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Savage Worlds Primer by JiB

JiB’s Savage Worlds Primer – The basics of playing Savage Worlds

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What follows is the most basic of information necessary for a player in a savage game. I’m going to break it down into the following sections.

  • Basics
  • Aces
  • Raises
  • Wild Dice
  • About Characters
  • Traits
  • Skills
  • Combat
  • Initiative / Actions
  • Movement
  • Attacking / Damage
  • Magic and other Strangeness
  • Character Status – Shaken / Wounds

Simplicity is the primary objective


Pretty much everything in Savage Worlds is based around a die type. The higher the die type the better one’s chance of success at anything.

Concepts that the player must be familiar with.


An ace occurs any time a die roll results in the highest number possible for that die. On an ace the die is rolled again and the results added together. Aces are open ended and continue as long as the highest value on the die results.

For example, Darcy Valentine (a pulp action heroine) thwacks a cannibal over the head with a makeshift club (she picked up a stick). She’s not very good at fighting so she rolls a d6. One her first roll she gets a 6 (an ace) and so she rolls again and gets another 6 (another ace) and so rolls again and gets a 3. Adding the die rolls together results in an attack of 15 (really good). Any skill, trait or damage can ace. NOTE: Any bonuses are added on after the dice are added together.


A raise occurs any time a skill, trait or combat roll results in a value 4 or more above what is needed to succeed. Raises are cumulative. In the example of Darcy Valentine (above) Darcy’s result of 15 is 9 higher than the cannibal’s parry of 6 which results in two raises. (A really good result).


Bennies are a little bit of good luck or fate that is given to wild card characters to give them some additional control over their fate. Every wild card character starts the game with 3 bennies, and may receive more for good role playing, really fun or interesting things or anything that the GM decides is worth a bennie. Bennies can be used to; reroll any trait test (Any skill or trait roll can be rerolled from scratch). Bennies can also be used to make a vigor roll to soak (and avoid) taking a wound from damage in combat. WOUNDS ARE BAD! Be aware that the GM starts the game with bennies as well but he doesn’t get any additional ones in the course of play.

Wild Dice

All player characters are “Wild Card” characters which means that for any skill or trait test the player also rolls a d6 (the wild die) and uses whichever result is better. This represents a certain amount of “good luck.” that fate grants to heroes.

For example, Buzz Carmichael (pulp action hero) wants to shoot a cannibal with his Colt 1911. Buzz is good at shooting he rolls a d10, but being a wild card character he also rolls a wild die. His d10 result is 4 (not so good), but his wild die rolls a 6 (an ace) so he rolls it again and gets a 5 for a result of 11.

About Characters


Characters have several traits that define them 5 basic attributes plus 4 derived traits.

Strength (physical strength and power)
Agility (dexterity, balance, etc)
Smarts (intelligence and ability to think, knowledge etc.)
Vigor (endurance, resistance to disease and so forth)
Spirit (inner wisdom and willpower)

Derived traits

Pace (how fast you move in a combat round, humans move 6” or an additional d6” when they run)
Parry (2+(1/2 of fighting) plus bonuses for shields or certain weapons) ability to avoid getting hit)
Charisma (measure of character’s appearance, manner and general likability. Usually 0 unless hindrances or edges modify it. Added to persuasion and streetwise rolls)
Toughness (damage threshold (2 + ½ Vigor plus armor)


Skills are learned trades such as shooting, knowledge about most anything, tracking, etc. They are also represented by a die type and as always that die type is used for skills challenges. No skill may be higher than a d12. Skill challenges can also ace and can also get raises.


Initiative / Actions

Every round of combat the GM will deal a card for every wild card character (PC/NPC) and for every group of extras. The characters and extras will go in the order of highest card to lowest. Aces are high deuces are low. Ties (same face value) are resolved by suit in reverse alphabetical order (spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs)

The joker is wild which means that a character with a joker action card can go whenever they want (including interrupting any other character’s action).

On the character’s action they may perform a minor action, move, and/or attack / defend.


In any combat round a character can move up to their pace. They may also run up to an additional 1d6 inches in a round. Other movement rates apply to different sorts of movement such as crouching, crawling, climbing, etc.

Combat Actions

Characters may make one hand attack per round. If the attack hits with a raise add 1d6 damage to the normal damage roll.

Sir Wilfred swings with his broadsword at a zombie and rolls his fighting skill (d10) against the zombie’s parry of 6. He gets a 10 (an ace) and rolls again getting a 2 for a total of 12. At 6 over the zombie’s parry he gets 1 raise so he rolls an additional 1d6 damage so he rolls his strength + 2d6 for the sword (d10 + 2d6 + 1d6). It sounds more complicated than it actually is.

Characters may shoot at an enemy a number of times equal to the rate of fire of their weapon.

A Tommy Gun has a rate of fire of 3 which means that the character with a tommy gun rolls 3 of whatever his shooting skill is plus 1 wild die. NOTE He may fire at as many targets as the weapon has rate of fire.

Guns (and other such weapons) do not add the strength die to their damage rolls though each ace on an attack roll adds an additional d6 damage.

Grenades and thrown weapons operate similarly to shooting weapons except that the character throwing the grenade places the appropriate sized template on the map and rolls their throwing (or shooting if appropriate) skill. If the attack succeeds the weapon lands where they wanted, if not it can land somewhere else (determined by the GM)

A quick word about cover. As one would expect, falling prone or taking cover will provide various amounts of protection (improved parry) depending on the nature of the cover in question.

Magic and other strangeness

Magic works the same way everything else does in Savage Worlds, roll your magical skill and if you exceed the target number (it’s usually 4) set by the GM you succeed. The exact effect is a matter left to the descriptive capability of the player and the exact mechanics of the spell or ability in question.

Damage Effects
On a successful attack, damage is compared to the opponent’s Toughness. If the damage roll is less than the target’s Toughness, the victim is beaten up a bit but there is no game effect. With a success the victim is shaken. If the victim is already shaken, he suffers a wound instead. On a raise above the victim’s Toughness the victim suffers a wound.

Character Status – Shaken, Fatigued and Wounded


A character can become shaken by any number of causes most commonly by a test of will result or by taking damage. A shaken character may only move ½ their pace and can perform no other actions (including running). If a shaken character is shaken again they take a wound instead. Shaken characters can make a spirit roll at the beginning of the next round to recover from being shaken.


Each raise on a damage roll above the character’s toughness indicates a wound. A wild card character can take 3 wounds before being incapacitated. Wounds cause penalties (cumulative) which make life harder for the character and increase the likelihood that they will be injured even more. NOTE: A wounded character can spend a benny (if they have one) to try to soak a wound in the same round that they take the wound.

That’s pretty much it in terms of play.

I hope this helps,


Written by

Software developer, gamer, ice hockey player, sometime musician.

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3 Responses to "Savage Worlds Primer by JiB"

  1. Beldar1215No Gravatar says:

    Couple things- Under movement, it seems to say that you can run double your pace in a round. This is not the case. It is a d6 roll. To unshake the round after you take a shaken, it is a spirit roll, not a vigor roll. The vigor roll must be made on the round you take to damage to try to soak the damage. This does cost a benny as well.


  2. JazzIsBluesNo Gravatar says:

    Beldar, thank you for the corrections, much appreciated. JiB

  3. Beldar1215No Gravatar says:

    No problem. Happy to help! I love the system and hope that others look at your great post and get interested in the system!!!

    Rocky Mountain Savages

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