Tuesday, July 28, 2015

An Evolving World Theory of Dungeons & Dragons

The Uncertainty Principle cover by Richard M. Powers.

This morning I was reading the Gamma World introduction when an idea struck me: what if all the settings that TSR produced settings were simply points along the same timeline of a world that was repeatedly rising to the heights of space faring civilizations only to be consumed in a globe-spanning holocaust that sent it back to its prehistoric beginnings. In this way Gamma World, Greyhawk, Boot Hill, the Forgotten Realms, Eberron, and the rest would all be a glimpse into the long line of a single world.

Imagine for a moment how this affects something as ubiquitous as ruins in the desert. These long lost cities that appear like the skeletal remains of some poor cock-sucker who couldn't remember where the next watering hole was now have a history built into them. They're Greyhawk, Waterdeep, Chicago, and Dyvers. Then there are the artifacts and magic items that were once tied to a setting, like the Lucky Ring of the Wild Coast (Greyhawk Adventures pg. 73), which now can be dropped in without any changes to the name or lore surrounding the item. Instead they're items that have survived the destruction of the world like the treasures of pharaohs hidden deep in their tombs beneath the Egyptian deserts.  

As someone who has no trouble blowing up a world because that's what the players want to do I really like the idea that these sort of world shattering events can happen and that the world still manages to survive and that the scattered remnants of the world can come back from the brink of extinction time and time again. Also, since I've been on a massive post-apocalyptic literature binge of late this runs right along with my personal tastes. 

 What do you think?

20 comments:

  1. I call that Urutsk: World of Mystery. :D

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  2. Sounds like it'd be an intellectual property nightmare. ;)

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    1. Good Lord! Could you imagine the shit storm that would follow you if you tried to publish something for money that explicitly made that connection!

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  3. Wouldn't that make Spelljammer time travel? It does explicitly coonect several of these 'time periods' (as does Planescape).

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    1. I don't see why that would be a problem if you interpret it like that. You could treat the time travel like relativity in that you don't recognize the effects around you so showing up in a setting from a different time period might not be readily recognizable unless you're explicitly telling the characters that they have time jumped.

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  4. Very intrigued about Greyhawk-Boot Hill-Gamma World as the quasi-deity Murlynd seems to cross those temporal barriers.

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    1. Really? I didn't realize he did!

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    2. Indeed, he did. I have an old Dragon magazine buried in the library/junk room with an article on quasi-deities from the 1st edition days & the drawing of Murlynd looks kind of like a young Clint Eastwood. If I remember correctly, his pistols did 1d10 damage but it has been 20 years or so since I looked at that issue.

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    3. To the Dragon Magazine Archive!

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    4. Issue #71. Page 21.
      "Murlynd is a true character. His face is
      bold and handsome, his eyes deep and
      penetrating. His nature is seemingly
      rugged, independent, taciturn. His broad,
      muscular frame is typically clad in garments
      of another time and world, that of
      the “Old West.” His waist is girdled by a
      leather belt containing weapons of technology
      as well as a +6 dagger."

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    5. On a more sobering note: it turns out Murlynd was the name of Don Kaye's Magic-User.

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  5. Stop stealing my ideas. ;p

    My Villains & Vigilantes and Champions games feature a mysterious, motorcycle riding anti-hero called The Red Rider. The Red Rider first appeared in a Boot Hill campaign, riding a rust colored horse.

    In a D&D campaign set on my world of Aerth, the heroes travelled into the distant future, and encountered the Gamma World setting. While there, they met a being who guarded against people messing with the timeline called, 'The Breach'. The Breach latter appeared in a Gamma World campaign session, a V&V Superheroes session, and later still in a Space Opera session set in our homebrew/Space Opera-canon hybrid campaign.

    Great minds.

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  6. Sean Robert MeaneyJuly 29, 2015 at 12:27 AM

    Perfectly sensible. The mystaran continent of skothar reminds me of greyhawk. The davinia continent vaguely like forgotton realms.

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  7. The Save or die! blog (not the podcast) was working on the idea that every rule addition from OD&D, through the supplements, The Dragons, modules, and Monster Manual could be read as chronicling changes in the world (e.g. after Greyhawk was published, fighters began to learn to use weapons more effectively and deal variable damage; Druids, formerly evil mu/clerics became neutral priests of nature, etc.) There were some fun ideas, but he eventually dropped the idea as unuable in actual play.
    Not exactly what you're talking about but a sort of precursor...

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    1. That's really cool! I'll have to check it out!

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  8. I call it EarthDawn/Shadowrun. Good combo.

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