The King is Dead

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Savage Worlds: The Power of Superstition




Wait, is Velma the pop cultural descendant of Emily St. Aubert? 



Whether it’s an unscrupulous real estate developer using it to scare the masses or a cloaked vigilante using it to frighten criminals, fear of the supernatural – superstition – plays an important role in many settings where – just like in the real world – the supernatural does not exist. A disguised swamp buggy equipped with a flamethrower convinces the inhabitants of Jamaica that Dr. No’s Crab Key is home to a dragon. Sherlock Holmes quickly deduces that a rash of bloodsucking is merely a distraction from a mundane murder attempt in “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire.” Zorro scares the pants off some lancers by painting a glowing skull on the wall in phosphorous in “Zorro Hunts a Jackal.” Indeed, the “female Gothic” tradition of Ann Radcliffe, Charlotte Brontë, and others usually hinges on the supernatural elements having scientific explanations, the better to show that the true terror is the selfish, morally bankrupt desires of the male antagonists.

While the existence of the false supernatural – of reason-shattering superstition – could easily be made the stuff of setting fluff, what’s out of sight is often out of mind. The following three options can aid Game Masters and players in keeping superstition forefront in a campaign; note, however, that the setting rule is somewhat redundant with the Edge.

New Setting Rule – Cowardly Superstitious Lot
Despite the evidence of science and reason, the majority of characters in this setting believe in supernatural beings and powers. This means they can easily be duped by heroes and villains using “special effects” appropriate to that era: for example, a Roman senator might be convinced that a man powdered with chalk is a ghost, a Victorian matron might be taken in by table-rapping spiritualists, and the modern day owner of some valuable, underdeveloped property might be scared off by a man with a fog machine and a rubber mask. Characters preying on the superstitious by using such disguises and effects can force their victims to make a Fear check after a successful use of Intimidation.

New Hindrance – Superstitious [Minor]
Mere mortal dangers bother your hero not at all, but the thought of peril to his soul fills him with dread. He subtracts 2 from all of his fear-based Spirit checks against manifestations (or supposed manifestations) of the supernatural.

New Edge – I Am the Night
Requirements: Wild Card, Intimidation d8+
Through a clever disguise or the careful cultivation of a spooky reputation, this character has convinced others that he is a supernatural or uncanny being. The character can leverage this misapprehension to force his victims to make a Fear test if he gets a raise on an Intimidation check.

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