Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lather, Rinse, Continue...

This entry is a continuation of this entry.

Shattered Sky 1.75 will be an attempt to return to form. My form. The project/setting will also not be called Shattered Sky. The title of Teloen Core is currently uppermost in my mind. Why?

Well, you see that little round thing at the exact center of the graphic? That's the campaign world - though the spelling has been changed since then. It is the quite literal center of my setting universe. It is the core of all things.

But, to be honest, the name of the project isn't what has been keeping me engrossed so far. It is the realization that I allowed the gaming industry and certain new releases and editions of the first fantasy role-playing game to influence my design preferences. Bugger that for a lark. I'm getting bored. Bored of Euro-centric medieval-flavored gaming. Bored of elves (especially dark elves) and dwarves. Bored of Dark Lords and Evil Bitch-Goddesses. Bored of orc armies and demon incursions.

So, what does that leave me to work with? Everything.

My campaign setting has gone through so many iterations and revisions that I find it hard to keep track. From Azur-Lun to Tharan to Aradan to Pelagena to Avremier to Eitha Myndarun to Teloen...and lots of weird places between. Along the way, my mission statement has tended to be along the lines of "more mythic and less European." What do I mean by that? Am I just going to start crafting cultures and species from whole cloth? No, I am not. I don't believe in weirdness for weirdness's sake. I'd like players to have a recognizable foundation from which to build their characters and gaming experience. I'm all about flavor.

Slavic flavor, for example. Bogatyrs and witch-hags. Immortals that can't be killed because they keep their spirits hidden away - and I don't mean liches. Horrible multi-headed dragons.
Maybe some Eastern spice that doesn't evoke China or Japan. Not only rakshasa, but also yaksha. Multi-faced and multi-armed deity figures. Deities that the hapless local mortals honor so as to avoid drawing unwanted attention from them.
I'd like more Mesoamerican influence. Maybe even Mississippian.
Germanic (but not in ways you might expect). Welsh. Finnish.
Mesopotamian. Babylonian/Chaldean. Sumerian. I want lammasu and shedu to have an actual place in the campaign.
I want chthonic entities running around making life more exciting for everyone. I want more than just Good vs. Evil. More than arrogant and tree-hugging elves. More than grumpy and anvil-hugging dwarves. I want serious culture clash and dominions that feel like something more than a brief history or anthropology lesson. Campaign settings that feel like nothing more than a fantasy version of Eurasia don't generally work for me. Neither do settings that feel like nothing more than a mashup of every significant pre-industrial world culture with a fantasy veneer.

Sure, I have my own tastes and preferences when it comes to real-world cultures and flavors. I believe I mentioned a few of them above. But, I have no desire to simply create a continent cobbled together from a bunch of kingdoms or regions that are nothing more than Sumeria bordering on Thailand, Estonia, and Tollan. I love the concept of Baba Yaga, but I don't really want to just dump her and her dancing hut into my campaign and call it a day. Now, an entire subculture of hags and witches that have a purpose and a goal within the setting...well, there's something worth looking into.

As I work on gaming concepts, I tend to run across other designers doing many of the same things. This discourages and inspires me in near-equal measure. While I'd like to present more-or-less original concepts for my players, I also like to see what the industry is doing and where it is going. Though, now, the main difference for me is that I intend to let these trends influence me less.

Next time, I might share some of my conceptualization and development notes.

Smells like OD&D to me.

ROCHESTER, New York—A rare manuscript believed by some experts to be the earliest existing version of Dungeons & Dragons will be prominently displayed at the National Museum of Play at The Strong® beginning April 13 as part of Game Time!, a major exhibit exploring 300 years of games, puzzles, and public amusements.

See the rest at:


And, for more images and info:


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lather, Rinse, Repeat...

I confess that this blog is on the stray from its pre-AD&D roots and I have no real excuse for it. All I can say is that my AD&D home campaign seems to be running nicely, and...well...

I've almost decided to revamp and refurbish my campaign setting.

It gives me that giddy-terrified feeling of standing at the edge of the precipice with the Imp of the Perverse upon my shoulder. There's been a lot of stuff going on in my life and it seems to be infecting my mind. Doubt, fear, grief - and just a little bit of hope. I've become Pandora's Box when I wasn't looking.

Those who have played in my games for the past decade will probably realize I haven't used more than a small fraction of my current setting. Those who know me well may realize I do not intend to create an entire milieu from scratch. There is a lot about my setting that I really do like - but, then there's the rest.

The project was named, for various reasons, Shattered Sky. Since that time, I've seen more than one gaming project with a disturbingly similar name. This does not make me happy. It also does not make me enthusiastic. Could I simply change the name? Yes, I could. But that doesn't address the problem.

Shattered Sky is the culmination of about 30 years of design and game play. I don't throw good ideas away - and I write a lot more than I tend to use. Recycling is important to me. Also, I come up with new ideas all the time. My campaign setting has evolved from the time I started working on it at about the age of ten. Before I knew what D&D was. So, it stands to some reason that it would evolve some more. My reasons and preferences have changed. The RPG industry has changed. I find myself craving a setting that combines the flavor of classic AD&D with the structure of modern Pathfinder. From what I've read, the forthcoming D&D Next system might actually be a good thing for my campaign - but I've sworn to stop giving WizBro my money. I will have to make do with the shelves of books and supplements I already have.

My overall goal is "Fun and Heroics." Or, maybe just, "Heroic Fun." And, not just what is fun for me, but also for the players. When I started to design Shattered Sky, I went for creating a world that I wanted to game in, and that contained a lot of "new stuff." Variants of the standard PC races started to appear - just for the sake of being different and suited to the established tone of the setting. Same for core classes. It was a lot of work that played to many of my weaknesses as a developer. Naturally, I got frustrated. The fun drained out of it all.

This is supposed to be about fun, right?

More to come...