Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trappings: A Random Table for Savage Worlds

What has attracted us to Savage Worlds is the stripped-down elegance of the core system, and the way it quickly and easily lets us adapt all that stuff we built originally around the D20 mechanics for Xembor. It is a wonderful baseline structure that encourages you to tinker with it and make it your own, not in terms of reinventing the wheel or adding-on whole new systems, but rather in adjusting the existing bits to suit your whims, desires or stylistic needs.

But why just tell you when we can show you?

Here's a quick example of one aspect of Savage Worlds that we really like. In Savage Worlds each Power is a fairly straight-forward effect that has its own Rank (how difficult it is to use/cast), Power Point cost, Range, Duration, and Trappings. Yeah--Trappings. What are Trappings? These are the stylistic and setting-derived/inspired qualities of each Power--the look, feel, and expression of each Power within your setting. It is a very simple idea, packed with loads of potential for allowing massive amounts of GM modification and creativity, while at the same time keeping everything running smoothly so that each game/setting remains compatible with every other one at the core.

For example. The Barrier Power (p.86 of the Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition) creates a solid, immobile wall that defends the caster or can be used to trap their target. Very simple. The Trapping would be the setting-essential details of whether the Barrier was composed of antimatter, gelatinous goo, ectoplasm, enslaved nightmare pupae, shards of rusty scrap metal, or writhing vines pulsating with gibbering tooth-filled maws that drool wetly as they seek to consume the very soul of anyone that comes close...

You get the idea.

In fact, we like this Trapping approach so much that we drafted a random table of Trappings for the Barrier Power just now. Here it is:

Your Barrier is composed of...
  1. Sparkling panes of overlapping transparent silica that distort visibility by revealing images of environments and events on adjacent alternate timelines.
  2. Black, iron-like thorns that slowly extend with a harsh cacophony of clanking and scraping noises as they cruelly embed themselves into the surrounding area and anyone unfortunate enough to be within their reach.
  3. Massive cycads and ferns emerge from a dense fog-bank rich in carbon dioxide. They are dripping with unwholesome moisture and pre-date humanity by several millions of years. You get the unsettling feeling that they are aware of you somehow...
  4. Glistening globs of ectoplasm slowly accumulate from myriads of tiny tendrils drawn from every living thing within the range of the spell. Each tendril forms a palpitating blob of snotty, almost egg-white like matter that then rises into the air to swim about like globs of wax in a lava lamp...
  5. Microfine dust particles that arrange themselves into any configuration that you can visualize.
  6. A snarled mass of monomolecular filament.
  7. Thick, ponderous and pitted bronze scales from some titanic sculpture akin to the Colossus of Rhodes, but of decidedly non-human character...
  8. Seething mass of super-heated fluids resembling a witches cauldron, only without any cauldron to contain it.
  9. Swarms of toothsome snails, all of them staring implacably right at you with what is clearly bad intent.
  10. A densely-packed and radiantly green stand of bamboo that gently sways in a wind that does not carry past the range of the Barrier.
  11. Frothing waves of crashing and smashing sea water that has the most lurid tint of reddish violet to it...
  12. Incredibly hot, dry, red sand of a sugar-like consistency drifts into a sort of truncated, vertical mass of drifting dunes that smolder under a harsh glare that streams in from somewhere else.
  13. Heavy, massively riveted plates of ultra-dense steel alloy that may or may not form the hull of what might be a space vessel.
  14. Smooth, translucent tubes of ceramic and silica extrude throughout the range of the Barrier effect, forming an entirely entangled nanocology derived from the interior sub-systems of a Worldboat.
  15. A corruscating storm of green electrical arcs that fan out from what appear to be a line of miniaturized self-mobile Tesla Coil Devices...
  16. Slimy tentacles squirm from out of the places in-between here and someplace else and try to grasp ahold of anyone within the range of this Barrier...
  17. Everything within the range of this Barrier effect is covered in a speckled mauve mold colony that is both toxic and potentially explosive...
  18. Masses of space-adapted fungi rapidly expand into view from multiple phase-levels at once...
  19. Shimmering webs interlaced with tiny, writhing blades set at random intervals through-out their surfaces cascade into place, one or two strands at a time, each one crossing a dozen or more phase-levels or extending into alternate time-lines or dipping into the ethereal, astral or whatever as they criss-cross the area encompassed by the Barrier effect.
  20. Masses of writhing maggots and worms that exude a rotten, earthy stench that combines the worst olfactory hints of decay and corruption.

See? This is a great way to allow GMs to focus on the fun aspects of their setting and keep the rules simple, clean and elegant. Instead of tinkering with the rules, you tinker with the stuff that the rules make use of within your setting. It's not rocket science, nor is it entirely new to Savage Worlds necessarily, but it works nicely and we're going to play around with this for a bit.

These things are supposed to be fun, after all...

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