Thursday, August 6, 2020

RPGaDay Challenge 2020 - FOREST

Ah, the Forest. A once breath-taking and often foreboding word used to describe a land environment dominated by a dense collection of trees, bushes, and other assorted undergrowth. Thought by early Humans to be a separate world unto itself, the haven of foul beasts and wicked faerie, now reduced to the generic, uninteresting, green and brown backdrop to untold thousands of Medieval Fantasy campaigns. 

Oh how the mighty have fallen. And yet, if the forest falls in the annals of gaming history and no one pays attention, does it make a sound?

As you may know (and even if you didn't until now), I have no great love of Medieval Fantasy. This is in part because it rarely feels Medieval or Fantastic. Forests are a perfect example of this. When was the last time you and your party were frightened to enter a Forest?

Forests have become less of a metaphor for the unknown and more a mundane locale and a rather boring one at that. They've lost their mystique and it isn't especially surprising that this has happened. From our perch high up in the aged and experienced oak of modern times we peer down on the hazy, mist filled woodlands of yore and chuckle to ourselves thinking, "I can't believe I was so young, so naive as to be frightened of the natural world."

People of today, which we all are, believe ourselves masters of the Earth and we no longer view nature, particularly forests, as something unknowable. That is, unless you're actually in one.

On a recent outing to upstate New York with my Mom I had the pleasure of seeing an outdoor sculpture exhibit known as Storm King. While the majority of the Storm King statues and abstract constructions are placed in the middle of vast stretches of low grasslands, a few are hidden away just off the well traveled paths of the art center and even in the deeper woods surrounding it.

My Mother and I trekked across the 500 acre region, climbing hills and ducking under low hanging tree branches but when it came time to leave the road and go into the forest, well, we did it as long as we could see the road from where we were. 

When actually presented with the forest, the ever pervasive maze of trees, shrubs, leaves, and grass with no clear trail outlined in the dirt, it is just as beautiful and as off-putting to us as it was to our ancestors. The dappled light, rustling canopy, and shaded patches of toadstools and wildflowers bring forth the same feelings of mystery and wonder to today's adventurers as they did for those of old for whom folk tales are undoubtedly still told.

I say, bring it back my friends - return the green to it's rightful glory! Add a touch of fear and fascination, depth and desperation to travels through the woods. Bring the ancient forest back to life so they are appreciated now, before it is too late and they are gone.

“Voices in the forest tell of dark and twisted enchantments - as dark and twisted as the roots and grasping branches of the trees themselves. Even the most gnarled tree is eloquent in the telling of its own tale.”
- Brian Froud, Illustrator and Concept Artist.

Barking Alien

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