Musing about Inspiration and Oe D&D

Greetings, it has been awhile – thanks to some personal drama shaking up my life I haven’t felt the urge to post or do anything creative. Though I’ll eventually post about my World of Xôðûn again on this blog, I wanted to post something in the mean time. Over the last several years I’ve spent a lot of time working on various campaign settings of which both Worlds of Xôðûn &  Skârn are the most recent (though  Skârn has the longest history of development actual in game use). Like a lot of creative people my interest in a projects lasts only as long as my passion for it burns.

This personal drama effected my passion in a major way – I still want to develop both  Skârn & Xôðûn, I just cannot do so at the moment. If I push myself to do so I’ll just burn out on the projects fully. So I am taking a break from both so I can reorder my creativity and get the passion for these settings rekindled.

To help in this I wanted to explore things that I brought up in my last post – inspiration. In a post at Ruins of Murkhill (found  here the 11th post by Ebon Hearted Soul – me) I discussed how Metal music made a huge impact initially on the World of Skârn. But like everything in this blog this post with need to tie it into Original Edition D&D.

As anyone with a decent grasp of D&D history Gary included Appendix N in his AD&D DM’s Guide, which lists Gary (and potentially Arneson’s) influences. Even in 5e there was a version of this list – though it might have been expanded upon (I no longer own 5e so i cannot check for sure). We can make an educated assumption that those influences impacted Oe D&D by default.

Let’s be honest I’ve read a mere fraction of the books listed in Appendix N, though some have become inspirations (such as H.P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, R.E. Howard & Michael Moorcock) – most of my inspirations are not found on that list. In my last post & the forum post I linked to above my inspirations draw mostly from art (be it fantasy or sci-fi art or comics) or Metal music.

I’ve had other influences on my creativity – such as from other Campaign Settings I’ve owned, like: Eberron, Iron Kingdoms & Talislanta; to video games, like: Fable, Dragon’s Dogma and Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Outside Metal music the initial inspiration for Skârn was both Skyrim & Talislanta, with a bit of Eberron tossed in. You take the more alien races/cultures from Talislanta and the whole ‘Orcs are not default evil’ trope, as seen in both Skyrim & Eberron – had made a huge impact on my design on Skârn.

I’ll not touch on the influences concerning World of Xôðûn as I covered that in detail in my last post; but I do want to touch on common tropes drawn from my inspirations and how they impact my designs. Where as both Worlds of Skârn & Xôðûn are currently on development hiatus, it doesn’t mean I am not being creative – the Multiverse of Akar is a vast & diverse campaign universe; so I am still cooking up potential worlds for my future players to explore.

I wanted to get away from developing whole worlds for awhile and focus on a small local region or regions, that might evolve into a larger world or be fused into either Skârn or Xôðûn at some later date. I have three seeds for campaigns that I hope that will eventually sprout & grow into something lasting.

In my development of campaign worlds I often start with something that inspires my creativity – from a song to a piece of art or a comic to video game I played or I seen screen shots of. What then follows is I usually pick a name from a listing in ‘Gary Gygax’s Extraordinary Book of Names’ by Malcom Bowers. The said name has to fit the evolving picture in my mind of the seed of an idea for the setting and evoke it when I read ans speak it – sort of an occult exercise.

I have three ideas that might grow into whole new settings of their own or may become part of either Skârn or Xôðûn – only time will tell. The first is ‘Ruins of Dorgand’ – a nod to the ‘Ruins of Murkhill’ forums; it is inspired by images from a computer adventure game called ‘Darkest Dungeon’. I’ve never played it but would like to do so eventually, but I love the art for it and the dark premise it puts forth. Here is some examples of the art that is inspiring this idea:

Darkest dungeon01 DarkestDungeon02

darkest dungeon 03

The art is clearly inspired by Mike Mignola (of Hellboy fame) and the Cthulhu Mythos by H.P. Lovecraft – two of my biggest inspirations, so yeah I’ll love Darkest Dungeon for sure. That said, I do not want the ‘Ruins of Dorgand’ be a mere generic fantasy clone of it. Luckily for me, I won’t be playing ‘Darkest Dungeon’ for a while – so I’ll be keeping it from being too large an influence.

One of the other seeds of an idea is based around the art team used on the Swedish RPG called Trudvang Chronicles by RiotMinds. Since I’ve flirted over the last decade or so with Heathenry, I’ve always been drawn to games or settings that draw from Nordic , Anglo-Saxon or Celtic mythology. The art of both Paul Bonner & Justin Sweet is epic. Another influence upon this germ of an setting Viking and Folk Metal (Amon Amarth, Primordial, Otyg among others); plus the Anglo-Saxon Dictionary I own. Here are some examples of art by Paul Bonner & Justin Sweet:

Justin Sweet Trudvang Art

Justin Sweet Trudvang art – I loved it so much I used part of it as my Blog Icon.

Paul Bonner Trudvang art

Paul Bonner Trudvang art – I so love his Trolls; they will be inspiration for mine.

This campaign seed is currently being called Wælfāgland – the blood-stained land. It will be a very primal based setting rooted in Anglo-Saxon language. The main campaign area is a Troll and Spirit haunted land where numerous battles have been fought; a place where local tribes settle disputes in an attempt to lay dominion over it, laying claim the lost Elfin relics and magic of the fallen Ælfgeard – the land of Elves (in this region at least).

Lastly, is the least likely to see the light of day but is an intriguing notion that I decided to play with anyway. Like the ‘Ruins of Dorgand’ I decided to use ‘Ruins of’ in honor of the ‘Ruins of Murkhill’ forums which I am a member & have grown to love – it is called ‘Ruins of Grimhold’. This setting is inspired by the art of Ralph Bakshi’s ‘Wizards’ care of Mike Ploog, the art of Vaughn Bodē, early Bill Willingham and Barry Blair’s art. This setting will be a bit more campy & gonzo because of these influences, yet not the same way the World of Xôðûn is gonzo – minus the campiness. Here is some art that is inspiring it:

Ralph Bakshi Wizard art Wizards Film art01

Mike Ploog’s art for the Wizards film.

bode08   Vaughn Bode - Centaur Poster  Vaughn Bode AmazonsVaughn Bodē art.

Jim Roslof D&D Bill wilingham

Bill Willingham D&D art.

Elflord Covers

Covers of Barry Blair’s Elflord comics that I loved growing up. 

As I said above I am not sure where this seed will go but I’ll have fun exploring the possibilities for it. That all said and to wrap up this long ass post, I did say I wanted to tie this all to Original Edition D&D. No matter the influences I draw from, be it music, art or comics, each of these mini-regional projects all have the same thing in common, the desire to use Oe D&D as they framework to build these campaigns upon.

The common Oe D&D tropes of Wilderness & Dungeon Exploration and quick and brutal combat that are hallmarks of the game will be the touchstones that these campaigns will develop from. One thing overlooked that should be reinstated is unlike a lot of OSR retro-clones who derive from Oe D&D who either omit the following or simply overlooked it –

” Other Character Types:

There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to
play as virtually anything, provided they begin relatively weak and work up to
the top, i.e., a player wishing to be a Dragon would have to begin as, let us say,
a “young” one and progress upwards in the usual manner, steps being predetermined
by the campaign referee.

From Dungeons & Dragons Book One: Men & Magic.

The above will inform all three of the campaign setting if they reach fruition and join with Worlds of Xôðûn &  Skârn as part of the Multiverse of Akar. Though players being Dragons, Giants or Demons would be a stretch in my worlds, the concept is still valid as their are numerous options that players will be able to choose from. The idea that Oe D&D lacked options is patently false, they just were not included in the core books; it was up to the Referee to come up with rulings for them if needed and if they fit the setting. If you can dream of it & sell it to your Referee you should be able to make it work.

Well I’ll end this post & publish it so that I can go do other things today – like watch my ill nephew. I’ll post more soon, fin.



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