Saturday, December 5, 2009

Buh-Bye, Forgotten Realms!!

There's a lot of things about D&D 4.0 that makes me hate it. One of the things that I find particularly irksome is how they basically took a fine setting like the Forgotten Realms, turned it on its head, vandalized a lot of the topography, threw in some "Gods of Faerun 90210" into the mix, and then cranked up the calendar by about a century or whatnot.

For a while, this didn't bother me. I had already decided I wasn't going to do 4.0, but instead stick with 3.5, and simply ignore all of the developments in the Realms. It was a parting of the ways when it came to the default D&D rule system, but I was still willing and eager to keep running in the Realms. While that seemed to work, the situation still bugged me; I'm usually one of those all-or-nothing sort of people. Either I'm drinking the entire glass (or even entire pitcher!) of Kool-Aid, or I'm not touching it at all.

Our gaming group is getting ready in January for what I've dubbed The Great Crisis (pardon me, my DC Fanboy is showing), an adventure I've been promising for several years now. See, for the last ten years, most of the players in my group have been playing a handful of PCs in the Forgotten Realms, and advancing levels. Once the PCs got of sufficiently high level, we'd end a campaign, and start up a new FR campaign in a different locale, with a new bunch of 1st level characters. The continuity was still preserved, and sometimes there'd be cross-referencing or other touches that indicate that this was All The Same World.

While this has worked out nicely, people have been hankering to play some of those old high-level PCs again, and some players have at least a half-dozen each. Enter the Great Crisis. I've told my players "Assemble all your past characters; pick out your favorite four; I'll be coming up with a massive storyline that will require four groups of high-level characters, set in four different areas of the Realms."

And so, that's what we're doing once the holidays die down. Four adventures, one a month, two gaming sessions each, set in four different locales in the Realms; adventures that may or not be related or interconnected. That's part of the mystery. Do all these things have something to do with each other? Or perhaps only some do? Or none? Who knows?

Once this Great Crisis is done, regardless of the outcome, I do believe I'm waving "Farewell" to the Realms.

It's always been a point of pride for me that all of the D&D adventures I run are of my own design; no modules here, just home-grown adventure. And yet, my setting is a pre-packaged one, though some parts of the Realms were "officially" fleshed out by yours truly during my tenure as a freelance writer for TSR. Granted, the Realms is a very EXCELLENT package, but it's still not "my" world. And now that, in my own humble opinion, the Realms failed its saving throw against the dreaded spell "Polymorph a cool game setting into a steaming lump of cat crap", I think it's time to trot out....Hawkhaven 2.0.

What's Hawkhaven 2.0 you ask? For that matter, what's Hawkhaven?

Glad you asked. You DO ask such good questions!

Hawkhaven was my original campaign, created during my ignorant, zealous, Monty-haul days as an over-eager rookie DM back in 1978. Oh, I threw in everything but the kitchen sink. I drew inspiration (stole) from Tolkein, CS Lewis, Arthurian legends, the Bible, Moorcock, Lieber, Lovecraft, and a healthy dose of Bullfinch's Mythology, and created pretty much a hack-and-slash goulash where Christian paladins, Muslim warriors, Celtic bards, and Clerics of Hera were teaming up and doing things like finding the Holy Grail, or destroying Stormbringer, or finding R'Lyeh, where dread Cthulhu lies dreaming.

And anything went...optional classes from issues of The Dragon? Bring 'em in! Psionics? Sure! I'd take all those module series from TSR and locate them in my world. Here's the Tomb of Horrors over here, and I'll call one of the mountains in my western mountain range "White Plume", and set the module there. These peaks here are like a barrier, so a certain SF-themed module went there! This village over here is called "Hommlet". Liches polymorphed PCs into giant cucumbers and ate them. PCs slew enemies with improvised weapons such as turkey legs.

Of course, I had a detailed backstory, my attempt at explaining how all of these elements could possibly exist or co-exist. Some of it worked, some of it was a stretch, and some of it was utter BS. But who cared? It was a lot of fun! But I'll say this: If I had the means to travel back in time, and sat at my younger self's gaming table, I'd probably end up beating my younger self over the head with a pizza box while shrieking "Munchkin!" over and over. I may even remember to take the pizza out first, but I make no promises.

So anyways, the thought occurred to me: Why not bring back Hawkhaven, but now redesigned with a greater sense of restraint, "sophistication", and experience? So, I've been digging through old folders (real manila paper ones, not virtual folders on a PC, mind you), folders that haven't seen the light of day since last century, and have been recreating Hawkhaven into a viable, engaging, campaign world that wouldn't get laughed out of a gaming con.

And that's that. So, four months of Great Crisis in the Forgotten Realms, followed by a reboot with Hawkhaven 2.0. Furthermore, I've been paying attention to people on who've been singing the praises of Pathfinder, and I have to admit, I've started reading up on it and it's intriguing enough that it just may become the system used for Hawkhaven. Talk about a fresh start and a clean slate! New world, new system. Aw yeah, I like the sound of that.

Depending on how our personnel roster shakes out, I may even have to look for a couple of new players to jump in as well, to fill out our ranks. So it looks like there's a lot of "new" for our campaign to look forward to in Spring 2010.

I'll miss the Realms, but I have to admit that I'm looking forward to running a campaign in the world that I made, with cool things like the Theocracy of Zor, hobbits with hairy feet, Wizards being the object of public distrust and scorn, a god of Alcohol and Innkeepers, and the Four Elemental Monastic Orders waiting in the wings!

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