Damn it. They’ve talked me into it, the bastards.
Zak S has set up this thing, this monstrosity that he calls ConstantCon, a device by which those of us with Google+ profiles are able to engage in the Playing of Roles in the accustomed roll-dice-look-at-character-sheet-swear-profoundly manner at more or less any time of the day or night by way of the Internet. Despite my qualms regarding Google+*, my good sense has fled at last, and I have up and pledged myself to the cause of being able to run RPGs whenever the hell I see fit.
I have also, perhaps foolishly, decided to commit myself to actually putting an ‘original’ – insofar as anything is ‘original’ – setting into some sort of playable form. I’ve been carrying around notions for a fantasy world for ages, some of them for over a decade; about time I let them out of my head and into reality. It’s a pastiche, of course – a mess of things I’ve read, played, liked or considered important, rather than a sustained bout of Originality – but I hope it should at least be a bit different from the ‘because Tolkien did it this way’ stock fantasy, and that’s what counts.
A few principles:
- no sodding hobbits, even if we call them halflings, and no elves or dwarves either unless someone can make a case for them becoming VERY cool. Hark has pitched an idea for dwarves and I have some thoughts about elves, but to start with, I’m going to stick to my guns and say I’ve no room for that nonsense. Likewise, no generic ‘monster’ races like orcs.
- cosmopolitan cultures – no race-as-nation nonsense, or at least no exclusively race-as-nation nonsense. I want sentient species to be rubbing shoulders or shoulder-like extremities up and down the streets of bustling hives, not divided into convenient thematic locations and glaring untrustingly at one another. Some might be persecuted in some places, some might be ghettoised across a continent, but the point is I want a fantasy diaspora. Thinking about integrating, or semi-integrating, the sentient undead as well.
- lizard-people as playable characters. For reasons that are more elaborate than they might seem, and consequently that I lack the time to go into right now, I’m calling them ‘draconians’. Other playable races will include trolls (who I envisage as huge hairy outlander-crafter types) and gnomes (‘organised urban comedy midgets a la Labyrinth‘, as distinct from goblins, who are uncivilised rural comedy midgets).
- Small But Vicious Dog’s core mechanics – Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, Academic as classes, with careers (what you did before adventuring, what you’ll do to keep yourself ticking over between adventures) defining additional skills. Will have to write up those advanced careers to fold in and allow for higher level play – I envisage them being something like prestige classes, something you can take after level 3 provided the opportunity exists in-story and which adds another skill or two at the cost of social obligations.
- a variety of nation-states, not just kings all the way down. I’m thinking a coalition of city-states (proto-federalism) and a constitutional monarchy in there somewhere, at the very least. The idea is to cut away from conservative pseudo-feudalism and toward a more dynamic, modernising world.
- not sure what I’m going to do about magic yet. I sort of favour the Unseen University approach, where the chief purpose of wizard’s guilds, schools and leagues is to prevent magic being done rather than encourage it. I might even go for a split between the wisewoman/cunningman archetypes of useful, practical magic and the wizard-in-the-tower kind of high magic, with the latter being practiced by a very few extremely clever people and dragons. High magic exists but is so horribly confusing you need to be five-eighths genius just to master a cantrip, that sort of thing.
- variety of religions. I see room for ancestor worship and animism among two cultures, the issue will be creating or organically developing religions that appeal across racial divisions. Definitely like the idea of a division between petty and true gods, though – powerful entities with delusions of godhood and immense abstract ones that have achieved it.
Only thing is, I’m crap at names. Really bloody awful at them. The doors are open for suggestions – but now I really have to get to work, as I’ve spent an hour writing this and it’s technically an hour I can ill afford to spend.
* – social networks use real names, but something I will use almost exclusively for play should be hooked into the established not-me identity so that my ‘real’ email address and ‘real’ profile aren’t deluged by stuff that is not ‘really’ important. This is only a ‘qualm’ and not a ‘problem’ because I’m not in a position where my name, gender, occupation or what-have-you can provide people to cause meaningful harm to me – but there are people out there for whom pseudonyms are a legitimate defence of their person and livelihood from hostile intent, and they need the control of their identity which, for me, is a matter of mere convenience. Nevertheless, Palette seems to be getting away with it so far, so I’ve gone with ‘Von Quixote’ and if they throw me off I’ll join the resistance with the best of ’em.