Thursday, June 4, 2009

Firing Up a New Project: World Creation

If ever I had tried to pursue a musical career, I think I would have done best as a jazz musician. I like to riff. It's always been this way for me, creatively. For some reason, I'm just not one of those people of seemingly boundless originality like Jeff Rients or taichara. The folks who can pull random tables out of nowhere, or produce reams of new, creatively interesting monsters, spells, and treasures.

No, for me, it's all about improvising off an established melody line. Give me a strong line and I can go nuts. Just look at my Rifts:2112 project, or my Carcossa hacks. I think this is probably a component of why I was attracted to RPGs as a creative conduit rather than, say, creative writing.

I say all this to say that the foundations of my next project, a fun little exercise that's been bubbling away in the back of my head for a few months now, are all gleefully swiped from inspired by other people's good works here on the gaming blogosphere.

It all started with noism's post about his Top 10 favorite D&D monsters. I made a comment to that post in which I said I could easily see creating a homebrew world in which these were the only sentient monsters. And so a seed was planted.

The seed began to sprout when I was reminded of the World Builder's Guidebook over on Outsyder Gaming. I picked up this worthy tome shortly after it came out and it has held a place of honor on my bookshelf ever since...although more out of respect than actual use.

Oh, I took a stab or two at using the book for its intended purpose back in the day--despite all my years of gaming, creating a start-to-finish D&D homebrew has remained a great unrealized goal of mine. But those efforts ultimately failed when I found myself simply recreating a knockoff of the Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk. I was a bit too pedantic when it came to D&D back then, unwilling to really stretch limits.

I'm ready to stretch some limits now. Noism's list is a fine starting point, and the final ingredient fell into place when, looking over the list, I was struck by the decidedly "Asian" feel of many of the monsters and I suddenly realized I'd found my ruleset: Ruins & Ronin (the White Box Edition, since I like the simplicity of it). This decision came as a bit of surprise to me, actually. Although I've read a bit on Japanese history and culture and enjoy Miyazaki movies as much as the next person, I'm not a Japan-o-phile by any means. Furthermore, I had read along with the development of R&R but had felt a distinct lack of motivation to run anything with it. But now I do. Can I drag another blogger into this mess and blame Jeff Rients's series of posts on Oriental Adventures for tipping the weight? Don't mind if I do!

So this is the project's goal, formally stated: to use the World Builder's Guidebook to create a homebrew setting for Ruins & Ronin, limiting myself to ten sentient races of "monsters".

That's about all I've got right now, except for a couple tidbits. First of all, I modified noism's list somewhat. The results:

1. Yuan-Ti
2. Svirfneblin
3. Yak-folk
4. Neogi
5. Ogres
6. Mind-flayers
7. Dragons
8. Kuo-Toa
9. Aboleths
10. Humans!
Second, I'm not interested in making a "Japan with the serial numbers filed off" setting. It's been done to death as much as "Tolkien with the serial numbers filed off". I'm looking into something a little more off the wall, if the presence of "yak folk" on that list of ten sapients didn't tip you off to that already. I have a couple fuzzy ideas on what to do. Maybe an elemental world that references the five Chinese elements (yeah, that's been done at least a couple times, right?) Or taking Marco Polo's description of Cathay as a starting point? We'll see.

Lastly, I've been looking at some classic modules I might be able to adapt to my purposes. Once the setting work's been done, I'm envisioning the starting area as a classic sandbox campaign focused on a small village with a variety of keyed module locations in the vicinity (such as a "Shrine of the Kuo-Toa" for example) for the PCs to explore, along with a nearby ruined castle as a "tentpole" megadungeon. And as for the starting village, what's Japanese for Saltmarsh? ;P
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