Savage Worlds Adventure Edition (SWADE) was exactly what I was looking for. I'm just getting back into the hobby, and I wanted to try something more flexible that would allow me to quickly add whatever elements I want, and less simulationist. Staring back in the mid-80's I have played and ran AD&D, 2e, 3.5e, and Pathfinder 1e, and I didn't want to get on the 5e train.
I, personally, consider the SWADE rules a masterpiece. If you read through them, and soak in all the subsystems, it allows you to add so many fun elements to your games like dramatic tasks, chases, social conflict, fear & insanity, and others. It also amazingly does it without turing the system into a simulation math fest.
I have seen people write "SWADE is NOT rules light!" when critisizing Savage Worlds in forums, and I agree with that. This is a beefy PDF, and there is a lot to soak in, especially if you are new to Savage Worlds like I was. However I don't think "rules light" is the claim Pinnacle made. What they said was "Fast & Furious", and in my opinion they delivered on that. There was a lot of reading and asking questions involved, but I feel much more able to implement all the systems in SWADE, whereas in Pathfinder v1 and 3.5, I always seemed to be fiddling around with the rules, and having rules debates with people, and with Black Hack it just didn't feel like there was enough crunch. SWADE is the complete opposite. I can run this stuff in Fantasy grounds, which has EXCELLENT SWADE integration, and the game doesn't grind to a halt every time the game mechanics come into play. I can just go BOOM, BOOM, BOOM from one scene to the next. The last game session I ran, we did half a dozen scenes, including a large puzzle that took the group a while to figure out all in 4 hours.
Versatility is just off the charts with SWADE. I'm finding myself plugging in the sci-fi and horror elements I've always wanted to run into my Beasts & Barbarians games. I never would have even considered attempting this in Pathfinder, especially "on the fly". It's trivially easy in SWADE, and I love it.
I really can't say enough good things about SWADE, and I would be shocked if another system comes along anytime soon that's good enough to convince me to change. This is just an A+ product.
One complaint I have with almost ALL game systems is the disparity of suggestions for balancing encounters. I'm not asking for a full on Challenge Rating system like in Pathfinder, but it was very difficult for me the first time to figure out a good challenge. Unfortunatley, this conversation is usually dominted by grognards who pound their fists on the table and say "DON'T BALANCE ANYTHING!! Anyone who disagrees with me is an idiot and will be censured by sycophantic like-minded forum moderatos, then receive a melee attack from my neckbeard!" However, for GM's new to the system, we don't have any idea what to throw at the players the first time, and a TPW in the first session is probably not explainable by the standard garbage neckbeard advice of "you guys should learn how to assess the risks, it's a dangerous world!" My theory is people who say things like this don't actually run games, or at least not good ones because what would probably happen is all your players would quit. Players now days have far more options than back in the caveman days of Chainmail, and they'll just bail and join another Discord channel if they don't like your game. So what am I actually asking for? How about just several pages of examples to help the new guys. Here are stat blocks of a sample party of 4, here are some common combinations of enemy stat blocks like goblins and skeletons and such THAT WE PLAY TESTED, and proved to be a fun encounter. Stop listening to the grognards on this, new GMs need a lot more help in this area than what you give us. Fortunatley I have Fantasy Grounds where I can speed up the play testing of encounters between games, but back in the good old days before Fantasy Grounds this would have been a colossal PITA. Just provide multiple clear examples illustrating how experienced SWADE GM's ballpark challenge to set us on the way. Once we have a feel for it, we won't need it anymore. What happened to me was, I ran a "mini-game" before the first actual game session, followed your extremely sparse encounter balance guidance, and the party just wiped the floor with them. I don't think anyone even took a single hit, and it just wasn't fun. Next go-round I had some frame of reference as to what is "too easy", and things went much better, but if you had just given me more guidelines to help shape my thinking in the beginning, the first session would have been much better. The grognards and neckbeards like to paint this as a false dilemma; either you put in some bloated, barely functional CR system like Pathfinder, or you don't try to balance anything. To me, this is just complete BS. There is a happy middle ground for helping new GM's avoid TPW's and boring easy encounters in the early games, and I could probably write it myself at this point. All it would take is a little effort on your part. I won't knock off a star, because nobody got mad and quit after the easy encounter, but I was a little irritated. Before you go on the defensive, Pinnacle, I am only taking the time to write this because I love your product and would like to see it improved.
Another minor complaint is that the PDF is poorly optimized, weighing in at a ridiculously unecessary 56MB, and performing even worse than that size would indicate on older devices like my Android tablet. It's just a bloated hog of a PDF. After removing all the images with Ghostscript (see below), and using a free online PDF optimizer, the result is a 2.5MB PDF that opens lightning quick and scrolls smoothly on all my devices. I get that Pinnacle is trying to pretty up their product, but rule books are utilitarian. Most people are going to look at the pretty pictures once, then spend the rest of their time wishing the PDF was optimized better. What I would prefer is if they would create a reference book PDF designed purely for GM reference, and then maybe include a full version with art, or just an art book.
Normally poor PDF optimization would cost any product I review a star, but fortunately for Pinnacle the content of SWADE is just so outstanding I can't give it less than 5 stars.
I actually wound up buying this product twice. Once in PDF format, because I had originally intended to play on Roll20. Then a second time when I switched to Fantasy Grounds. Normally this would irritate me and I would have refunded the PDF product, since the full rule book is in Fantasy Grounds and that's where I look stuff up. I like this product so much, however, paying for it twice still seems like a good value, and I'm happy to pay a little extra to support a company I like.
Here's how to delete the images with Ghostscript:
gs -o noimages.pdf -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -dFILTERIMAGE input.pdf
[5 of 5 Stars!]