Monday, May 22, 2017

Veins of the Earth

So Patrick Stuart (who wrote Deep Carbon Observatory) and Scrap Princess (Who did art for the Gem Prison of Zardax) have joined forces once again and produced a LotFP book.



Its a good book, its the big black book that will be a major LotFP flagship for awhile.  As big fans of both of them, it took some effort not to promote their work immediately and join the din (Its a good book from a company with high production values so go for it though),  but I wanted to wait 6 weeks or so for the initial rush to die down and target a different group than those who love Scrap and Patrick's unique styles of art and writing (they collaborate frequently),  to reach out to those who don't run games in their style.

You should really read their work BECAUSE it goes against the grain of your game.

A little background of my own involvement with those two.

I used to game with Scrap pretty frequently in the early days of ConstantCon,  we were both mainly in Reynaldo Madrinan's game.  This was great because Reynaldo didn't run a setting like any Scrap or I would create,  it added a real sense of wonder towards figuring it out and interacting with it.  He's also coming out with an RPG  called Break!! soon, I should also encourage you to look into that. In one post-game conversation Scrap and I mused about how opposite our aesthetics were.  A magic sword she placed in a game might be living crystal that is obviously magic.  I would put a wicker bassinet that had obviously magical effects.  A different style.  This means that I rarely end up writing something which her art would suit (and why I like the Gem Prison so much, it was a good excuse for me to collaborate with Scrap).

Later I was reading Patrick's blog and loved his description of the Cave Giant. His blog was not full of things I would naturally add to my own games. He hadn't put out any adventures, and I thought that was a shame, because I knew he would write an adventure that would never naturally fit into my campaigns and that is a great thing.  So I put my meager money where my mouth was and commissioned him and scrap to write an adventure and put art to it, my main request being that it include the cave giant he had written up.  Note this wasn't me paying him to write one for me, it was still going to be their adventure, I just wanted to see him write one and scrap add art to it.  I also helped get Alex to provide some basic layout for it as my wallet allowed, but I was otherwise hands off.  I didn't want Patrick to write an adventure that I would want, I wanted him to write an adventure the way he wanted knowing it wouldn't fit in my campaigns.

Then I forced it into a game I ran.

It didn't fit, I had to spend like 3 hours trying to find internally consistent ways to link his work into my own world, creating new content out of thin air to make the the two great tastes of BBQ Pulled Pork and Caramel Sundae go together. It is a great mental exercise to get the creative juices flowing. That in and of itself is valuable,  but that isn't the end goal. I could use a random generator to get the same effect as that if a little less detailed.

Where it really pays off is with the players.  If you GM with people for awhile they get to expect your natural inclinations for how adventures are structured.  How likely are statues to come alive, how likely are those skeletons on the walls to be undead, how are traps and puzzles likely to work.  When you can smoothly bridge into another GM's adventure that follows a radically different style it helps add back in a sense of wonder.  This is unfamiliar territory, this is something the players don't expect and it ratchets up tension and stress.

This works especially well for transition areas.  If you GM mostly land based games find some other writer with very different styles and use their methods of ocean travel.  When a party of landlubbers foray into an ocean adventure it will put that unease of "you are not from here" into the players hearts. It will seem unfamiliar on an instinctual level.

This is what makes Veins of the Earth so useful.  It makes the players aware that they are going somewhere alien, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable when they go deep, deep, under the earth. Keep using TSR rules and ideas when they are on or near the surface,  but if they ever venture deep below the surface, make sure they know that standard rules don't apply.

Get Veins of the Earth here

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for an excellent article. I love hearing innovative ways that people are creating communal art with rpgs. It seems like the real strength and joy of role-playing, but the area that too many are afraid of.

    ReplyDelete