Tag Archives: setting

Fantasy science

My last in a trilogy of setting heists, my big cosmological universe stuff.

On that scale, there’s only one place to turn, the big ideas from sci fi. I adore fantasy for my gaming, but as a reader I prefer to get my jollies with space ships. I grew up on Larry Niven, so I’m putting my setting on a ring world, just because I can.

If you don’t know what that is, let me try to paraphrase the original work. Imagine a 50 foot length of blue ribbon, about an inch wide, laid on its edge and formed into a circle on the ground. At the centre, place a candle. Thats the sun, and the inside face of the ribbon is the surface of the world. The whole thing is spun to provide gravity. Imagine the horizon! Between the surface and the sun hang massive square structures wired together like a necklace. As they move they cast shadows upon the surface, simulating night and day.

And of course my world has the benefit of magic, so I don’t even have to have it make sense. I’ll have the Underdark included, as the dark outer side of the world. Let’s call them Neathers. As for the shadow squares, I prefer to have them as little planets, which gives me all kinds of cool eclipses to work with. I think I’ll also have them be the domains of the gods (why not?), which gets me my planar fun in.

By the way, I’ve always like the concept of Feywild and Shadowfell, but I want them more as physical locations that you can walk to and through rather than ‘step sideways’ to.

For giggles, I’m thinking of putting a literal twist into the ring world and making it a Möbius Strip.

While I’m at it I’ll be stealing liberally from my fave sci fi authors Peter F Hamilton and Iain M Banks. Their ideas are too good to waste, and magic will explain everything. So let’s have sentient ships, and let’s have them be mental and dangerous. Let’s have Edenists instead of elves. Let’s have a zombie invasion, but from the spirit world. Let’s have a Culture, benevolent dictators from around the ring somewhere. Yeah.

And all that’s easy enough to fit on a page or two. After that it’s just going through the classes and races, and making a permission list with house rules. And then we do characters.

Game on!

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Classic Magic setting seeds

Looking back over my classic sixth edition cards, here are some starting seeds for my new DnD setting.

Nevinyrral, writer of the Necromancers Handbook
Panther Warriors
“if it is weak, either kill it or ignore it. Anything else honours it.” – Kaervek
Kjeldor, ice age historian
Volrath, a Necromancer
Rath, the name of the earth?
Trained Armodons, these are their last days
The Llanowar Elves. Tattooed, pale and aggressive.
The rod of ruin
Gerrard of the Weatherlight
Suq’Ata, a people or place?
Samite healers
The Institute of Arcane Study
Norin the Wary
Selenia, dark angel
D’Avenant archers
Karn, silver golem
Talibah, embermage
Anaba, the minotaurs
Enron the Relentless
Naimag, Femeref philosopher
Mana prism

And from a starter deck of Portal Second Age:

Restela, Alaborn Marshal
Tojira, swamp queen
Dakmor scorpion
Talas, explorers, merchants and air sailors
Arathel, elvish queen
Trokin high guard
Jefan, Talas ship captain

And that, along with some beautiful pieces of card art, looks like a great start for a setting.

I could trawl through the online wikis and directories for more, but I want to keep the hyper detail at arms length. I want to be inspired, not rail roaded.

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Make Magic Marvel

Last time out I explained how I was going to blatantly steal the campaign world from Magic:the Gathering and pass it off as my own with the serial numbers filed off. That sorts out my geography, and a few nations and factions. Easy. What I need now are some organisations and plots. Time to steal from the very best Mr Stan Lee.

The Marvel Universe is immense. I’m a huge fan and I can’t keep half of it straight in my head. That works to my advantage. If I’m going to pass ideas off then it will help if they diverge from canon. All I need to nick are the concepts, reskin them, and buff them up to a fantasy RPG shine.

So. The X Men. Base concept, a frightened, and frightening minority with bizarre powers fighting for acceptance from a world that hates them, and some internecine strife on the side. Yoink! I’m having that. In my world the mutant gene will be covered by psionics. I’ll have a bad guys organisation, headed up by a Magneto type fella, and a good guy side, with a disguised academy. This also opens up the Savage Land (don’t need to change a thing there, it’s dinosaurs!) and Genosha. Wikipedia is going to be my friend. Nice.

And then there’s SHIELD. Base concept, a government sponsored supers liason agency that defends the world against bizarre threats. If you assume that adventurers are essentially like superheroes in their own world (and I do) then this stuff starts to write itself. Consider Civil War, and you’ve got an awesome epic campaign.

FF? Defender, controller, leader, striker if you ask me. So that makes them a top tier adventuring party, with a base, and links to the Negative Zone (hello Astral Sea!), the Inhumans (dunno yet, doesn’t matter), Atlanteans, Skrulls, the Blue Zone of the moon etc etc etc. It’s simplicity itself.

Some of this is going to be ridiculously easy, and I don’t even need to hide my sources. I reckon dropping an Asgard analogue into the setting is just going to have my players squee with recognition. And if I transpose it badly, or roleplay it poorly, it will only look more original. I can’t lose!

Speaking of Asgard, I need a pantheon, and some cosmology stuff. Where can I nick that from? Might as well plunder another genre, sci fi…

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My stolen setting

I’ve not written many scenarios, and I’ve written even less world building stuff. There’s two main reasons for that. One, I get obsessed about formatting. So much so that it stops me generating actual content. Two, I naturally want to be original, and I have trouble thinking up stuff that isn’t more than a twist on someone else’s idea. Three (just thought of another), I can’t stop at notes, I have to stat everything out as if ready for publication, which is proper hard work.

Time to face facts. If I’m ever going to have a homegrown setting, I’m going to have to steal it.

This comes from a peculiar set of circumstances. Just before I went away with my family for our summer holiday I was clearing out some old gaming stuff from the garage. I came across a couple of old Magic: the Gathering decks from back in the 90s. On a whim, I chucked them in my luggage. Over a week in Portugal I reacquainted myself with the daddy of CCGs. I was never a big time Magic player (couldn’t afford it, and I’m no good with competitive games) but I enjoyed it immensely at a casual level. I invested more heavily in Netrunner and On the Edge for my CCGS thrills.

But it all came flooding back. Not the rules particularly, but the flavour. Serra Angel. Lanowar Elves. Disenchant. Prodigal Sorcerer. Man, we had good times with those bad boys back in the day. Even better, I found an unopened booster pack, dated 1998. Me and Mrs Baz cracked it open and I taught her how to play.

Two weeks later I’m scouring the Internet to see what the old game looked like these days. Very different, but very much the same! Spend a few quid online and some saucy new boxes hit the doormat. (incidentally, WotC websites really are very very poor for the complete newbie, and I’m not even strictly that new to it. Still tricky to find a good jumping on point. Tish.)

This pretty much mirrors my born again DnDer experience. Well done WotC, that’s twice now.

Which brings me back to my original reason for posting. The setting for Magic is brilliant. It’s all rather implied, and written directly into the game rather than laid out in sourcebooks. The art being easy on the eye doesn’t hurt either. Why WotC haven’t taken the plunge and linked this up with DnD I’ll never know, but that doesn’t stop me doing it.

So that’s step one. Nick all the best bits from Magic, and make them my new DnD setting. To make it work I’m going to try to not get it exactly right, instead I’m going to plunder the cards as inspiration, and directly steal some things as NPCs or as lore.

For instance, all I know about Lanowar elves is that they defend their forests aggressively and they have a weird kind of leather strapped look about them. That’s enough for me. That’s one line of lore, and a point of interest on a map straight away.

And then there’s Talos, which appears to be an island nation of engineers that have airships and ornithopters. Again, I won’t spoil it by reading up much more than that. It’s enough. We’re off and running.

And that’s just the classic cards. With the 2013 core set I’m in multiple new worlds, entire planes of cool.

And I even like the idea of five colours. The implied setting strikes me as quite a hot, almost tropical place. If I turn the forest into jungle, and the plains into savannah, I’ve got a world I quite like, and the beginnings of a world map.

But that’s not enough. Everyone’s had that thought, I’m very late to it. It needs more theft. And that’s where Stan Lee comes in…

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This is the BEST setting idea I’ve seen in ages…

I’m blatantly cutting and pasting this from Pete Whalley’s thread on RPGnet. I often find myself agreeing with Pete and this one has really got me thinking.

“So given that I’m in the mood for some D&D, but not really feeling the traditional Tolkien stuff nor sword & sorcery that I tend towards, I’ve hit on a new and cunning plan.

I’m going to take the Great Maze map from DeadLands and call it a D&D world. It’s the new world, there’s a gold rush on and given that nothing interesting has happened in the old world for about a century, everyone with a sword and a spellbook has hopped on a ship and headed out west.

There’s monsters- from the D&D classics through to the DeadLands coolness of desert rattlers, maze dragons and wendigo. Natives run the gamut from decent folk to cannibal savage, and there are plenty of weird wilderness spots and occasional ruins left over from some olde civilization that has a lot of bat motifs that the natives don’t like to talk about. (Mostly because I keep smiling when Tori Berquist posts and I see that Camazotz the Bat God title).

There’s pirates, slavers, cults and corrupt businessfolk all looking for a piece of the pie, and decent folk looking to make a new life for themselves.

And adventurers tend to find themselves in high noon swordfights/spell duels as the gunslinger ethos of the wild west and the duelling kung fu masters of cinema just seem to have set up shop in my head and I want that shit in D&D.

So that’s it. The new world awaits, there’s adventures to be had and all I’m intending to do is unleash my players on the map and see what happens. It should be awesome.”

You see, I have a love/hate relationship with Deadlands. I’ve bought it in at least three rules incarnations, and tried running it at least twice too. Much as I want it to work I can never quite get it right. I’ve come round to thinking its because it doesn’t have a party dynamic that I can work with. Yes, there’s specialist classes, but actually I miss the whole fighter/cleric/wizard/rogue paradigm. So this idea has got me thinking, swords and sorcery wild west. Yes. Good.

For critters, I’m looking to Dark Sun to help me out. I probably won’t go back to a pure DS game any time soon, so this gets me more mileage from previous purchases. All it needs is a little reskinning and we’re off.

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Fantastic settings

Years ago, I dabbled with Magic: The Gathering, sometime around Ice Age I think. I enjoyed the game, but it was only ever a diversion from roleplaying, so it went up on the shelf and gathered dust.

Ever since, I haven’t crossed paths with Magic. I had no idea if it was even still a going concern. I’m still not particularly interested in playing the game either. Still, on a whim, I checked out the website and was immediately drawn to the settings on offer. I don’t remeber much of a setting back in the day, but there’s plenty to see here. I encourage you to while away a couple of minutes watching the art galleries slide past. If you can’t get inspiration from those there’s no helping you!

http://www.wizards.com/magic/multiverse/Planes.aspx

I recommend Zendikar. I’d play in that world, regardless of system, in a heartbeat. And isn’t Lorwyn/Shadowmoor just demanding to be part of the Feywild and the Shadowfell?

So, what else have I been missing?

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