Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Six Weird North Archetypes for Bastionland

With BastionJam ongoing, I'm working on a full sword & sorcery hack of Into the Odd/Electric Bastionland. I'm calling it Weird North, and it is inspired by various pulpy picaresque tales, as well as my deep-diving into the monolith that is Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (2nd Edition). As to the latter game, it's too crunchy for my taste (though I'd totally still run and play it!), but the flavor is on point. The gazetteer in the back, alone, is a goldmine. But, my preferences being what they are, it's Into the Odd or some close derivative just about every time, so that's the mechanical mold into which I'm pouring this atmospheric pulp novella goodness.

Armor, Odilon Redon
Jason Tocci and I discussed on the Bastionland Discord recently that we were both tinkering with soft classes/soft progression for Chris McDowall's games--not so hard that it forces some abstract compartmetalization of the game, but just enough to carrot-on-a-stick players in different directions through organic means. Then we both chuckled as Chris simply posted a more refined version of the same idea himself with Paralegal Bastionland. Kudos to Chris, as it's his game after all! Paralegal Bastionland affords a concise, actionable template for similar ideas, so I've decided to directly adapt it to Weird North.

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Picaresque Tale

{A bit of mood music for you}

It is difficult for me to think of old school adventure without thinking about the various Appendix N authors, which then leads me to think a lot about the specific works of Jack Vance, Robert E. Howard, Fritz Lieber and the rest, and that leads me to think about the curious word which has typically fallen out of modern use but is the foundational catch-all for the pulpy, strange, and morally gray hijinks which fill the pages of these stories: "picaresque." The dictionary definition for this old Spanish word (originally "picaro") is as follows: 

"Relating to an episodic style of fiction dealing with the adventures of a rough and dishonest but appealing hero." 

The picaresque tale centers around a wandering individual of low standing who happens into a series of adventures among people of various higher classes, often relying on their wits and a little dishonesty to get by. Barring higher moral design concepts of alignment (law/chaos, good/evil), the majority of the old school adventure game context resides in the picaresque--doing what it takes to outsmart and cajole circumstances into advantages, grabbing loot, pilfering powerful secrets from those in power or those long-dead, and coming out richer, stronger, and probably more broken than you started.

A personal favorite cover and title, especially wed together.