Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A Setting to End All Settings

Erce started out as one of those teenage love affairs – A setting to end all settings, that would have room for all the fantasy elements I loved and wanted to see in a world – When only this setting was fleshed out, I would have a world that I could run any campaign of any kind I'd ever want to. A perfect and inclusive vision of everything fantasy meant to me! And also keep alive those most precious glimpses of vital nostalgia from my emergent adolescence. Small task indeed.
It started out in my mind as a sort of Dragonlance + Greyhawk mix, but with 'better done' Tolkien inspiration. And stayed like that, mostly dormant, unpolished and wholly unfinished, for a long time. Fast-forward a decade or so, and I began to re-visit my old notes. Only now, my fantasy inspirations had broadened quite a bit – The Sword & Sorcery of Conan (and Red Sonja too, I like comics), Thieves World and Jack Vance; the terrible mediaevalism of A Song of Ice and Fire; the hodge-podge gonzo of Mystara that it somehow pulls of; the exotic S&S of Talislanta, The grim humour of Warhammer, the proper post-apocalyptic worlds of Titan (of Fighting Fantasy) and the Wilderlands of High Fantasy – and most of all: Endless hours on Wikipedia and small websites studying the actual medieval ages, post-Roman Europe and the glorious myths of that age.

Erce: Something like this and much more.

Though my vision of fantasy had grown, I still liked what I had done as a teenager with my somewhat naive 'setting-to-end-all-settings'. I felt ready to take the bones of it and re-image it to be a setting that could satisfy the very same demands for me today. I wanted an evocative setting, but equally so I wanted a setting that made sense. And on top of those (often mutually exclusive) demands, I wanted to be able to pick up something random from the Complete Ranger's handbook and it would just fit in well. And handle all these genres. In short, a setting to end all settings. 2.0.
Studying Nordic mythology gave me the perspective for it – In the past, I had always tried to make sense of the world from a modern perspective. A fantasy world that still had mediaevalism and structure to satisfy modern sensibilities. But the world I had been waiting to make was not that. It was a fantasy world with a mediaevalism, and more importantly a fantasy, to satisfy medieval sensibilities. In short, the door was open for a completely different world view. I decided in advance to give one nod to modernist thinking – It should also make sense of the implied world of D&D. This might seem like a big ask, but I quickly found it is often surprisingly simple when you aren't trying to make sense of it from a modern perspective.
With that in mind, I immediately discarded the modern elements we take for granted – That modern physics play any sort of relevant role in the world. That any of the social sciences are applicable. That modern ethics are relevant. And just as importantly – The notion that the gods and monsters our ancestors believed in were just fictions. What if all that old stuff was 100% literal and representative of reality as lived in medieval times? This last strain of thought stimulated my imagination like nothing else.

A world where D&D made sense, grown in the mould of medieval mythology and history with copious sprayings and homages from a vast variety of fantasy fiction, felt ready to come to life.