Once again, I find myself going back through Dungeons and Possums’ older posts and finding gold.
I’m going to talk a bit about how most of my games diverge from the ‘normal’ of D&D, but I want to try and focus more on Hollow World too.
I’ll start with a quote from Dungeons and Possums, rather than just reworking something already written:
“Most people choose to play a D&D that is pretty firmly in the grip of a pseudo-medieval era, a fantasy version of mostly-European history somewhere between 1200AD and 1500AD or so. There’s exceptions all over the place, but they are scarce enough to be the thing that proves the rule rather than undermines it… the D&D that coalesced in the shared experience, based on Greyhawk and Mystara and Faerun and lord knows what else…
We all know what the main flavor of D&D is almost innately within just a few short minutes of exposure to D&D, and it’s that type of fantasy in turn that has informed literally countless movies, shows, books, comics, and more since 1974.”
So what am I trying to say here? I don’t play in this idea of a setting? Well, yes and no. I’ve certainly played something very closed to that ‘shared experience’ of what D&D is on a number of occasions.
But I hate to set my own stories there.
Why? Well, I don’t know. A desire to play in a different sort of world maybe?
Shortly before Eberron became a known thing, I was building magical intercontinental underground railways run by Dwarves, using the wrecks of Elven tall ships as an alien encounter out at sea, and fleeing a political mess caused by the fall of a council of liches in a civil war (the latter two of which were recycled for a session of my Endless Sea setting and as background for Out West – huh, maybe I should bring back those dwarves!).
Speaking of Endless Sea, I drew heavily on a lot of ancient mythological sources when I was writing it. The island of Aeaea was the home of Circe the Witch Queen, Bouyan was the home of King Kolschei Deathless, and most of the other Burh (island states) were named for ancient sunken towns and islands, such as Ys and Ravenser Odd.
With Sands of FATE, I tried to focus in on the Arabian Nights stories whilst I was writing, looking at how to adapt them. Jinn were a major consideration, and I ended up pulling a lot of old D&D knowledge across for them.
The point of this is that I try to draw more on ancient myth to flavour my worlds and work forward from their, though I’ll gladly throw some more modern elements in if they fit the setting theme.
So why am I building an Asian-themed setting called the Hollow World, when there’s a lot of issues with cultural appropriation?
Well, I wanted to break out of the D&D norm that seems to have stuck for a few years now, playing everywhere around the Forgotten Realms or somewhere very like it.
(At least we have Eberron now to break that hold a bit.)
But I doubt we’ll ever have another Oriental Adventures.
I’m at least basing my ideas for the setting on the slightly more respected version, published in the days of D&D 3e. I picked it up at the time, and it was my first introduction to the world of the Legend of the Five Rings.
I really like Rokugan, and it does a lot better at simulating a fantasy setting influenced by Asia than the old Oriental Adventures supplements managed.
I’ve watched all the videos from Don’t Stop Thinking on reimagining the lands of Kara Tur multiple times now. I don’t want to make the stupid mistakes people made back in the bad old days (… when I can make my own?).
I’m also trying to read as much about the Mahasarpa micro setting as I can as well, since I’m working with an idea that encompasses South, East and North Asia (and I’m still on the fence about Calimshan and Al-Qadim as West Asian influences – though a cultural crossroads will be a focal point of any adventures I write).
At least I’ll also have a bit of help – a week after writing all of the above, a leak shows that Kobold Press are producing a book called Brilliant East for the Midgard setting, so I guess I’ll be looking at that pretty heavily.
The cover shows what look like tiger-people, and the Hollow World is going to include Rakshasa as a player option (somehow, I’m still working on that bit!).