Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Shattered World - Pitch and Icons

Back in June I started a new D&D 5E game, or D&D 5E-ish game... See, 13th Age has thoroughly corruped me, so I shoe-horned in 13th Age Style Backgrounds (using a ridiculously complicated system that I may post later), the Escalation Die and 13th Age Icons and also Numenera style GM Intrusions in place of the default (and uninspired, in my opinion) Inspiration rules.

The setting was a reboot/homage/hack of the last D&D 4E campaign I ran and I pitched it to players as "Final Fantasy Airships meets Isla's Mist Sea meets Zombie Apocalypse meets Battlestar Galactica meets Mad Max with some Glen Cook Black Company/Garrett PI tossed in too" and "so you're stuck on a giant flying airship that the 'good guys' only have partially under control, there are sections of engineering that are infested with undead, sky pirates attack and you have to drive them off". (Isla's Mist Sea is the 4E campaign where the PCs were on a wizard's floating Island).

The final setting pitch ending up being: Pre-Shattering the world was in the midst of a war between powerful wizards over silver mines and hordes. Wizard rulers/generals were taking ever increasing gambles, raising hordes of dead and making war machines to fight while they floated above the earth in flying castles and city sized flying ships. I deliberately had the PCs put into stasis by a "neutral" wizard during the actual apocalyptic Shattering so that they awoke three years after into a strange world and players wouldn't need to worry about detailed setting information and would get to discover things along with me.

A portion of the Airship dungeon explored during the most recent Shattered World game.

With that loose premise, I decided to make my own Icons and since I was also running an Apocalypse World game and drawing on Apocalypse World's flavor/tactics for some of my inspiration, I decided to base the Icons on the AW Scarcity/Lacks that AW provides as motivating factors.

  • Hunger
  • Thirst
  • Ignorance
  • Fear
  • Decay
  • Despair
  • Envy
  • Ambition
  • Greed
But the new realization I had with Icons is how it serves the GM's interest to set up a PC's relationship with an Icon as a choice about game narratives. For example, one of the Icons I created is Father Machine and I set up the PC choices of Positive, Ambiguous and Negative relationships as follows.

  • Positive: You want to work to spread the machines as replacements for the old arcane magic, you are a warforged who is visted by Father Machine in your dreams.
  • Ambigious: You find the mechanical devices and innovations of Father Machine and his followers useful, but worry about what Father Machine plans. You are a warforged who wants to break free of Father Machine.
  • Negative: You blame the machines and warforged for the Shattering just as much or more than you do the Wizards.
So as the players choose Icon relationships they were also telling me something about how their PC's would react to the world. So far this has worked well, as I can remind myself of the Icon relationships and weave in scenese, places, items and NPCs to bounce of them.

You can see all the Icons here, or rather all but one as I still need to write up my Icon version of Blunanda the Kelp Queen, who was stolen shamelessly from Thomas.

Expect more about the Shattered Worlds as I continue to run.

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