Category Archives: Fluff/Inspiration

Dungeoncraft: Winds Of Change

The world of Asecia is a world constantly in the flux. That’s true in several ways. The campaign I am planning will start with a revelation that will change the world for years to come. On the other hand my thoughts about the world, my ideas are constantly changing, evolving, developing. When I wrote the first sentences in August the concept of avatars hasn’t been there yet and the world in mind looked much like Europe in the Victorian age with some magic thrown in. Asecia has changed a lot in the last weeks.

When you read all my Dungeoncraft articles in one session you’ll probably noticed that there are some things that don’t quite fit. That’s because Asecia is a world under construction. And sometimes I even introduce a new idea while I am writing it all down. My plan is to sit down in the end and write a definitive guide to Asecia. So please bear with me.

The look and feel of Asecia
During the last week I decided to make Asecia a more dark and gritty world as it has been before. But don’t fear it will turn into some horror game. Although there are already some horror elements (like the secret of Rivenar), there will be a lot of space for heroic adventure.
The major cities in Asecia have grown enormously in the last few decades and the industrial revolution is present everywhere. The outskirts of the cities are dominated by factories and the homes of the poor worker class. The city centers are usually the home of the more influential people including mage families and rich industrialists. The cities are always bustling with activity, heavy-duty industrial golems are transporting goods or constructing new buildings, airships are high up in the skies bringing passengers and cargo to their destinations.

Technomancy
Initially Asecia was planned as my version of the Arcanum world from the computer game of the same name. But early on I decided that it was much cooler to combine technology and magic instead of having a magic-tech dichotomy. This combination of both worlds is called Technomancy. Technomages from the Principality of St. Michael are using advanced technology and millenia old magical techniques to create wondrous contraptions like the war golems that are in use in many armies of the world or the airships that are the backbone of modern transportation.

Hinterland
In Asecia the cities are points of light in a dark world. Most of the hinterland is unsafe for travelers, forests are the home to many dangerous beasts that pose a danger to the communities in the area. From time to time local rulers and the central goverments send out their troops to make sure the trade lanes are kept safe. There are also a lot of ruins dotting the wilderness and many adventurous types try their luck and venture into these dark places in the hopes of finding lost treasures.

Adventurers
There are many opportunities for adventurers in Asecia. Although its a time of peace, the different nations use several methods to get advantage of the other nations. They employ spies, saboteurs, sometimes even mercenaries. In recent years many of the nations of Asecia have paid adventurers to fight monsters in the hinterland or protect caravans, because it’s usually cheaper than to send the army.
Often adventurers and mercenaries are hired as bodyguards or to help solve crimes when the local police doesn’t have enough manpower or skill to handle the situation at hand.

Clothes make the man
Clothes have been always an easy way to show off your wealth and standing. And this is still true in modern day Asecia. High ranking mages often wear the traditional sorceror robes. But a lot of younger mages combine modern suits (double-breated jackets are currently in fashion) with a lighter version of the mage robe (much like the lawyers and judges of our world, who have to wear special robes of office). The modern Asecian man usually wears a suit, leather shoes and a leather coat and hat for protection against the elements. People better off usually wear suits created out of better and more expensive cloths. The most expensive cloth is mageweave which has threads of pure magic woven into the fabric, that make it more sturdy and creates an elaborate magic line pattern.
Women in Asecia usually wear dresses but in recent years women have started wearing trousers, too, much to the dismay of traditionalists. The favorite fabric for clothing is wool but often leather is also used, especially for coats and heavy jackets. Clothes for craftsmen, technomancers and adventurers often have a lot of pockets to help store all the tools and equipment these people need.

“You’re in the army now”
The armies of the Asecian nations have been reformed greatly over the last decades. Armies of force-drafted peasents are now replaced by smaller armies consiting of highly trained individuals. The standard soldier wears a woolen uniform, sometimes an armored coat, leather boots and a wide-brimmed leather hat or a metal helmet. A modern soldier carries a rifle and has a large knife or a sword for defense in close quarters.
In earlier times most officers where sorcerers but nowadays there are only a few mages in the armies.
The age of industrialisation has brought the introduction of large numbers of war golems to the battlefield and airships allow the quick transportation of troops through the air. 

This concludes this episode of Dungeoncraft. I hope you have a clearer picture of Asecia now. If you have any questions or criticism let me know in the comments below.

Hinterland

Yesterday Titled Mills released the computer game “Hinterland” over Steam. In that game you play a character that was tasked by the king to build a new town in the hinterlands of his country. You do that by cleaning the area of monsters, bandits and the undead (Diablo-style), building houses for new settlers and equipping them with the best equipment possible. Although the game is pretty simple graphics- and gamplay-wise, it’s much fun seeing you small community grow. You can even ask your settlers to join you on your adventures into the wilderness.

Playing that game got me thinking. The gameplay of Hinterland should be easily adopted to fantasy roleplaying. A whole campaign could revolve around the building of a town somewhere in the wilderness, perhaps at the frontier of a once powerful kingdom. Did someone say “Points of Light”? In my opinion this kind of campaign could be perfectly suited for the new D&D 4th Edition. And with having a small village that the players are tasked to protect and develop further, you not only give them a home base but there’s much to do.

You can have them secure the area, try to establish diplomatic relations with the barbarian tribes/dwarven clans/elven communities in the area, destroy the evil wizard/lich/warlord/whatever that has build his tower near the town, secure access to certain resources like a spring, gold mine, whatever the town needs to grow and prosper. They will also have to maintain peace inside the town and even recruit new settlers and some guards to help defend the town when they are away adventuring.

Of course this could also be adopted to other genres like Western, SF, et cetera. In a western game you have the classic western frontier town and the players are perhaps the town’s mayor, sherrif and the deputies trying to help the town survive. In a SF setting you can expand the town to a whole colony world. You can let the group scout and survey the world, protect colony ships full of settlers, fend of space pirates and explore the ancient ruins left over by an ancient and highly advanced specues!

Fantasy Superheroes

We all know the classic superhero comics. Usually they are set into our modern world and the heroes wear either spandex or leather suits in flashy colors. But why not set a superhero tale into a medieval fantasy world? In a way D&D4E has done it, but a fantasy Mutants & Masterminds campaign comes to mind.

If you look at mythological heroes they usually have special powers not unlike the superheroes from your favorite comic book. I remember that I own a thin X-Men comic book where our heroes are in an illusion created by a villain so that they believe they are living in a medieval city. In that story Storm was some kind of queen and Wolverine a lone mercenary with a large sword. I found the idea intriguing. 

One of my favorite comic series is still Joe Madureira’s Battle Chasers. It’s a shame that it was never completed. The protagonists of that series are all exceptional in their own right, much like modern day superheroes. There’s Gully, a small girl, wears the magic gauntlets of her father, giving her enormous strength, Calibretto a wargolem, Garrison, the famous swordsman, Red Monika, a rather voluptuous thief and Knolan a powerful wizard. This group not only reminded me of a D&D party but also of superhero teams.

So, what do we need to mix the fantasy and superheroes genres?

  • Larger-than-life characters
    Your usual Joe Sixpack fighter will not do. You at least need a special sword, or a magic armor to give your character to rise to superhero levels. Insanely powerful magic items or over-the-top abilities help to give you the four-color-heroes feel.
  • Use comic conventions, not fantasy conventions
    In normal fantasy roleplaying games you start with amateur adventurers that slowly advance to heroes acquiring new abilities and “phat lewt” on their way to the top. In a superhero fantasy game we need powerful characters from the start, so there probably is not much advancement in terms of the characters’ power or gear.
  • Flashy clothes and catchy names
    No, I don’t think spandex suits work well in  a medieval fantasy settings but you should not to clothe your characters in brown linen. Also enormous swords and huge shoulder pads work in MMORPGs and Japanese manga and anime, so why shouldn’t it work in your campaign too?
    Names are also important in the superhero genre. For example a swordsman called Garrison is way cooler than his colleague Bob. And follow Greywulf’s advice and give your party a name!
  • Use a superheroes roleplaying game to run your campaign
    Ok, D&D4E probably works for getting that four-color heroes feel, but why not do it right? Run the campaign using Mutants & Masterminds and allow your players to build PL 10 heroes.
What do you think? Could a “superheroes genre meets fantasy” campaign work? I will definitely play around with that idea. I still have to think something up for next week when I want to introduce two friends into roleplaying. Perhaps some superheroic fantasy could be their thing.
P.S.: Thanks to ChattyDM for giving my creativity a jumpstart over Twitter today and to Greywulf for his excellent superhero-related posts!