Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Wilds and Magic

The inaugural post for this blog!

I love magic and fantasy worlds. It's something amazing and wonderful because it doesn't really exist in our world. However, one thing that I see often in RPG settings and games is that magic feels different or disconnected from the rest of the world. Yes, there are monsters in them, but many of the mundane monsters (orcs, goblins) feel too much like part of the mundane world, while more magical beasts tend to hail from other planes of existence. These magical beasts and dangers can be fantastical obstacles that can make the players feel really heroic. There's also this sense of wonderment of adventuring in vistas that wouldn't be possible in the real world.

Imagine the PCs tripping in this area...
Yet, there is also something interesting about the mundane world. There are still dangers, both from animals and the elements, that add a great amount of danger and conflict, thus adding adventure. These down to earth conflicts can help the players connect to the setting in ways that a more epic, magical style can. Saving the village from vicious bandits, or helping out citizens dealing with a drought, or even braving a terrible storm in the wilderness can fill the players with a sense of accomplishment and makes them feel as though they earned being called heroes.

So, what if we want both the mundane and magic vistas in our setting?

This is why I've added a phenomenon called The Wild Primeval in my settings. In this, there is a chance that an area of arcane energies spawn in the world. This changes the mundane into something more akin to a fairy tale. Floating islands, crazed monsters, talking trees, cannibalistic fog... these are all possible and common in the Wild Primeval. When spawning, they tend to avoid larger settlements and cities. One concept I enjoy is Man vs. Nature, with the best and worst of civilization warring with the best and worst of nature. With this concept, I have the Wild Primeval as a sort of primordial state of the world before the races of the world began building cities and taming the wilderness.

Floating mountains are always cool!
Not only can these zones of eldritch energies change the landscape, but they can also grow and expand. At the center of the Wild Primeval is a blossom of arcane energies. This is what anchors the wild zones into our world and giving time and care, they can expand overland and begin swallowing cities. And that can put the Wild Primeval against the PCs. Again, this really showcases the civilization vs nature I really want to be more at the forefront in the games I run, as well as secularism vs spiritualism.

I do plan on having the PCs able to counter the effects of the Wild Primeval (as well as causing them). Casting spells increase the chances of a Wild Zone event to happen, as does overcasting (casting past your limit, which is dangerous). There is also a cascading effect if Wild Zones are left uncontested. The more there are on the map, the more that will spawn. Of course, taming the wilds can help reduce and prevent the Wild Primeval from spawning. PCs can destroy the blossom that anchors the Wild Zone into place. I plan on the Wild Primeval having effects on casters (both positive and negative), as well as mundanes, but that can be expounded upon in another blog.

This may feel like an invasion from another dimension taking place in our world, but truthfully, it is the world reverting to its primordial, magic heavy state. Like overgrowth and animals retaking an abandoned city long after humans are gone. Yet it should still feel very alien and different to the players, almost as if they've entered another plane of existence filled with spirits.

Of course, the mundane wilderness is still saturated by spirits and beings from the Spirit World as well as magical beasts. Magical vistas also still exist in the mundane world, but they tend to be the exception and usually built by creature of magic or casters. In the Wild Primeval, magical vistas simply are the norm

I plan on expanding more on this in later blog posts. I want to have these spawning rules for hexcrawls that I wish to run now that I have free time.