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.


  1. What if there had been no magic at all in the world until just now...

    Sure there were clerics, and even wizards, but the clergy merely wielded political power and superstition, while the "wizards," like those elsewhere, merely wield parlor tricks and a dash of low-tech science and alchemy (greek fire, etc.).

    But now, for some reason, magic really works. The hollow rites they have always intoned now really cast spells!

    Previously, all the stresses in Karameikos were about Thyatians versus Traldarans. But those Traladaran backwoods and hill-tribes, already backward and savage... well, they really aren't *human* anymore... they have been transformed into beastmen, goblins and ogres out of myth and legend.

    And even stranger and more terribly inhuman monsters out of myth and legend are being seen on the borderlands...

    The Keep on the Borderlands, up in the north-eastern foothills of the Altan Tepes, there to keep an eye on the savage hill-folk, is now surrounded by strange mutant men and inhuman monsters...

    The old Radlebb Forest, once the royal hunting grounds, is now home to a strange, fey race. The ancient abandoned Traldar Mines are now home to a strange race of gnomish creatures. And the eastern Vyalia Forest is haunted by fey creatures, terrible and beautiful (and perhaps not at all what they seem).

    And some even whisper that some men who walk among us are no longer men... they are vampires, or ghouls, or werewolves, or worse...

  2. I like it!
    And what if the Traladarans were seduced by the promises of power to overthrow their oppressors with this new magic?

  3. Actually, I immediately thought about using C&T with the Mystara setting to give it a darker and stranger flavor reminescent of some of the older B/X adventures such as Castle Amber. However, I made C&T versions of the Cleric and Forester classes (the latter coming from Dawn of the Emperors) to replace the Barbarian. (I don't agree with the notion that Clerics can't work in a swords and sorcery setting, and I consider them integral to Mystara.) My idea was that the events of Wrath of the Immortals changed the setting profoundly, allowing the Elder Ones (Lovecraftian entities the Old Ones had kept locked away from the universe) to return, dramatically lowering the power of the immortals and corrupting the forces of magic.