Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An Epiphany and New Direction

As they usually do, the thought struck without warning from behind, with +4 to hit and dealing quadruple damage.

"What the hell are you doing" the thought said. "You want to put together a game of non-gamers using a home-brewed Holmes-based Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting that has paladins of Jesus Christ, priests dedicated to Asmodeus, and slave markets full of elven Concubines? This wouldn't play in Peoria let alone in Waupaca County!"

After much consideration, I came to the conclusion that the stray thought wasn't just out to get me, but was indeed a revelation of unfortunate truth. If I'm to put together a group of local folks to play D&D, I have to make the game appealing to what might fit local ideals of fantasy gaming, not the fantasy-core concepts that percolated through Gygax, Arneson, Holmes, and the gaming crowd 35 years ago.

So I thought about it for a while, and decided on a new direction and a new campaign setting. One that parents of Iola high schoolers would feel comfortable letting their kids play; one that local adults might be familiar with and enjoy. One that I, too, would enjoy.

So I've set aside the Realm of Lohsem for now. Perhaps it will be resurrected again someday for B/X play with experienced gamers who have had a broad exposure to classic fantasy. And I dug around on my old CD-Roms and found a bunch of material I worked on several years ago, and decided that it could readily be adapted to a new campaign. And thus was born...

The Fourth Age of Middle Earth (FOME) Blog will be for materials dedicated to the campaign itself, in-game and development. Everything else I blog about will remain here on Adventures in Gaming.


Scott said...

I understand your quandary. Unfortunately the sort of weird crap I'm into doesn't make it any easier to find IRL gamers in a small community. Even on the internet, folks like us are a tiny, tiny subset of an already narrow set.

James Mishler said...

Yeah, it's disappointing, but sometimes you just gotta bow to reality. I could just see trying to explain to an enraged and confused parent how his son was playing games in the library dealing with rescuing nekkid elven maidens from nasty, brutish slavers who all looked like Osama bin Laden while hanging out with the stoned halfling wizard... and didn't like what I foresaw.

What we could get away with back in the day just doesn't work anymore with the new crowd.

Scott said...

On the bright side, Middle-Earth isn't exactly chopped liver, so it's really more of an alternate opportunity than a compromise.

Although high school kids may wonder why they can't fire ten shots in five seconds while surfing down a flight of stairs on a shield ...

JimLotFP said...

>>I could just see trying to explain to an enraged and confused parent how his son was playing games in the library dealing with rescuing nekkid elven maidens from nasty, brutish slavers who all looked like Osama bin Laden while hanging out with the stoned halfling wizard... and didn't like what I foresaw.

I wish I could set up such a situation. Especially if the library in question carried source material.

But I've made my local games ages 16+ only (having kids play would probably make it difficult to get people my age signed on...), so I guess I'll miss out on that.

Still, I have no problem finding players for my Chainmail/OD&D/Holmes combination and it's not like any of these players have experience with The Old Ways (with one possible exception). Hell, it's not like *I* have previous first-hand experience with those versions.

James Mishler said...


True, true, but you also live in Europe. Dunno where you are from originally in the States, but I'm in the middle of "God's Country" in Wisconsin, i.e., the Little Bible Belt. Were it not for the liberal area around Appleton and the blue-collar quasi-liberal region around Green Bay, I might as well be in Arkansas. Pure Red State Country.

Fortunately, its mostly Lutherans around here, rather than Baptists, and thus it is not as "in-your-face," but the overall effect is the same.

JimLotFP said...

I lived for 12 years in Atlanta. That place has a lot of religious crazies (and a quite large gay population, which made for some interesting times), and I enjoyed showing my girlfriend here the Jesus Camp movie, because I was around a lot of people like that and it was complete culture shock for her to see that.

... but I tend not to change my behavior for those types. In fact, my purchases of heavy metal T-shirts tends to increase when in that environment... :P

Mikel Rysk said...

I loved the idea, but then came the thought of copyright laws. Then I was like, "Wait a minute, there is so much in Middle-Earth that Tolkeen just never talked about and a lot of maps that were never in any of his books. Hey, we could just like start out in the Old Shire and then find ourselves past the Lonely Mountain and then we could have a real adventure clearing the way for folk to settle down.

The thought just entered my mind. 'What about a Return to Middle-Earth?' Didn't all this stuff happen a long time ago. What if somehow we found ourselves back in Middle-Earth and see all the changes. Now the thought of the old D&D cartoon pops into my mind. I wil be quiet and in my corner.

James Mishler said...

Hey Mike,

No worries, this doesn't affect our games. Greyhawk and Traveller are still good once I can get out to Point on a regular basis.

I'm trying to put together a local game, so I can, you know, get some gaming in like you guys do, on a more than once in a blue moon rotation...

Scott said...

>paladins of Jesus Christ

Interestingly, I was all set to play a Jewish Macedonian paladin in a Ravenloft campaign once, but that campaign too fell through before starting.

Jeff Rients said...

Obviously Middle Earth isn't your first choice, but at least nowadays we've got a setting that everyone is at least passingly familiar with. And even though I'm not a huge Lord of the Rings fan, the milieu is chock full of exploitable adventure fodder. I'd certainly take a crack playing a blue wizard or an ornery hobbit in the 4th Age.

EastwoodDC said...

I don't know, the Elven slave girls might be more popular than you think. If Iola is the bible-belt of Wisconsin, then Milwaukee (my area) must be the Pit-of-Sin. You are wise to adapt to your audience. ;-)

It always helps for your players to have an expectation of what the game setting will be. Many years ago when I was trying to introduce my D&D group to Champions, they basically came up with characters that were variations on D&D character classes. I went and got them some comics books to read, after which they started coming up with their own unique superhero characters.

Mikel Rysk said...

I didn't think that my earlier comments would be so pushed aside. My apologies. I was trying to be helpful James. I didn't think that anything posted under this heading would affect our games. I simply read the blog you wrote and being a fan of Tolkeen, thought I could help spark your imagination, not that it needs sparking. Simply, I thought I could help you come up with some ideas on the fourth age.
That's all, no muss, no fuss. Just trying to be helpful.

S'mon said...

Obviously your game content should be age appropriate, if you're an adult GMing for under-18s (under 18s GMing for other under 18s of course include all kinds of icky stuff, I know I did!).

But your broader point is really silly. It's experienced gamers who get set in their ways and may be unwilling to deal with new ideas. Newbies are open to whatever you throw at them! They don't know any better! And they _certainly_ don't have to have read a tottering pile of '30s pulp fiction to enjoy a game that makes use of pulp S&S tropes.

For God's sake man, pull yourself together!!! :-)

S'mon said...

BTW I'm from the Belfast area of Northern Ireland. It's the only part of the UK that resembles the US Bible Belt in religiosity.

My experience is that if parents are against D&D and see it as Satanic, the content of your game is completely irrelevant. If they're ok with it in principle, you'd have to go a long way (like, Kult-long-way) to cause trouble.

Rescuing unclad elven princesses - fine. Just don't have the PCs sacrificing pre-pubescent elven princesses to Cthulu while raping and strangling them with their own hair, you should be fine.

Paladins of Jesus - better than Paladins of Mithras, in my experience. I never understood how D& replacing Christ with pagan gods was supposed to mollify the haters, it has the opposite effect.

Nasty, brutish slavers who look like Osama - more likely to offend liberal parents who think you're making a veiled criticism of the Religion of Peace. Really, no problem.