Friday, February 25, 2011

Stream #4: not really a real stream at all

The last "stream" I have to discuss is probably not well described as a stream; rather it's a collection of much more loosely associated settings that borrowed liberally from each other (and from my DARK•HERITAGE and Pirates of the Mezzovian Main games too) but which didn't really evolve from one to another, exactly. The looser associations will be pretty apparent.

First off, I've made two maps for what I call informally my "Pleistocene setting." This had a strong Hyborian Age feel to it, or at least primitive sword & sorcery. I think I actually got excited about it after watching the decidely mediocre movie 10,000 B.C. and messing around with some nonsensical Graham Hancock cockamamie ideas about archeology. Because I'd done something similar with my Bloodlines setting, I also looked back at that; rather than Lake Bonneville, I used a loose correspondance to the incredible Lake Agassiz as the baseline and had the continental glacial ice sheet at the top of the map. I later did away with the Conan-esque sword & sorcery and redid the map, with a loose "golden age of the Vikings" storyline as the set-up for the setting. I'd long been fascinating by the idea that maybe the Vikings spent more time in North America than we believe, and from there went on to create loose analogs of northern Europe and North America that had Viking kingdoms all along the east coast of Canada and New England, as well as Anglo-Saxons, Irish and Scottish and more colonies, Iroquois and Algonquin natives, and more, all, again, with the Pleistocene megafauna, which by now you must assume (probably correctly) that I'm obsessed with.

Anyway, other than some sketchy maps, a bunch of tribe and kingdom names, and a high concept, this setting never went anywhere. I still have it on the backburner even today, thinking that one of these days I'll do something with it, but I'm not quite sure what.

Although it's perhaps much more disconnected than the other settings I've developed than any other, I also "borrowed" an idea from Scott Moore about a dangerous, noxious, even demonic mist that surged over the surface of a world; but which left highlands, peaks, tepuis and elsewhat as places of refuge. Flying balloon ships traveled around between these lands, conducting trade and everything. I ran this game very successfully over the course of a few months; in fact, it's one of the most successful games I've ever run, at least in some respects. But not because of the setting, which I ended up throwing together out of all kinds of weird ideas, most of which I came up with on the fly because I had little to no idea of what I was doing when I started. I borrowed a lot of ideas from my other settings (I even started the game out in Razina; the hometown of my original DARK•HERITAGE games!) But I also borrowed a lot of names from other sources, or made them up on the fly. Not just names and places, but influences got thrown into this almost haphazardly; completely unexpectedly, I had the characters as guests of La, in the City of Naked Amazon Hotties Who Ride Dinosaurs (probably called Opar, but nobody ever asked), I gave the characters a Gun o'death that was very directly inspired by The Colt from that t.v. show Supernatural. One character turned into a gorilla. One character--a notorious womanizer--became Fast Times era Phoebe Cates. At one point I was even giving in-game benefits to anyone who could quote 80s music lyrics and make them sound unforced.

One thing that Demons in the Mist did do for me, though, was highlight to me how often I was re-using certain concepts, so it was a direct lead-in for me to develop my Modular DND Setting wiki, which was originally meant to be unconnected setting "modules" that could be put into any setting. I'd already had this idea when I conceived of Tarush Noptii, the vampire kingdom, after reading a preview article from Wizards of the Coast to hype their upcoming book Open Grave. But the militaristic hobgoblin empire became the second module, and the first one that actually got enough development to be considered "done". Kinda. That kingdom (khaganate, technically) became Kurushat, and while I've taken hobgoblins and goblinoids in general completely out of DARK•HERITAGE, all that meant was reskinning Kurushat into a human kingdom and throwing it in as-is in the southwestern corner of my setting.

Although not meant to be an evolved version of Demons in the Mist, my later Freeport game was however a follow-up to it, included many of the same players, and even some of the same characters. Freeport clearly isn't a homebrew; it's a setting developed by Green Ronin. I'd always kind of liked it, since it hit a lot of the same themes that I liked; pirates, mobsters, cults, and horror. However, Freeport isn't really a complete setting either; it was always meant to be a modular add-on; simply a city that could exist in any setting (and I've often enjoyed talking with folks about where to place it in various settings, just for fun.) However, the systemless book Pirate's Guide to Freeport, along with being one of my favorite RPG products of all time, also includes a very brief semi-setting in which to place Freeport, and refers to a few places like the Ivory Ports, Kizmir, Mazin and whatnot.

I borrowed some of these names, some other names that I stole liberally from obscure parts of Golarion (like Mzali, Sanghor, Ghol-Gan, etc.), placed them with Kurushat and a bunch of Lovecraftian DreamQuest names on a map that vaguely resembled the East Indies, Phillipines and Malaysian peninsula, and ran a follow-up game to Demons in the Mist in this cobbled together setting that was slightly less homebrewed than is my wont.

After some evolution and modification to make it much more my own, some of these concepts ended up popping up again in DARK•HERITAGE. Porto Liure is not too unlike Freeport in most respects, and my own Qizmir nation probably owes its ultimate genesis to Freeport's Kizmir, although I certainly went my own direction with both quite a ways. The correllation of Kizmir with azhar and Qizmir with the jann (both of which are essentially conceptually the exact same as fire genasi) as well as a mutilated version of the name are probably the only things that I kept.

So this last stream; settings that don't really stream together, but which are much more loosely connected via tennuous contacts, spreading areal features, and other borrowings concludes my retrospective review of the settings I've worked on since the release of Third Edition eleven years ago. There's certainly more out there that I've also tinkered with, but none of them evolved sufficiently to merit being called a setting that I did anything at all with. Also, all of the settings I've described in these four series of posts led, in one way or another, to my "final" setting, the current version of DARK•HERITAGE. Ironically, the only thing I really haven't explained is the name itself and where it came from--and it's a holdover from ideas that are now obsolete. I probably shouldn't even use the name DARK•HERITAGE anymore, truthfully, but by now it's too late; I've got it too firmly entrenched in too many forms for me to seriously think about changing it.

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