Friday, September 11, 2015

Settings galore

I'll have to be honest, since it's my wife's favorite place in the world, my big vacation was to Orlando, where we saw GatorLand, DisneyWorld (including Typhoon Lagoon—a total of 6 days spent in the parks themselves, with another day for Downtown Disney and another for some resort hopping.)  We finished up by spending two days at Universal Studios, where the Diagon Alley area was new to us (we'd already seen Hogsmeade a few times, and the rest of the stuff, minus a few new rides in FantasyLand, we're old hats at.)

This isn't meant to be a travelogue post, though—but rather an indication of some thoughts kicking around in the back of my mind while we were there.

First off, the Magic Kingdom itself has a wonderful group of set themes—TomorrowLand, FrontierLand, FantasyLand, AdventureLand, etc.  Each is a great example of a setting microcosm; or at least, the tone and feel of one.  TomorrowLand is actually the least cohesive in many ways, as it can't quite decide if its a relatively near future harder sci-fi, or a wahoo space opera.

I hardly need more setting projects, after mothballing most of the ones I already had, but if its nothing more than an exercise for this post, because I just felt like it after coming back, here's how I'd do something useful with the ideas:

  • A near future solar system setting where water and mineral mining claims riddle the asteroid belt and distant moons and bodies of the outer solar system.  There's a strong frontier ethos out here, and there has to be, since miners and others are alone in the harshest wilderness known to man and extremely self-reliant by necessity.  Of course, the governments on Earth and even Mars are interested in bringing them into greater control and exploiting their resources to greater profit.  Think The Moon is a Harsh Mistress combined with, I dunno, Silent Running and Outland or something.
  • I'd like to still make a more wild space opera, but I think I've probably got that handled already with AD ASTRA if I ever develop it.
  • This land as a kind of exotic adventure feel; Westerners in southeast Asia and Africa and South America with a kind of Dr. Livingstone or Professor Challenger type feel.  It would be very much like Indiana Jones, the Brendan Frasier Mummy, the old TV shows Bring 'Em Back Alive and Tales of the Gold Monkey, but instead of taking place on our earth, it takes place in an alternative 1920s.  During the Seven Years War, alien technology was discovered that could take people to alternative worlds where entire past ecosystems were "archived" by some mysterious beings.  Modern Westerners weren't the first to go through them, so late surviving Egyptian and other past societies, degenerated into savagery for the most part, make up a burgeoning native population.  Colonies of Prussians, Austrians, British and French travel these foreign worlds, stuffed with dinosaurs and savage, exotic peoples.
  • DARK•HERITAGE is itself kind of a fantasy western more than a Medievalist fantasy or sword & sorcery style fantasy, so I don't think I need a FrontierLand setting per se.  I admit, I did flirt with changing the pseudo-Mediterranean/Latin culture of the Terrasan Empire into something more compatible with typical Westerns, i.e. Anglo-Saxon American-themed, to make it feel more like a Western even, but I doubt that I'll actually go through with that.  And there's no great reason why it'd be necessary anyway.
  • Even though I largely don't work in it much anymore, one of my first great loves is, of course, High Fantasy of the J. R. R. Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, William Morris, etc. But of course I need to put a twist on it.  In fact, what I'm thinking of off-hand right now is adapting my so-far not very developed anyway MAMMOTH LORDS setting as a fantasy alternative world.  Rather than High Medieval, what if I set it during the Migration Period, as the Late Antiquity transitioned into the Early Middle Ages.  And what if some geologically unlikely event happened; like Asia breaking off in a rough line more or less from the Indus River Delta to the Yenisey mouth and the far east suddenly lurching farther to the east, the space in between filling with seawater.  Likewise, North America is thrust up nearly to Europe, with distances no greater than that of the Straits of Dover between some of the westernmost shores of Eire and Hispania—maybe they've even completely collided in some areas.  This brings the Iroquois Confederacy, Cahokia, maybe even the Aztec Empire into contact with the failing Roman Empire, lingering Celts on the fringe of the Empire, and vast hordes of Goths, Vandals, Franks, Alamanni, Huns, etc. into contact—along with prehistoric North American megafauna.  Yeah, yeah, it's a big mix of a bunch of weird stuff, but why not?  Throw some Atlantean refugees in there too, why dontcha?

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