Savaging Thundarr the Barbarian – Part 2

Action adventure cartoons have a number of general principles and tropes that define and preserve their unique flavor. Thundarr is no exception.

Setting Rules

The setting rules for Savage Worlds of Thundarr the Barbarian trade on the established tropes and influence the application of some Savage Worlds game mechanics. For me, the Holy Trinity of setting rules for the Savage World of Thundarr :

  • Family-Friendly Violence
  • Never Say Die
  • The Rule of Cool

Family-Friendly Violence

Cartoons drastically changed from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, due in large part to pressure from media watchdog groups. Animation studios had to reinvent depictions of violence in a way that did not detract from the entertainment value of their programs. The solution? There is never any actual carnage, blood, or bullets. Never… ever.

  • If it remotely resembles a firearm it shoots energy beams instead of bullets.
  • Edged weapons never draw blood (or sever limbs); they are strictly props for Grappling, Taunt, and Intimidation attacks.
  • A scene with broken and discarded weapons, shields, the occasional helmet, and dozens of arrows jutting out of stuff depicts the aftermath of a battle; no bodies or corpses allowed.
  • Crashes and collisions. People dive clear at the last moment, or stagger from the wreckage and run to a safe distance before an obligatory explosion.
  • Clothing damage and smudges are the only visible result of damage — never blood, cuts, or puncture wounds

Note: These rules only apply to ‘living beings’. Go sick on robots, skeletons, magically conjured beasts, and inanimate objects.  Slice n’ Dice ‘em.  Decapitate ‘em! GMs are encouraged to reimagine traditional tropes and describe them in a way that supports Family Friendly Violence. For example:

  • Monsters don’t claw or bite; they swat or throw the characters around like rag-dolls.
  • Zombies grapple victims and ‘belch’ eerie green smoke in their faces to turn them.
  • Heroes hit with multiple energy blasts dramatically collapse into unconsciousness.
  • NPC Wild Cards never kill the heroes; they place them in elaborate death traps and leave.

Never Say Die!

Some topics are too sensitive for “young viewers” and must be stated as euphemisms. Hell becomes some form of “Nether or Under”’. People aren’t “stupid”; they are ‘Fools’. Villains don’t order henchmen to “kill” heroes; they below, ‘Destroy them’ — and so on, and so on. There are other ways to deal with ‘death and dying’ beyond simply calling them by different names;

  • Characters who are too grief-stricken to finish their sentences; e.g. “He’s… He’s….”
  • Awkwardly forced dialogue to suggest all the people we  just indirectly saw killed didn’t really die. A character may turn to another and say, “Good thing we managed to evacuate that city before it was utterly destroyed by the evil wizard”!

The Rule of Cool  

Reality? The Laws of Physics?  Savage Worlds game rules? Whatever. They’re all subject to the Rule of Cool. Characters can leap off the top floor of a ruined skyscraper and land squarely in the saddle of their trusty steed without injury!  They ride horses across partially submerged rocks jutting out of pools of lava without bursting into flame! Gravity schmavity! Everyone knows traveling safely through time and space is as easy as rolling out of bed! That is as long as the end result is, well… cool. Cool trumps everything! You hear me?!? Everything! It is up to the Game Master to decide what is cool, or not cool enough. In fact, GMs are encouraged to make exception to the Rule of Cool for dramatic purposes. Sure, last week a character shoulder-rolled to a fighting pose after diving off a cliff. But this week, in an identical situation, the character suffers falling damage that renders him unconscious? Why?! So the female member of the party can be kidnapped!.

Oh, And One More Thing…

Plot Armor

PC Wild Cards often find themselves forsaken by the Rule of Cool, leaving them vulnerable to the harsh world of reality. When this occurs, the following rules apply:

  • Wild Cards only suffer half damage from falls and collisions. They can never be killed by a fall or crash, but it can Incapacitate them.
  • Wild Cards may transfer Wounds taken in combat to Fatigue and ignore regular penalties until they are incapacitated or the encounter ends.
  • Wild Cards only take damage from Heavy Weapons, which is automatically halved.

Stay Tuned! More to come…