Monday, January 30, 2012

[Secaelia] Introduction to Player Options

Last week was dedicated to developing some key aspects of the world of Secaelia, in order to establish the reasoning behind some of the fundamental assumptions about how the game world works. I began with some basic ideas, such as "wizards are dangerous," "the world is full of monsters," "magic has ramifications," "not everything in the world is natural," and "there are still some safe places." Once I had just a handful of basic statements, I just freewrote to see if I could just see where the logical extensions to those statements ended up, and I think overall the world ended up much in a place that seemed interesting and cohesive, but, more importantly, preserved a lot of the basic assumptions implicit in OD&D/Swords and Wizardry. Chief among these is that humans are "more important" than demi-humans.

As far as the human emperors are concerned, the demi-humans have been cordoned off into reservations that the emperors "allow" to exist. But from the demi-humans' perspective, things are very different. They are not interested in the affairs of the hot-headed, destructively ambitious, and short-lived humans (at least at this point in history), so they choose to just mostly keep to themselves, work (as it pleases them), and mainly just see how these humans end up. It's reminiscent of the Tolkienesque world that informs so much of D&D's past, but, I hope, is unique in some respects. I didn't want to "ruin" demi-human characters as much as make them more interesting and difficult to play. The level caps on demi-humans I guess reflect their unwillingness to excessively meddle in the affairs of the humans; once they hit their cap, that's about time to retire back to their mountains, forests, or glens and let the humans continue to do their own thing. The time of the elves and the dwarves has passed.

The whole basis of this world hinged pretty heavily on this article here, which was what gave me the idea to make wizards become corrupt by their powers, and then use more magical powers to preserve themselves. It's not a new idea, but I found this iteration, however brief, to be particularly evocative. It's a bit more sinister than the Dungeon Crawl Classics version of magical corruption in that it's reversible, but only via the suffering of another, probably innocent, person. It also, to me, makes a good prefab excuse for the reasoning behind Vancian magic. There are certain limits for magical power, and going beyond those limits has disastrous effects. At some point later this week I'll probably have an article on magical corruption as pertains to player characters.

The project for this week is to discuss actual mechanical aspects to this particular world as it pertains to player characters, and so these sort of issues will necessarily have to come up if I want to take my own assertions about how the world works seriously. Besides the fact that the exercise will probably be fun, of course. Another thing to mention is that I am writing most of this with the Swords and Wizardry, Third Printing (Internet Edition) in mind. Matthew Finch, the author, has recently released a Fourth Printing that makes quite a few changes in how characters work, especially in demi-human characters, and also introduces the Thief as a core class, which was absent in the previous version. One example of the demi-human differences is that in the Third Printing, elves level according to 1d6+1 for Fighter levels and 1d6-1 for Magic-User levels. In the Fourth Printing, elves level according to the average between 1d8 and 1d4. For the time being, I am going to continue to assume the "Third Printing" rules, since I am more familiar with that ruleset. At some point I may release an "errata" sheet to accommodate for the difference between the older and newer editions of the game, since I'm not sure whether it is still possible to find the Third Printing now. However, everything should still be compatible with Labyrinth Lord.

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