Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Worlds Apart

I am currently contemplating running a campaign for my New Jersey crew based on my D&D-for-those-who-don't-like-D&D game.

The reason is that my good friend Dave has stated, repeatedly and rightly so, that my best group should get the chance to play in one of my best games (My best according to Dave). Also, I wanted to run something for that crew this year that I've never run with them before and this does indeed fit the bill. Yep, in the 15 years or so we've been gaming together, I've never run them through a campaign of D&D.

Well, you can't get away scott free forever, so it looks like its gonna be medieval fantasy. As you can probably tell, I'm elated. As you probably can't tell on account of its the internet, I'm being sarcastic.

So what can I do to jazz this baby up a bit and make it fun for them but not boring for me. I know! New world!

Most of my D&D But Not games take place on my 20-25 year old campaign world of Aerth, which is designed to resemble a parallel Earth. It looks like the Earth, though slightly altered and it has numerous places, peoples and myths that reflect those found on our own real planet. There is a Minotaur on an island near my Greco-Roman area, Tengu in the mountains of the Far East and Vikings in the icy, snow crested lands of the North.

For this new campaign, I'd like a new world. I want something a bit less superheroic and a bit more sword and sorcery-ish. At the same time, I'm not sure if I can pull off a Fritz Lieber/Michael Moorcock inspired world any longer. Its so far from my experience I don't know if I can truly relate to a creation like that.

So what than shall I do?

Any ideas?

Barking Alien


  1. I have been leaning towards the gritty swords and sorcery feel myself.

  2. When I first decided to revisit D&D after a long absence, I decided to toss the whole medieval thing. Superficially, it still looks like D&D - swords, monsters, armor, dragons, wizards, etc... But the medieval social structure never evolved. It was set on the frontier of a Republic and felt more like Deadwood than anything else (though the comparison is inexact).

  3. My world of Aerth is closer to a 'Modern Medieval' world. It has major cities with Light Spell Street Lamps, Fire Fighters summoning Water Elementals, paved roads in many places, etc. At the same time, it still feels old and not every place is as advanced as described above.

    Think of the kind of 'Tech Level' you'd see in many of the Final Fantasy games, though maybe not that far advanced. Possibly a bit of Azeroth from World of Warcraft. Its kind of hard to describe, lol.

    Here I am also looking from a more primitive, true medieval feel. I think. I may need to reread some of the source material.

  4. When I play D&D I have to really be careful to not get bored and roll out all of the tired tropes, like dwarves with scottish accents. I find that I have to carefully write the NPCs and to give them the same attention that I would with, say, World of Darkness NPCs.

  5. You could, perhaps, go truely immersive in one type of culture/story type. I'm thinking either Arthurian/Chanson de Gest High Fantasy with questing knights and the monsters from medieval Beasteries (sp?) Poul Anderson's Norse myth world of "The Broken Sword".

    Or even just completely into Brothers Grimm type fairy stories (which are actually quite nasty in the pre-Edwardian telling).

    Good Luck!

  6. When I ran D&D:

    Generic high medieval for quick games (everybody has seen at least one movie like that in their lives) with magic rich places vs. magic poor places. The sapient monsters are either mercenaries who learned to behave or found only out in the wilds.

    I prefer a world based on historical Northern Europe and Russia with a mix of post-Roman Britian, the Scandanavian migrational period and the Rus with all of the perceived myth and monsters intact, often with the names changed to protect the guilty. People in power have made it there by either recruiting or squashing any perceived threat. Dragons are a force of nature, and without proper fortification, trolls will kick in the doors of your mead hall and carry off someone to eat; warts, fleas and all. Not very romantic, but it keeps the players on their toes.

  7. @Christian - "When I play D&D I have to really be careful to not get bored and roll out all of the tired tropes, like dwarves with scottish accents".

    Actually I like tropes. Love'em. The key is to give a reason for a trope. My 'Mountain Dwarves' basically originate near my Vikings and have a lot of Scandanavian/Norse mythology surrounding them. They speak with a vaguely Norwegian accent. The 'Hill Dwarves' (basically the same species but a group that migrated Southwest) live near the Scottish Highland type region so of course they speak with Scottish accents. ;)

    @Kobold - See that is what I Can't do. That's what bores me. One type of people with one type of culture for more than three or four sessions makes me want to chuck the game for Sci-Fi and its United Colors of Benetton bridge crews. I need diversity.

    The one possible exception would be if I'm running Ars Magica. Which brings me to...

    @RavenFeast - If I was running Ars Magica I'd go that way in a heartbeat. This is D&D and part of my bizarre sense of genre adherence is that I need it to still give the impression of D&D even as I turn it upside down and on its ear.

    Its funny but my D&D-for-those-who-don't-like-D&D still has classes, levels, the same stats, fire and forget Vancian magic, alignments, most of the traditional monsters and numerous other tropes that make D&D D&D. I refuse to Not have them. At the same time, my buddy Dave has repeatedly said to me, "This feels different. It doesn't feel like D&D." I play it fast, loose and I've added a lot of stuff; my Talent system, lots of largely unknown medieval folklore monsters and a customizable spellcasting system just to name a few.

    Right now I just want something that will wow my players and myself as well.

    Research continues.

  8. One approach that might be fresh and limit your DM overhead would be to set it in one big old sprawling city, ala Lankhmar, Shadizar, Greyhawk, Thieves' World etc. You could set adventures in the sewers, in the slums, or in some old ruins outside of town without having to design an entire continent or world.

    There are lots of low-level D&D creatures that could be found in that kind of environment. Higher level threats could come from some idiot sorcerer calling up a demon or an elemental and either losing control of it or siccing it on the PC's when they become troublesome. It's also likely there's a dragon asleep under the city and you know SOMEBODY is going to wake him up for a neighborhood-wrecking fight eventually.

    Make it a coastal city with multiple cultures and religions and you set the stage for all kinds of plot and mayhem if the players decide to pick a side and if they don't then they can get caught in the crossfire when fighting breaks out.

  9. @Blacksteel - I do like your idea as the 'homebase' city or town of the adventuring party. I tend to have one, a sort 'headquarters' to return to when the adventure/exploration/battle part is over for a time so they can heal up and regroup.

    I try to make the home city as interesting as any place their going to go, so in sandbox fashion I'm ready from when the players one day decide to stay home and look around their local region.

    I have some ideas in the works. Stay tuned for further weirdness.