Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Attitude of the Americas Campaign

So I'm focused in on building my campaign in the South Eastern portion of North America. My idea is to build along the Gulf Coast / Mississippi River basin and to bring in the elements that I love about Central America that I discussed last time in Narrowing the Focus on the Americas Setting. This time, though, I want to talk about the attitude of the setting.

Berserker by Frank Frazetta

Most settings tend to set up the tone of their worlds as either one of quiet desperation (such as is the case in Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play and Wheel of Time) or of tense anticipation before a massive, world spanning conflict (as is the case in Greyhawk, Iron Kingdoms, and the Kingdoms of Kalamar). Quiet desperation doesn't work in the Americas as the people of these continents are too optimistic and pragmatic. Things may be terrible, as they have been and will be again, but there is always the view that we can make it through this and be better on the other side. It's why people travel thousands of miles across jungles, deserts, and brave countless rednecks with guns to come north for work. On the whole we believe things will work out for the best. That said, the world spanning conflict is played out for me and no longer feels fresh (though hopefully I can come back to it later).

Instead I'm going to have to focus on a tone of fear and awe. Fear is easy. Beyond every unexplored hill, in every new indigenous tribe, and down every ancient tomb there has to be the unknown. My players will have to feel that what comes next isn't a fight with a 1 HD orc who can only strike at them once before he falls to their blades. This means that I need to make use of the most dangerous element in the game: humans. I need to take advantage of all the terrible, awful things that we are capable of and put that to bear in this campaign. My players need to fear the human nomad more than the orc, troll, and giant. They have to fear what might happen if they're captured. They have to fear what dark substance is dribbling down those blades and why those traders are whispering quietly to each other in the corner. That I can do but I need to pace it well by allowing them to feel comfortable and have a home base that they believe is safe off in the distance, just over that next hill.

Awe is more difficult. For awe to be successful I'll need to push things further away from the traditional standards. My temples will have to be patterned off Mississippi burial mounds and Myan temples. I'll need to pull the aspects of our architectural designs that emphasize the brutal pragmatism of the Americas while pulling in elements of our most adventurous artists. The campaign has to take on a more nuanced feel. I need to emphasize how this is different from the Old World that they're used to.  


My mind is filled with images from metal covers and underground artists that have shaped my understanding of what it means to live in the Americas. I want this setting to feel awesome like the first time someone else touched your dick and you realized that great things come next. I want to embrace the awesome without making the word lose its fucking meaning. 

I need to draw a damned map. 

10 comments:

  1. Sounds like you want the world to be like is for humans, where dirdir and pnume are such menaces.

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    1. I'm sure those words have meaning but I've never run across them before. What is a dirdir and a pnume?

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  2. meant to include the word 'Tschai' somewhere in there.

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    1. Tschai? What the what?

      Timothy I am completely out in the weeds here my friend. Can you help a brother out?

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  3. Jack Vance, Planet of Adventure Series. A spacefarer crashes on a planet where a human population exists, but they are enslaved by aliens, or live in tribes or small kingdoms. Some of the aliens have brainwashed the humans into thinking the aliens are their benefactors. None of the humans know they really come from another world. The Pnume are the mysterious cthonic aboriginals, while the Dirdir and others are just squatting.

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    1. Well that's brilliant.

      Vance is one of those authors that I wasn't exposed to until the last few years so I'm just now starting to get into his stuff. What I've read has been good so far, but I'm far from super knowledgeable about him. Thanks for sharing that!

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  4. How will characters be introduced to the setting ? Arriving from over seas? Spanish? Or will they be playing indigenous characters? Either is cool in my mind>
    When you speak of Fear and Awe I think of south western native Americans belief in Animism and the spirit beings that animate well every thing... What if those spirit beings were quite real tangible, and restless?
    I am just spit balling and may be way off of your vision.. but ... still Shaman and stuff...

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  5. I think that optimistic tone came later, more 19th century than 17th. The very early colonists didn't have the Manifest Destiny attitude. So your tone is really spot-on, especially when you add in all the fantasy world dangers.

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  6. There are ruins here in North Georgia that are rumored to be of Aztec or Mayan in origin. No one can get much info though as the government has blocked off all access to the area. The history of this continent is shrouded in mystery. www.humanpast.net. <~rabbit hole

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