Monday, May 11, 2009

Recurring Themes of Thylia

Life has been rather tumultuous for the last couple weeks and, through a combination of my company "right sizing" the division and various family drama, I've discovered I have less and less time for such leisure activities as posting to this blog and sleeping.

In order to demonstrate to the, perhaps, five people who actually still read this blog that I'm still alive and so is this outlet for my psychotic ramblings, I present the following semi-non-post for your bemusement.

Themes in Thylia
An overarching plot should never be a part of an FRPG adventure or, even worse, an entire campaign.* It more often than not turns the game into a witness event for the players and an exercise in mental self massage for the ref. Such things lead to the likes of adventure paths.

However, I'm not against dropping themes into a campaign: recurrent ideas and concepts, or just images that crop up time and again in seemingly disconnected locations. Such would be a natural side effect, I suppose, of any long standing game of any sort that's largely constructed around the mind of a single individual (such as a DM or whatever we're calling it today). Themes can be as simple as recurring NPC's: for example, a friend of mine uses a recurring, suspiciously adept NPC named Timmy in almost every game he runs. They can be concious or unconcious, dramatic or comedic, or just about anything that becomes a recurrent element of a game.

Of course, when it's done with concious decision, it can be badly mishandled and turn into a tromping boot that lands squarely in the middle of everything which the players are then obliged to deal with directly, or politely ignore. Tracy Hickman's moderately infantile understanding of good and evil in Dragonlance spring to mind as does virtually the entirety of Eberron's setting (though that setting occupies a moderately fuzzy place in my heart for some unknowable reason). Monte Cook once said that a recurrent theme for his campaigns was always an impossibly tall spire, at the top of which rested something so predicatble that his players immediately knew upon sighting it that it was going to become a major plot element in the game in relatively short order: of course this is both good and bad as its various incarnations that I know of aren't really that terrible and are used somewhat artfully to act as centerpieces rather than gigantic overriding plot devices.

Despite the massive potential for catastrophic failure, I plan to incorporate some themology into Thylia when, and if, it gets off the ground as an actual game (closer than one might suspect as I actually have a preliminary map slopped together that I'm pleased with but for the terrible attempt to add color that pretty much destroyed it).

May You Live In Interesting Times The first part of a tripartite curse, and in our real lives is truly a terrifying thought, but in a game world is, in my opinion, the only way to fly. I will not ever pretend that Thylia is a living, thriving, and vibrant world, but I will say that, in terms of the anticiparted starting area, things are happening with or without the participation of the players and the general fabric of the region will change significantly from time to time due to world events, especially if the players spend effort ignoring them. Much of the time, if the players start to pick up on it, I expect them to expend a good deal of effort simply maintaining the status quo rather than affecting grand events. If the game lasts until advanced levels, the PC's may find themselves taking up the leadership of local baronies in order to "plug the gaps" so to speak and form a shield against things that are coming.

May You Find What You Are Looking For Sort of a version of "be careful what you wish for . . ." I greatly like the idea of players chasing down things they think they want (treasure, magic, power, etc.) and actually finding it, and learning that there are a whole host of attendant problems that go right along with it. My major inspiration here is, of course, the horde of Fafnir.

Through a Glass Darkly . . . Fantasy (and by extension, speculative fiction in general) is, to me, the act of holding a tinted mirror up to the real world. My particular mirror is dirty, dark, and makes things look dark, ugly, and thratening. Yes, Timmmy, the world is out to get you.

There Is No Destiny Heroes are not born, prophesied, or created. Heroes are those who are willing to walk into the dark places where others dare not tread. Heroes stand between the metaphorical fall of Night and the light of Civilization and say "you shall do no harm here." Whatever their motives, heroes are the ones who get it done, not the ones who come branded with a fancy title.

With the WOTC versions of D&D taking primacy in the FRGP market, the concept of a campaign has morphed from something that never really ends to a literal 12 month start to finish affair with, supposedly, identifiable beginnings, middles, and ends. They are stories and not adventures any more.

1 comment:

  1. Life does intervene. I thought I would be able to do more blogging than I have been.

    Where do guys like James at Grognardia find endless time for it?