A matter of style – not-exactly-a-review (or two!)

pith-helmetYesterday I finally drafted the first GreyWorld scenario I mentioned a few days back.
It will be called The Snow Globe Affair and it will hopefully awaken some interest in the setting. Now I’ll have to polish it and send it to my editor.
But let’s say we are again on track – and the first GreyWorld short story is growing, too.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about handbook structure and shape and what not, basically asking myself the dread question

what’s the best way to write the GreyWorld handbook?

Now, it’s a fact that most Savage Worlds setting books follow a standard pattern

  • a basic intro

  • character creation

  • edges and hindrances

  • equipment

  • setting rules

  • a detailed, in depth overview of the setting

  • scenarios, plot points, campaign generator etc

  • critters and NPCs

  • index, extras, character sheet

Also, most Savage Worlds setting books are written in a style that is both as transparent as possible – in order to convey as much information as possible with the minimum of fuss – and yet in the proper style or tone of the setting.
Or, like a good friend said way back when he started working on the translation of Deadlands“This handbook must sound like John Wayne!”

So, right now, I have two models here on my desktop, which I’m trying to explore in order to steal the authors’ secrets and apply them to my own work.

81sjDZU2pxLMy first object of study and veneration is the 50 Fathoms campaign setting, by Shane Lacy Hensley.
I like this big, 200+ pages book a lot.
It’s not just that I’m a sucker for pirate stories.
I love the cover, the color and style of this book, I like the feel of this hefty tome.
The 50 Fathoms handbook follows the standard SW pattern, and is clear, clean, and yet every page suggests a story, a scenario, an accident or adventure.

For the uninitiated, 50 Fathoms is a fantasy setting, featuring a drowned world peopled by strange creatures, and featuring pirates and mysterious islands and lost treasures all those things.
It is – to me at least – a light-hearted setting, one fit for swashbuckling adventures and derring do, with the added bonus of a cast of creatures and NPCs that’s worth of the old Star Wars cantina.

When I dream about the GreyWorld setting book, I imagine something stylish and colored (despite the title), looking and feeling exotic as the players browse it.
I want the GreyWorld players to feel just like I do when I browse 50 Fathoms.
And indeed, I want my setting to be filled with swashbuckling action, intrigue and adventure.

dar_covThe other handbook I’m keeping handy is Ken Hite‘s The Day After Ragnarok setting for Savage Worlds1.
What I love about this simple, black-and-white, 128-pages booklet is the powerful punch it packs in so little space.
This book destroys a world and builds a new one, fully-formed and ready for playing, in 128 pages, including index and character sheet.
It is incredibly economic in its style, it is Spartan in its visuals, and yet it is on a par, to me, to the colorful, hefty 50 Fathoms book.

In The Day After Ragnarok, Hitler’s last act of nihilistic destruction transforms our world into a barbaric, post-apocalyptic land, peopled with Snake God cults, strange magic, weird technology, politics and conspiracies.

As I think I mentioned, GreyWorld too is set after a catastrophe that is bound to redesign the map and change the world into something new and strange – and therefore I’m studying Ken Hite’s setting very carefully… because I feel like an apprentice studying the work of a master.
And I know that doing better will be almost impossible – but I can at least try and be as good.

Considering they follow the same structure, the basic difference between the two books I described is a matter of style, of language:

  • 50 Fathoms offers me a glimpse of the world and then takes me by the hand, teaching me how to build my characters, taking its time to fully disclose to me a strange world; it seduces and hypnotizes me with a wealth of wonders.

  • The Day After Ragnarok hits the floor running, and never stops, and the clarity of the information is coupled with a sense of urgency that makes this a fast, exciting read. This is no seduction, this is more like a wild, slightly crazy one-night stand.

These are my two basic models – two very different approaches to the same basic structure.
I’ll have to find a way to pick the best bits and mix them, and develop my own style.
And that’s what I’d like to give my players – a seductive world, coupled with a jolt to set them in action.
It will be… interesting2.

And you, out there – do you have a “dream” Savage Worlds handbook, one that beats every other handbook in presenting you its contents? One that really grabbed by the throat and shouted “Play me!”?
Please let me know – to me, it’s all research.
The comment section, as usual, is open.


  1. the setting is available for other systems, too, and is highly recommended. 
  2. remember, “may you live in interesting times” is a Chinese curse
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Categories: GreyWorld Design Musings, Savage Setting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “A matter of style – not-exactly-a-review (or two!)

  1. – a seductive world, coupled with a jolt to set them in action –

    I’m absolutely waiting for it!
    After all I can’t resist a title like “The snow globe Affair” 🙂
    And obviously I long for your GreyWorld short story.
    So many things to come 😀

    Like

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