Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Solstice: Through The Ages

Excerpts from my tiddly site's Solstice Introduction:

This is not a world of damsels in distress and princes galloping to their rescue, this is a world where the cold harsh reality of evil and darkness pervade everyday life. Mankind is pitted against threats from within and without while the uncaring Fae look on, unconcerned with the meaningless, pitiful lives of mortals. Solstice is a world of ruthless dictators, murderous bandits, greedy merchants, power-hungry generals, corrupt clergymen, brutish lawmen and torch-bearing mobs. It’s a testament to mankind that it has not collapsed in upon itself. Were it not for the constant dangers presented by the monstrous beings of this world, perhaps mankind would have exterminated itself by now.

Solstice is a land overrun by monstrous civilizations; mad wizards in lost towers; labyrinthine, inexplicable underworld dungeons; forgotten ziggurats of demon-worship; secret temples of forbidden rites; cities ruled by unprincipled despots; lost societies of Neolithic savages; vast unexplored wastelands; enigmatic ruins beneath the seas; frozen citadels atop colossal mountains; in short, a bleak, harrowing world of unreason, disorder and chaos.It is within this world of Solstice that your tales of fortunes and fools shall be written. May your tales be remembered and retold.

Solstice is a loose collection of various ideas and notes from my own Game Mastering history, stretching back to the late 70’s. Very little if anything remains from those earliest creative efforts, when world building consisted of a dungeon, inn and village. Solstice does represent nearly thirty years of working toward actually constructing a viable, fleshed out campaign setting. Through the years the campaigns were set in various locales, including Greyhawk, Arduin, and even Waterdeep. The worlds were actually of my own making, but I used the maps, history and trappings of those settings in some form or another. I added regions, fleshed out scant descriptions, and generally turned them all upside down; shaking out the good stuff and ignoring that which didn’t interest me.

In between these published settings, Blackthorn began to grow and take shape. The end result was a system of heavily homebrewed rules highlighted by very specific character Races and Classes. Blackthorn was a dead end of sorts, though. It’s technically an AD&D supplement, wrapped around a world map and some very basic history. Although I typed up and printed off Blackthorn, and distributed copies to my players at the time, we never actually played a game using it.

What remains of Blackthorn is the world map and historical entries. From this brief stab at an actual homebrewed setting grew the roots of Solstice. In creating Blackthorn, the first thing I had to do was expunge all those elements of the aforementioned Greyhawk, Arduin and Waterdeep. Arduin was the last to go, as it was a central nation on the small continent which had hosted two different long running campaigns. The idea at the time was to simply replace Arduin with a new central nation, that being Blackthorn, hence the name of the supplement. I later realized that the title Blackthorn was not the best choice for a D&D supplement, and now here I sit years later using the same theory, instead with Solstice supplanting the original name.

What I wish to do with Solstice is present a modular sand-box setting featuring maps, history, hex details, adventure locales, races, monsters, treasure, and perhaps some optional house rules. This is not a new desire or goal, but I have been encouraged by old school efforts of late, including Fight On! and Swords & Wizardry.

One aspect of Solstice that I have been attempting to fine tune is the various eras and ages of the land. Here are the primary epochs as I have imagined them:

I: The Dawn of Man
II: The Age of Man
III: The Twilight of Man
The Dawn of Man encompasses the age when the Fae slowly lost dominion over Solstice to Mankind. The Age of Man is the time in which Solstice, as currently written, takes place, when Mankind rules the land. The Twilight of Man is the era described in No Future, when Mankind is fading after the cataclysmic events that ended the previous age.

I think The Twilight of Man might now be viewed as a poor copy of Carcosa, even though the concept was formed long before I knew that Geoffrey McKinney was preparing to publish his homebrewed setting. The Age of Man might be too generic, and the Dawn of Man is a recent view of Solstice I’ve formed through some of my creative projects.

So, I don’t know exactly how to proceed. Perhaps move forward and fully flesh Solstice out in the Age of Man, as originally intended, with sections covering those epochs before and after. In the end, the ‘generic’ approach can be eclipsed by good old fashioned creativity.

My current plan is to create a setting using Swords & Wizardry as a rules reference, and get the whole thing polished and presentable. Lastly I’d make it available as a template for inserting adventures and hosting a campaign. I’m hoping I can follow through and get this particular project completed and available to interested parties in the near future.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

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