Friday, January 15, 2016

A New World

Recently, my Glorious Bastards campaign wrapped up and now I’m preparing for the next one with many lessons learned. First lesson, don’t invite players until the campaign is completely prepared. In ‘Bastards, the city was fleshed out as were a few locations outside the city. I intended for the campaign to take almost entirely in the city. The one thing I never saw coming was when one of the players made an interesting character choice. Whenever his character had a bad experience somewhere, he vowed to never set foot in that place again, and the rest of the group usually followed suit.

The rest of the campaign was spent trying to find ways to use lost material as the party would have one close call and book it from whatever adventure they were in. Towards the tail end I even had to railroad them (very very gently). Nearly every NPC they met or revisited starting pointing them towards the material I had left to use. Many sessions were spent winging it, which I can pull off but prefer not to do. If nothing else, I gained experience at improvisation and learned about a new problem to prepare for. My mistake was having too much empty space on the map. In retrospect, it would have been better to frame their choices as staying in the frying pan or going into the fire. Meaning leaving one encounter has the PCs running into another. I guess one of my weaknesses is being surprised.

For this next campaign I want to try an Open Game Table set in a squarecrawl. The Alexandrian wrote a bunch of great essays on this topic and I plan to utilize them all. Turning to Ray Winninger’s old essays, a new campaign needs a well defined home base. Ludus Ludorum has some great articles about Medieval villages, towns, and cities. Between these three sources there’s plenty of gristle for the idea mill.

I love the Fall from Heaven setting. If I were to utilize FfH again, this time instead of the game taking place a couple of hundred years into the Age of Rebirth, I’d start with the very end of the Age of Ice. Mulcarn has been slain. The endless winter is just giving way to spring for the first time in several hundred years. Communities of survivors are slowly realizing it’s safe to resettle the surface as most have spent the Age of Ice hiding deep underground.

Already I’ve been tossing around ideas to develop a lonely medieval village called Gondaga, which has only been around for twenty years or so. The melting tundra is fraught with roving bands of marauders, barbarians, and dangerous wildlife. The peasantry of Gondaga eke out an existence on the surface to reclaim their rightful place on Erebus, yet survival is still a struggle. They farm, fish, and shepherd. However, all swear allegiance to the lord of the manor who has sworn to protect the village in exchange for their labor.

Perhaps early myths tell of a pale skinned man named Cassiel, larger than life, who found the villagers stumbling about in the wilderness, and re-taught them how to farm and build. His quest is to bring civilization back to mankind, one village at a time. He said there were others, but no one in the village has met or found any other civilized folk. His last words to them were, “The gods are dead.” Cassiel told them, “Live for yourselves, not the gods.” Meanwhile, the villagers are ever vigilant to safeguard themselves from the barbarians. An order was formed by the lord of the manor to explore the countryside and find other survivors, as people are far more valuable a resource than land.

The idea of an advanced being coming to edify mankind has lots of roots harkening to ancient mythology across many cultures. For instance, Prometheus bringing fire to man, the Grigori teaching mankind technology, the white bearded men bring civilization to the Mayans (some Mayan gods were described to have white skin and long beards), or Ioannes and the Sumerians.

Whenever I find myself worldbuilding, I like to mirror the themes of from mythology. There’s so much depth to find below the surface. Honestly, pick a myth, any myth, and you’ll find themes just begging to be explored. One of the reasons I’m such a fan of FfH is that it’s writer, Derek “Kael” Paxton, imported so many of these myths from differing cultures into a seamless universe. Maybe this time I’ll venture out and create my own.


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