How Do I: Fantasy?

[How Do I: Fantasy] #5 Homebrew

"Ah, welcome! Would you like some crumpets? Tea, perhaps?"

Heh.  Somehow I knew it would come to this.  After going over my collection of pdfs and books, I realize that I have no other individual game I can write about that isn’t a D&D Campaign Setting or Exalted.

Because of that, I’m looking at perhaps one of the most common routes in running Fantasy RPGs: putting together a homebrew setting.  Not that I’m saying that it’s absent in Sci-Fi games (psst, check out Zakharov’s Lost to the Stars) but I hear of it more from Fantasy campaigns.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Homebrew.  In many ways, a Homebrew Campaign allows for several advantages:

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[How Do I: Fantasy] #4 Dragon Age

"He's behind me, isn't he?"

"He's behind me, isn't he?"

Dragon Age is the latest Fantasy IP from Bioware, the makers of the esteemed Baldur’s Gate PC game.  While Baldur’s Gate was set in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting of D&D, Dragon Age is an original setting, one that was conceived to fit the bill of “Dark Fantasy.”

As a setting Dragon Age thoroughly deconstructs a lot of Fantasy cliches, while keeping some stereotypical aspects whole.  Elves, for example, were a high race with culture and religions of their own, until Humanity came along and reduced them to slaves.  The Dwarves are portrayed to be a very political society, something that I found to be very interesting, and breaks up the monotony of the “Monoculture” element present in many Sci-Fi and Fantasy races.

Bioware even went so far as to come up with an original set of metaphysics to explain magic and how it works, as well as it’s effect on society and the stigma associated with those who use them.

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[How Do I: Fantasy] #3 Warhammer Fantasy

WFRP Career Compendium by Ralph Horsley

Nothing says black comedy / gritty fantasy roleplaying than Warhammer Fantasy.  In many ways, Warhammer Fantasy’s default assumption is that you get to fight the good fight before dying somewhere along the way against the forces of evil.  There are no happy endings, only the bleak humor in realizing that you’ve stopped this particular incursion of evil and lost a leg in the process, so now you have to make a funny step-clunk-step sounds wherever you go.

That said, there’s still fun to be had in the setting, and sometimes it’s the crazy desperation that makes the game memorable.  WFRP has to be one of the few games that really starts off with a literal rag-tag team of protagonists (I hesitate to use the term heroes) going up against all sorts of bizarre situations.

Whether it’s fighting off a conspiracy of rat-men that live in the sewers or realizing that the happy-go-lucky Halfling baker really is baking his fellow halflings into his meat pies in the service of the ruinous powers of Chaos, Warhammer Fantasy has room for pretty much anything.  It all depends on the group’s tolerance for comedy in their gritty fantasy.

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[How Do I: Fantasy] #2 7th Sea

Sylvia Etalon du Etoille by April Lee

Well, this is a campaign long coming.  I’ve had the books for several years now (just the 2 corebooks, alas) but I’ve always been fascinated by the setting for this rpg.  While I’ve been made aware of the downsides of some parts of the metaplot that a lot of people railed against, I’m willing to make use of my ignorance of these details and run it as I understand it right out of the box.

That said, 7th Sea posits a fantasy take on Europe as a setting with different names, the presence of magic, and a whole bunch of interesting mysteries.  Being a non-historian, and non-resident of Europe, I’m blissfully unaware of where some of the NPCs are drawn from and can enjoy it with the unabashed excitement of fools and children. :p

However, much like L5R, the variance in the groups, and the fact that they’re technically all aligned against each other makes for a massive setting that usually doesn’t work with the United Nations of Theah approach where everyone comes from one nationality or another without a really good reason.  (In L5R the default reason was that they were Magistrates.  I can imagine that you could do something similar with 7th Sea using a secret society as an excuse.)

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[How Do I: Fantasy] #1 Legend of the Five Rings

As a companion to my How Do I Sci-Fi series earlier this year, and since it’s related to my current musings on Fantasy games, I’m going to be doing a How Do I: Fantasy series of articles looking at various RPG settings, and trying to think of a good campaign concept I can run with them.

Charge by Jason Juta

Today we’ll be looking at Alderac Entertainment’s Legend of the Five Rings.  This is an admittedly easy choice for me to start with since it’s a setting that I know very well, and was one of my first campaigns when I took on the role of a GM quite a number of years ago with the first edition of the L5R RPG.  Because of that, running a campaign of L5R is almost a no-brainer for me in terms of execution.  The only issue now, is concept.

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