Friday, May 3, 2013

Setting Generation - Parameters

I'm considering launching some play-by-internet ACKS for friends and family post-graduation.  This has naturally led me back the Setting Problem.  Upon further considering the Wilderlands and Midnight, I have concluded that conversion work is sort of a pain, and that there are things that I would like to have in a setting that I am to run which are not necessarily present in them.

So, switches I'm considering throwing during setting generation this time around / themes I would like to have:
  • Crumbling Empire / Beastbarians at the Gates - a default assumption of ACKS is that there is a powerful lawful empire in decline.  I like it.
  • Rival Houses - makes good sense as constituent parts of the empire that is coming apart.
  • The Craplands - A lot of settings have these under names like the Shadowlands, the Chaos Wastes, and Beyond The Wall.  Places right-thinking folk don't tread.  Wonderful places for an adventure.  Also a very handy way for the DM to telegraph danger gradients to PCs, so they can make informed wilderness exploration decisions.
  • Divine Elves - Per Micah Blackburn, because this is just an awesome idea.  Very Tolkien, and very in keeping with the elves as either 'firstborn and favored children of the gods' or 'fey folk of the woods', depending on the subset of the divine spells you give them.  Also makes 'seeking the wisdom and council of the elves' more sensible, since they get stuff like divination and augury.  Dark elves also very easily differentiated by a variant spell list (and maybe addition of the Zaharan After the Flesh / Death is Bad ability / drawback pair).
  • Chaos cults - I love 'em.  There's something very pulpy about having 40 chanting cultists, a sorcerer leader, some summoned demons or giant snakes or other 'bruiser' baddies, and an innocent on the altar when suddenly, heroes!  Plus you get to make up ridiculous demon names like 'the tentacled goat' and 'the spider with seven faces' for them to worship.  A nice 'threat from within' for our crumbling empire.
There are a couple of other things that I'm not so sure about yet:
  • Man Has Always Been His Own Worst Enemy - no beastmen, just humans and demihumans as your 'standard-issue intelligent foe'.  Baddies not marked for your convenience.  Would make things a little more morally ambiguous, but would require more effort on my part to differentiate ethnicities of humans.  Not something I think I really want to have to do, but it's something that's been on my radar ever since Iron Heroes.
  • Cultural influences - not really sure about the time or place to set this in.  The ACKS standard is classically Romanesque, but I'm also sort of tempted by the Holy Roman Empire further north (bonus: chaos vikings), a Rokugan clone, or a Midnight-like crumbling alliance of races.  Mesoamerican influences also vaguely tempting; maybe the Craplands are the Crimson Jungles to the south, full of cannibals and worse.  Currently leaning slightly toward Holy Roman, though, for a sort of dark ages "plagues and huns and vikings" feel.  Also a good place to steal historical names from.
 So just sort of throwing this out here for comment by potential players.


  1. Sounds fascinating :)

    I have been sort of annoyed by the black and white good/evil dichotomy in ACKS. I'd like to see a chaotic sorceror with good intentions; a lawful cleric who drags people into the temple to worship or be killed; a neutral druid who leads you to the chaos cult, and then attempts to kill the survivors of that fight to preserve "balance"; angry angel-like beings who seek to punish the impurity of man; outcast demons who seek free will; etc. etc.

    1. Neutral as beligerently balancing has always bothered me outside of like... Planescape. I also think I'd characterize a chaotic sorcerer with good intent as a lawful sorcerer who just happens to utilize chaotic tools (with ensuing slippery slope). And history is full of lawful clerics who pulled that sort of thing...

      I'm fairly happy with ACKS' alignment, interpreting Neutral as "self-interested" and assigning all PCs to that category until proven otherwise. It lacks the irritating subtleties of AD&D's alignment system (which is to say, "Having Chaotic Neutral on the alignment table is just inviting people to play assholes.").