Dark fantasy worldbuilding

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DIY workshop…

I have had the ingredients of a new homebrew setting simmering away for a few years now, but never got the time or 100% urge to finish it enough to play. The contents are scattered among several notebooks and hidden away on my hard drive in OneNote.

It began as I was working on a new adventure module – Fiery the Angel Fell, where I had to do some background for the area around the adventure location. This got me thinking about the larger world and as one thing leads to another, soon the bare bones of a setting popped up in my head.

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It is a fantasy setting, but of the grimmer and darker kind. Literary inspiration could be Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher books or Joe Abercrombie’s First Law books, maybe with a dash of Michael Moorcock here and there. And naturally interspersed with a (un)healthy dose of Lovecraftian horror. Game wise I’d say like a mix of Warhammer’s Old World, elements of Ravenloft, bits and bobs of Jack Shear’s World Between, and ideas from Mongoose’s excellent but strangely forgotten Deus Vult setting (for RuneQuest II/Legend).

The original plan was to write it for Blood & Treasure or Labyrinth Lord, but then I thought that Fantastic Heroes & Witchery would fit much better, with it’s darker themes. Then, as my interest in D&D-ish games waned and the goodness that is Zweihänder emerged, I decided to switch to that instead. Now, Zweihänder sounded super during the Kickstarter, being basically a clone of WFRP 2e but with the serial numbers filed off. However, I must admit that despite being a gorgeous book, with very cool concepts and art, the system left me a bit cold as it’s quite different from WFRP 2e (which I love). The book is also extremely wordy in comparison and I frankly have had a hard time grasping the rules when forced to read a ton of text with little snippets of useful info being hidden in the text.

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Thickness comparison of WFRP 2e and Zweihänder*

* OK, not totally fair comparison since Zweihänder contains a lot of stuff that WFRP added in separate sourcebooks, but still…

I’m sure that we will try out Zweihänder further up the road, but for the time being, I will stay in the Old World using WFRP 2e when I get that Warhammer urge. I did also consider using OpenQuest 2, which is my go-to d100 fantasy system, but again it felt too RuneQuest-y in flavor, especially the magic systems, which I’m really not a huge fan of outside of Glorantha style settings.

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Basic Roleplaying – The Big Gold Book

Then, a few days ago, as a result of a conversation over at Google Plus, I dug out my trusty Big Gold Basic Roleplaying book and started reading and it dawned on me that I had all the tools I could ever want for my homebrew setting right under my nose. Better yet, d100/BRP gaming has been my favorite system-wise ever since we played RuneQuest 2 in the 1980’s, so it all makes very good sense.

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Generic d100/BRP game system Magic World!

As a result, I have managed to track down a copy of Magic World and it’s companion Advanced Sorcery, which I will use as a rule base. Magic World is basically Stormbringer/Elric with the serial numbers filed off. Simpler rules than RuneQuest and more appropriate to my ideas about this new game world.

This time my world will start small and grow over time. When I last made a homebrew setting back in the late 1980’s and early 1990s, I tried to create an almost complete world, with easily foreseeable results… (it became overwhelming and slowly petered out…)

Last, a short comment about the adventure that started it all. As I said earlier, Fiery the Angel Fell was planned as an adventure module for release on Lulu and DriveThru RPG. I haven’t dropped that idea yet, but if I release it, I will have to use an OGL compliant game system such as MRQ I or Mongoose Legend, or even Revolution D100 (by Alephtar Games), as they have SRDs that could allow such an enterprise.  Also, the module will be for free – my little contribution to the RPG community (see earlier post about this here).

However, it’s a great difference between creating stuff for your own games and creating stuff for publication. Publishing stuff is great fun and rewarding in many ways, but it’s also a huge time sink and free time is something I don’t have very much of at the moment.

So we’ll see about that.

But being back in the d100 fold again feels  great!

 

 

 

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Confessions of a game master

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This new edition of an old book has surprisingly many “modern” gaming concepts in it. And it is the grandfather of all BRP/d100 gaming. Respect.

As much as I like D&D and OSR-style d20-based gaming, my real RPG love is, and has always been the BRP/d100 family of games.

They are easy to grasp and have simple and consistent rules for most situations. There are also variants that will let you play high fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, modern, sci-fi – basically whatever you want.

What I like the most is that the characters, even if they’re veterans, are fragile. If you’re outnumbered or if you’re surprised in the wrong situation, you’re going to get hurt. And there are no potions of healing anywhere to be found (at least not in my games). This automatically leads to another style of play from the characters – more cautious, more thinking and planning before doing reckless stuff. There are no artificial levels, just different levels of expertise that you learn the hard way. And combat is deadly. One misstep or lucky critical hit will kill even a veteran character.

That said, doing D&D-style subterranean dungeon romps with d100 rules is nearly impossible. The PCs will surely perish before they even reach level 2 of the dungeon. As a GM, this naturally encourages me to play other types of adventures if we play d100-based games. And players that insist on solving problems the D&D way will die. Quickly.

Having been away from GM:ing d100 gaming for over a year and coming back, I realize (again) that d100 games have about all that I want from an RPG. Also, the cross-compatibility of these games lets me take a Call of Cthulhu monster and chuck it into my OpenQuest or RuneQuest game with almost no hassle.

I think I’m going to stay in the d100 field a bit longer this time around, as we always seem to get dragged back to D&D by some unseen force…

If you’re interested, here’s a link to the recap of our latest Call of Cthulhu game session

OpenQuest awesomeness!

Hoplites…

 

Finally, OpenQuest delivers the stuff that Chaosium’s old RuneQuest 2 started out long ago.

First out, the OpenQuest 2 rules set is awesome, and has just about the right amount of rules crunch for me these days. And now there’s even a free basic version.

Second, the supplements for the game are seriously cool:

  • Crucible Of Dragons – Ancient Greek style Hoplites against Dragonmen on a weird isolated island.
  • Savage North – Barbarian Swords & Sorcery galore.
  • Life & Death – Death in the ancient post-apocalyptic desert sands.

This game and the supplements feels like the natural successor to RQ2. Simple and cool, yet intricate enough for intrigue and investigative games.

This is what I wanted and hoped that RQ and Glorantha would become – adventure and action in a well designed setting. They are also a great GM tool to help design your own, less “serious and mature” and more adventurous – well, adventures. I also think that OpenQuest has the right amount of crunch for a beginning d100 GM.

What happened in real life was that during the lean years in the 90’s, Glorantha became a scholar’s world, with layer upon layer of esoteric knowledge added and the focus shifted from cool place to adventure to some mythic quasi ethnologic intellectual training ground for self proclaimed Gloranthan Scholars. Shifting the system from RuneQuest to the more free-form storytelling HeroQuest, did not help the situation either. (There’s a more in-depth post on that here).

The result of this, plus the Mongoose thing kinda burned me out on Glorantha. Thus, I’ve decided to draw up my own World for running OpenQuest and RuneQuest 6 adventures, and I will cram in all these cool mini-settings plus the new non-Gloranthan ones for RQ6. And yeah, I will throw in the old, but modded Gloranthan stuff also!

Started on the World Map today! Freedom!

References:

d101 Games (OpenQuest)

The Design Mechanism (RQ6)

Moon Design Publications (Glorantha)

OpenQuest 2 Spell Backfire table for those Sorcerrrorrrs…

I like tampering with magic to be dangerous. If you fail your rolls, chances are that bad things will happen. Here’s a table for mainly Sorcery casters, but of course it can be used for Battle magic as well. Divine casters never have these problems.

If you want to crank it up to eleven, you might consider adding the amount by which the caster failed the Persistence roll to the d20 result roll. Then 5% from the d100 would be worth +1 to the d20 roll.
So if Khalul the Sorceror needs to roll 60% or under on his Persistence and rolls 45% that’s a “miss” by 15%, which means that +3 is added to the d20 roll.
Finally, this table was inspired by an old table from the Swedish d100 clone/variant “Drakar & Demoner”. It will also be part of a OQ2 GM Resource Pack I’m working on right now.