Friday, March 14, 2008

Ideas for the setting (influences part 2)

Finding a good setting is much harder than I thought. As mentioned before, existing settings like the Forgotten Realms or anything based on someone else's work are no real options. I have way too many wild ideas and don't want to rule anything out because it might not fit. However, of course there are a lot of ideas based on other people's work, and I hope to find a way to stir them all up in a huge cooking pot and make a good soup of it.

There's the basic atmosphere of the game world, which could be anything from "completely out of there" fantasy (FR, different planes, high magic) to a more realistic, simple setting. At one point I thought about just making an uncivilized forest and nothing else, and players would slowly develop their civilization and build the whole world up on their own. But that'd require players, and I'd have to hold back all the other ideas in the back of my mind.
Anyway, I never liked high magic. I don't like it when only items make a good character, I don't like senseless use of magic, everyone running around buffed up as if there was some sort of neverending archmage congress going on, so the decission to go with a low magic setting was quickly made.

Low does not mean no though and I'm not the type of player who wants to run around with a basic shortsword at level 20. It's not even the item properties that I have the most problems with, it's more the usage of magic, the overdone effects and that the base of a character can be anything as long as there are cool items to make up for all the weaknesses.
So the goal is to have magic at a level where it's still the character that counts and not the items he has. No surprise for anyone who has played on the servers I have played on - there won't be many differences. Expect magical effects to be toned down though.

As for the world's atmosphere I want to go with a setting that resembles medieval Europe without having to be too accurate, but evolves into a more fantastic world the deeper you explore. The setting should be dirty, no rainbow-colored kitsch with knights on white stallions and cities that smell like roses.

I don't need to describe it any further, because while I was planning the setting, another game was released that pretty much did exactly what I want - The Witcher
No need to say that I enjoyed that game very much, it gave me a lot of ideas for what I want to do in my own little world. By the way, it's one of my favourite games of all times already.

There's a quest in Act IV of the game that resembles the basic idea of what I'd like to do, that's the "In the heat of the day" quest based on a novel or folk tale. And we have a lot of old medieval folk tales in Europe, the Grimm Brothers alone could fill quite a few game worlds with quests and ideas. So there's a great source.

European folk tales and legends are also a great source for settings and creatures. Away with the stereotypes, why use a dragon for the thousandth time if you can easily make it a Lindworm instead? Why not think about creating a Wolpertinger?

Ah, the Wolpertinger... of course it's almost impossible to create the "historical accurate" one, but here's another idea giver who played a lot with all kinds of folk tales to create his own, unique wild mix - Walter Moers. His vision of a Wolpertinger has not much to do with the bavarian folk tales anymore, as you can read in the wonderful book Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures.
As great as the ideas in Moers books might be, his world is not a good base for a serious module - his stories are so full of fantasy, wild ideas and ridiculous creatures that it's impossible to merge it with a dark, medieval setting. Imagine The Witcher with a fluffy, cute dog as a protagonist. But as a basic idea or even just a source for names the book works great, and for my module, even more another book of his, Ensel and Krete (not translated yet). Even though as a novel, it's not as good as Rumo or The City of Dreaming Books, it gave me the idea of making a huge dark forest the center of the world, as well as a lot of ideas for creatures that roam it.

Another inspiration for settings are legendary places and sunken cities. In Germany there's Rungholdt, the French have their Ys, just two examples for perfect cities you can create with a lot of creative freedom.

Well, these are examples for lighthearted content, but after all, this shouldn't become a Disney-like, childsafe module, so let's hunt for crime stories, murder, prostitution, blood, deseases, drug abuse, racism and all the adult stuff next...

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