Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Weird Fantasy

I'm a weird-o (if that's the correct spelling). I've come to this conclusion as "geek culture" has become more prominent, and I came to realize that while my interests have some overlap with geek culture, I'm definitely not part of that culture. Of course, definitions vary, so we won't linger on that. The point is - I like weird stuff, including weird fiction and weird fantasy. I'm more of a Clark Ashton Smith guy than a J.R.R. Tolkien guy.

This brings me to my next mini-project. Bloody Basic - Weird Fantasy Edition.

I know, I said I'd probably do a different edition next, but then I was perusing some Aubrey Beardsley art, and that led to Harry Clarke art and then Clark Ashton Smith and the next thing you know I was spit-balling ideas and writing up an outline.

Here's my intro to the edition:

Weird fantasy is a cornerstone of fantasy role-playing games, influencing the earliest games and lending them their unique flavor. Born from the Romantic Movement and symbolism, weird fantasy was a reaction to the modern world in which the authors lived. Weird fantasy was lush and decadent and yearned for meaning and release. It consisted of simple stories set in ornate worlds, and reveled in obscure, flowery and archaic text. The weird fantasy author and his characters were like tourists drinking in exotic places that existed only in their dreams. It has in its genes both pseudo-historical romances, Orientalism and fairy tales. Not fairy tales fit for children, but fairy tales that were not stripped of their violence or their erotic overtones.

Weird fantasy is steeped in meaning and bereft of it. It is quiet and noisome and ridiculous and sublime … and makes an excellent place for players to explore and indulge their sense of wonder. Weird fantasy characters are decadent and seek escape from the tedium and constrictions of the industrial age. They are errant knights, burglars, wise women, mystery priests and magicians, entering a world of fantasy through their dreams. They are bent on one last grand adventure, one chance to crack open the bones of drudgery and suck out the marrow of life, one final opportunity to live deeply and truly and transform the mundane into the beautiful … are you?

Does this sound right to you? It's one of those situations where I know what mean, but I don't know if I'm conveying what I mean.

Races for the edition, at the moment, are humans, elves (with a little soulless fairy twist), grotesques (ugly little buggers) and satyrs. Classes are the hierophant (unarmored clerics that accept taboos to gain access to the spell lists of divine mystery cults), the magic-user, the vagabond (basically the thief with a different name, not unlike the knave of the Mother Goose Edition) and the puissant (a warrior that uses combat feats the way magic-user's use spells). Sub-classes are the rake (puissant), and the demimonde, odalisque and traveler (vagabond sub-classes).

I'm still working on monsters - trying to get the basics in (after all, we're still dealing with good, old-fashioned dungeoneering), with some CAS-inspired stuff added in. I don't want to go the Lovecraft route because I think that it is a little overexposed at the moment, and it tends to dominate. Alignment is replaced by passions, which are dangerous to indulge (one loses wisdom or constitution, as over-indulgence leads characters to madness or physical degredation) but are worth bonus XP when they are indulged. I might switch out the bonus XP for special abilities, though - something more palpable and flavorful that just raw numbers.

I might mess with spell names, treasure and the weapons and armor to use more archaic, ornate language, a la Clark Ashton Smith. I say I might, because I'm not sure if that's just adding complexity without adding enough flavor to make it worth while.

So, what else? And what public domain art would make for a good cover image? I'd love to hear some ideas from the peanut gallery - make sure this edition is all it could be. Let me know in the comments or on G+, if you would be so kind. Thanks!


  1. Looks like an amusing and entertaining project. Good luck!

  2. Looks cool! As for monsters, perhaps random tables to generate "weird" beings. If I'm not mistaken, creatures in Weird Fiction were known for being unique entities...

    1. I dig this idea. Should be easy with Bloody Basic, since the monsters are broken out, for the most part, by type and size, and you would just need to generate attacks, armor class and special abilities.

  3. Sounds good.
    The only thing I'm a little bit irritated about are the PC races, because normaly I would prefer only humans in weird fantasy settings. I think, the weirdness works best, if you are a human in a strange world, Alice in Wonderland, for example. Other races are comming from the weird and I think this could "soften" the strangness and weirdness.

    If you have a look to Monte Cook's Numenera. You can play humans AND other races, but I think it would be better playing only humans in a new, strange world, where everything is weird and abnormal. I will start a Numenera group in summer and I will make them human only.

    Just my 2 cents.

  4. Hello. I recently bought Bloody Basic. I haven't played it yet but I have read it through and it's exactly what I was looking for - a very simple version of the D&D rules. Thankyou :-)

    Now, I have a question. If a character has a score of less than 3 or higher than than 18 in an ability score (due to racial ability score adjustments or magic) do they have the same bonuses/penalties and adjectival descriptions as a character with a score of 3-8 or 13-18? Did I miss something when reading the rules, or is this an oversight on your part, or is the referee supposed to house-rule this sort of thing?

    1. Actually, no need to answer. I thought about it and came to my own conclusion. I'll treat scores of 2 or 19 the same as 3 and 18, but for scores of 1 or 20 I'll apply a penalty/bonus of -4 or +4. That way, it's simple and easy to remember.

      BTW do you know the Blood and Treasure forum on your forums is locked?

    2. Thanks for the kind words! Bloody Basic was something of an homage to old school Basic D&D, so the idea was that ability scores cannot, at the beginning of the game, go lower than 3 or higher than 18, so a racial ability modifier cannot make a score go above 18 or below 3. However - the main thng is to play the game your way, and your solution should work perfectly well.

      As for the B&T forum - I had to lock it because it was, for lack of a better (or more educated term) infested with bots that posted lots of inappropriate ads, and those ads outnumbered legitimate posts by about 100 to 1 (seriously). I finally got tired of fighting them and just locked the forum.

  5. Oh, and I agree with Logan that there's no need for non-human PC races in a weird fantasy version of Bloody Basic. I mean, the whole idea of Bloody Basic is to be as simple and concise as possible, isn't it. Jettisoning non-human races means freeing up space/energy for other cool stuff.

  6. Since my first time commenting here, Id also like to say that you have a really awesome blog! I don't know how you have imagination to come up with all this stuff. You are definitely a "name level" game designer!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...