Yesterday, I had the pleasure of having a brief conversation about equipment in the Savage Worlds supplement, Agents of Oblivion with Sean Preston, the President of Reality Blurs.
Sean had made a comment on twitter about how the formatting of gear tables can be a tedious job after quite a while, which I would have to agree. Table formatting was perhaps the most uninspiring work I had to do when working on my CMA papers.
Anyway, this got me thinking about Agents of Oblivion’s gear tables, and in particular, how firearms were handled. Being set in modern times, there’s literally thousands of different kinds of fireams, all with their own quirks/effectiveness/etc. For a game like AoO to try to recreate a listing of all the options would result in a very, very, large list and likely, a large number of extraneous entries (for example, in terms of Savage Worlds, is an MP5 really any different from a UMP? I don’t think so).
On top of there not being substantial differences between weapons, picking gear becomes a more difficult task as you need to weigh small differences (this one weighs slightly less, but this one does slightly more damage, etc) instead of getting gear picked and moving on to playing the game.
What did Sean do in AoO? He broke it down. Firearms can be classified by two defining features. First, the weapon class (Pistol, Submachinegun, Shotgun, Sniper Rifle, etc) and then the ammo caliber (small, medium, and large). Each weapon class has a variant with a different caliber of ammo. Each class/caliber combination has a set of statistics that define any weapon that matches that class/caliber combination. This leads to a much smaller list of selections that are generalized.
Someone wants to use an AK-47? That’s an Assault Rifle with Medium Caliber ammo. An M16? Same thing. Now you just have to select a weapon based on the job you need to do then decide the “trappings” (ie, Brand name). Yes, it’s a simplification, but one doesn’t play Savage Worlds for a simulation of real life.
Now, as I was thinking about how Sean handled this, I realized that he had used the ideas that are presented with respect to powers in Savage Worlds. Most powers in Savage Worlds (at least in the core product) are vanilla. There’s no trappings, just ‘the power does this’. So, Blast is an area affect power that creates a medium burst template centered where you desire and deals 2d6 damage. You decide if the bolt is lightning, a fireball, swarm of bees, etc.
I like this approach. It cuts down on the number of entries for the same power with a different flavor text. It gives control to the players to make their powers their own. Others don’t like this approach (and that’s ok), as maybe the setting flavor is lost by not having the trappings (see: D&D). That doesn’t enter my thought processes, so its not something that bugs me.
Back to the firearms. I’m not going to say this is perfect for every setting. Take World War II. I would want to see exactly what is presented in the Weird War II setting book. A table for each major country in the war, with their own signature weapons and appropriate stats. Each nationality is going to be starting their gear with something from their country list, so it doesn’t get overwhelming in terms of choice there. For this setting, that flavor is important to me, but again, each PC only has a short list to choose from, which is the most important part.
Ultimately, a generic ‘skin as you go’ model doesn’t work for everyone in all situations. But, I think it fits with Savage Worlds and Fast, Furious, Fun and is a very welcome addition in my games.