Wednesday, August 6, 2014

When you realize that the past is past...

For the past month or so, I've been working on a campaign setting for the new Dungeons & Dragons game (5th edition to some, Next to others, D&D to me). It wasn't a new campaign setting, it was a coherent amalgamation of nearly all my ideas regarding a fantasy game settings of the past 28 years ago (except for the Drowning Woods). I wrote 20K words, about 117K characters, only to realize that setting might jam on paper, but that all in all it felt hollow and stale. The oldest parts of the setting are from the 1980ies and follow close in Tolkien's and to a lesser degree Eddings' footsteps. The newest parts are from about 10 years ago, and started with a dream. They are a grittier, more daring, at least that's what I tell myself. I took time and did a map in Campaign Hexographer that is based on an original map from 1990 drawn during my stay in the US. All the pieces fit together and finally make sense, even though some parts of the setting exist solely, because everything should have a place there. The setting roughly covers a continent the size of Europe without Russia. I have the mythology down, a total of 20 deities, and a history stretching back ten thousand years. At least in broad strokes.

Then I set back and took a look at the setting. I even started to construct the map for the campaign area. But gradually I realized that the setting is complete, but that maybe I just don't want to play there. It feels dated, it doesn't match my current sensibilities.

My influences on the setting were:
  • Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
  • David Eddings' Belgariad and Malloreon
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon
  • Diana L. Paxson's The White Raven
  • Mercedes Lackey's The Last Herald Mage
  • A hint of Robert Asprin's & Lynn Abbey's Sanctuary
  • The AD&D 2nd Edition Historical Reference series (Age of Heroes, The Celts)
  • Myranor (a setting for the German role-playing game The Dark Eye)

All in all pretty standard, but my tastes have changed in the last 28 years (maybe not changed, but shifted). Instead of the above I would rather like to DM in a settting inspired by:

  • Richard Morgan's World in Need of Heroes (The Steel Remains, The Cold Commands, The Dark Defiles)
  • Tanith Lee's Tales of the Flat Earth
  • Mary Renault's The Persian Boy
  • More than a hint of Robert Asprin's & Lynn Abbey's Sanctuary
  • The Spartacus TV Series (Gods of the Arena, Blood & Sand, Vengeance, War of the Damned)
  • The Vikings TV Series
  • The setting of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (just plain awesome)

In short, a somewhat grittier, edgier, moodier, darker and more exotic setting. A setting of sands and silk, sweltering nights and desperate days, splendor and decadence. A setting that marginalizes the standard races like halflings, dwarves, elves and gnomes, and instead features dragonborn, tieflings and drow. And I guess, I just hit on my working title Sand & Silk.

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