Sunday, March 31, 2013

Too Much of the Same?

I’m on the wrong side of 40. I created Fletnern when I was 13. I started with the city of Rhum and started expanding out from there. So 30+ years in, you’d think I’m done, right? Ah ... no. Not even close. Just this year, I decided what to do with the region south of the Dragon Lakes. Anyway, is this campaign world that has seen at least a dozen major campaigns workable for an adult after having been created by a kid? Yes, because it has evolved with me. I learned early on, that when new people jumped into a campaign, I had two choices - teach them the entire campaign world and all the idiosyncrasies there were, or keep it simple. I went with keep it simple. I mean that elves live in the forests. Dwarves live in the rocky hills. The two don’t really like each other. I could have gone with all elves being desert dwellers who worshipped water, but then I would have needed to explain to every new guy, that no, his elf could not be a green tighted forest bowman. It probably helped that I started running games at GENCON at 16, and got fairly well known. Dealing with folks outside my basement really forced some realism and restrictions on me. So what’s the point? Well, the more I study history - and I do study history - the more I see that I really didn’t put enough variety in my world. At one time, one major religion (the Dinsthain Pantheon) dominated the world. I started changing that back in college, and the results will soon be available as Gods and Demons (a book of 200 divinities). That’s kind of the point, though. I can still make changes to the world, but the biggest places are kind of set. I just don’t feel that I can change the political structure of a place that I ran a four year campaign in, unless it’s for a really good reason. Sometimes I have that reason. Right now the city-state of Parnania is recovering from a generation of military control by its enemies. That has a profound impact on the people and their culture. For the other ideas - I still have the “white space”, those “holes” in your maps I talked about in a post a while back. There are always nooks and crannies where you can put smaller and less important cultures. They can’t be empires of millions of people, or they would have impacted all their neighbors, but you can run a pretty solid campaign in a 50 mile long and 20 mile wide river valley. I’m suggesting that you do this! I have several places in Fletnern where I specifically made the cultures of the places open to having very different cultures right next to each other: The Great Archipelago - Once a continent ruled by titans, now a series of jungle wasteland islands. Some have weird monsters. Some have weird cultures. Some have weird ruins. The Townships - a “between” place between the dwarven empire, several human city states, and the ogre hinterlands. Here warlords can conquer “townships” that probably have populations of less than 2,500 people and run them however they want. and then that southern part of the continent - Here in the warmest part of the semi-civilized world there is enough food that foragers can live well. That means that raiders can steal everything you have, and yet you can survive and continue on. From the Boundless Jungle in the west through the Dismal Swamp and into the Broiling Mountains, there are humans, orcs and trolls, as well as centaurs, and whole list of new races I’ve made up just to fill out the region. Every time I read a Tarzan or Allan Quatermain story, I seem to come up with some new race of jungle dweller or gorilla creature or mix of the two. Yeah, they all get piled into the southern regions. Summary, because this is way too long: Even though Fletnern is specifically developed to be quickly understood by the largest group of fantasy enthusiasts, it still needs to have those things that are odd and weird. Weird and unusual needs to have a place in your world, if for no other reason than to make it more chaotic and therefore exciting. Too much of the same is not good for adventurous role-playing, so make sure that you leave room for the different.


  1. I recently had a major undersea earthquake in my world, and sailors started to run into newly risen land. Swampy, rotting, but with fast new growth and strange ruins from some long forgotten time. The local societies and kingdoms are all in a panic to stake a claim, but the after-tremors keep coming, and they wonder, will it sink, and if it does, should I send my best men there, or the outlaws and hope for the best. It's an interesting time for everyone. A time of caution, excitement, and especially important, something very strange about it all. My usual NPCs are stationed in an old ruined fortress, weathered from the sea for 50 centuries, discovering new flora, fauna, and some distortions in the energy fields of magic here. Weather has changed, currents; not to mention the adjacent rulers and interlopers. All of a sudden there is this colonial panic happening, and all from a simple shift in plate tectonics. You have helped me realize that small changes can mean huge effects, and the details have far more power to inspire than some broad "Discovered a new continent" attempt at creating a new path for adventurers. Thanks.

  2. No - Thank you! What a fantastic idea! I am so jealous that I didn't think of it. I have so many ideas going through my head about where the ruins on your island came from and what manner of amphibious creatures are in them now.

  3. It feels odd now thinking we were the last kids who were introduced to role-playing before the whole age-of-info and the internet. I have never played the newer games. My GM and I have tried pathfinder, when it was only supposed to be "An only Book" but we were kidding ourselves. Trying to use these new systems is like listening to Lady GaGa or something, it just seems alien. You get so pared down after the years that one die and a few circles on a map is more than enough to hang four hours of storytelling on. Then there's the post-play summations and reflection of what just happened; that stuff doesn't come in a book. Reading this blog lately makes me feel like I can't wait to introduce the old style of RPing to my own kids and their friends before they hit the video games too hard and it changes the way that their imaginations work.

  4. We had some video games when I was learning pen and paper games, but they were so bad, we ran back to the paper and dice. Bards Tale? Intellivision? Wow, thinking back, those were awful.
    I still play some PC games, but even Elder Scrolls doesn't give the same ability to makeup really crazy plans and see them work, almost.
    But playing with my kids is one of the main reasons I'm still at it.