Monday, February 27, 2012

Eclectic Tastes

Personally, I'm not much for reading "what I've been up to" kinds of posts...I advertise as a game blog, and I try to stick on point and, yes, I know I meander (often), but I figure the people who are stopping by here are looking for more than updates on my (non-gaming) life.

It's been busy lately...that's the reason for the lack of posting.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately...reading of books that part of my prep/research for my take on D&D Mine. It's not just that I want to have a base setting for the thing; Dungeons & Dragons itself boast no specific game setting, being a "generic" fantasy role-playing game. And yet that is an f'ing ridiculous claim.
  • If you have magic spells with proper names attached to them, say "Tenser's Floating Disk" or "Mordenkainen's Miraculous Lubrication" (or whatever) then you've got specific setting material.
  • If you have magic items with names and backstories, like "The Hand of Vecna" or the "Mace of St. Cuthbert" then you've got specific history and setting material.
  • If you have monsters with specific histories and backstories...say, the Drow elf species...or monsters that tie into a particular cosmology (like demons or devils or modrons or daemons or whatever), then you are writing specific setting are "monsters created by some mad wizard" like the owlbear or the thoul. The fact of their very existence says something about the particular fantasy world.
  • If you have character options like demihumans, or paladins, or druids you are writing specific setting material. None of these things are "generic fantasy." Not all cultures have mythology about elves and dwarves and hobbits. Not all cultures have rangers or assassins or bards in their heroic folklore. Magic-users and fighters, sure. Holy men (clerics) and miscreants (thieves), sure. Including anything else and you're making decisions specific to the setting.
So don't give me this "generic fantasy" nonsense...there is no "generic" version of D&D. You can houserule the demihumans out of the campaign, and confine yourself to non-Greek/non-alien monsters...but that's still just house-ruling the game.

And besides, it's fun to have that a point.

Where that point is, well, that's a matter of taste that varies from DM to DM and player to player. Not everyone wants to have an absolute gonzo world (though there are those that do...see Rifts). When I started making my game, I had a particular setting in mind as a base, but it was feeling a little lacking in the "D&D-ness"...not that I want or need MY game to feel like "D&D," I just want it to play well and give me some fun "adventuring potential." So, I've decided to open it up a bit.

Which means reading a bunch of different books. Howard's actually a major inspiration, not for his setting material but for the way he went about constructing his fantasy world. I find this to be inspirational and a good starting point for crafting what might be called a "semi-generic" fantasy game.

Then the books; here's what I've got sitting on my table right now:

Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra: A Life. Arabian Nights Entertainments (Andrew Lang translation). Piers Anthony's Hasan. The Second Book of Robert E. Howard (non-Conan stories). Jhereg by Steven Brust (an example of fantasy assassins). Elizabeth Boyer's The Wizard and the Warlord (strictly for the undead stuff; no Vikings in my D&D). And finally John Norman'sr Tarnsman of Gor and Outlaw of Gor...just picked those up from a used bookstore yesterday (why? giant bird riders and slavery, duh).

Then I have the D&D material: the stuff that's inspirational to my version of D&D. Dwellers of the Forbidden City. The Desert of Desolation series (I3-I5). Master of the Desert Nomads. BECMI's Dawn of the Emperors Gazeteer (more flying animals). The LBBs, B/X, and Holmes Basic books.

Oh, yeah...also a copy of The Levant Tribunal for Ars Magica. Lots of good stuff on jinn in that.

All this stuff is going into my version of D&D. All of it is helping to inspire the semi-generic fantasy setting. Desert, jungle, and the Middle East are the main parts. A warm weather game, perfect for playing on a cold and rainy night.

More on that later, though. I've got to get to the office!


  1. If you are interested in an Arabic type society or world, you should definitely check out the book "Throne of the Crescent Moon" by Saladin Ahmed. It is a newer release and part of a forthcoming trilogy. It is truly a great debut novel and will give you a lot of ideas to integrate into your world.

  2. @ Dienekes: Sounds awesome. "Arabic" was definitely my original idea (specifically Baghdad of the 700s-800s) but I'm starting to drift into more fantastic realms. If I can get a copy of Ahmed's book, it might just "drift me back."
    ; )