Sunday, June 22, 2014

Painted in Scarlet: The Patchwork World

So my nephew, fine lad that he is, has shown an interest in tabletop RPGs.  And I, being the cool uncle that I am (no, really, I swear!), offered to run Scarlet Heroes for him to get a taste of D&D. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I am a lazy, lazy man. So rather than come up with a custom world, I decided to save time partake in an experiment: Create a setting as someone his age might have in the early nineties, using those books and boxed sets an older brother (or cool uncle) might have on their shelf.  Here's what I've come up with so far...

Play begins in Thunder Rift, I've lifted a few modules from elsewhere to fill in some gaps (B7: Rahasia, for example, B3: Palace of the Silver Princess for another), bu Thunder Rift forms a nicely contained playground for the nephew to get used to the system with. Eventually, I'm sure, the brave and noble nephew will grow tired of the Thunder Rift, or he'll sneak through one of the many Ningaublin rifts to the world outside. What will he find there? Well...

The Gray Box. Enough of a setting to hang my hat on, open enough to do what I want and not worry about stepping on anyone's canon. Out in the Trackless Sea, one might find X1: The Isle of Dread,  And beyond that, people speak of a strange coast, upon which rests a strange city:

A bit closer to home, beyond the eastern edge of the map rests many a strange kingdom, an excuse to break out my Gazetteers (especially Principalities of Glantri).

Adventuring on the surface world is all well and good, of course, but everyone knows that the best adventure awaits the deeper you go, and if you go deep enough, well....

Many a strange and fanciful sight to be seen here in the Hollow World, and wouldn't you know it? The Immortals have replaced the Faerunian pantheon. Oh dear...

So there you have it. A cluttered world that makes a certain sort of sense when you step back, stick out your tongue, and cross your eyes. Adventure Modules, with a bit of tweaking, supply many a quest, and when the nephew has exhausted those, well... There's always a rumor and a whim, or perhaps a friendly Ningauble to show him the way to other settings. For extra monsters, there's always the Monstrous Compendium Annuals.

Now, I wonder where I put my Dark Sun boxed set...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Painted in Scarlet: Mhengyon

No. Appear: 1 Morale: 10
Armor Class: -1 Hit Dice: 20
Attacks: 2 Claws OR Breath Weapon
Damage 1d8/1d8/special      Skill Bonus:  +6
Move: Fly 120', Special Treasure: Special

To ask Mehngyon of his people, the great serpent will claim there is only Mehngyon. Multiple sightings, all within the same day, lead to claims that there are several such entities in existince, or, more worrisome, there is only one, possessing great powers.

Scholar by vocation, Mehngyon swims the Boundless Mists, that murky sea of dreams linking all humanity. By delving in to one sleeper's dreams, the great dragon is capable of emerging elsewhere in the world, giving rise to the rumors there are many of his kind.

Collector by nature, Mehngyon prowls the Boundless Mists, gathering up dreams both interesting and profane. Such dreams are the only sustenance Mehngyon requires, though he delights in cakes of honey.

Within Mehnyon's mouth lies a portal to the Boundless Mists, and when threatened, the great serpent will spew forth a cloying cloud of iridescent, abalone mist. This mist occupies an area 20 feet on a side.  A number of creatures whose total Hit Die equal  Mehngyon's caught in this mist are placed into a magical slumber lasting a day and a night.  Gentleman that he is, Mehngyon will oft remain to ensure no harm befalls the sleepers.

Thriving on the dreams of others, Mehngyon has no need for treasure. However, his scales are studded with numerous pearls, the precious baubles often shed after a good scratch. These gems range in value from 4 to 100GP, depending on size, and are well prized by practitioners of the arcane arts for their use in various occult rituals.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I am, by most standards, not that old. Reasonably an adult, I grew up well into the twilight years of my preferred gaming systems' lifespan. I missed several of the seminal icons that framed most members of the OSR's opinions on what D&D should be.  But, I also had several of my own. So, in an attempt to balm my ego after a recent birthday, here's some notable examples of what molded my views on what fantasy should be:

Rankin/Bass' "The Hobbit" (1977): We had a VHS of this when I was growing up, and I've watched it dozens of times. Well before I read the book, I had committed the basic story to heart, and it influenced my childhood doodles and writings.
Lesson Learned: Each adventure should feel grand. Dragons should be terrifying. Elves should be alien.

Rankin/Bass' "Flight of Dragons" (1982): Yet another VHS staple (notice a trend here?). The mundane and the magical, an explanation of fantasy, even if the science is a bit silly.
Lesson Learned: Talking animals are cool. Wizards should be mysterious, powerful, and colorful. (This dovetailed with The Hobbit, as I settled on Gandalf the Gray meaning he was a wandering wizard, unlike the four brothers from Flight of Dragons. Silly me).

Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Barsoom" books: I was a voracious reader as a child, and my parents were yardsaling pros, so I always tagged along to rummage through stacks of books. Burroughs' showed me a vast, exotic vista, painting pictures I can still see clearly. I have a soft spot for tales of heroes and daring-do thanks to this.
Lesson Learned: An appreciation for exotic vistas and strange peoples.

Karl Edgar Wagner's "Night Winds": Wagner's Kane... A grim counterpart to Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian.  I started with yet another yardsale find, the short story collection "Night Winds". No single lesson learned from this, but it influenced how I view giants, dark magic, and impressed on me just how miserable it is to be immortal.  (On a side note, my father would later give me a box of his own books, Conan the Barbarian for the most part. Hard to explain

Fred Saberhagen's "Book of Swords": Sci-fantasy at its best, in my opinion. Set in the future, where man has regressed to a feudal society and magic runs rampant, the gods vie for power in a game of chance using 12 magical swords.
Lesson Learned: Make your magic items unique.

Pirates of Dark Water: A cartoon, about the alien world of Mer and the young pirate-prince questing to save it. The series was never finished, but it reeked of the sort of sci-fantasy trappings I'd come to love.

Stephen R. Donaldson's "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Ur-Lord and Unbeliever": Wow, where to start... A cynical spin on the fantasy genre, with a protagonist that was more antagonizing than the villains.  I read the first trilogy in the early nineties, and recently read the second. Tragedy, doubt, melancholy, Donaldson showed me a world and was the first author to really give a sense of looming melancholy in a story I'd read.  I wouldn't feel that same sort of melancholy until years later, when I watched Ralph Bakshi's "Wizards".
Lesson Learned: Further influencing my view on Giants. The general feel of the world.

The Legend of Zelda / Crystalis: Two Nintendo Entertainment System titles that I played through a dozen times. Adventure games, drawing you on through a fantastic world (in Crystalis' sense), that sprawled out, just waiting for you to explore its nooks and crannies (Zelda). Again, no lessons learned here, just impressions and feelings.

Krull/Beastmaster/Gandahar/The Dark Crystal/Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics: No single lesson gleaned from any of these. They just melded together into a sense of tone and scenery.

EDIT: A good friend reminded me of another bit of trivia I'd forgotten.  Choose Your Own Adventure books. The paperback ones with the white binding.

There's several more bits of media that influence a young me (HG Wells, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, more video games than I can shake a stick at.), but those are the ones that stand out the clearest in my mind. It wasn't until recent years that I fell into the influences other people so often claim (Bakshi's Wizards, Heavy Metal Magazine, Moebius, etc.). So, all one of you that reads this blog, what was YOUR formative media?