Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Return to Starfall

It has been years since I really poked at my Starfall setting, and after having recently summarized my perception of old-school gaming and what I like about it, it strikes me that Starfall is potentially well suited for this type of game.

To an extent, you are definitely correct. Raw GURPSDungeon Fantasy does not dig into setting, plot, or anything of the sort, but I would argue that a compelling setting only enhances dungeon delving because – if done well – it increases the number of things for players to discover. And ultimately, what marked old-school gaming from back in the day for me was the sense of wonder that came from learning about the world. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn about the world through the monsters we kill or the loot we steal! In fact, a compelling setting provides a source for interesting items and intriguing monsters.

There are a few reasons I think Starfall fits the kind of murder-hoboism I would espouse in my games.

Buried and Forgotten

The world was doing just fine for quite a long time. It had progressed into the usual mix of fantasy feudalism and fantasy empires and was generally a boring fantasy world. But then the skyfire brought demons to the world who have generally been wrecking things ever since.

If the demons themselves weren’t enough of a strain on civilization, the chaotic energies released into the world had devastating effects, too: oceans swallowed coastal cities; horrific storms wracked the tropics; tremendous blizzards buried the North; and droughts caused famine all over. This put enough strain on the world that kingdoms collapsed, empires crumbled, and the world reverted to bronze-age and early iron age social structures.

With civilization receded, much knowledge was destroyed, lost, or forgotten. All of that means that the world is littered with ancient ruins full of loot from forgotten civilizations just waiting to be discovered!

Rich in Supernatural Lore

For those interested in more than just shinies alluding to a past forgotten, Starfall sports a wealth of supernatural entities and powers, all with a coherent and somewhat nontraditional arrangement. Some of this was known before the starfall brought about the end of civilization, but much was never understood. The information out there is often in error, and piecing together the clues of what makes the spirit world tick, what the demons actually are, how monks and psychics fit together, how what powers the deities of the world, and whatever the heck is going on with magic each can be lifelong goals for anyone interested in such things.

Beyond just the pleasure of learning about how the supernatural world works, that rich tapestry provides a coherent foundation for the creation and behavior of a wide variety of creatures. The presence of the corrupting forces of the Maelstrom justify just about any monstrosity, the nature of souls is sufficiently intricate to allow dozens of kinds of undead, each with their own peculiarities, and there are uncountable different spirit creatures that can be brought to bear before even beginning to tap nastier things like demons.

In the Grim, Dark Past . . .

This setting does tend toward the grimdark, but I think that serves as a strength. On the one hand, monsters aren’t pitiable or misunderstood. They are demons or the warped spawn of demonic energies. They are horrors that lurk in the night. They are Just Plain Evil. This means that it’s totally cool to murder them all. The women make children, and the children grow up to be monstrous horrors out of your worst nightmares. So kill them young and kill anything that makes them. And then take their stuff so you might be ever so slightly better prepared the next time you have to face off against the dark night.

On the other hand, such a brutal setting also gives reason to the existence of murder-hobos. A society so desperate to survive will tolerate an awful lot from the people who protect it, so PCs are likely to plausibly get away with a great deal of antics without the need for digging into social norms or the like. It is completely reasonable to just assume that towns and cities look the other way for transgressions that would realistically land most people in the stocks – or worse.

And on top of all of that, the idea of pockets of civilization struggling to survive amidst the ever-growing darkness provides players with plenty of reasons to go kill stuff. And stuff has loot.

Brag Much?

If this has sounded rather boastful so far, it probably has been. But I really do believe this setting is well suited for an old-school dungeon delving game. It does a lot to provide interesting things to kill, interesting things to loot, and interesting things to explore while generally staying out of the way of tropes that often appear silly in more traditional fantasy medieval Europe-type settings.

So What’s Next?

Starfall is still extremely bare bones, so I will begin by going through the information I have already posted on the world and seeing if there is anything that needs tweaking. I’ll also be looking for gaps that need to be addressed. Many of the big questions – cosmologymagicmiraclesmysticismpneumatology, etc. – have already been addressed to some degree, so these will all need to be reexamined for anything that works against the core intent of letting players run down holes, kill monsters, and take their stuff. I will also want to add to this list a bit. Among such topics I’d like to cover are corruption, eschatology, player races, and the undead. With those done, I should have enough information to start putting together a cohesive subset of DF rules for use in this setting.

Eventually, I need to rework the world map a bit and try to get it properly finished. Then I can grab a smaller area to work up as a game space. Ultimately, I’d like to make a megadungeon for play, so that immediate region will need to be sufficiently detailed for game play. This will entail random weather tables, notes on overland travel, creating a Town or two where PCs can live and sell stuff, and making the dungeon itself, of course!

This is a lot of work and I don’t have tons of free time, so I’m not sure how long it will take or how often I will be able to post progress reports. But that won’t stop me from trying! Expect future posts to have more information tied into GURPS,  since that is my system of choice. That doesn’t mean the setting won’t work with other systems, just that I’m not going to try to figure out how to make it work with other systems. So feel free to create your own rules for playing in this setting. I’d love to hear what you come up with!

No comments :

Post a Comment