Posts Tagged ‘punk art’
I’m beginning to realise that I’ve made a terrible mistake.
As much as I like the idea of historical, very low-fantasy D&D (or B&B in my case) as an idea, it’s not really the representative of the D&D practice that it needs to be.
No, of course I’m not killing and re-starting the campaign. What do you take me for? I’m going to fantasy-and-mythology this thing up, following certain principles laid out previously and making the effort, as suggested by learned scholars of the form, to employ a canon with which I can boast some familiarity as the bedrock of a personal vision.
Not that I’m actually going for Malory’s Arthur, ho no. I want to set my sights a bit earlier than that; an Arthur who could conceivably pull his ‘once and future king’ shtick in Elizabeth’s England would I feel be more plausible if rooted some thousand years prior to his return. That sites him firmly in the sixth century from whence his legend (probably) derives, before Geoffrey of Monmouth got his mitts on it and started conflating all over the shop, setting the old standards with which we’re (hopefully) all familiar. That said, there are elements of Monmouth and of Malory in there where I’ve felt they can be safely reinterpreted and add a sense of grand narrative and mythic resonance to a rather loose collection of Arthuriana.
In accordance with the accepted principles of setting revelation (short version: don’t tell people about your setting, show people the mechanical tools that are used to explore it and trust ‘em to get the rest, especially if you’re basing yourself on existing sources), I want to see how much of my workings-out I can get across without sinking to scads of descriptive text. Mechanically, I’m thinking about something generically D&Dish, having the general shape of OD&D about it since that’s the last thing I read.
However, I have done the workings-out, there is a version of the Arthuriad that I’ve engineered to justify all this, and those of you who are interested in that process of thinking-out-loud will find it tucked away at the end of the post.
ARTHUR, overlord of Wales, Cornwall and the North (L). Undead Half-Elf Fighter (10). STR 15, DEX 11, CON 13, INT 11, WIS 8, CHA 16. Excalibur is a longsword which can harm fiendish or otherworldly beings. Excalibur’s scabbard makes the bearer immune to physical damage while carried.
MORDRED (R). Shown for reference; dead for a thousand years. Elf (Fighter 4) if resurrected somehow, though.
MERLIN. Magic-User (11). AC2, HD 8. INT 16, WIS 17, CHA 9. Unable to leave the confines of his tree-prison unless Nimue is persuaded to release him or killed. Fiendish heritage means he can be turned, rebuked and otherwise cleric’d at as if undead.
NIMUE. Elf (Magic-User 4). STR 7, DEX 10, CON 8, INT 14, WIS 8, CHA 14. Predictably powerful Charm Person spell, as Dryad.
MORGAUSE, MORGANA and ELAINE (Elf Magic User – 6, 8 and 4 respectively). MORGAUSE has the highest CHA, MORGANA INT and ELAINE WIS. Their magic is of a subtle and beguiling kind, chiefly concerned with baffling the mind and foretelling the future. That said, Morgana is not averse to taking a more direct hand in events through summonations and omens, where necessary.
So far, so mythical. Now to bring it into the 1590s.
From the frozen waters
The king will rise again
With two suns in the sky
See the gleaming spires of the citadel
The king and queen will dwell
In our hearts…
1485 – A Welshman takes the throne of England. The Warlock of Oxford, aged three, begins his persecution of the Drake family, which will last for three generations.
1594 – the Irish (customarily ahead of the game in matters related to elves and elvendom) become restless. The Old English are driven back to Ulster, but the Irish cannot take the fortified towns. (Historically speaking, the Earl of Essex would land in Ulster at the head of seventeen thousand men in 1599. In this fantasy they will be required elsewhere.)
1599 – Septimus Drake encounters three travellers on the road to Oxford, where he is putting the Warlock to trial at last. At the trial the Warlock declares that a thousand years of exile are ended and the King is to rise again. Iron gates under Alderley Edge swing open. The Long Man hauls open his door. Mists enshroud the western coast. The Once and Future King rides out.
(Following recommendations from a player, I’ve come to think of the narrative as being akin to a Doctor Who serial in its structure. So far we’ve had Part One, bumbling around the world encountering its basic elements and waiting for the plot to start, which it does. You might also call it the conventional three-act story if you were more literary in your inclinations, but I definitely started with the brief that “we all like Who so do something like that.”)
Part 2 – The Civil War comes forty years early, and is fought with high magic. The undead ‘knights’ lead a rabble of Welsh, Cornish and Cumbrian soldiery against Elizabeth’s armies amassed to the South and East.
Part 3 – The Act of Union unifies England and Lyonesse (symbolically represented by the brief marriage of Arthur to the dying Elizabeth – extended reign through magic?) with James’ angry demonological/Protestant sympathies confined to the northern reaches. England gradually becomes a client state of Lyonesse, a bulwark against the emergent occult powers of Europe and, ultimately, the influx from Cappadocia (of which more later).
Any conflict between Elizabeth’s England and Morgana’s Lyonesse is likely to be brutal and one-sided unless powerful Clerics and Paladins begin to emerge among the English (cf. Hordes of the Things, in which Magicians are effectively long-ranged espionage and artillery while Clerics and Paladins disrupt them – if the game reaches the stage where large battles and the outcome thereof are of interest to the players I see no harm in teaching the rudiments of HoTT to resolve the same, especially since one or two players have an interest in earning a sort of wargamer’s merit badge as it is). Therefore:
JOHN WHITGIFT, Archbishop of Canterbury (Cleric – level will depend on whether we take the Alexandrian approach to what characters can do, suggesting 5 tops, or the older D&D approach in which case he’s 10 because he has a temple).
A High Churchman, a Calvinist, inclined to overstep his authority in suppressing heretical elements and fond of a grand entrance.
ROBERT DEVEREUX, Earl of Essex (Paladin – level 3). STR 12, DEX 9, CON 14, INT 11, WIS 13, CHA 17.
Among Elizabeth’s favourites, and her most ambitious commanders; regularly disobeys his mistress in hounding defeated enemies. Possessed of a lively mind, a quick blade, and a glorious temperament, though not quite Cecil’s match for savvy.
ROBERT CECIL, Secretary of State. (No PC class level?)
In constant dispute with Essex, his chief rival at court; the Earl’s flamboyance and growing disregard for his Queen (as opposed to his nation) aggravate the Secretary, who wants things to proceed in a quiet and orderly fashion as they are ordered to.
In the event of war Whitgift’s predeterminist slant and theological elitism will favour the establishment of the Knights Palatine – it is necessary that this war be fought or the Lord would not have bade them fight it, and Calvinism lends one to a belief that some are more saved than others. Essex, as an exceptional figure committed to England’s best interests as he sees them, is a hothead but a loyal one – a flamboyant and overeager Paladin but a Paladin nonetheless. In mechanical terms he barely qualifies for the class as (though Whitgift would have my head for saying this) he’s damage control rather than appointed from birth.
A few more thoughts. Alignment in this game is likely to be as much political as spiritual or mechanical. The old-D&D division of Lawful and Chaotic will be useful in distinguishing between the Otherworlders (elves, undead, persons of fiendish ancestry et hoc genus omne) and the, ahm, Worlders for mechanical purposes, particularly if Clerics are explicitly aligned with Worldliness and thus have inherent disruptive powers over the Otherworldly. I suspect I’ll keep the two-word descriptor of alignment but make one word a mechanical/supernal function (i.e. Worldly or Otherworldly) and one word a political expression (Lyonesse, English, Cappadocian, Drow, Prussian).
I also intend to fold in a Loyalty score a la OD&D to indicate the character’s commitment to their political allegiances (it helps to have a metric and mechanic for these things, both for tracking purposes and to reinforce the role of having character statistics for the players). It follows a similar breakdown to stats – 9-12 Loyalty is average, with brackets for negative and positive Morale modifiers for higher and lower loyalties, 3 or less indicating ‘will desert at first opportunity’ and 19 or above indicating cast-iron devotion of the sort only displayed by the ensorcelled or the undead.
Under this system Merlin (for example) might have an alignment expressed as Otherworldly English 7. If you’re interested in why Merlin might have such an alignment, I’m afraid you’ll have to endure a failed genre author revising and retelling a myth which has been better done by better writers beforehand. If you hate that sort of thing, skip straight to the comments section and tell me I don’t understand OD&D or something.
Now and then, I’ve been known to flick through the old Rogue Trader books on the train. One of them – the Book of the Astronomican – has this little old campaign called ‘The Wolf Time’, in which a tattered band of Space Wolves are trying to bring down an Ork warlord who’s all sealed away in his castle. They have a set list of forces to divide among three skirmishes, each of which represents an assault on one of the generators powering Warlord Kulo’s castle. They have to win at least one of these skirmishes in order to make their assault – winning two or three reduces the final defences further. Once those three games are over, the surviving Marines collect together to make their attack on Kulo. If it takes too long to play out one of the skirmishes, the Marines from that battle arrive late, and the target generator will still be contributing to the Ork defences until they arrive.
The other day I was thinking about how much sense the attack-the-generators-to-enable-the-final-strike scenario would work for an assault on a Necron tomb world (the context in which I’m most likely to play it). That set me to thinking about Dawn of War, in which the Necrons operate by building generators to bring their Monoliths online… so that gives us a final scenario in which the Monolith replaces the Castle.
Some time ago, I posted about the Musical Method, in which song titles or lyrics become converted into story frameworks.
Since then, I’ve also been experimenting with pictures.
|The Unholy Trinity map from DOOM,
extracted by The Green Herring.
|Clutter, by mordere,
NSFW, by the way.
When originally conceived, this entry was going to be about the Iron Kingdoms/Savage Worlds storyline I planned on instigating with these resources, in traditional “I have planned a narrative which you are now going to explore” style. Of course, I left the idea to mature and seethe for too long, and now it’s developing into something broader.
For one thing, as always happens when I sit on an idea for too long, it’s mutated beyond the confines of the proprietory setting and system that it was constructed for, and run into the ever-circling notion of a homebrew design. For another, it’s run into the notions of player agency and the sandbox: my creation of a predefined relationship between resources would surely be robbing all parties involved bar myself of their agency, and I’m increasingly coming to see that as a Bad Thing.
It’s possible that I may do a somewhat teachery thing, which I’ve done several times with my young charges, and simply toss down an image in front of a group of players and say “you’re in this room, this is what you see, and this painting is on the wall facing the window”. Some sort of narrative inevitably emerges. A little prodding or guidance towards a particular element, what we call a ‘probing question’, and soon they’re doing the work of devising the session for me.
On a similar note, Zak has got me thinking about using tarot cards to define magic items, encounter natures and relationships, and quite a few other things, using a few preconceived notions that the cards then model, and I’ve been pleased to note that Prose Descriptive Quality seems to be available again following some inexplicable download issues (and again, I’m wondering whether cards can somehow be fitted into resolving actions and devising player characters). The temptation is strong to create some sort of system and setting of play that revolves around the symbolism of the Tarot – like I was trying to do with the Kabbala in the Dark Heresy thing, and not executing as smoothly as I’d have liked. I suspect that a narrative based on the Kabbala was too prescriptive for roleplaying – more ‘you’re not GMming, you’re writing a novel and making your friends do the dialogue’ stuff – and incorporating that rich symbolism into the backdrops and mechanics of the world might be a better way for me to get my occult kick and preserve player agency – especially if even the GM is at the mercy of the cards.
I’ll get back to you on this.
Also, this blog uses Disqus now. Disqus is cool. In theory, y’all should be able to use whatever logins you ordinarily use, but fewer responses should be eaten, and more threaded call-and-response conversations should be possible.
Several of my previous armies have been legitimately accused of being Dark And Boring, which I now use as shorthand for the kind of painting I absolutively, posilutely strive to avoid in my own work. I take the opposite standpoint to Chip, who’s a big fan of many and varied shades of Ubiquitous Brown; that’s what floats his boat and it’s certainly appropriate for the miniatures, but I find that by the time you’ve done the obligatory shading, fading, weathering and staining and generally taken steps toward an interesting, yet still ‘real’ colourscheme, too much brown is not particularly exciting, and frankly I want things to look exciting.
The studio scheme opts for classic druidry and places green alongside its brown to enliven it, but frankly I’m not a fan. Partly to avoid Green Fatigue in case I want to paint any Cryx in the near future; partly because it’s the studio scheme and my previous diversions from such have been well-received.
Stuck for ideas, I decided to google ‘druid’ and see what happened.
I have rather strong feelings about Chaos; I see it as an integral part of the 40K milieu: the ultimate corrupting power, rooted in the very worst of human nature, a source of delightfully Boschean horror-tropes. Chaos is the formless night into which the Traitor Legions’ failings – primarily the hubris of Horus – casts them, in a sort of Paradise Lost in space kind of way, and the Treachery itself is fundamental to the crumbling, decline-and-fall nature of the Imperium.
The Chaos I know is a rich, fulfilling stewpot full of sinister. It has the Traitor Legions, to be sure, with their ten thousand years of hateful, bitter exile, and it has the Daemons alongside them, working one another’s strings; it also has mutants and beastmen and cultists galore, radical Inquisitors and recidivist organisations embedded in the Imperium, and it even has freebooter Orks and Khorne-worshipping Stormboyz tagging along for the ride. Tactically, I think of Chaos as a ragged horde of the galaxy’s most desperate, with the Traitor Legions at their malignant heart; oh, I like playing raids and incursions of the Legions as much as the next fanboy, but I cherish a Chaos that’s more than Space Marines with spikes on and all their shiniest wargear traded out for daemonry.