Tuesday, June 16, 2015
THE ONCE-GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND: In 1649, Oliver Cromwell accidentally breaches the barrier between Earth and the Unforgiving Dark, allowing magic (and demons, etc.) to flow into our world. A generation later, England is a blasted, post-apocalyptic hellscape populated by roving bands of survivalists, cultists, and mutants. Think Mad Max with horses instead of V-8 Interceptors. This setting is pretty much tailor made for use with James Raggi's Lamentations of the Flame Princess ruleset, which I own and love, at least in the reading - I've never actually run anything with them yet, but I've found them to be one of the best-organized of the D&D variants I've read, with rules that I learned easily just by reading, something I can only say for one other RPG: Call of Cthulhu.
KHORLHOSSA: This would be a heavy-duty overhaul of my Carcosa/Dark Sun mash-up set on a now-metal-poor, slowly-freezing world whose nomadic populations shelter in the ruins of great, not-always-human, past civilizations. I would probably use the Lamentations rules for this as well, because they're grimdark rules for a grimdark world dying a slow and exhausted death, and because, as noted above, I know them very well. I think this campaign frame might be a hard sell for a lot of players of my acquaintance, just because it's so far from either the comfortable norms of "fantasy" or those of "science fiction."
OUT OF A CRUMBLING EMPIRE: The Everlasting Empire is in decline, its borders shrinking year by year as the empire contracts in on itself, leaving the far-flung reaches of its once-great expanse suddenly to fend for themselves. Now the roads and aqueducts are falling into disrepair in those abandoned territories, and the monsters once held at bay by civilization's light are drawing closer and closer. It's the collapse of the Western Roman Empire as experienced in Britain or France, as written by Robert E. Howard (if I can manage tone correctly), with the proper nouns swapped out for fantasy versions. If I can make it work in play the way I see it in my head, it'd be a more sword-and-sorcery game then either high-fantasy or gritty-weird-fantasy. I think if I go with this campaign, I'd run it in either Swords & Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord, with the balance probably tilting towards S&W over LL because to my brain, S&W is more "readable" and I like the layout and simplicity.
The next question, then, is whether this campaign would be played face-to-face or via G+ Hangouts/Roll20. I've got some amazing players who I've gamed with locally, but it's getting harder and harder to get everyone together for four hours of gaming. It's not like in college when I could poke my head out into the common room and say "D&D?" and be met with a chorus of "What level should I roll up?"
I have to admit to being a touch intimidated by running a game on G+. The people I "know" and associate with on that platform are, to put it succinctly, goddamn geniuses of gaming. That's not flattery, that's the plain truth of the matter; I see so many people toss out blog posts like they're nothing, and every other sentence contains some nugget of inspiration or wisdom that makes the bottom fall out of my stomach and wonder why I can't seem to manage to be that smart.
Part of this is my own neuroses, and part of it's probably the fact that for a lot of these people, the OSR and retro-gaming movement is a return to form; resuming play the way they used to when they first started playing. It's not that way for me. I started playing role-playing games in 2005, and didn't start gaming regularly until 2006. My introduction to the hobby was D&D 3.5 and the associated assumptions and style of play, though elements of that style of play never fully sat right with me. When I found out about the OSR, that mild discomfort came into focus - Having been weaned on Conan and John Carter from an early age, my subconscious wanted a pulpier experience, lighter on rules and expensive rule books then what 3.5 was offering, and the OSR style of gaming seemed to be offering me that experience.
This blog post took a weirdly personal, confessional turn at the end, but I'll roll with it.