Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Madlands Campaign: Thoughts on Races...

Good Afternoon, All:

As I've mentioned in the past, the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting is based on elements from my current and past campaigns, integrated along a central storyline. While the Madlands Campaign will take place in my current campaign setting, I intend to create elements that can be used in Hammersong's Legacy campaigns as well, changing names and references as needed. What I present here on the blog will be the Hammersong's Legacy versions of any items I create for the Madlands Campaign. I am doing this for two primary reasons: 1) as support for those seeking to run a campaign in the setting I'm wrapping up for publishing (probably in early May, given my current workload); and 2) to maintain an air of separation between the two versions, for those that may participate in the actual campaign itself. Whatever rules system we decide to use for that future campaign, the material I post here will be for Swords & Wizardry (and maybe MyD20 Lite).

One of the first elements I like to consider in creating a new campaign are character options. For me, given my upbringing on D&D, that pretty much breaks down into considerations for race and class/occupation. With the Madlands Campaign setting, I have already introduced humans and orcs as being prevalent in this region, so these should be two of the available character races. Any race that I've introduced in the world previously that they'd like to play, but which are not native to this area, could be available as escaped slaves from the Malnoth Tyranny, the orcish homeland as it were. However, I want to create a unique feeling for this region, and so I want to have some different options here.

Players seem to prefer at least three or four races to choose from (I know I do), so I need to come up with two more archetypal races. I've got the stout warrior covered with the orc (although I suppose that I could offer the dwarf as an option as well, as the Daggerbacks aren't that far away). Elves are usually the choice for mystical characters, but they are not native to the area. If I wanted to go for a darker campaign, I'd probably use the Kelshan here. None of the standard humanoids really come across to me as mystics, except for the drow (which I dislike and thus will not include) and kobolds (who only gained that rep with 3E and the introduction of the sorcerer class). Looking at non-standard races, I immediately think of the Pevishan from Fantasy Flight Games's Mythic Races, a humanoid race that is innately magical. I'll have to dig around for a few other options to consider, but if all else fails, I'll create a Mageborn race that combines elements of the various mystical races together to create a fun racial concept.

The third common racial archetype is that of the dimunitive sneak. Since the Vaelan/halflings are not native to the area, I am once again left to consider other options. Immediately, I think of kobolds and goblins. Of course, going that route pretty much guarantees a darker game, simply because of the perceptions that players already have about these two races. If I wanted to run an evil game, then I'd go with the kelshan earlier and probably the kobold here. However, I want a heroic game, so I need an option that's better suited to such. Gnomes are out, because in my home game, gnomes do not exist. I have yet to meet a player that could portray a gnome in a manner that I'd enjoy over a long period of time. Ratmen are an option, but rats have a negative connotation, so probably not. I could try the Vanara, a race of monkey-like humanoids found in the Hindu epic Ramayana, who are brave and inquisitive in nature. Finding miniatures for them would be difficult, but all in all, the Vanara are currently my favorite for this role.

If I introduce any other races for consideration, I'll think about making one of them a large brute, based on the half-ogre or half-giant racial concept. However, seeing as how the orcs are a part of the selection process here, I'm not likely to follow up on that one, lest the giantkin overshadow the orc's role as a stout warrior. While I admit that such efforts are two-dimensional, sometimes these stereotypes are all that separate one race from another in the eyes of the players, at least until I can breathe some life into them over the course of the game. Besides, as Swords & Wizardry is a class-based system, distinct archetypes lend themselves well toward the class concept, for those that want to use "race as class" rules for their own version of the Madlands Campaign.

More Tomorrow,

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