Monday, April 23, 2018

Yodeling For Yokels or The Further Misa(d&)dventures

This is the one of those posts that points out the lack of current posts. 

Over the last week or three, there has been postponed Labyrinth Lord (twice, one game inbetween) and some additional adventure into the randomization of our ADDventures of Mel(kor) and Ali - generating the origins of the yet unposted ‘Scourge of the Witch House’ created through using Kent Kelly’s Adventure Generator. As a note, trying to use an erasable battle mat with a random dungeon can quickly limit the size. We did this deliberately but the initial room was the generated as ‘spider’ which dominated the space. It was infested with battle ready brigands ready to lay waste to those distracted ‘heroes’. I'll come back to that in a few more days.

I've poked at the map of the Arborean West several times, but I haven't really quite accepted it yet - hence it looks something like...

Inis Shae and Ulvslund - More Forested and Mountainous, Still Unfinished

I will be doing at least three more maps this style to flesh out the world, but since the campaign focuses on that eastern island in the map above - I'm not feeling any heavy pressure to complete it. I'm using 24 miles to each hex here - so it's quite a chunk of land. I've been revising this a lot as I try to incorporate Kent's advice about continental divides and centralized obstructions to mobility. Overall I'm pretty happy with Hex Kit's ability to make artistic maps in an easy point & click style. Layering really, really helps. My one complaint is that I feel I need to adjust the intensity of the colors somewhat, so it still will get a spin in a different program. And, again, we'll come back to this.

In anticipation of working with NPCs, I doodled out a medium index card sized sheet in Comic Life (with digitally fill-able areas). After chatting with Kent a bit about the design, he suggested adding a line for relationships between my 'numbered' PCs (the upper right hand corner was designed to assign a unique number to each NPC for easy card filing and referencing). However I got distracted, and it still looks like... 

I've been writing a little bit here and there too... Like...

There are certain bits of campaign creation that I don’t believe ever be left up to random chance, where the authorial voice of the gamemaster needs to shine. As I’ve repeatedly admitted, Arborea is incredibly indebted to Jack Shear, Greg Gorgonmilk and Gavin Norman. What I have not entirely taken from any of those authors is my intended usage of demihumans. 

Jack Shear took a severe look at these icons in Gothic Elf Games (Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque, Volume 1), and felt that relocating them into NPC oriented status with few exceptions produced his desired atmosphere. Whereas this certainly allows mystery and a sense of ‘The Other’ to our hobbit hole of Tolkien diversity - I know that this is a hard sell to many who populate tabletop gaming tables.

What I did take away from Shear’s approach is the need to move away from garden variety gnomes and furry footed scamps. 

A Dark World Forest Needs Shadows

I’ve also mentioned that I’m struggling with not house ruling any particular game system - I’m trying to accomplish my blend of historical herbs and psychedelic spices through a bit of fluff and creative spark. The harder I push into this, the closer everything begins to drift towards the earlier incarnations of D&D - and, most notably, the original and first edition. This never surprises me, because it seems no matter which heartbreaker is on the table - the original Dungeon Master’s Guide sits to it’s side.

Experience points? Monster reference charts? Random magic? Random inspiration? Age, height, weight, backgrounds? Just what the heck is that potion anyways… 

The truth of why anyone would embrace the OSR as hard as we do lies somewhere within this - there is simply too much material to ignore, and I’m never disappointed with the constant influx of new directions. As much as it seems ridiculous to say, the earliest incarnations of D&D have never seen so much published material - under so many imprints and camouflaged mechanics. The charm is that it is all capable of working together, creating different manifestations of Old School quirk and charm. 

So Much Stuff, So Little GP
At it’s core, that’s why I feel the need to create Arborea as part of a greater puzzle. Every turn in those corridors of thought keep leading me to the High Gygaxian expressions of early D&D. I often joke that the book on the table may say “Labyrinth Lord” or “Hackmaster” but everything behind the screen is AD&D.

That’s why I’m talking about Elves specifically today. 

When I wandered into the concept of Elves being the deceased from our mortal coil,  material ghosts of the moment they died, that was the moment that I think the clutter overwhelmed me.
There is certainly some aspect of ancestor worship and ethereal apparition surrounding the Celtic continuum that has been one of my armchair historical interests for nearly a lifetime. The whole transcendence of the mythic west and the timeless Otherworld easily wormed it’s way into the forest of neverending dreams. The execution of this in any meaningful form has plagued me for the last decade - it just gets convoluted and difficult the further I pondered those murky waters.

Bernie Wrightson Captures the Feel I'm Looking For, Again and Again

Essentially, this made the Elves into humanity and the mortals of Arborea into the Otherworldly; a bit more substantial than the dust of dreams, independent but without the ties binding them to a native soil left behind. This would start as a mirror of the life they lead, with some elements distorted and memories slowly disintegrating into the new ‘reality’. Slowly, whatever other people were manifested in this afterlife would age - but the one who died would not age in their appearance, at least not appreciably. Often this would result in the progenitor of the afterlife surroundings being labelled as a changeling or a possessed creature. The rate that this entropy of relationships would occur at could be as varied as the deceased were, essentially unique situations. 

The link between the now Elven was the alienation of being essentially immortal in a world of shadows, created from the fevered dreams of dying. Where these hallucinatory visions overlap would cross pollinate the consciousness of the mortal - creating a continuous plane of related experiences drawn from our own history. 

Concept Art(?) From Trine 2, A Video Game I Have Never Played

Image result for white goddess
Whereas I Don't Necessarily Recommend This As Historical Fact
It Makes Perfect Fiction Fodder
Often there was an element of nightmare or dread within these pockets of individual reflection, and with the seemingly condensed continuity of time, these often have broader implications. 

Through a vague ratio, where approximately three years is equal to a single Arborea one, cultural remnants persisted.

Add to this the inherent lethality of non-settled areas limiting migration and the world significantly retains pseudo historical leanings without a need for a complete pastiche of any literal mimicry.

Polytheism has informed the dominant monotheism of the White Goddess. The tenets of real world Judeo-Christian ethics heavily effects the dogma of this faith. 

As the slumbering death moved throughout the world, drawing elements of even the earliest civilizations, it would often miss changes that were happening elsewhere. The exact nature of this particular afterlife is not understood, but if one were able to observe this process from the outside certain hallmarks can be observed. The presence of large death tolls, such as the aftermath of war and the fatigued communities struck by plague. Suffering begets...


On the next installment of the blog author decides to drink and not actual write anything online:

I'll talk about my attempts to move away from the binder pile I've been making into a laptop with a database program... and probably ramble on about some random nonsense.

Until next time, save or die... 

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