Thursday, November 10, 2011
Nightwick Abbey and the Philosophy of Raggi's Game
Let me start by saying I wouldn't describe Nightwick Abbey or the Dark Country as "weird." According to Beedo's taxonomy of horror the Nightwick Campaign should fall firmly into the Supernatural Horror camp. While the Church of Law is a bit too hierarchical -- some might say fascist -- to be truly considered good in the context of modern, Western society, it is somewhat admirable in its eternal struggle to hold back the creatures of the Pit. In light of the fact that the greater evil is, in fact, Satan, the God of Law and his followers more or less fill in the "good" niche. The setting is intentionally filled with a mix of Judeo-Christian and Gothic imagery, even if that imagery is filtered through metal album covers.
But there is a reason I picked Lamentations of the Flame Princes: Weird Fantasy Roleplaying as my preferred system for the setting. The primary reason is that the players' part of the rules is almost a perfect fit. The classes work not only the way I want them to on a mechanical level, but also on a flavor level. This is especially true of Magic-Users. On a more petty level, I'm generally a fan of Ascending AC and I enjoy the fact that any class can wield any weapon or wear any armor, but these reason pale in comparison to the way that the overall flavor of the rules meshes with my vision of the game.
At least on the players' side of the screen. I'm not as comfortable with some of the advice for the GM's side of the screen, or rather I'm not as comfortable with it for what I want to do right now. The two key points of tension are monsters and magic items. Raggi, rather famously, doesn't like standardized monsters, and I agree with him, up to a point. Where it becomes a problem is in the stocking of a megadungeon. Now, I've already established that I don't mind non-standard monsters. Quite the contrary. I feel that a diversity of such terrors can greatly improve the quality of one's megadungeon.
Herein lies the problem. In Raggi's conception of the game, as I understand it, monsters are only an occasional threat. Of course, when they do show up their supposed to be horrible and memorable. This model doesn't seem to fit terribly well with my vision of Nightwick Abbey. It certainly doesn't fit with the campaign I ran with my face to face group. I'm afraid I'm probably not creative enough to come up with an plethora of completely unique creatures to haunt the abbey, and it just isn't the sort of place where humans are terribly common. I suppose I could use Raggi's own Random Esoteric Creature Generator, but the results would by and large lack the themes that make the Abbey what it is.
Magic items are more of an issue of practicality than anything else. I've pitched this as a FLAISNAILS game, and some of the incoming PCs are undoubtedly going to have magic weapons and armor of the simple +X variety. What is easier: stocking my dungeons in a way that makes those characters consistent, or coming up with some sort of houserules to change those items to be more thematically approprate? What happens if someone gets one of Nightwick Abbeys LotFP style magic items and then takes it over to Wessex?
Still, his ideas are not without merit. Last night I decided to read the example of play in the tutorial book on a whim. I'm generally a fan of such things, and I'm especially fond of the one in Empire of the Petal Throne. Raggi's did not disappoint. While I'm not entirely sure this was the purpose, it reminded me of the more exotic works of Clark Ashton Smith. Specifically I was reminded of "The Weaver in the Vault" and "The Tomb-Spawn." Both of these can more or less be described as TPKs in short story form. They're also among the few dungeons, in the D&D sense, that I've seen in literature.
When I think about D&D, I usually have one of CAS's worlds in the back of my mind. For the Dark Country, Averoigne is undoubtedly the most important of his milieus; however, the above two stories and "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" have profoundly affected the way I view dungeons and D&D in general. When I say that Raggi's model reminds me of those stories I mean it as the highest form of compliment. I must say that I am interested in trying it out in a Smithian context.
So while the G+ version of Nightwick Abbey will not follow his conventions, that doesn't mean that future versions will not. I may try to find a way to wed the two together, or maybe it would be more interesting to think about what kind of campaign dungeon I would develop if I took Raggi's philosophy entirely to heart. Perhaps something like the catacombs of Chaon Gacca.