Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Underworld Systems and Character Types

Forgive me if this is a bit rambling.  My thoughts on these subjects are a bit half-formed, but I feel like I need to get something about them hammered down before I continue developing the Underworld.

In the days when the Underworld was called the Lost Lands, I went through a number of possible system options.  It was originally designed alongside a homebrew system created in order to fill the requirments of Matt Finch's Quick Primer on Old School Gaming while still being appealing to the new schoolers I played with.  It did this with some success, but it lacked the kinds of guidelines I like when making wilderness and dungeon areas (such as No. Appearing and Treasure Class).  I toyed with using the "Lost Lands" as the basis for a Swords & Wizardry based game, even going so far as to write up a pretty extensive house rules document that is now lost to the ages.  I've even considered using a combination of yellow book BRP and the Bronze Grimoire to power the setting, but nothing came of that either.

Now that I've picked it up again (as a side project) and given it a bit of a face lift, I need to think about what system I'm going to use to power it.  Obviously, I could go the route of Scott of Huge Ruined Pile and make all the material as systemless as possible.  I don't feel comfortable with that option.  The amount of  changes that would have to be made to any given system to accommodate just the monsters is pretty large.  Almost all of D&D's monster list is completely useless.  The only exceptions being certain undead and summoned monsters.  I'm fine making a wholly new monster list, but I wouldn't want to burden some other sap who decided this setting was the bomb and wanted to use it in his or her home game.  Therefore I need some system I can provide stats for, though I will probably put out little handouts on how to run this setting with other systems.

So what system?  I'm currently getting better acquainted with Labyrinth Lord since the group that I will be DMing for is relatively familiar with that system.  I'm also a fan of LotFP:WFRPG.  So some sort of B/X D&D hack?  Well... no.  I've never really been comfortable making monsters for those systems as I never know how much xp they should be worth.  The most likely answer is the Swords & Wizardry White Box, which is by far my favorite retroclone.  It has a bare bones sensibility that I think will lend itself well to tinkering and this project in general.

Of course I could pick up another side project that would fill a similar niche in my creative efforts but not be as arduous a task.  Possibly more on that later.

With that out of the way, I need to decide what character types I wish to represent with these rules.  Fighters and Magic Users fit in easily to the setting.  Clerics stick out like a sore thumb.  They fit great in Nightwick Abbey's pseudo-Medieval milieu, but their holy magic and mace wielding antics are a poor fit for a setting where even the nicest gods have terrible serpents for pets.  I could just stick to Fighting Men and Magic Users, possibly importing LotFP:WFRPG's encumbrance rules and lack of weapon/armor restrictions, but I'm not sure about that yet.  I feel like I want to allow some other class options for the players if only to give them more options.

That being said, none of the other classes developed for TSR D&D strike me as appropriate for this setting.  Thieves could work, but I find that they generally muck up OD&D.  Still they are an option.  The others work less well.  I'll probably have to create some of my own with the setting in mind, but I'll burn that bride when I cross it.

To close, here is an inspirational image for the setting:

Now back to thinking about Nightwick Abbey...

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you regarding core clerics and the pseudo-medieval feel of the class.

    With the LOTFP WFRP approach, you can recast them as priests, give them sacrificial knives and funny robes (I love the Hecate priest in 'Jason and the Argonauts'), and limit some of the spell choices as needed. Turn Undead as a spell works fine as a prohibited spell, seeing as I missed the part of the Odyssey where Laocoon whipped out a holy symbol and started blasting vrykolakas.