Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A General Gaming Update

So, I've been really terrible about doing play reports for the "Blood and Cannonfire" campaign I've been running.  Which sucks, and bad on me, but the recorded episodes are up (except for the finale) and can be listened to on iTunes or here.  All in all it came to five 90-minute sessions and ended with an atomic bomb going off, so that's great stuff.

With that campaign wrapped, it's time to think about what comes next.  Personally, I'd like to take a break from DMing for a while, and I've gotten an offer to make a guest appearance in a friend's 5th Edition D&D game and another friend offering to run a one-shot of Numenera for me.  But I know sooner or later I'll drift back into the DM's chair, so I think I'd like to use some of my time off to start planning where to go from here.  

Some time back I picked up the 2nd Edition Mystara boxed set "Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure" and have been having a pretty good time reading through the setting book for Karameikos.  I really like the conceit of a newborn kingdom fissioned off from a parent empire while the empire's back was turned fighting another threat, and that confronting that threat has left the empire too weak to reclaim the newborn kingdom.  I'm also really digging the ethnic divide between the native Traladaran populations (humans with a very Eastern European feel to them) and the colonizing Thyatians (very Byzantine humans) and the personality given for King Stefan I - a man trying to do good for his country and trying to advocate for all people, Traladaran and Thyatian alike, but too willing to give second chances and offer forgiveness to those who have done great evil.  

I've also been reading through the 5th Edition Player's Handbook and
so far I really like what I see.  It seems very nicely streamlined (though I'm sure all editions do before the bloat of supplements begins to expand), the layout is good, and I like the nods scattered throughout the text to various previous campaign settings and the idea that 5th is linking them all together in a multiversal scheme.  I've been reading through my roommate's copy but come payday this week I'll be picking up my own.  

My first thought was to simply update Karameikos to 5th Edition and run adventures there - I've got hex maps already provided, detailed setting information, premade NPCs.  But then again, I'm generally uncomfortable running published settings; I either find that there's not enough in them to keep me pumped for running them, or I get cagey about not knowing the setting well enough to run it properly.  

So the next step, I think, is to figure out what I like best from Karameikos, appropriate it, remix it with some other things, and call it my own.  

So what am I taking from Karameikos?
  • Sparsely-settled territory whose native inhabitants are vaguely Eastern European, chafing under the colonial administration of settlers from a larger, pseudo-Germanic empire.
  • The king of this land started out as a imperial nobleman, but when the empire's back was turned, declared his own sovereignty.  The king believed strongly in fair dealings and such, and didn't discriminate against the almost-Romanian locals.  
  • There's an underground slaving operation controlled by a dickish would-be claimant to the throne that the king is too soft-hearted to have impaled on a stake.  
What can I add to this?
  • There's a huge Underworld beneath the kingdom, the ground riddled with cave systems and ancient tunnels linking them together.  
  • Geothermal hot springs and geysers likewise abound, many of which are tapped to provide hot water to public baths in the various cities of the kingdom.  
  • The king is dead, and in his soft-heartedness couldn't bring himself to name just one of his children as heir to the throne, instead putting in his will that he expected his children (two sons and a daughter) to decide among themselves who will rule.  This has set off a Game of Thrones-style succession crisis, with each of the three children believing themselves most fit to rule (or at least, considering their siblings unfit to rule) and each commanding the loyalty of a portion of society.  The kingdom soon schisms into three competing mini-states struggling for command of the whole, with countless opportunities for mercenary bastards and assorted murderhoboes to carve out niches for themselves and either get rich or die trying.  
  • Witches, hags, and ogres taking advantage of the political upheaval.  Given the very Eastern European feel of the country and its native population, this would be a good place for Baba Yagas and child-eating.  This also works well given the strong belief in and use of lucky charms, evil eyes, palmistry and assorted other "folk" superstition of the Traladarans and my Traladaran-standins.  
I need a name for this country...let's see what happens if I throw a few words into Google Translate...

Munterdo.  Erdoslavia.  Szabadsagia.  Foldunk.  Foldunkavia.  Parintilor (saving this one for the homeland of the elves).  Zemlyatsov.  Vadhyislavia.

Vadhyislavia.

I like that.  

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