Saturday, November 6, 2010

Underworld Manifesto

This post is largely to help me organize some of my thoughts on the Underworld as a setting before I begin any work on it as a project.  Part of my initial problem with running the setting was that I didn't have any real guidelines, so I'm going to try to set some out here.  They are subject to change as the setting develops.  They are in no particular order.

  • The cultures of the Underworld are based on real world cultures.  They are assumed to be the descendants of these cultures who found their way to the Hollow Earth.  The amount of time they've spent down their has changed the cultures significantly, but they still have that core of the original ones.
  • On that note: accuracy-shmacccuracy!  I know the Ilionians are supposed to be Trojans, but they're movie-style hoplites with bows, and I don't give to shits about it.
  • The setting is designed for hexcrawling and sandbox play.  'Nuff said.
  • Modern animals don't exist.  They're replaced by lost world style animals that fill similar ecological niches.  Who needs wolves when you have velociraptors?  Ice age megafauna rub noses with dinosaurs and flowering plants, and I have no problem with this.
  • The setting is young.  Civilization is just beginning to creep in to most parts, and the civilizations that exist are rough and new-founded.  Of course, many are still equally decadent, but thats another matter.
  • The setting is ancient.  Despite the fact that Illion, Aram, and Thule are new on the scene ruins abound. Some of these ruins will resemble real world cultures and some won't.  
  • Killable gods are served by sinister cults throughout the setting.  I don't know if Apollo is hanging out in his temple in Ilion, but he might be.  If he is, he's much meaner than Apollo is typically represented (in modern literature.  He's a douschebag in the Iliad).
  • There is in fact a nighttime.  Most Hollow Earth settings don't have this, but I think that losing night would change too much of how a culture works.  I need to keep it if the players are going to make any kind of informed decisions.
  • No (or at least few) standard monsters exist.  Aside from the weird lost word animals, monsters are more in line with Raggi's Creature Generator.  Many are the only ones of their kind, and those with societies only exist in a few lost mountain ranges or stinking jungles.  There are exceptions to this rule, but they'll be noted later.
  • I'll be stealing a great deal of shit from the Clark Ashton Smythos.  This won't be done wholesale, but he definitely lays out the kinds of gods I want.
  • If Ray Harryhausen couldn't put it in a movie it isn't in.  If he could, it goes in there somewhere.
That's it for now.  I'm sure I'll think of more as the setting develops.

Looking over the list I see the one that is my biggest problem: the setting is young.  I like this from a standpoint of having the cultures be heavily based on real world ones, but I think some things about the setting suffer.  Primarily, though I love decadent city states, I normally associate such decadence with decay and decline.  It's a bit hard to explain why a rough and ready civilization that must defend itself from newfound horrors each day would fall into debauchery.  Ever notice how many of those words start with the letter "d?"  

Also, I need to figure out how to set up my demographics.  I want at least a few CSIO sized cities, and they'll need to be fed and supported with trade.  I'm not a big stickler for Demographics, but I can't really see Ilion existing in a vacuum.  The problem then is that I need to give these villages and towns some personality without detracting from the big cities.  That might end up being a big headache.

More to come.


  1. One of my professors once said "If you're a nubile ancient Greek maiden at a fork in the road, with Zeus on one side and Apollo on the other, always run to Zeus."

  2. Yeah, the Far Shooter is not a very nice individual. I'm hoping to bring out his association with snakes a bit more in this iteration of the setting and make him into my version of Howard's Set.

  3. "Who needs wolves when you have velociraptors?"
    That's something I ask myself ever day.

  4. its one of the biggest things which worldbuilders obsess about and players care about not at all but i'm very interested in reading your ideas about demographics.

    I'm likewise interested in what your ideas about cultures without a day night cycle are, and hope you find time to elaborate sometime

    I was also wondering what CSIO stands for.

  5. City State of the Invincible Overlord, it's sorta the chief polis of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy by the Judges Guild.

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