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.