Jeremiah McCoy

Geek For Hire

Tag: setting

The Many Settings of Dungeons and Dragons part 5: the Licensed and not so Licensed

I am sorry it took so long to get this last but together. I was sick for the better part of a month and it pretty much ate my brain. Who knew you needed to be able to breath to write?

Anyways, in this case, we are wrapping up our look at official D&D settings (The first post found here) by looking at the licensed setting. These are officially published settings based on previously published works and presented as D&D versions. Before I get too into that, I should talk about Deities and Demigods and other early products which kind of involved improper use of settings they didn’t have permission for or the permission was murky.

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The Many Settings of Dungeons and Dragons part 4: Micro-settings

And we are here again. When I started talking about the many D&D settings it was a simple Twitter thread. I was trying to list all the official D&D published D&D settings.  I was trying to figure out what Wizards of the Coast might release next as a setting in 5e. They had already released a large amount for Forgotten Realms and had just announced Ravnica and Eberron books. I thought I could list them all off as I had been around for most of them.

I managed to get most of the big ones. The ones I missed were the sub-settings (subsets of the larger settings), meta-settings(settings that crossover to other settings) and the micro settings. Micro settings are small tightly contained campaign settings with little thought given to a larger world.

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The Many Settings of Dungeons and Dragons part 2

Alright, this is part two of my review of the official settings of D&D.  The first one I covered Greyhawk, Mystara Forgotten Realms, and Dragonlance. The first three were developed as home campaign settings that were elaborated on to become settings.  The fourth was made as adventures and was revealed over time. All of these were published when D&D was produced by TSR. Greyhawk was the only one directly influenced by Gygax and, arguably, could be his vision of what D&D settings should be. The rest were mostly developed by other people and sort of reflected range of what you could do with the game.

That said, all of the ones in the 70’s and 80’s at least started with certain commonalities. They all carried a flavor based on western European fantasy. You had Merlin-like wizards, knights, kings, peasents, elves, dwarves, halflings and all the other tropes one associates with western fantasy. While the sword and sorcery genre was what Gygax pointed to as his influences, it is hard to ignore how many of these tropes were influenced by the works of Tolkien. Any proper Tolkienian will tell you the elves and wizards in D&D don’t really resemble the Middle Earth versions. Their presence are elemental to the conception of the fantasy world. Simply put, Tolkien is the gold standard of world building up to that point, so anyone following him will have some similarities.

In the 90’s, and the post-Gygax era, TSR began to experiment more with their settings. They didn’t completely lose those elements and they continue today, but the willingness to experiment away from the classic western fantasy/Tolkien model is certainly there.

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The Many Settings of Dungeons and Dragons part 1

This idea started as a twitter thread. I started listing the various settings of D&D. That was both useful and a reminder of the limits of Twitter.  What I ran into was the limited character count of twitter. This made me abbreviate  the list in places where I shouldn’t have. I also failed to list a couple of major items. This post is part of my attempt to be more thorough.

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The Machine for Modern Age

 

 

Let me tell you about my love for Persons of Interest.  The show was on the air between 2011 and 2016 and dealt with a range of complex notions in the framework of the shows premise, which is described in the opening narration.

 

You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people, people like you. Crimes the government considered irrelevant. They wouldn’t act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You’ll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number’s up…we’ll find you.

 

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Fiction: When the Gods Came Pt 1

This is the first part in a novel I have been working on. I am sure it will go through rewrites and revisions but I am posting some of it here. This is the story of how my post apocalyptic setting came to be.  I am trying to be more comfortable about sharing my fiction. That is easier said than done.

The story is told in an epistolary version.  It just seemed to be the right way to go.  I am comfortable writing that way. That may have to do with writing a bunch of game text.  I will post the second part next month.

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Rules For Spell Books (Or how I learned to relax and hang out in libraries)

I think I have established I love spell books.  The spell book is an integral part of the wizardry motif.  The book, the object, is a needed part of what wizards do in D&D. The current rules do require you to record your spells, but I do think it could be even more emphasized.

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Why I love Eberron

I love Eberron. I have been reading some Eberron novels of late, and it has reminded me of this fact. With the exception of Spelljammer, Eberron has been my favorite D&D setting. Before you get to the question, I love a lot of D&D settings, but I will put a pin in Eberron, and say it is my favorite for a number of reasons.

Setting and system walk hand in hand

I have played D&D for, oh my gawd, 31 years or so. I have been through several editions and I will not get into the edition wars here. I liked them all, in their time, including Pathfinder, and I am certain I will enjoy the next one. Third edition, and 3.5 for that matter, was interesting for many reasons. One of those reasons is the adding of system to things people sort of winged before. You want to play a monstrous race? Well, it is much like playing the normal pc races, except for adjustments. You want to make magic items? Well, here are clear rules about how much it costs to make them, in material and xp. Edition 3.5 was probably the ultimate expression of D&D as a tool box system. What you wanted to do probably had a systemized approach, which, while it may be time intensive, was relatively clear.

Move to Eberron, and you see that approach to magic items and monstrous races reflected in the setting. Magic becomes less of a mysterious and legendary thing. It is instead, like the system for it, itemized and systemized. Magic is the technology of Eberron. They have the equivalent of trains, air ships, and magical telegraph systems connecting the major cities. The monstrous races of Eberron have clear presence in the world beyond the typical, “they must all be evil” approach. They are very much a part of the world’s structure as they are part of the rules structure.

Very little is simple

I like a world that has complexity to it. The world of Eberron is very complex. Not much is simple, and just one thing. Breland, is not always a good guy, despite being mostly good. Karnath, which uses undead soldiers, is not inherently evil. The Silver Flame, religion built around protection and good, has also been responsible for great persecutions in their past. Goblins are not always petty, stupid, and serving a greater evil. Droaam, a nation of monsters, kind of wants peace with its neighbors. Everywhere you look in this setting, preconceptions are being challenged.

There are also some interesting themes to work with. How do cultures recover from a century of war? What purpose do Warforged have, when there is no war? Can the “monstrous” races live side by side with humans, who have traditionally hated and feared them?

This is not to say other settings don’t have their own complexities, but more often than not, they are providing just enough conflict to be clear on who is evil and who is not, so the adventurers don’t have to have moral problems with killing said bad guys.  Those kinds of enemies exist in Eberron as well, but it is not always the base assumption, which is nice.

High Adventure

Despite all that more and ethical complexity, the game has a lot of fun and adventure as well. This is a game where skyship chases are the rule, where lightening rails have heroes fighting for their lives on top of them, and where all mysteries start with a dark and stormy night. The heroes are assumed to be THE HEROES, and not just some random bunch of halfwit, dime-a-dozen, adventurers. Why have a back ally ambush when you can have one a platform a half mile above the earth, in the city of Sharn.  A lot of the aesthetic of Eberron is pulp action adventure. Seat of the pants adventure seems to be the rule. There are dungeon crawls here, but the adventure feels much less restricted to just that venue.

All in all, I really love this setting for a lot of reasons. Even divorced from 3.5 rules, it has a lot of interesting things going on it. It is not a generic fantasy setting, but there is room for people to do some of those classic setting things if they want them. Reading the novels by Keith Baker reminded me of that. The novels are better than I expected. I have a relatively low opinion of game tie in fiction. There are some which rise above, but, more often than not, they are not well written. Baker does not give George RR Martin or Sanderson something to worry about, but he is solidly entertaining. He writes good adventure stories with just a hint of depth to keep me interested.  I would actually recommend his Eberron novels, which I suppose should not be surprising as he created the setting.  Whether it is the novels, or looking at the game, I have a strong affection for this setting and I am eager to see what the next edition of D&D does with it.

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