Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Look (Far) Ahead

I'll have a post later on today about the more near-term projects LotFP will be releasing, but just a word about a down-the-line goal.

One thing I am a fan of is a more modern assumed culture for my games. That caused a bit of concern when No Dignity in Death was released and it had printing presses and ladies pictured in 19th century dresses. The cover of Weird Fantasy Role-Playing is specifically planned to be not- medieval, and Tower of the Stargazer certainly isn't your everyday medieval setup.

One thing I am most interested in is moving my focus to making everything about the assumed setting of Weird Fantasy Role-Playing into the late 16th and early 17th centuries. That means guns.

Two things prevent me from including that kind of thing in the Weird Fantasy game proper - it's widely considered to be a genre clash to have guns in a fantasy game. Yeah, 2e had the arquebus and there is Warhammer, but the average fantasy gamer doesn't use them. I don't want Weird Fantasy Role-Playing to be completely divorced from familiar modes. The other thing is, well, it's very easy to use game books as sources for how these things should be, and that's crap. I wanted to research and build a firearm system from scratch from a knowledgeable base, not just do a clone version of what A Mighty Fortress did or whatever. I want to give it a proper amount of time. This isn't just an adventure, it's a whole new way of looking at a setting.

When I was in England I stocked up on a lot of history books about the English Civil War and the Thirty Years War and other books on the time period. I've recently placed a more substantial order of books (about 20) , a good deal specifically about the arms and armies of that time period.

Not to say Weird Fantasy Role-Playing is going to become a historical game. I don't have near the eye for detail to make that work, I'd want things like The Three Musketeers to be just as important a reference as any historical record, and I'd want to mix and match elements of, say, 1450 - 1640 without worrying much about it.

But many people associate that time period with all sorts of derring-do and swashbucklery and incredible advances in art and science, but it was also a time of intense religious bloodshed, colonial exploitation and genocide around the world. It marked the beginning of chattel slavery. It was a brutal, brutal time. Which suits me just fine.

The idea is to come up with a handy set of rules to introduce into my home games and see how they work. Get them to where they're comfortable, come up with a good variety of new spells to accompany a late Renaissance setting, and have a good mass combat system that takes into account the time period. Put a book together with this all-original material and release it as a cross-clone supplement (not LotFP-specific).

Or maybe it'll be a mess and I'll get real tired real quick of PCs trying to be Guy Fawkes as a solution to every problem and I'll scrap the whole idea.

Anyway, the first batch of my new books came in today.


  1. "I'll get real tired real quick of PCs trying to be Guy Fawkes as a solution to every problem"

    There-in (as you readily demonstrate) is the real problem with firearms and frp,the damned black-powder which has a nasty habit of going"boom" when exposed to flame.

  2. I love the Osprey books. Pretty concise and informative. They make great reference to for the artistic types trying to capture some verisimilitude in their work. I have more than a few on my shelf.

    As to moving the timeline up, I think that's awesome. I like to see some diversification from the standard fantasy tropes. I think 16th and 17th century is great for wierd fantasy.

  3. Interesting that you're revealing a target time period because I actually had it wrong. As I read LotFP and decided to adapt it to The World After I took the time period not as 1450-1640 but 1700-1830. In fact it was one of (but not the only) influence that has really pushed me to see the setting as Eastern Europe circa 1830.

    I'll get real tired real quick of PCs trying to be Guy Fawkes as a solution to every problem

    I wouldn't worry about this too much given players (in my experience) have been trying to do this with flaming oil for over 30 years. It's actually easier, IMHO, to counter with early black power. The stuff has to be treated nicely to work, is a pain to layout for things like sapping which a dragon won't wait patiently while you do it, and isn't completely reliable (as I suspect your research will show). Even at the tail end of your period pike and shot armies will be as much or more pike than shot. In a game type encounter a wheel lock musket will probably be less useful than a crossbow or long bow.

    Regardless, if you come out with it I'll sure I'll wind up buying it as I already have most of your stuff.

  4. This is a really good idea all around. I've been starting to put together notes for a review of WFRP, seeing as my group has a few months of actual play time with the system. One thing I was calling out was that the implied setting in the rules feels late or post Renaissance; not the traditional sweet spot for standard fantasy. However, it's a very good fit for the tone of WFRP. It had me wondering if you would take on explicitly sketching out more of the setting - Moldvay and LL both have their loosely defined 'Known Worlds', after all.

    Other than A Mighty Fortress, I can't think of too many D&D supplements that went there. Rather than too much swashbuckling, I'd be drawn to the theme of adventures in undiscovered lands, lost races and ancient cultures, and piracy on the high seas - the Age of Discovery, the Age of Sail. (All with a healthy side serving of horror).

    Good luck with the project!

  5. The new GURPS Low-Tech is a good reference on historical firearms for both time periods.

  6. The Savage Worlds' Solomon Kane book does this era rather nicely. In fact, I used Death Frost Doom for a Solomon Kane game a few months back.

    The rules for black powder weapons work pretty well and keeps the players mindful of the need for melee weapons as well. Not to mention, bad guys use guns too! ;) There is also the pesky little fact that many monsters take minimal or no damage from guns.

  7. "...I am a fan of is a more modern assumed culture for my games."

    Lately, I've been working on a torches, tailcoats, and top-hats setting.

    I'm exploring the theory that when you assume a D&D pseudo-medieval setting, you tacitly accept a predefined and limited set of possible fantasy tropes. Changing to a non-medieval setting (even if the initial changes are primarily cosmetic) seems to free me as a referee and my players to entertain a broader range of fantasy elements.

    It shakes-up preconceptions enough to open the door for originality.


    Interesting article on the battle of Towton, which took place in 1461. Archeologists have uncovered remnants of handguns and bullets.

    I have never had a problem with black powder weapons in D&D. The problem I have is the way damage is normally handled for them, which has always come off boring and unrealistic to me. Hopefully you will find a clever way to present them in LotFP without making them so overpowered that they take the challenge and fun out of the game.

  9. This is the sort of thing I'd like. I've had an (undeveloped) idea for quite some time for a campaign set in the Golden Age of Piracy: the early 1700s in the Caribbean.

  10. A Most Pernicious Thing: Gun Trading and Native Warfare in the Early Contact Period by Brian J. Given (1994) is the best single resource on black powder firearms I know of, especially as an rpg resource. It covers a history of developments in Europe, examines the accurateness of guns, and compares their effectiveness vs bows.

  11. If you want more to read . . .

    Neal Stephenson's Baroque trilogy is a good piece of fiction set in this era.

    I found "The Structures of Everyday Life", the first volume of Fernand Braudel's Civilisation and Capitalism trilogy about the 15th-18th Century, a very interesting read. I haven't read the other volumes.

    Both of these books will eat up enormous amounts of time though.

    There was a British RPG from the 1980s called Maelstrom set in 15th Century England.

    You might also want to look at the GURPS Swashbucklers online bibliography which is here:

  12. Maelstrom: I mean 16th Century England.

  13. I'm planning on including a firearms appendix in Adventures Dark and Deep, but I'm interested in your approach as a stand-alone product not tied to any particular system. Can't wait to see what you come up with.