Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Little Holiday Magic

In a most unusual and dramatic twist, I find myself feeling unexpectedly more positive today, though for no good reason I assure you. Nothing has really changed. I'm simply tired of feeling like crap and I'm trying something else. That would be, feeling less like crap. So far, so good.

Along with this shift in mood is a shift in thought toward, dare I say it, Fantasy gaming.

Now, now, wait...please come back. I promise not to callously berate your much loved genre. As a matter of fact, I find myself missing it. Missing running it that is. I still abhor playing it for the most part. Now, where was I? Oh yes...Fantasy.

I've been thinking about trying my hand at Skype gaming again, partially because I feel I owe it to my friends, partially because I feel I owe it to myself to try once more and partially because I must have some unconscious, masochistic quality I was not previously aware of.

I believe a Fantasy game is the best way to go mainly because, let's face it, it is the most commonly understood and appreciated RPG genre we have. My personal feelings aside, it is the favorite.

Now, I am a little reluctant to use my D&D-But-Not setting. While I don't mind using the rule modifications for this new campaign, the setting is very near and dear to me. Too much so I'm afraid. Of all the world ideas I've come up with, my long running, homebrew D&D world is the one that numerous people over the year have repeatedly said, "You should publish that." I should. And some day I will. Until then...it's a secret.

Yes, I know I am being silly. Yes, I understand that no one is going to try and steal my ideas. Of course, not long ago I was talking with a good friend over Google IM and I mentioned one minor detail about my Dwarves and their exact words were, "I would steal that." So...yeah. I know they wouldn't but I simply adds to my already overdeveloped sense of creative paranoia.

(Adam covers his ideas in a blanket, hugs them tightly to him and sneaks into his deep hidey-hole).

So if I am not going to use my best concept, one I've taken over 25 years to develop and test, what am I going to run? That is, how do I make a new D&D-esque campaign world now after all these years with that one? I'm sure there are those of you who do it constantly but bare in mind, I don't actually like D&D or Fantasy all that much. My main world is specifically designed to fix all those things I don't like while appearing to have all the classic elements of D&D. That wasn't easy to do! What makes you think...er...me...what makes me think I can do it again?!

You'd normally assume this particular train of thought would make me sad again. Au contraire! This is a challenge and I do like a challenge.

Let the games to figure out the game begin!

To this end...tell me, have you ever had a long running or favorite milieu and stopped using it for whatever reason? How did you start the process of world-building your new/next setting.

Barking Alien


  1. I'm glad you're feeling better - the week's a little less fun without a dose of inspired lunacy ;-)

    Re: Skype - have you considered the G+ Hangouts option? I have no idea how well it would work, but if you have players with webcams you would get the more visual feedback cues that you seem to prefer? I keep thinking it would solve the problem I had with a Champions IM game I ran a while back - one player disappeared to cook dinner for an hour without warning...

    I'm afraid I've never really been in the restarting a game situation you describe, although I have designed a few campaigns from scratch. I'd seriously recommend making a list of what you'd really like to see in the campaign, maybe make a summary like this one (http://xbowvsbuddha.blogspot.com/2009/09/doctor-rotwang-rip-off-artist.html).

    You have an advantage with fantasy - everyone knows the tropes, feel and basic set-up, so figure out what's different about yours - I'd seriously consider fiddling with terrain, technology or magic. Another approach is to figure out what your game will be about, then build the setting around the plot - if it's a one-off campaign, you can even leave the whole thing irrevocably changed at the end (I keep meaning to do this but haven't managed it yet!).

    Above all, don't detail any more than you need to (or let the players do the work in their backgrounds - thealexandrian.net has some nice info on this approach), create and introduce it as you go.

  2. Thanks Astronut (and you too Whisk).

    It's odd but because of my preference for Sci-Fi and Supers, I find it easier to create universes then worlds.

    My main homebrew world started as a sort of sandbox setting made out of parts from other peoples' campaigns and ended up being retconned several times into what I have now.

    My challenge this time around is that my players are big on setting. They need to know the world before hand in order to get excited about it. That is kind of counter to traditional D&D thinking IMO. It's also a hard road to take if you (like me) tend to think of most fantasy settings as not as cool as most space settings.

    The recommendations you make are solid and I will definitely check them out, for inspiration if nothing else. And isn't it inspiration I'm looking for? ;)

  3. I tend to blow up published settings for most of my campaigns - I consdier them expendable and expend them if neccessary for the campaign to work.

    As far as running them, I like to "go in a different direction" - if the last campaign was centered around a single city or dungeon, the next one is all about travelling. Had enough of the sailing and exotic jungle islands? Then the new campaign is exploring and reclaiming a ruined city.

    Setting-wise if you like your personal fantasy world, is there a way you can use it with another flavor? Set the new game on a different continent that may or may not (as the campaign demands) any knowledge of your original - but you do, and can decide how much of it carries over and how it's different.

    Not separate enough? Set it on a moon of your original world - an inhabitable moon no one knows about?

    Still not far enough? Set it on the mirror universe of your world and turn most of it inside out - if your players ever jump to your main world it will blow their minds, and it might cause you to think through some things that you hadn't previously.

    Physical distance not the problem? Set it in a different era - thousands of years forward or back in a fantasy game could mean different races and gods and landmasses and terrain and even changes in the way magic works.

    Maybe it's a mechanical thing - forget D&D and go with Fantasy Hero and see if different mechanics change your approach.

    For a Skype game that may well fail, maybe you need to change things up completely - look at the basic assmptions of D&D (if that's what you're starting from) and just let that be the starting point. As the questions come up, go with whatever works for you in that moment. To start a D&D game all you really need besides the PC's are a town and a dungeon - don't overthink it. Keep it small ... search your feelings ... relax and feel the force flowing through you ...

  4. You hit a lot of points in your comment Blacksteel and I'd like to respond to them but it could easily turn into something 'post length'. I will try to consolidate...

    I don't use published settings unless that are from noted IPs such as DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. Eberon? Seriously? No. World of Darkness? Eh, a bit. My WoD is inspired and influenced by White Wolf's but it certainly isn't the same.

    My campaigns, especially my D&D fantasy ones, are about everything. I could go with a different starter premise or vary my style and theme a bit but every one of my games needs to have in it anything and everything you can do in such a game.

    Sadly, there is almost no way I could run a D&D game set on my homebrew world in a place that doesn't know anything about the original elements or places without ruining some of the world's true surprises if I every change my mind and do set a game in the mainstay lands.

    A different era is something I've long considered. At one point or another we've seen glimpses into the distance past and far flung future but we've not yet explored them in detail. Good suggestion.

    I would love to forget D&D. Unfortunately, remembering it is a key component of this little excercise. :P

    This last part is very amusing in a way that is difficult to explain. Looking at the basic assumptions of D&D and finding a way to (A) retain them and stay true to these sacred cows while (B) twisting them inside out and upside down simultaneously has always been a hallmark of my D&D-But-Not campaigns.

    To take a totally different approach I'd either have to play D&D as written (can you imagine? The horror...) or...hmmm...I think I see where you're going with this. I could go back to the beginning and just do what I did last time but with new players, a new outlook and different art and images.

    That last idea is very intriguing...

  5. Glad you're feeling less like crap. That's always a good thing.