Monday, October 24, 2016

Commentary On Signature Characters, Campaign Setting Buy In & The Power of The Players!

A new piece of  Sword & Sorcery artwork has been released by Jeff Talanian & it has me thinking about campaign world building. Along with the artwork are the signature characters of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Those intrepid souls who grace the OSR covers & setting bookings of countless rpg's.  Signature characters help to create the mood,  cement the brand for an rpg product, & to hopefully want to make the consumer want to create adventures in the game's world. They're as old as the Basic/ Expert D&D Rogues Gallery & even commercial advertising mascots. For Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea this is a homage move & throwback to the Rogues Gallery and sword & sorcery comic books of yore.

"New art has rolled in for the Second Edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Kickstarter live now: This piece, originally pencilled and inked by Val Semeiks (Conan the Barbarian, Lobo, Wolverine), has now been colored by Daisey Bingham. This picture will serve as a frontispiece for Volume III: Adventure & Combat. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!"

We're even given a glimpse into who these adventurers are in the world of AS&SH.
" Those are part of our cast of iconic characters that will be part of the ROGUES GALLERY in the appendix of the book. There you have a Kimmerian barbarian, a Keltic fighter, and a Hyperborean warlock. Their stats will be presented for 1st, 5th, and 9th levels."
I understand that this is a very old form of advertising & what I'm about to say has absolutely nothing to do with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2nd edition's writer/designer's choices in artwork & the use of signature characters. These adventurers have been appearing since the Forgotten Fane of the Coiled Goddess adventure.  They're a great concept & marketing move on the part of North Wind Adventures.

As an old school dungeon master I could careless who the signature character is any old school or new school gaming system. Because my focus & lens when it comes to an rpg system campaign's signature characters are on my player's PC's. Why is this a problem because its another way that a dungeon master can become ham strung by a game designer's writing & campaign world buy in.  I understand the high world campaign history & background but many times my players don't want to encounter or play around what are essentially for them silver plated NPC's. This is one of the reasons why I love James Raggi's Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the world is essentially our real world history with a weird fictional twist where signature characters die by the score!

True story I had a friend of mine Bob who loves West End Games Star Wars system, however he had players who were incredibly familiar with Nineties Star Wars trivia, minutia, & setting material. I mean these guys & gals could name off star systems, characters by the score, signature characters of Star Wars, and more. What did Bob who wasn't at the time as proficient in Star Wars minutia do? He flung the whole lot of players into a hyperspace corridor and created his own world, systems, NPC characters, alien races etc. His players are still talking about his campaign to this day as one of the most memorable & enjoyable games they've had.

Way back in the early Two Thousands I was running White Wolf's  Exalted system which is rife with a cast of thousands of signature characters, signature places, signature NPC's, and more. One of my players kept bringing each and every new book or gaming comic to the table wanting to have his PC have many of the same powers and abilities as signature characters. This used to piss not me as the DM off but the players who became bounty hunters of a pretty good level who then proceeded to hunt down each & every NPC they could from the worlds of Exalted. It was actually a very good game campaign a blast of fun but man that system gives me headaches. The point is that the players felt very hemmed in by the world and so took it upon themselves to open it up. I don't think that this is going to be a problem for AS&SH second edition.

AS&SH art by Val Semeiks don't forget to to support the AS&SH 2nd edition kickstarter.

One of the reasons why I returned to original Dungeons & Dragons & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as well as the OSR retroclones is the lack of companion worlds or settings. Let me bring this back to Astonshing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. My take on AS&SH Hyperborea is going to be very different from any other dungeon master's because the fact is that I've got a totally different take on Hyperborea. But that's alright because the most important signature characters are already at the table, that's the player's characters. They're the stars of the adventure that your already running! My point here is that the DYI attitude that comes with the creation of adventure and campaign worlds is inherit in the joy of gaming, when every single hex, temple, ruin, dungeon is filled in then the players & the DM are going to take it upon themselves to create the world setting that they want. I've seen this happen in war games, old school table top, and other systems of gaming.

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