While in the shower, and shortly before it, I was thinking about Stuff of Legends - the RPG I'm writing. I've hit a rut both in the system itself and in the development of its setting, Valoria. So while in the shower, I thought about what I could do differently, or at least what bothers me so much that I'm stuck, and it hit me that I still have a pretty ordinary fantasy world, except with some palettes switched out for different ones. It took me very little to picture a different Valoria.
Valoria was thought up with some certain base assumptions: there were elves and dwarves and now there weren't, there was mighty magic and now it's harder to access, there are dragons and they aren't uniformly evil nor good across certain spectrums and finally - there's little actual and true evil anywhere to be seen.
I wanted to get rid of elves and dwarves since they were becoming less interesting for me alive. Their ruins are exploitable, but actual characters are... boring to some degree. Magic has a price, as can be seen in one previous post. Dragons are more of a united race. There are no demons.
Saying it's the first version is misleading. It went through a bunch of iterations, but it's the first solid version. There are 5 races, after the elves and dwarves had gone, that all stem from humans - warped in one way or another. There are conflicting political superpowers. There are mysterious things to still come to know. But overall, when I write it out like this, doesn't it seem... kitchen-sinky? Not a bad thing to be, but I suddenly find myself boring.
I've been stuck for ages on other races. A full fledged five! One did this certain type of character well, another did that other type well. In trying to sidestep a trope, I walked right into one. I feel ashamed of myself, in a way. The same goes towards the political superpowers - the same old lady but with different clothes. Their precise creeds, forms of government and cultural quirks do little to make them truly interesting. And then there's the whammy, which hit me hard - what game am I trying to make again? Why do I care so much about political superpowers spanning half a continent? I felt like I lost sight of what I was going for.
Imitation and intentions
An advice that comes up often is to try and avoid building games from scratch, not because it's hard, but because it can be redundant. It follows with trying to see which game best fits the style you're going for and hacking or imitating it to a worthwhile degree.
And so I gave that some thought: I want adventures and adventurers, but I don't want classes. I want combat but I want it to matter. I don't want social interactions to be a heavy system. I don't want spell slots. There are numerous games out there in the fantasy genre and many fall into any number of these wants and don't wants, but I haven't yet run into one which answers everything. Hacking or imitation sounds about right, though.
So what is my game supposed to be about? It's supposed to be about going out on adventures and delving into dungeons, about exploring the wilderness and the unknown, about attaining power. This sounds like D&D, but some of my don't wants stand out. So do I hack or imitate? Remains to be a question.
And what this post is really about
But I went on a really long, winding path to get to my point. This post is about another Valoria, not necessarily Stuff of Legends as much as the setting that I wish to tie the game into.
In this other Valoria, some things are different but share a common base assumption:
- The elves and dwarves did die, just not sequentially and quite recently. All out war brought the continent to its knees and the setting takes place during recovery.
- From 5 races remain 3, and they get a bigger spotlight. Instead of covering bases, I want to make choosing a race an interesting choice. More than giving you general guidelines, I want the process to give you a feel for who your character is just from the racial choice process. I'm playing favorites and nixing races that felt too out of place and redundant.
- A multitude of disparate factions in favor of a few unified ones. Gone is the empire and other such superpowers. Spared are those who were far from the war. Points of Light all the way.
- The elves and dwarves dying out took with them more than just cultures and history - inherent parts of the world became weakened.
- The Not-Demons can be allowed to be more... unseemly.
These points still fall into many tropes, but out of them I see my vision as more fun to attain. I see a game closer to what I want to do and how I want to portray it, though this setting.
So there's a second Valoria. It isn't the new one, or the better one, just another one.