Category Archives: Fluff/Inspiration

The Lost Continent Illyria

Some time ago our fellow RPGBlogger Philippine Gamer has posted about a D&D 4th Edition campaign setting a member of his gaming group, R. Velasco, created: “The Lost Continent Illyria – A Renaissance Magiteck Setting”.
Although (or perhaps because) I am currently working on my own project “World of Asecia”, I had to check out his work.
And I was totally blown away. The setting is only 14 pages long but it’s very well written and uses some great artwork. The PDF document almost looks like a professional roleplaying sourcebook on par with WotC’s work.
Here’s an excerpt for your convenience:

Illyria is a setting where magic, fantasy and technology exist side by side.

Magitech, Portals and Magical skyships, espers and engineers, summoners, and gunknights. Illyria is an unforgiving monarchy where the blood of dragons promote a person’s identity and social status. But still heroes arise in the name of the Queen, or in the name of the Country. Never both.

If you are looking for some setting for your D&D game or some inspiration for your campaign check it out! You won’t regret it!

Heroes’ Guild

The video game “Fable” featured a “Heroes’ Guild” that was a center of learning an training for Heroes for hire. In the game the player’s character entered the guild after his family was killed and is trained in swordmanship, archery and magic. During the game there were many quests and often the player was able to choose if he wanted to take the good or evil route. The guild’s members were not forced to be “good”.

Could such an institution work in a D&D setting for example? I say: “why not?”. In most campaigns the players’ characters are some kind of mercenaries, hired swords, treasure hunters or soldiers of fortune. But every party is usually on its own. So why not introduce some kind of “Heroes’ Guild” or “Adventurers’ Union” to the game that helps adventurers to organize, enforces some regulations and represents the adventuring part of the population at the royal court? 

I think the name “Adventurers’ Union” is much better than the slightly cheesy “Heroes’ Guild”. So, let’s go with that. Ok, we have settled on a name let’s make up some more details of our new faction. It makes sense that the union has offices in all the major towns, so that interested hero-wannabes may sign up and join the union. As a member of the union you are allowed to wear the official union badge and take on union-sponsored quests. You also have to pay some percentage of your income to the union. The union will make sure that you get paid when you’ve done your job and will provide places where you can rest, train and socialize with other adventurers.

No capes!

Capes, costumes, secret identities are the common tropes of the superhero genre. But there are people who think that adult men and women clad in skintight spandex suits with masks and fancy capes just look silly. Recent superhero movies have done away with skintight suits in most cases (and replaced them with leather suits for example) and the superhero cartoon “The Incredibles” gave us a lot of arguments why capes are just evil!

So, can you pull of a superhero campaign without some of the most common superhero tropes? Sure. Look at the superheroes TV show “Heroes“. There you have people with incredible powers but no capes, no costumes, no secret identities, no silly names. In my opinion the premise of “Heroes” could make a great base for a superhero campaign.

  • Origins
    Most (if not all) characters have the same origin. Let’s just go the X-Men/Heroes route and they all have some genetic mutations that give them super powers. Call them mutants or homo superior, whatever tickles your fancy. Another possible origin could be super powers that are caused by nano bots in the supers’ bloodstream (like in the computer game “Deus Ex”). Whatever it is it should be grounded in natural science. No magic, no aliens, no gods!
  • Secrecy
    Superpowers are real, there are heroes and villains, but the majority of the world has not taken notice of them. Most supers keep their powers secret in fear of being repressed by normals or not to become a guinea pig for ruthless scientists who want to find out the secret of their powers.
  • It’s the world as we know it
    You don’t need to make changes to the world as we know it. Everything is pretty much the same, there are just a few people starting to dicover their emerging powers. Perhaps add in a secret organization that controls supers (like the Company in “Heroes”)
  • Start small
    If I would start a Heroes-inspired campaign I would probably use Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition. A good starting power level would be around 5 or 6. During the campaign you of course can rise that level as it suits the story.
  • Grey is better than white
    As we’ve seen in Heroes, most “heroes” have their bad sides. No one is 100% perfect like most Golden Age heroes. The player characters should have some flaws too. Let even the villains have some redeeming qualities.
  • Not everyone is super
    A PL 5 or 6 campaign should allow you to add people without any super powers to the team. It could be someone like Hiro’s friend Ando or Dr. Suresh, the scientist, who is trying to find and help these special individuals.  
It could also be interesting to let the players create their characters without any powers first. So they start like normal humans and the GM grants them some powers during the first adventure. So the players have to find out what their powers are first.         

The character concept should always be viable without the powers. Nathan Petrelli from Heroes for example was (and still is)  a politician first before he even knew about his flying ability, Sylar was a watchmaker, Hiro a corporate employee, Clair Bennett is still going to school. Keep that in mind when you create characters. A superhero that is focused on his super powers alone without any other skills is not recommended for that kind of campaign.

I am still trying to convince my gaming group that we should do a superhero campaign. Perhaps if we go the “Heroes” way, I can win them over. 🙂
 
Note: The ChattyDM is hosting this month’s RPG Blog Carnival. The topic is “Super Heroes in RPGs” and this post is my contribution.