Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Behind the Mutation Deck

Back in April +Morne Schaap and I started working on a campaign setting for Just Insert Imagination.
Mutants & Tassels is a pulp fantasy setting set in the Blight, an eldritch 1980’s post-apocalyptic earth. In this Plot Point Campaign, the young heroes come together to defeat a tyrant, ensuring a brighter future for themselves and the people of the Dust Flats.

This started out as Plug & Play adventure. Plug & Play adventures are one-shot adventures designed to fit inside the Game Master screen, and comes with pre-generated characters, maps and various props making it easy to run a session on the fly or at a convention. The first one in the series, Fuhgeddaboudit!, was a success so we were already brainstorming ideas for the next one. Mutants & Tassels started out as a gritty exploration of a Chernobyl-like site but once my brain got a hold of it, it quickly degenerated into a silly gonzo adventure with plant-like lifeforms and an alien landscape.
I also found myself influenced by an excellent movie I had watched shortly prior to this called Turbo Kid. I really liked the imagery, 80's reference and the use of bicycles instead of souped-up muscle cars. To say this movie influenced Mutants & Tassels is an understatement.
What would be an 80's influence campaign setting without 80's role-playing games mechanics, though? I don't know about you but the games I played in the 80's or games from the 80's I played all had a lot of random character creation elements. In Warhammer for instance, your profession and stats were rolled randomly.
But wait a minute, this is 2016 and making a Savage Worlds character is about making choices for what YOU want to play. So I came up with a few minor mutation ideas that would be printed out on cards and dealt randomly at the beginning of the adventure.
During the design process I started looking at +Richard Woolcock 's Savage Abilities to help flesh out those mutations mechanically. There was a lot to work with there for positive abilities but not so much with negative ones. After talking with Morne we decided to contact Richard and see if he'd be interested in working on this Mutation Deck project. We went back and forth for a while, Richard had great ideas, we came to an agreement and a week or two later Richard had 56 cards, setting rules, instructions, Edges and Hindrances done.
Next up was play testing. We all loved the cards but needed feedback and input from more people and wanted to see how they held up during character creation and play.
The most interesting thing we learned during the play test was that the cards really inspired players during character creation. They knew very little about the campaign setting, so the cards helped flesh out a concept for their mutants.
While Morne worked on the layout and artwork, Richard made some changes from the feedback we had gotten and finally, editing by +Ron Blessing.
What I really like about this deck of cards is how versatile it is. It comes with trappings but you can change the trappings to theme it for Chaos or wild magic, aliens, aberrations or whatever your imagination can take them.
  • A Minor Disadvantage is the equivalent of a Minor Hindrance or -1 racial ability
  • A Major Disadvantage is like a Major Hindrance or a -2 racial ability
  • The Advantage is the equivalent of an Edge or a +2 racial ability
So with that in mind, there's a lot you can do with all these mutations and the "mechanics" on the cards. As a Game Master, you can deal a few cards to generate a new race for your campaign setting. You can deal a card or two and add the Advantage to any monster or NPC template to make your own bestiary. You could deal a card to generate Backlash for a Wild Magic Arcane Background, side effects to radioactive damage, trappings for chaotic powers or new injuries from radioactive creatures using the new Mutation Trapping Setting Rules.
And yes, it's an Action Deck with big letters and numbers on them too so you can easily see them across the table!
How will you use your Mutation Deck?