Today, we begin our exploration of the World of Samardan, a Planetary Romance campaign setting built for Old School sandbox playability. Before we get too far along, I suggest that you refresh yourself on the basic tropes of the genre, so that I can set some appropriate expectations about my goals along the way.
I believe that the overall goals for developing this campaign setting should include:
- Contain recognizable tropes or elements inspired by the source material for the genre.
- Developed with the same focus on playability and sandbox development that I've been using for the last few years.
- Focus more on setting and less on mechanics (except where mechanics are necessary).
- Needs a complete bestiary inspired by source material, similar in size and scope to the Basic D&D books or the 1st Edition AD&D Monster Manual.
- Special abilities must not rely on magic, but rather physical or psionic effects, or possibly super-science and other remnants of ancient civilizations.
- Using a home-brewed naming language (a type of Conlang) when naming places, people and things, so as to bring a specific flavor and consistency to the setting.
Looking at the Planetary Romance tropes, I imagine I will want to make sure I include the following elements:
- Exotic Locations: The setting should be based on a "Points of Light" style campaign, each city-state being an isolated area of civilization separated by major regions of wilderness.
- Alien Interactions: The city-states of the setting are generally divided between two different cultures, an empire of despots and an alliance of confederated city-states that has united for mutual protection. Add in a few independent cities and some savage tribal types, and there's plenty of cultural interaction for building stories.
- Hostile Savages: I definitely want to see three major tribes in the region, to allow conflict and intrigue between different tribes. See Alien Interactions for more details.
- Decadent Monarchies: The empire of despots described under Alien Interactions will be our decadent monarchy.
- Lost Technology: There are ruins and signs of an ancient civilization all over the place. Those ancient people have disappeared long ago, and no one knows how to maintain or repair the lost technology.
In addition, an element I enjoyed from both the Kregen and Gor series involved aliens that secretly watched over the people of the setting, and their enemies. The original species artificially keeps humanity from evolving in certain directions (thus enforcing the primitive weapons meme that is pervasive in the genre), acting as custodians for the lesser species inhabiting their world. Their enemies are outsiders seeking to establish a foothold from which to launch their conquest efforts. In classic examples of the genre, the preservers/custodians are often viewed as Gods or God-like beings (the Everoinye of Kregen or the Priest-Kings of Gor), and little is known of the machinations of the destroyers/invaders (the Curshin or the Others of Kregen or the Kurii of Gor). I'll note that here:
- Classic Trope: "The Gods": There are at least two "alien" forces operating behind the scenes, related to the ancient civilization. One protects and preserves the status quo of current Samardan life; while the other seeks to invade and destroy it.
I think that this should be enough to help inform the creation of the World of Samardan setting. In my next post, I'll outline the basic flow of development events that I'll follow. It should prove to be rather similar to the Traveller Sandbox Experiment in basic flow, which makes sense, because the original method was used to develop fantasy campaign settings. The flavors may be different, but there's enough similarities that a planetary romance campaign setting should benefit from similar development techniques.