Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Rethinking a poor choice in Direction

For a while now, I’ve been struggling to find the correct way to define this setting.  Recapping decisions made:

  1. Setting is based on Canada, using its territorial limits and influencing cultures to differentiate it from other settings.
Right away, the setting will be struggling to be seen as fresh content, as I am essentially replicating J.R.R. Tolkien’s process for the Middle Earth.

  1. While Tolkien based his world on languages and the inverted ring quest, I have set sport in a similar world view.  The nation comes apart due to competition to achieve their aims (the Easel of Life, Curling) while the people come together by a purification ritual played out on the ice for a pure silver chalice (Hockey).
This provides a nice dose of newness, especially for a setting to be published and used for a story.  Not so much for an adventuring setting, but…

  1. I’ve stressed repeatedly that competition need not mean war, but rather conflict
This tends to push the idea of social conflict rather than armed conflict.  AD&D is certainly the worst tool in the toolbox to realize such a world, but that does not invalidate other systems, example World of Darkness or the Storyteller system generally.  +1 swords are out of place when seen in this way, and represent gravity pulling the players to unbalance the world rather than allowing them to play.

I’ve reviewed a series of articles by Rich Burlew on his site on how he goes about designing his campaign worlds.  His approach is similarly top down, and may indicate some ideas I could use to approach the setting…


The only race that I know I could want is Human.  Other races that can mix with Humans would also work, but having the other player character races from the AD&D 3.5 Player’s Handbook seems a distraction in Canada.  On the other hand, Vampires, Mages, and Werewolves could fit anywhere in the country, and ghosts and the undead fit anywhere generally.  In other words, more gravity pulling my design towards the Storyteller system, though I would still like the setting to be more individual.


The Class system in AD&D has always felt a bit off for me; classless leaves players with no input on how to advance, but classes feel like strait-jackets on player progress.  A well designed game evades this, but I want to support DMs in my world building: it is my business to make it easy for players to figure out which classes will work best before they make their first characters.

Let’s use 3.5 classes to guide thinking, since we have to start somewhere.

  1. Fighter – always valuable, particularly if we de-emphasize “fighting” for “competing.”  Some sort of athletics based class works well with the focus on Hockey in the setting, complete with twin foci of grace and power!  Curling is almost something new again, focusing on planning and deception.
  2. Ranger – in Canada, rangers now move about the land on snowmobiles, across the worst sort of terrain, armed and ready to pick off whomever they think might be a danger.  Classically, bush-fighting figured prominently in the Seven Years War.  There is plenty of justification for Rangers, even if there is little available for dual-weapon style.
  3. Rogue –roguish deception is alive and well in Canada, but what about trap finding, or the iconic back stab?  The reasons for bringing a rogue into the dungeon are for the most part absent, nevermind the absence of dungeons.
  4. Wizard – spells won’t fly, but several schools of technology replicate similar ideas, including Ballistics, Illusions, and Animatronics. 
  5. Artificer – able to make powerful equipment and single use spellscrolls and wands, the Canadian equivalent would be garage wizard wiping up something unexpected from parts available.  The random character may serve better as an analog to the Wild Mage, actually…
  6. Cleric – this idea of a playable world could die right here without access to Clerical Healing or some alternative.  Most travellers in Canada stay on known paths or close to aid, while our mythical explorers took doctors with them.  I think that I’ve covered before the difficulty of trying to rewrite Necromancers into Witch Doctors (recap: you need to use The Complete Necromancer’s Handbook from 2nd edition).  The best answer possible would be if supernatural healing existed, but only as something for the players (hence, WoD, or possible D20 Modern’s prestige classes). 
  7. Druids – though the name choice is terrible, the Druid presents some problems.  For all our claims of loving nature here, the vast majority of the nation is now urban.  Druidism is truly unique … though that means that there are options there.
  8. Bards/Paladins – The two classes ironically have an enormous power in a Canada based setting.  They gain supernatural healing, and attempt to lead people to one of two alignment extremes, freedom or order.  The high focus on Charisma is a strong case to keep these classes.
  9. Sorcerer – With no explanation, you now have powers.  You can barely control these powers.  You can become inherently terrifying to the populace because they don’t know where your powers have come from either… it is something that you should keep secret.  This maybe the best idea of all for spellcaster classes!
  10. Barbarian – Well, this would be hard to pull off.  Successfully isolating yourself from literacy is very hard to do, though First Nations could pull it off.  I don’t know that I like the optics of saying “All barbarians must come from a Reserve” though; this is a class hard put to appear in the highly urbanized Canada.  Maybe some sort of common ground can be found with Druid…


Yeah, I think that nails the coffin closed.  This setting can’t realize a 3.5 campaign.  Maybe Storyteller, maybe something else, maybe just a straight narrative.  But adventurers are not going to go spelunking through a dungeon outside Guelph.  I still haven’t even settled on an age or technology type, but tying this too closely to real Canada limits that choice a bit too much anyway.  I should go back to analysing Canada for symbols, or maybe set the idea aside for a bit.

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