Observations on the Flexibility of Game Systems and House Rules

I find myself drawn in time and again to consider Savage Worlds as a system, and once I get there, I can't figure out why. It lacks the detail that I hold to be important in my role playing systems, focusing on a lack of detail to make things faster - making a deliberate, conscious decision to trade detail for speed. "Fast! Furious! Fun!" is the motto, after all.

I think I drift in that direction because the system is so very simple. You can run anything with the Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition. Sure, you'll have to add appropriate setting rules, but that's remarkably easy, and as you get more familiar with the system, easier still. I know I could do these same things with a system like GURPS or Hero System, but the complexity of the existing system both makes that feel a little wrong - like there should already be an official way to do things, if that makes sense - and daunting, lest you do something that creates a domino effect throughout the system. Savage Worlds is so light, the risks are lower.

And yet, interestingly, there's an almost religious fervor in the SW community about the rules that are present. The same group that will tell you that any game can be played with these rules, any setting, just by adding Setting Rules, will be the first ones with cries of heresy, and the forming of lynch mobs, at the thought of making any changes to the rules that are present in the system. Not a fan of using playing cards for initiative? There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of ways you could change that up - but if you suggest them on an SW forum, be prepared to be told that you "need to play the system as it's written before you go changing things" - an assumption that your desire to change something came from ignorance rather than preference. To say nothing of assertions that it works fine and doesn't need to be changed, or that by changing it, you risk ruining the game - the refrain is "the designers did it that way for a reason." There's even a designer note in the Deluxe edition on why they no longer include alternative systems as optional rules, as they had in prior editions.

It is as though it were holy writ, and that is a strange thing to find in an otherwise flexible system.


  1. you gotta watch yourself when you go to the forums of the guys who make the games.

    We ain't in Kansas anymore Toto. Sadly, I usually find the least amount of help or open discussion in the *official* forums.

    1. Were it only on the peginc.com forums, I would expect it. But it's on G+, on rpg.net, even on Reddit from time to time. The system seems to engender an almost fanatical devotion to itself.

      Which is fine, it's a great little system (once you internalize the idiosyncrasies) but a little disconcerting when compared to the openness of the settings and setting rules.

  2. I don't know any Savage Worlds enthusiasts. I'd guess it hasn't taken off much in the UK.

    (But hey, I do fast-moving action with GURPS.)


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