Monday, December 30, 2019

The Differences in Mystara, Greyhawk, and Forgotten Realms (Part 4)

You may have thought that we had wrapped this up sufficiently, but I think we could benefit from
more than just looking at each setting individually. The points of overlap can sometimes also be interesting, and I can think of some more game-able stuff that'll apply to these. Which I realize may seem to run counter to what I said previously.

In a sense, wouldn't the best way to satisfy our goal of making each setting feel really, really distinct be to downplay what they have in common? Like, try to not step on each others' toes if you can help it. Especially for those points that technically overlap. Yes, all three of these settings has furry races. But Mystara is the one that really leans into it, so if you're doing one of the other two settings then maybe you should go out of your way to avoid furry races so as not to steal Mystara's thunder.

But any way in which they can be made distinct from the rules of default D&D is an opportunity to capitalize on.

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Differences in Mystara, Greyhawk, and Forgotten Realms (Part 3)

I'm going to be upfront about this: this is not going to be a very positive article. In seeking to answer the question of this series (see title), I... just don't have much good to say about the Forgotten Realms. Maybe some FR superfans can come in and help me out but I feel like a lot of the obstacles in this article will serve to illustrate some of my more important arguments about setting and worldbuilding.

Forgotten Realms
So let's get into it. What are the main features that characterize FR in contrast against Greyhawk and Mystara?

  1. ... Uh ... Well...
  2. What does the Wikipedia article talk about? That should give us an idea of the most important stuff. Let's see...
  3. ...Uhhhh. Uh oh.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Running On Empty

Adventuring is tiring work, when you think about it. Traveling across wilderness after wasteland, slay beast foul and fantastic, saving the helpless and carting their lazy buts back to civilization, not to mention the loot. How can one forget the loot?! And it's not like it doesn't show up in the fiction either, I mean, dealing with being tired from walking is most of the page count of lord of the rings after all. 

But DnD and its ilk rarely have a good mechanic for this, or rather, not very usable ones. 3e had a pile of conditions, including fatigue and exhaustion that I'd always forget, and 5e has a downward spiral of exhaustion that I'd rather not remember, one that is so punishing that I can't hit the players with it too often or they'll not want to adventure at all. Besides, I usually play Knave, or my co-writers variant Brave, most of the time these days. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Differences in Mystara, Greyhawk, and Forgotten Realms (Part 2)

Picking up where we left off, we'll continue to identify all of the "greatest hits" of the three default campaign settings. We found Mystara, most associated with Basic D&D, to be a realm of exciting locations, potential for immortalized achievement, and waifus (furry and non-furry options available).

In contrast, let's talk about Greyhawk, the default setting of AD&D and Gary's own creation. Perhaps my favorite official campaign setting, here are the standout qualities to me. I find this one to be the most distinct of the three. It's also, to me, the easiest to envision mechanical structures to reinforce its qualities through gameplay:
  1. Sword and Sorcery, full stop. Gotta go hard in this direction. Magic is rare, powerful, and corrupting, morals and grey grey grey, people are selfish, there are no great and grand kingdoms anymore, etc.
    • I think a lot of people still picture "sword and sorcery" involving deserts somehow because of Conan the Barbarian fighting desert snake cults and Dark Sun and Barsoom and, to an extent, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. When Lieber described the setting outside Lankhmar itself, he wrote, "think of Saracens, Arabs, Parthians, Assyrians even. They ride the camel and elephant, and use the bow extensively." In any case, while there are deserts in the Flaeness, you would have to be able to pretty extensively envision Sword and Sorcery without it. Which really just means...