Thursday 24 May, 2012

Tales From the Fallen Empire: Some Thoughts


As I get ready to embark on my next Kickstarter project, I have fallen into retrospect.  With hundreds of fantasy RPG settings out there (Forgotten Realms, Ptolus, etc.) why do I want to publish another?  What makes this setting better or worse than another?  As a instructional designer I have learned one solid rule when creating material… don’t re-invent the wheel.

I have been a gamer for close to 30 years now, and when I say gamer I mean RPGer.  Of course I played games as a child, but I would say the moment I popped open that Moldvey D&D box back in 81 I became a man gamer.  Since then I have broken my teeth on some great games and RPG settings.  Greyhawk was my first love.  I mid fantasy setting that had the one race that made D&D fun for me… Elves!  Yes, my elf fetish knows no boundaries and every character I played from 81 till the early 90s had pointy ears and multi-syllable names.  From there I have enjoyed Jorune, Mystara, Talislanta, and other setting I cannot recall at the moment.  Honestly it was not till one fateful night in 1988 when I was watching Cinemax in the wee hours that I found my muse.  With nothing better to do in those days except go to goth clubs and watch TV all night, I stumbled across a movie called Warrior and the Sorceress.  The TV guide said it had David Carradine and a bunch of nobody Italian actors and since I loved Kung Fu as a kid (Kung Fu the TV show) I gave it a go.  That one movie changed the way I would look at the fantasy genre for the rest of my life.  Granted not the best acting for a movie and the plot was stolen directly from Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, but this film had a spark.  Behold a world where society was struggling to survive, a world where warlords held life as a cheap renewable resource, a world that was not a fucking mirror of medieval western Europe.  It spoke volumes…

I had read some of the classic sword and sorcery novels in my teens.  Stories of Elric, Thongar, and Conan were all enjoyable, but at the time I was disappointed with the “human-centric” aspects of the stories.  It just never clicked for me.  I did however love the idea of the ancient people of Melniboné, the evil hearted Stygians, and Lin Carter’s blue giants (the name escapes me for the moment).  While these were not the elves and dwarves of D&D, they were cool and almost alien races that went beyond the Tolkien mindset of most modern fantasy novelists.  In 1991 TSR released Dark Sun.  I completely flipped out!  I felt like TSR had heard my cries and published a setting that I could tell my brutal S&S stories with.  Although they did manage to shove the standard D&D races into the setting, it still had the great oppressive feel of the genre.  Slavery, Gladiators, Sorcerer Kings, and City-States, oh my!  This was my go to setting for years, until I later broke up with D&D.  You know how it goes… first love, but I did not know better at the time.

Tales From the Fallen Empire is my homage to Sword and Sorcery.  It is the story I want to tell.  The setting takes all of the elements of what makes a great Sword and Sorcery story (to me anyway) and puts them into a nice 120 page package.  The engine to back it is the new Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG by Goodman Games.  I won’t go too much into why I chose this over say Labyrinth Lords or Swords & Wizardry in this post, but lets just say that this game and my setting were destined.

Last note…  The picture I chose for today’s post was taken from the Roger Corman film “The Warrior and the Sorceress”.  If you have not seen this movie yet, it is worth a gander.  As silly as the movie is, it is what really defined my thoughts of fantasy settings and world building.

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