Tuesday, January 14, 2014

We Blog - We Live!

Blogging, yo. I still do it.

I'm not going to waste pixels on "blah blah blah, here's why I've been gone for oh so many years." I'm going to get right back into it. Screw the haters.

What I'm working on right now is an RPG setting that I plan to explore with my wife, the Abigail. The intent is to capture some of what made the Lord of the Rings special to me, but without all the stuff that either I have grown tired of, or that stopped the Abigail from every getting into that setting herself. Here is what I have got so far.

Rather than make the main conflict of the setting quite as Manichean as the Lord of the Rings, I want to do something with a little more subtlety. The Abigail can get behind purely antagonistic villains, but she needs to have an idea of their motivations, and those motivations need to make sense. Sauron always came off as too much of a dick.

So, my idea is to steal from The Whispering Vault, a little-known RPG from the mid-90s in which the main characters portray semi-spiritual beings empowered to hunt down refugees from the spiritual world who have invaded the physical world, seduced by its pleasures. This setting will have the same fundamental dichotomy: there is a spiritual world and a physical world, two sides of the same coin, and all the world's problems come from physical beings wanting to be spirits and spiritual beings wanting to be physical.

There is, specifically, a Dark Lord a la Sauron or Morgoth, but he's much more of a pitiful figure in my setting. He was the first spirit to force his way into the material world, and he has suffered for it. Now he longs for release from the various permanent wounds that have been inflicted upon his stolen flesh, swollen with power and sorcery as it is, but he's too afraid of oblivion to simply accept death. Like all spirits who have taken on flesh, he cannot escape at will - and even if he could simply shuck off his body, he knows that his spiritual cohort, the world's other spirits, are waiting for him. Perhaps in reality, they would forgive him and tend to his wounds and heal his soul... but he is too far sunken into misery and bitterness to accept that possibility.

So, the world sucks because this spirit wanted to know what it was like to eat and drink and screw. He tore a huge gaping hole in the veil between spirit and matter when he stole a body - there's a story to that, but I haven't thought of it yet - and lesser spirits have been taking advantage of this hole for millennia. The malignant ones, jealous of mankind's status as the only beings to naturally be both matter and spirit, have flocked to his banner (even though he is now too consumed with ennui and self-hatred to do much directing), while others have come through to try to repair the damage from the physical side, with mixed results. Some have remained true to their mission, while others have gotten too enamored of the flesh - or power, or whatever - and botched it up in various ways.

Hm.. I'm kind of stealing from Tribe 8, too... interesting.

At some point in history - probably at the beginning of some golden age - a spirit was sent through the gap with the goal of improving the situation by empowering humans, rather than possessing one and using him as a sock puppet to boss the other humans around. This human started lineage of humans who were touched by spirit, through their ancestry, but still fully humans (this would be my take on the Numenoreans).

Among other things - including starting said golden age - these blessed humans taught some humans how to temporarily separate their souls from their bodies, making themselves capable of magic. They taught some spirits how to merge with human hosts, rather than simply stealing their bodies. They taught other spirits how to merge with non-human material hosts, like animals or objects, in order to create "sinless" vessels whose efforts to fix things would not be tainted by the inherent problems of stealing a human's body in order to interact with the world. These gifts were intended to put humans and spirits on more equal footing, and for the most part, they worked.

But... inbreeding, decadence, and plain old boredom soured the plan. The noble lineage fell from power after a well-deserved revolt... which opened the field for the old enemy to begin planning, again, to dominate the world.

Why does he want to dominate the world?

Like I said... he's not even sure anymore, but he has generals and captains and industries of dominance who are sure that it's a good idea, and they don't really need his permission anymore. So, he's just going with the flow.

Arrayed against him are ordinary humans, humans who have learned a small measure of magic power, the tattered remains of the spirit-touched noble lineage that once stood astride the world - and they have the dubious assistance of various semi-spirit immortals, many of them tainted by the sin of having stolen the material bodies they are still wearing to this day.

And... that's all I got for now.

I'll be sure to check in soon with some more thoughts, especially as I begin to develop the system.

Is this a rebirth for the Burning Zeppelin Experience? I like to think so, but only time will tell.