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Vile Traveller

What's Your Southern Reaches "Vibe"?

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Given the fairly brief description in Magic World coupled with the setting implications of the creatures and magic systems included in the core book and Advanced Sorcery, what "vibe" do you get for the Southern Reaches? Does it fit mostly into a particular genre or milieu for you, or is there some sort of agglomerate whole that defines it?

My personal vibrations in this regard are shaped by my pre-RPG upbringing as much as, or probably more than, my fantasy reading since then, so don't take the following in the wrong spirit - it's just how I feel about the setting. I'd like to hear your versions. I see it as a mash-up of several historic and fantasy elements:

The general setting makes me think of Roman Britain, with the Empire of Irwan representing a sort of technologically advanced, feudal version of the Roman Empire. To some extent this is how I square the existence of some of the Classical and tropical creatures like centaurs and elephants vs. the Fey and relative abundance of Celtic beings (an artefact of the BRP monster books where a lot of the MW entries came from). Then there is a distinct Nordic element in the form of dwarves, trolls, and giants. So effectively I get a dominantly north-western European mythology with a sprinkling of Classical newcomers. How do these interact? I see/imagine a split between the Celtic and Nordic creatures, though they are clearly more closely interrelated than either is with the immigrant humans and their attendant alien beings.

As for the magic, I have a less clear picture. Sorcery seems very human-centric, with necromancy a sort of dark counterpart. I can't see the Fey being too much into the latter. Deep magic, summoning, and of course fey magic I leave to the province of the Fey. Rune magic seems particularly dwarven to me. Herbalism seems to universal to be monopolised by any one group, though there are probably different specialisms amongst them.

So, on the whole I get the feeling of a relatively recently colonised land, with the true extent of ancient but not very obvious traditions and peoples being more-or-less overlooked by the newcomers. The arrivals have changed considerably in a short time, probably more so than they realise.

I also feel that momentous events are bubbling under the surface, briefly popping up but never quite to the point of blowing up the whole precarious balance which exists at the moment. In other words there is the potential either for upheaval, or the solidification of a new order.

Edited by Vile
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As was pointed out to me a long time ago, the Southern Reaches are more of an example of a kingdom. Its left vague enough to leave many details up to the Chronicler. Not coincidentally, this is the main reason I make most of my material and run many adventures here. 

I play it as if it's a single kingdom under rule of the emperor in the northern Empire, run similar to city states with local lords controlling the commoners. 

Probably not unlike when "the new world" was first settled by the english. These colonies had a great deal of free reign because they were far from home, but they still answered to the big boss.

Edited by tooley1chris
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10 hours ago, tooley1chris said:

I play it as if it's a single kingdom under rule of the emperor in the northern Empire, run similar to city states with local lords controlling the commoners.

How do you square the 'single kingdom' approach with no single overlord above the two houses of Beleghir and Drum? I see the current situation as a civil war in the making, with each county potentially becoming an independent kingdom in fact if not in imperial law. Alternatively, one might overcome the other and declare real independence (again, shades of the New World?). A third scenario could be more of a cold war, so as to avoid imperial notice, but possibly with any of the aforementioned results. The forth could be both sides weakening each other enough for the locals to rebel, or take control from within. A lot would depend on just how close contact with the empire is.

What impact/importance do the orc and human nomad tribes have in the big picture?

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3 hours ago, Vile said:

How do you square the 'single kingdom' approach with no single overlord above the two houses of Beleghir and Drum? I see the current situation as a civil war in the making, with each county potentially becoming an independent kingdom in fact if not in imperial law. Alternatively, one might overcome the other and declare real independence (again, shades of the New World?). A third scenario could be more of a cold war, so as to avoid imperial notice, but possibly with any of the aforementioned results. The forth could be both sides weakening each other enough for the locals to rebel, or take control from within. A lot would depend on just how close contact with the empire is.

What impact/importance do the orc and human nomad tribes have in the big picture?

I haven't run any games in the Southern Reaches, but you just gave me a fun idea for a campaign kick-off event if I ever do: "News has recently arrived on the docks of Lashingport - the old Emperor is dead and his whole immediate line with him in a brazen series of assassinations. All out internecine war has erupted among the noble houses of the capital as dozens of lords with tenuous claims strive to seize the imperial throne for themselves." That might set the stage for one of the two noble houses in the region to seize power or make a move against their rival, and put the PCs right in the middle somehow (perhaps a subterfuge and sabotage themed game, or a all-out war with lots of conflict for more martially minded players?)

As for the orcs and nomadic tribes, what better time for them to muck up the situation with increased raids on outlying villages, while the attention of the two noble houses snipe at each other. Maybe there's some shadowy force organizing them and making them far more effective than they've ever been?

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The vibe I get is one of trying to create what the game name changed to: a magic world. Not desperate and dark and doomed the way the Young Kingdoms were, but something that had a sinister fairy tail to it. A world that can go places. There is a lot of potential in the Southern Reaches. If I were to give it a vibe, I would say Loreena McKennitt metal. 

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I don't think this comes across in the description in the book, but the overall political scene (IIRC) was supposed to be a transplanted Dune -esque powerful Houses with an overarching Empire, with the Fey thrown in for good measure.

SDLeary

Edited by SDLeary
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As well as the explicit Southern Reaches information, there's quite a lot of implicit setting detail in the choices of backgrounds, occupations, creatures, and magic systems in Magic World and Advanced Sorcery. It's not certain how much of that was accident, and how much was intentional - I suspect mostly the former, informed by what was available in the various sources of BRP donor material. I haven't delved that deeply into AS yet, so I don't know to what extent the alternative magic systems are related to specific groups in the Southern Reaches, if at all. Deep Magic certainly seems like a contender for the Fey original to the watered-down Sorcery passed down to the immigrants.

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5 hours ago, Vile said:

As well as the explicit Southern Reaches information, there's quite a lot of implicit setting detail in the choices of backgrounds, occupations, creatures, and magic systems in Magic World and Advanced Sorcery. It's not certain how much of that was accident, and how much was intentional - I suspect mostly the former, informed by what was available in the various sources of BRP donor material. I haven't delved that deeply into AS yet, so I don't know to what extent the alternative magic systems are related to specific groups in the Southern Reaches, if at all. Deep Magic certainly seems like a contender for the Fey original to the watered-down Sorcery passed down to the immigrants.

I don't recall Ben issuing us a detailed list of explicit do's and don'ts when we were writing stuff for Magic World - my Arete chapter in Advanced Sorcery for example arose from email exchanges about re-writing / adapting ki skills from LoN for an entirely different (never published / green lit) book that morphed in to the Arete system as it found a home in Advanced Sorcery. The closest he got was  list of inspirations for creatures when we were looking at the Creatures chapter of the Companion that morphed in to the unpublished Creatures book.

That said, there's  coherent but not restrictive core feel to MW / the southern Reaches that is very appealing - any particular Chronicler can interpret it as they wish, but it is clearly broadly Euro-centric, but heavily mythological. Ben was fond of the "Celtic Harryhausen" metaphor and I think it is compelling: both visually and in terms of tone and style of play the game invites.

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MW was such a missed opportunity. It kinda felt perfect for a Low Fantasy or Dark Fantasy setting like The Witcher.

The Southern Reaches certainly needed more development, but I like how it felt quasi-medieval, and The Fey felt mysterious - they certainly would be Deep Magic practitioners if I was developing it.

As far as a 'vibe' goes, whoever mentioned 'Loreena McKennit Metal!' was definately on the right track!

Edited by Mankcam
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16 hours ago, NickMiddleton said:

Ben was fond of the "Celtic Harryhausen" metaphor and I think it is compelling: both visually and in terms of tone and style of play the game invites.

That's definitely something I can see in the game, in fact I distinctly remember thinking exactly that when I first came across the Gorgon and the Fachan in the bestiary chapter years ago. The Celtic and C. S. Lewis sections of the Gateway Bestiary certainly must have had a lot to do with it.

I've been interested in the idea of an implied setting ever since reading Wayne Rossi's excellent series of blog posts on the implied setting of Original D&D, based just on the rules (and particularly the encounter tables and Outdoor Survival map).  As I noted on the other thread, all those decisions of what to include and what not give the game it's own "vibe" even without considering the Southern Marches. My own assumptions clearly play into this as well, because I associate Centaurs with Classical mythology, and as I mentioned the snake-bodied Gorgon immediately evokes Harryhausen for me - that might not be the case for the younger generation.

Edited by Vile

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A fun exercise for me is taking the chosen creatures and making them fit the setting as I see it. For example, I imagine a split in the big Fey group between the mountain and woodland types - the former being Dwarfs, Trolls, and their ilk, and the latter Elves and Fairies and anything that can be squeezed into that category. Probably more of a philosophical opposition than actual fighting, as they generally occupy different places. I also associate some non-human species with the immigrants, like Centaurs and Ogres. I realise I'm going beyond clear by-the-book evidence and into personal interpretation here.

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Centaurs seem to have escaped their Mediterranean corral and spread into general euro-fantasy. They seem pretty common in modern fantasy settings, along with a lot of the rest. I blame D&D for just tossing in everything/anything without any attention to provenance.

I can see the Dune-ish aspect now that SDLeary mentions it... a valuable if remote area for the Empire that has an inherent mystical aspect that is going to put a wrench into their plans. Lots of room for intrigues between factions, high weirdness and, eventually, epic battles.
I'd probably want to delve into it deeper and define the fey presence... move the various races away from their bog standard versions, such as making dwarfs either more like old folklore (spooky cave-dwelling elves) or more like earth elemental constructs of the gods (Warcraft).

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