * heroes never die
        * fanatics

        What do you think?

      • andyslack says:

        I don’t remember anyone withstanding a zat shot, but the hits obviously wear off, because O’Neill was hit more than three times in the course of the series, although never more than once per episode.

        I tend to avoid setting rules because (with the exception of Many Languages) I think they start to undermine the whole fast-furious-fun vibe.

        * skill specialization: Not for me in general, it’s one of the things I wanted to get away from by moving to SW. YMMV.
        * gritty damage: Agreed, because some storylines involved heroes doing things while temporarily crippled.
        * heroes never die: Agreed. Actually I’ve been doing this for some time, but don’t tell my players or they’ll get cocky.
        * fanatics: Agreed, especially for the Jafar.

  4. Mike says:

    > An index! Explorer’s Edition doesn’t have an index, and I miss it more than I expected.

    Later printings _do_ have an index, and last I knew, you could download one as well.

    Good info though. Thanks!!

  5. Jeffrey says:

    Thanks so much for posting this. I have been an avid SW player since I picked up Explorer ed. over a year ago and it really sounds like my house rules won’t be house anymore! Plus, the pages fall out of the paperback after so long. Thanks for making my decision to break down and get it an easy one!

  6. […] As far as I can tell, the content of the Deluxe Explorers’ Edition exactly matches that of the ordinary Deluxe Edition (which I reviewed here). […]

  7. […] 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 […]

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