Words from the Wise (Guys)

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2009

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion


To the 123rd issue of The Guild Companion and our fifth podcast

Guild Adventurer #3 redux

We had a trio of annoyances with Guild Adventurer #3. Firstly we had fonts failing to embed in such a way as to be readable in more elderly versions of Adobe Reader. Secondly we had symbols deciding not to appear on one of Terry's maps. Thirdly some lines decided to compress themselves to nothing in the map for Marc Rosen's "Dust to Dust". We had a controlled panic about this , Andrew gave the pdf a good smack, and happily all of these problems have been resolved. A revised version has already went up on all of our various e-outlets. So if you purchased a misbehaving version, go to whichever outlet you purchased it from and simply redownload the file. Having fixed these, we now also have an excerpt of TGA#3 in this month's issue so you can compare the offending pages and check that your copy is fine or just enjoy it as a preview. Apologies for this hiccup.

More than fifty of you have already bought yourselves copies for which our thanks. If you have a spare moment, please do write a review of the product. Feedback is important

Speaking of spare moments, just a reminder that there's still room for contributions for issue 4 of the Guild Adventurer.

UK Games Expo and Constitution

I'll be attending UK Games Expo (5th to 7th June, Birmingham) on the Saturday. This will be in the capacity of arm-twister and publicist for Constitution (itself running in Cambridge July 31st to August 2nd). I had faint hopes that I might be able to run some HARP SciFi at UK Games Expo, but sadly there's no signs of HARP SciFi or HARP SF Xtreme getting their art together, so I'd rather not tease people with a product that isn't available in final form. Instead I'll have to content myself with giving out leaflets (Come To Constitution!), chatting to folk (Come To Constitution!), looking for interesting rpg books to buy, and so on. Did I mention come to Constitution?

Returning to Roots

I've been role-playing for a very long time and have tried quite a few games. Some I have liked for their rules, some for their setting, and some I have kept as examples of how not to do something. Among all these games, I have a number of favourites from now and way back when.

One of the recent trends in gaming has been a return to the "classics". Games such as Paranoia, Runequest, and Traveller have been given a spring-clean in rules and presentation and a new lease of life. The Open Gaming License has permitted games such as Castles & Crusades to capture the spirit of earlier versions of Dungeons & Dragons. Even ICE has went back into its archives and brought Rolemaster 2nd Edition back from the dead in the very respectable incarnation of Rolemaster Classic.

Now none of these have the nostalgia attraction for me, not even Rolemaster Classic - as you might expect from someone who has written two supplements for RMSS/FRP and is involved in lots of HARP products. However there are some old-style games that do.

Back in my early role-playing days, some of the seminal games for me were published as paperback-sized books - the Advanced Fighting Fantasy rules set (that spun out of gamebooks such as The Warlock of Firetop Mountain), Alexander Scott's Maelstrom (a game of historical role-playing in the real(ish) sixteenth century), and the six books forming the Dragon Warriors game. Some of the Fighting Fantasy books were reimagined as d20 modules several years ago. Arion Games has brought Maelstrom back in pdf and recently released a substantial supplement for it. Last, but not least, that giant of the UK rpg industry, James Wallis and his Magnum Opus company, have returned Dragon Warriors into print in very fine books with one set of original adventures still to be released. From the three books (the core rulebook, the bestiary and Sleeping Gods) that I've acquired to date, James and his team have done a great job in giving the rules a general tidy, providing a better introductory adventure, and polishing everything up whilst still keeping the game as true as possible to the original.

Before there's consternation, I'm not suddenly going to be dropping HARP to run Dragon Warriors, partly because in many ways I've never left Dragon Warriors behind. It's been my go-to setting for many years. I GM'ed a three-year Rolemaster 2nd Edition campaign set in Albion which involved restoring a king, thwarting a would-be usurper and sending a demon prince back to hell. Pilgrims' Progress was the playtest campaign for Mentalism Companion where a bunch of miltant pilgrims en route to the Principalities of the Crusade found themselves foiling an invasion of lizardmen from the jungles of Mungoda. The Merchants of Death was a RMSS campaign of murder, mystery and politics set in my version of the city of Ferromaine (think Florence/Venice). I've even run a d20 3.x campaign, The Bastions of the East, where the players were part of the New Selentine armies defending the empire against the nomad khanates. Most recently, I played in a HARP campaign which took us from the port of Clyster in Albion to distant Yamato. I've certainly had my money's worth from those six paperbacks.

A Notion

As I've been getting back into the swing of Something Wicked, my mind has started bubbling with ideas as to what I might sensibly do for my next campaign or series of one-shots. A sequel to the HARP SciFi campaign, Manifest Destinies, is possible but not all of the likely player pool are sf fans and challenging 14th-level characters who've already saved the Terran Federation several times is a non-trivial matter. I am very minded for a return to fantasy and get some mileage for myself from Something Wicked, The Construct Toolkit and other projects not yet revealed. A driver for this has been my recent reading material. This has included William Hope Hodgson's The Ghost Pirates and The Boats of the Glen Carrig, Paul Kearney's Monarchies of God quintet of exploration, religious war and supernatural strife, Chris Bunch's Corsair, and even Treasure Island. I've taken a notion that I'd like to run a (partly) sea-based game, perhaps with some piracy and a touch of gunpowder and cannons.

However, Dragon Warriors is a medieval world that has yet to discover its New World and rapier and musket have yet to replace broadsword and longbow. I've no intention of advancing the timeline in my incarnation of the setting (as I have plans for a future medieval campaign that I'm not ready to run yet) and the Coradian Sea (the Mediterranean analogue) lacks the density of islands that I might need. So for once it isn't my obvious setting choice and I've been casting around for an alternative fantasy setting. The real world simply won't do - I want magic, I quite possibly want constructs, golems, etc., and I don't want to have to explain them all. I also don't feel the need to build my own world (particularly if this is only for a series of one-shots).

So I've boiled it down to two possibilities. The first is Titan, which is the world of Fighting Fantasy, and has such fun places as Port Blacksand (remember the City of Thieves and Midnight Rogue gamebooks anyone?) and the Inland Sea. It is designed for heroic adventuring against the odds with monsters to be slain, treasures to be looted, and a general old-school attitude. It is a bit light on archipelagos, does not have a New World, and its socio-economics wouild not stand up to close scrutiny. The other possibility is actually Gryphon World, but not the continent of Cyradon nor the continent of Anias. Instead I'm interested in the Shatterings, described in the Cyradon book as the "collective name given to the many islands, both large and small that lie between Cyradon and Anias" and according to legend, once part of Anias before some disaster caused it to be sundered. There are obvious opportunities here for exploration, small kingdoms, pirate states, refugees from the militant theocratic tyranny of Anias, fallen civilisations, exotic magic, and a whole heap of fun. The only downside is some of those islands are approaching Cyradon in size and there isn't a more detailed or more high-resolution map of the area available, even to ICE. I'm still undecided - either way, it may well make for publishable material - deTitanising scenarios for publication would not be that hard and I'm sure if Gryphon World was my choice, I could come to an arrangement with ICE. Luckily I don't have to make my mind up for some time.

Farewell for now ...

Something Wicked is singing its siren song, so I'll leave you to enjoy the rest of the issue. We'll be back in June with issue 124, but until then ...

Keep gaming and have fun,
Nicholas HM Caldwell
General Editor for The Guild Companion