Thursday, January 15, 2009

Erimia Campaign

I have been working on a campaign that satisfies a desire to pay homage to three influences — Pulp Fantasy, Christianity, and the Retro-Clone. I want to share some of my thinking on this campaign, and briefly outline how it interacts with its influences.

Pulp Fantasy

Alternate World: This campaign takes place on an alternate earth that shares the same basic timeline as our own up until the fall of Rome. At this point our paths diverge.

Battle in Space: The Fall of Rome coincides with a battle between two Chaotic factions of inter-galactic/inter-dimensional beings within the solar system. Several ships fall to earth as casualties in the battle.

The Great Cataclysm: During the battle, a device is used in the proximity of earth that causes a violent reaction in its crust and its energy fields. Immense earthquakes, flooding and volcanic activity devastate the planet as the crust shifts almost 90 degrees. Civilization collapses, whole environments change over night, life as we know it is forever changed. An energy field surrounds the world, flowing in constantly changing rivers of energy and pooling in more permanent energy nodes. This energy, when tapped, allows survivors to use what we call magic. The nodes provide beneficial magic, and survivors flock to the few that exist. The rivers are forces of chaos. They sweep across the earth, transforming the natural world and causing all kinds of mutations. The world is now a very dangerous place.

Alien Survivors: The ships that crashed to earth had survivors. Most of their technology is lost, and they are stranded here on earth. So, they make the best of it, and begin burrowing deep within the earth. Sometimes they wait, sometimes they conquer, sometimes they cooperate with each other, sometimes they wage the same war that brought them to earth. They are always alien, and always hate their terrestrial prison. At least one of the factions will be inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. I also love the idea that one of the aliens used to look like this.

Human Survivors: What remains of humanity lives around the few energy nodes that exist. They have built great walled cities to protect themselves from the chaos that reigns in the world outside. However, the journey through the chaos to the energy nodes has left its mark. There have been many mutations, and humanity is much more diverse than it used to be.

We are in the Future: It has taken a couple thousand years to recover from the Great Cataclysm. The technology available is akin to Medieval Europe. This allows for a fantasy setting within a classic pulp fantasy future when compared to our own earth time-line. It also ensures that all of the various elements surrounding the Great Cataclysm are distant memories, the stuff of legend, and ancient.


The Geography of Eden: For the land of Eden, the Book of Genesis gives us a basic geography of concentric circles. At the center is the Tree of Life. Around that is a fenced garden. Around that is the plain of Eden. Beyond Eden is the the land of Nod, also known as the Wilderness, where demons live.

Metaphoric Geography: The campaign world is modeled after the concentric circles of Eden. At the center is the energy node, which gives life to those in its proximity. Around the node is the City, a walled metropolis ever watchful for attacks from the outside world. Around the City is a plain, kept open and free by the soldiers of the City to enable a clear view of any invading monsters that crawl out of the Wilderness. This Wilderness, where monsters, demons, and creatures of chaos live, lies beyond the plain.

Monasticism: The name of the campaign, Erimia, is derived from the Greek for wilderness or desert. It is also the origin of the word hermit. In the Christian tradition, the first monastics were hermits who wandered out into the desert in order to combat demons where they lived. To carry the metaphoric geography to the PCs, they become these hermits — they are the first adventurers who seek to confront the monsters where they live.

St. Basil the Great: At the time of the Fall of Rome, the liturgy of St. Basil was commonplace in Eastern Christendom. The Anaphora of St. Basil makes this statement:

Through Him the Holy Spirit was manifested, the spirit of truth the gift of Sonship, the pledge of our future inheritance, the first fruits of eternal blessings, the life giving power, the source of sanctification through whom every rational and spiritual creature is made capable of worshiping You and giving You eternal glorification, for all things are subject to You.

I wish to highlight the words every rational and spiritual creature. This demonstrates that Christianity is easily adaptable to include beings that are non-human into its fold and is immune to destruction in the face of intelligent life from another planet. Thus, as humanity mutates, Christians are the most likely to welcome those who are different. Historically this is demonstrable. When plagues hit major population centers in the ancient world, pagans with the means to do so fled, leaving the poor and sick to die. When the plague ran its course, they returned. In contrast, Christians stayed and nursed the sick no matter the race, color or creed.

Thus, it is the Christians who come out of the Great Cataclysm in the best shape. It is Christianity that forms the foundation upon which the City is built. It is Christianity that has allowed humanity to survive in all its mutated diversity.


Mutant Future: This campaign is in many ways inspired by Section 9 of Mutant Future. The controlled gonzo effect of this attempt at making it possible to place Mutant Future characters in the middle of a fantasy setting is very much the tone I want for this campaign. Both Mutant Humans and Replicants will be available as PC classes, and Mutant Future's rules on exposure to radiation can be easily adapted for use with exposure to the chaotic energy rivers of the Wilderness. Additionally, with all of the various mental mutations available, Mutant Future makes it easy to create Psionic special effects without having to come up with or use a Psionic system.

Labyrinth Lord: Although I prefer the simplicity of Swords & Wizardry, which invites the use of house rules, for this campaign I will use the Labyrinth Lord rule-set. Mutant Future was built upon these rules. Thus, using large chunks of Mutant Future material will require little or no conversion.

Sandbox: This campaign is designed very specifically to be a classic hex and dungeon crawl. The Wilderness is vast and ready to explore. Housed within the Wilderness are dungeons — ruins from past civilizations, abandoned outposts of alien survivors, and dwelling places of things dark and evil. In order that the metaphor of monasticism and Eden be consistent, the City must remain a safe haven without conflict or adventure possibilities. There are no politics to be had, no plots to uncover, no puppet master pulling strings. The adventure is always out in the Wilderness. The adventurer is always fighting the monsters where they live.

Expedition to the Barrier Peaks: This is one pf my favorite modules of all time. The way this module blends genres is exactly the pulp feel I want for this campaign. The retro-clone movement allows me to ask the question, what if this kind of adventure was more popular or common in the D&D universe? Though not representative of every dungeon that lies in the wilderness beyond the City, there will be more than one opportunity to encounter the remnants of the space battle that created this age.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I love this campaign, it is well thought out and sounds like tremendous fun. My favorite early role-playing memory was exploring the Temple of the Frog (not the original but the updated version for Expert D&D), which combined a classic fantasy setting (evil temple in a swamp filled with killer frogs) with sc-fi (alien spaceship, technology, cyborgs, laser-cannon...). I had a blast and have always mixed genres in my own home-brewed campaigns. Are you going to post more material about this campaign? I am very interested in hearing how it develops. And it is refreshing to see someone put serious thought into the metaphorical meaning of a campaign setting. Great work!