Thursday, 15 October 2009

My Favourite Worlds (part 2)

This post was originally published on my Windows Live blog. I am repeating it here for the sake of completeness.

For me creating worlds has been just as satisfying as playing D&D. That may sound strange, and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but that’s how I feel. Unfortunately I’m not that good at concentrating on one world for very long. There are, however, a number of worlds which I have started, and somehow managed to keep going, or at least gone back to add more to.
Netherwyrld is my oldest and probably best-detailed setting. It is a fairly grim setting, where most of the Netherwyrld has been taken over by demons and their humanoid and undead minions. Humans and demihumans only control a small corner of it. The Blood War between the devils and the demons has spilt into Netherwyrld and although the devils of the nine hells are enemies of humanity, they are more interested in fighting the demons. Similarly in-fighting between the various demon lords means that there is rarely any coordinated assault on the Human Lands. Paladins attain a new significance as the human pantheon’s footsoldiers in driving back the demonic hordes, but civilisation is still fragile and vulnerable. And all over Netherwyrld there are ruins of ancient civilisations that were crushed by the onslaught from the Abyss 2000 years ago. Netherwyrld is currently mothballed, but I may go back to it – it’s certainly not tied down to any one edition, and I still think it’s my best attempt so far.
Jharat, the Fallen World, is ridiculously big and ambitious. Three times the size of Earth, and previously populated by billions of people in vast cities far larger than it has recently suffered a major cataclysm when monsters appeared and invaded the cities, conveniently making absolutely huge dungeons.  I admit that monstrous invasions were a common theme in my early world-designing work. Jharat has stuck around in my various attempts because I have never taken it particularly seriously and as such often tried out new stuff in supplements or from magazines or my own conversions in Jharat. Solamnic knights, ninjas, psionicists and swashbucklers could do battle against beasts from Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Magic: The Gathering or the Fighting Fantasy books and as long as it was in Jharat, it didn’t matter. I have since nicknamed such wild, unrestrained campaigns as “Haywire”. Although it started out back in 1st Edition AD&D, it took on a new lease of life with the glut of books and accessories for 3rd Edition and the OGL, all of which could have been fitted in had I managed to put in the effort required.
Tersius was in some ways a complete contrast from Jharat and was started when 3rd Edition first came out. It stuck pretty tightly to the 3rd Edition three core rulebooks: if something wasn’t in the Monster Manual, Player’s Handbook or Dungeon Master’s Guide (basically the 3.0 SRD), it wouldn’t be included in Terisus. I had vague hopes of getting stuff for Tersius accepted by publishers in the heady days of the early 2000s when huge quantities of D20 and OGL products were coming out. Tersius was a sort of serious attempt at joining in on this. The monstrous invasion was downplayed this time, and it was a Empire sundered apart by a civil war, exacerbated by humanoid raiders travelling around in viking-style longships. I still have the documents for it, but I haven’t added to it for about 4 years now.
Valhannus deserves a mention because first of all it was not originally written with D&D in mind – as I was writing it, I was trying to create my own fantasy RPG rules (“Broadsword rules”, a nod towards Warhammer I think). Those rules have now long since been forgotten. But what I still like about Valhannus is the absence of demihumans, dragons, giants and other generic clich├ęs. While I was writing about the world of Valhannus I deliberately set aside Tolkein and concentrated on my two other favourite fantasy authors – Robert E Howard, creator of Conan, and Fritz Lieber, creator of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. No elves at all. I think there was some influence from both Jack Vance’s Dying Earth and Talislanta (which I only bought material for after I gave up on Valhannus but which I had read about in Dragon magazine), and also Michael Moorcock’s Elric and Corum books. But when I look back at Valhannus, I still think of Lieber’s Newhon and Howard’s Hyborean Age.

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