... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, January 21, 2011


There's been discussion about a perceived lack of creative OSR fantasy worlds. The discussion began with a post on Chigowiz's blog and continued with Calithena's thread on the ODD74 forums that claimed there were, in fact, OSR worlds out there that stretched the boundaries of standard tabletop fantasy.

I don't know which side I agree with more. However, I know I've been planning my own weird setting that I've been thinking about since 2004. I've made vague references here before, but I've decided I should transfer some of the ideas I posted years ago in my Livejournal to my official RPG blog.

The working title is "Malignment". The high concept pitch is: two opposed forces, equally tempting but equally dangerous, are tearing apart the world. It's a twist on the standard alignment schemes: instead of Good and Evil or Law and Chaos, it's a battle between Legend and Dream, and neither side is clearly "the good guys" or "the bad guys".

The Scarlet Scroll of Legend and the Velvet Veil of Dream each has its own cult, proselytes dressed in red or purple robes carrying the word and the sword into the civilized lands. The majority of the people are neutral, in the sense of unaligned and focused on more worldly concerns, like getting rich or helping their family and neighbors.

Legend is also History and Reason, while Dream is also Mystery and Creativity. People, places and things tainted with Legend become extreme examples of qualities: the strongest heroes, the tallest mountains, the deepest chasms, the hottest deserts, the sharpest swords. Those tainted with Dream, on the other hand, become novel combinations of forms or ideas, ranging from the baroque to the disturbing: serpents with the heads of goats, trees made of blue crystal, people with a halo of eyes around their heads.

The taint of Legend is perfection and unchangingness; when a person becomes aligned with Legend, their abilities gain a bonus which increases with time, but which impede acquisition of other abilities, eventually transforming the hero into a permanent form, like a statue, constellation, rock formation, or something similar.

The taint of Dream, in contrast, is the recombination of concepts. Those who align with Dream become fantastic hybrids or otherwise mix and match qualities, but risk continuing to mutate every time they rely on their abilities. And the taint of either side risks tainting other people, places and things.

Legend and Dream are not exact opposites, but don't tell this to the priests of either. Things can be equally tainted by both. A man's hands may turn into the hardest of diamonds, a winged ox may be the fastest of mounts.

Legend and Dream are at war, and they are tearing apart the world. there are huge areas of the land that have been "randomized" by Dream or frozen and stripped by Legend, or both. There are seas of purple fire, perpetual storms that rain black tar.

The priests of Legend can mark a person with a Destiny, and those of Dream can utter Prophecy. Destinies and Prophesies are not predictions of the future, but more like a cross between bribe and a curse: if the victim takes actions to fulfill the Destiny/Prophecy, they get a bonus until it is finally fulfilled; however, if they are in a situation where the Destiny or Prophecy can be fulfilled (even to their detriment,) there is a risk that events will conspire to fulfill the priest's uttering. Aside from the effects of taint, this is the only priestly power, and it is used as both carrot and stick to terrify the populace.

Humans tainted by Legend and Dream form the races of Malignment. The Pelts are people in a Legend-tainted jungle so that everything grows faster than normal, including human hair. The Pelts are extremely concerned about being perceived as "beast-men" and have a highly-sophisticated culture that overcompensates, with all sorts of etiquette encouraging the avoidance of "animal" behavior. The Jewelled in contrast are hairless humans with skin that takes on the color and vein patterns of the jewelled rocks of their environment.

My overall goal for Malignment is a very Bronze Age-ish world that feels something like Moorcock's Elric or Corum stories. I'm hoping to come up with more soon, once I finish a couple of my current projects.