Monday, July 2, 2012

Unfocused Thoughts: Cuccagna

This is another one of those "I'm probably not going to run this but I need to get it out of my system" posts.  It is inspired by my thinking about why I was intrigued with Isle of the Unknown - and was ultimately disappointed with it - and my recent reading of The Dying Earth.  Also The Tempest.

  • Cuccagne is a warm Mediterranean-type island inhabited by a bunch of petty, venal wizards.
  • If I placed it on Earth, it would be somewhere west of Sardinia and Corsica.  The rough date would probably be around AD 1250 but...
  • The island would sorta be "timeless," or at least not like the areas around it.  I'm thinking it would look vaguely Carolingian with large dashes of the later portion of the Western Roman Empire.  But fancier and more decadent in that word's modern sense.
  • I'd try very hard to make the place seem idyllic, as opposed to the crapsack sorta thing I normally do.  Fields of wild flowers, crystal clear streams, scenic sea-caves, that sort of thing.
  • However, I'd also want to make sure there is a (fairly obvious) dark side to all that stuff.  The archetypal encounter I imagine would be the PCs finding a nice Roman-style villa somewhere and being met by a man who offers them a place to stay and some nice wine.  Since PCs are too smart for that shit, they refuse.  When they do so he gets all made and turns into an oozing snake thing and tries to eat them.
  • I also want to contrast the idyllic setting with the petty motivations of the NPCs (and the PCs if I know anything about D&D players).  The wizards are too busy plotting against each other to notice how beautiful - and dangerous - their surroundings are.
  • I imagine that most settlements are fairly small and most live in the shadow of some terrible wizard who vomits rainbow colored goo into a human skull or something.
  • There might be one big town that acts as a port on the island.  That's probably where PCs start.
  • For the monster list, I would strip out most of the D&D monsters that aren't directly from some sort of folklore.  Once that's done, I'd shove in a bunch of freakazoids made by wizards that are all fucked up.  One could easily meet a unicorn or a oozing-snake-thing, but never an orc.
  • Europe, the Levant, and North Africa are assumed to have the religions that would have been present in those regions c. 1250.  Cuccagna, on the other hand would be a bastion of weird mystery cults and creepy paganism.  Sorta like the Wicker Man, but with more painted chthonic chambers and maenads.
  • Ruins and dungeons would either be "Atlantean" or Greco-Roman in origin.  I envision this as a hexcrawl setting.
  • I imagine there would be quite a lot of Yojimbo-style action with the PCs playing wizards off of each other between dungeon or wilderness romps.
  • Maybe it's the time of year or the fact that I live further inland than I used to, but I definitely want this to be an island.  
  • Part of the "this isn't crapsack" thing will be my not worrying about farmland and also having a gold standard for coinage.  Gold is so common and easy to come by there that giant gold coins - ten of which way a pound! - are as worthless as tiny silver coins in the rest of Europe.
Ok, hopefully that got that outta my system.


  1. At this point I'd play pretty much any setting you honestly think is cool Evan, I have yet to see you run crap.

    1. Thank you. It means a lot to hear that. Er... read it.

  2. I don't see why this island couldn't be out in the Mediterranean southwest of the Dark Country :)

  3. I like the contrasts you've set up there. D&D settings tend to where their tone very much on their face. Good design generally, but few surprises. Things generally fall into either idyllic Arthurian fantasy or grimdark crapsacks, when it's not purely generic

  4. Is this Isle of the Unknown-based?

    1. It can be seen partially as a reaction to Isle of teh Unknown, but it is primarily just based on stuff I was reading at the time/am reading currently.