Friday, November 25, 2016

The gloaming vs the night

gloaming (noun) twilight; dusk

I've mentioned before where I am unsure about running my own Crypts & Things setting vs. using Zarth itself. Both have an appeal for me. Zarth is chock full of fun little adventure hooks, cool flavorful weirdness, and a great "Dying of the Light" vibe that seems one part Gamma World, one part Stormbringer, and a dash of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

Part of me just can't help tinkering though. One possibility that occurred to me was to use the Crypts & Things rule set to bring a fresh take on an existing setting.

For those of you not familiar with Karameikos, it was the initial offering of TSR's "Known World" (later "Mystara") Gazetteers. It outlined one of the nations within that setting: the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. 

For some, it is a classic example of a "vanilla" fantasy setting. You have a populations of elves, goblins, and dwarfs. You have villains and heroes and ancient ruins. It ticks all the regular D&D boxes. 

Yawn! Sounds terrible for C&T's brand of weirdness!

Now hear me out. Yes, running a "straight" Karameikos campaign under the C&T rules would be, well, odd. But imagine this: what if some of the events that led to the incursions of the others into Zarth –or events very much like them– happened to a "normal" fantasy world where the PCs lived? In other words, what if the campaign picked up right when stuff went sideways instead of after the weirdness had been going on for generations?

[Minor spoilers: There is even an ancient "slaver" race in Karameikos that mirrors some of the serpent men's role in the setting.]

The nature of the adventures would certainly have a different flavor if the PCs initially saw the incursion of these terrors as an aberration instead of the new norm. Perhaps they could help stem the tide. Or perhaps they'd be the founders of the new cults, given the promises of power that might be offered by the Others.

I think it might be an interesting twist to play out the introduction of the corruption to the world. It might be a bit bleak to some, if it starts to look like "victory" is not likely in the face of cosmic horror, but that could lend a fun "Call of Cthuhlu" tone to things as well.

Just a thought, anyway.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Minis/Terrain vs. ToM

I used to paint miniatures all the time. Lately I've fallen out of the habit. Which is a shame because I have so many still unpainted and I have really enjoyed doing it in the past. I got started painting when our group started playing D&D 3rd edition. The rules really emphasize that kind of tactical layout (Attacks of Opportunity, etc.). Over the years, I've drifted away from d20, but still liked slapping paint on pewter.

I'm a big fan of the OSR, but those rules are not generally focused on the tactical layout of combat. Rather, they lend themselves better to an abstract "Theater of the Mind" style of play.

Minis have their pros and cons. On the one hand, having minis for the party and the monsters can be fun eye candy. On the other hand, it can be a distraction when you don't have the perfect mini for everyone and everything on the board ("I know I said they're bugbears, but I only have orc minis, okay?"). Not to mention the time and expense of buying/painting the things!

Groups vary, so I don't know that there is one best way to handle it. Personally, I think Crypts & Things is a great example of a game that benefits from ToM play. So many of the creatures are so bizarre that having minis for them would be quite difficult. Not to mention that a concrete representation can limit a player's imagination when picturing some of these monsters' horrific natures.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh Yeah!

As I mentioned previously, The Crypts & Things monster section is quite evocative, but is not comprehensive when it comes to ordinary creatures and the like. A terrific resource for such things is the Swords & Wizardry Monster Book by Matthew Finch. It includes hundreds of monsters - both fantastic and mundane- some may not be a good fit for Zarth, but I could see using many of them in a C&T/S&S game. What it does have that I really appreciate are listings for things like wild animals (both giant and normal) as well as mounts (horses).The stats jibe nicely with C&T monsters (just remove the Save stat) and the book is available on Lulu in pdf or print on demand. 

I highly recommend taking a look.