Friday, March 09, 2007

My new D&D campaign concept

Pirates require a bit finagling to work into standard D&D. In the previous outing we had to mess around with crazy things like Defense Bonus and gunpowder weapons. Then there was the whole ship problem. How much focus does the boat get? How many skill points should PCs spend on being able-bodied hands? How much time should be wasted on crunchy boat rules? Are we really pirates if large chunks of the campaign are spent away from the ship and messing around in dungeons?

One word dispels the confusion and provides a handy answer to all these questions. And that word is vikings. I'm not talking about the historical vikings here. I'm talking about the vikings in the modern imagination, guys like Elmer Fudd in What's Opera Doc? or Marvel's Warriors Three. You know, just loud, stupid medieval dudes with horned helmets out for plundering and partying. A mythical viking can get away with wearing goofy Kirbyesque platemail. A mythical viking doesn't even need a boat. And clerics are suddenly not just playable, they're awesome.

The name of the campaign is Beyond Vinland. The basic conceit at work is that in some sort of crazy Nietzschean cyclical history of the world the Norsemen tried to explore/conquer/colonize the Americas during the Hyborian Age. They didn't find the Native American types that later expeditions encountered, because those folk hadn't yet crossed the Bering Strait land bridge. Instead, these Ur-Vikings (or whatever) discovered a continent full of shattered and dwindling prehuman and nonhuman empires. The political and cultural landscape is almost post-apocalyptic in nature, as the Americas are chock full of ruined cities abandoned by enigmatic prehuman races.

All of which is an excuse for totally retrogade D&D play. There will be unknown lands to explore, dungeons to crawl, and Norse colonies to defend. And it will go down largely outside the normal faux-European context of baseline D&D. That Tolkienesque baseline will be used to construct the PCs and their allies, but the rest of the world will be more along the lines of pulpy Lost Worlds or Sword & Planet fiction. Most of the nuts and bolts of the setting will be developed over the course of actual play. We're gonna start with a dungeon delve and the assumption that the characters are 'somewhere' in the Great Lakes region. And that they're vikings. The goal is not to build a coherent masterpiece of world construction, just a place for some people in silly helmets to have adventures.

(Doug, Pat, and I knocked this concept out over the space of an hour or two, so whatever credit or blame should be accorded these ideas must be shared.)