So what is the skinny on the default setting? What is the plan for fleshing it out, or will it be kept intentionally vague?
The Auran Empire is already fleshed out to a remarkable degree - it’s fascinating for me to see how much detail, history, etc. Alex can provide and still leave room for the flexibility and player agency that make for a successful sandbox (and over 100 sessions of play vouch that it is indeed successful).
We like the Gazetteer model, so future releases will follow that format and make these details of the Auran Empire available. We also like the implicit setting in things like AD&D, where you can do anything with it but things like the Apparatus of Kwalish tell you something about what the rules are meant to evoke, so that’s the model we followed for the core Adventurer Conqueror King system.
As an example of how much room for individual referees is left to flesh out the bones of the Auran Empire, I expect I’ll publish my White Sandbox setting as one of our supplements, with the detailed parts of the other Gazeteers being our ‘civilized lands to the south’ and all the things we’ve evolved in play fitting into the blank areas on its borderlands. This one will partake of the Blackmoor supplement model too, providing variant rules that were part of the campaign behind this part of the world. (Hopefully things like my hit dice and magic armor saving throw rules will be more referee-friendly than Blackmoor’s disease and unarmed combat systems!)
Awesome- I do like seeing references in the class description to specific cultural things to bring them alive.
Also, I will kick in money today if it means we can get Zak Smith to do the illustration for Squidsville in the City of Shifters for the whitebox gazetteer.
Sound good, I like settings that have been played through enough that they feel ‘lived in’.
a couple of questions sprung to mind:
- in the blogpost, Alex mentions thst ‘slaves toil in misery’ - have any of the characters in your campaigns engaged in the slave trade as buyers/sellers/slaves? I ask this as the system I’ve been playing (Heroes, the Dark Ages rpg) has common prices and consequences (e.g. being made a eunuch!) so it’s become a source of peril and profit.
- How large is the Auran Empire setting document, and will it be very wordy or use charts and tables to convey the setting, will there be snippets of prose or just kept quite terse?
In the White Sandbox campaign, we have seen some purchasing of slaves, and Arneson’s First Fantasy Campaign has prices - do the Ready Ref Sheets have being enslaved as an outcome of some of its tables?
it has been a long time since I read of a setting so in tune with my own ideas
Tavis, it’s interesting that slavery is a matter of course in the White Sandbox campaign. In the Glantri game (the other big NY Red Box campaign) it came up once during my time as a player, and very nearly led to player character-vs.-player character combat. I’m actually surprised it was allowed in-game at all, considering NYRB’s “coolness policy”.
Anyway, I digress. Overall I’m very happy with the assumptions the Auran Empire setting (and by extension, ACKS in general) runs with. They’re very, very close to my preferred style of D&D fantasy, which is something I’ve never seen happen before. It was the blog post on the setting that finally drove me to back the ACKS project financially.
I am curious as to the type of format you would like to see for the Auran Empire.
Which of the following is most important to you?
- Maps of the overall world
- Gazeteer maps of playable adventure areas
- Timelines and historical information about the world
- Cultural information about the world
- Encounter charts and sample encounters
- Unique monsters and NPCs
- Unique spells and magic items
How do you prefer your world information conveyed:
- Implicit, via charts and tables (Judges Guild style)
- Implicit, via excerpts of in-world books and writings (FASA style)
- Explicit, via written background lore (D&D Gazetteer style)
- A mix of the above
I’m really comfortable with the old Gaz approach (Karameikos, Glantri, etc). I have a lot of drive time with those books.
The JG approach plays pretty well at the table - particularly for improvisational play styles.
Maybe best of both worlds? Gaz approach but reserve some space for an abbreviated hex listing and tables?
That’s my preferred format as well, Beedo, but I have been worried that it’s a minority preference within OSR gamers, who seem to prefer the stripped-down approach.
Being an ancient history scholar in my college days, I like to have detailed setting material presented and not just, e.g., a chart of noble titles.
I favour the Gaz approach but with some JG style charts and tables.
I think there is a happy medium, with just enough Gazeteer style info that someone feels like they have a handle on an area, and then some JG style tables tuned so you can quickly generate a village or encounter for that area. The tables will give a nice swingy randomness to the locations, but as the DM your job is to take those random results and fit them into narrative that makes sense in the larger context, and that is where the Gazetter lore will really help.
If it was just charts and tables I wouldn’t feel for the setting, I like having an author’s voice. After 100+ game sessions I want that experience with the setting to bleed through, giving the world grain and texture. Then as gamers, we can take it from there.
Hi - new here. But this project looks great. I’ll put my vote in for lots of maps, key areas detailed and then tables / broad descriptions. I’ve never owned a JG product, but would be interested in seeing that tabular approach.
In terms of the old gazeteers, a detailed home base is I think a boon for a GM (a bit like Kirkuk form Gaz 2?) - but so is plenty of open space (old Expert map of Karameikos with ‘giants’ ‘goblins’ marked on)
To my mind, both (1) descriptive text and (2) charts and tables are necessary to make the Auran Empire stuff useful. Gazetteer style write ups are vastly more effective at conveying the feel and atmosphere of an area than random encounter tables are. But random encounter tables help drive effective gameplay at the table, allowing the GM to use the oracle of the dice to make the setting come alive. You can get the feel and atmosphere only from the tables, but there’s a process of extraction. The GM has to roll on the tables a bunch of times before they start getting a feel for it. If you include a mix of both, the GM can understand what’s going on from reading the text, and thus not be starting off from zero or from misapprehensions, but can then use the tables effectively in play to fill in actual encounters and experiences. In many ways, this is just what people like jedo are saying, but I wanted to add my “me, too.”
All that said, I’m unlikely to ever run something in the Auran Empire, so what I’m looking for ultimately is more of a “how-to” guide with a fleshed-out example (“here’s a sample setting, how it was built, and why it works, complete with tables that you can cannibalize for your own setting or use directly in play”) as opposed to a setting to actually play in.
Just about all of those things listed are important, though I could get along just fine without a sprawling timeline.
Hi everyone. I like immersive campaign worlds, so I’m looking forward to the Auran Empire. Some of my thoughts on this thread have been discussed briefly, but I’ll put my two cents in nonetheless.
Certainly maps, and effective charts and tables are a must in order to provide meaningful balancing tools for the the GM, and can be great reference points for the setting. But to reiterate, as an introduction, what jedo and sean mentioned, the meat of any good context must be present in the narrative so that the reference materials visibly belong to a specific world setting. In other words, they need to be there to make the game work, but cannot (unless you have one hell of a GM) by themselves make the game memorable and fun.
From my perspective the success of any campaign setting lies in a wealth of information gathered through stories–not just lists of information about culture, history, and landscape, but a beefy fiction in which such contexts are implicit. For example, monsters and NPCs (both present and legendary) unique to the Auran Empire would have a present awareness in the minds of the people any PCs would encounter, and for that matter the PCs themselves. When PCs “ask around town,” the presentation of the setting materials can make the difference between “you learn that x=y,” and “Long ago, my great grandfather showed me…” More than just the stand-alone FASA-style writings (which are effective, if sometimes cumbersome), and the Gazetteer Lore that we all know and love, immersion through play in a world setting happens best when the PC already has a cultural stake in the world (whether positive or negative or both) and can tangibly feel the group boundaries that give each NPC and region memorable life. Finally, Auran Empire template backgrounds for PCs might make another fun addition, on which players could embellish.
I would like to see the Auran Empire lean toward a diversity of unique creatures and NPCs with descriptions that position them within a historic timeline and in specific regions of the empire. Stories/songs/lore to accompany monsters could be of particular interest. Landmarks and elements of landscape likewise should not be ignored in the narrative (the difference between simply calling a place “Devil’s Reach” and meeting a NPC who is scared to give you directions, lest ye be possessed). Having all these elements at the fingertips is wonderful both for the GM and the PCs. I can’t remember where I’ve seen it done before, but “player packs” and “GM packs” distributed for the same world setting (more than just the tacit descriptions in character race/classes) might be an interesting way to mix the above listed approaches.
I’d really like to see both, but a heavy amount of background material or narratives isn’t really that useful. Given the options you laid out, here’s what I’d like to see:
- maps with a couple page descriptions of political goings on and cultural features of each kingdoms. I need a list of titles like Exarch, but alittle more. Is the Auran Empire currently a republic with feuding ancient families of senators? Why is it in decline? These sorts of ‘facts’ help make a setting come alive, and ground the PCs somewhere. But this shouldn’t be too long, and I don’t need lots of past events. This provides the background setting and helps me come up with how the PCs will interact with guards, laws, and notables.
- Encounter Tables like judges guild. This makes an area come alive: in one area the PCs have to deal with slavers, bandits, mercenary “Nobles” oppressing the people; in another, elves, giants, and monsters; in a third, Sinbad-creatures, undead and evil sorcerers. Its also immediately useable at my table, and does the ‘work’ for me so I can let the PCs go anywhere without restricting them. Having tables for different parts of certain regions is a huge plus too: one table for major Auran cities, another for Auran rural areas, for instance.
- Cultural information, either tabular or chart style. Things like laws, codes of hospitality, common sayings really helps things come alive. Look at Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, all the sayings about the Houses or common songs from some regions (The Dornishman’s Wife, etc) are awesome additions. Also look at things like Games Workshop stories or setting elements for their Old World or the Imperium, they really make those worlds come alive. Throw this in with the region descriptions. Having some different, cultural equipment or spells could be in this section. This would also include limited “cut scene” stories/fiction, but this is less useful as a game element than the aforementioned. (A cool calendar with an tracking chart/calendar I can use at the game table would be an awesome plus as well).
- A few adventurering areas with maps. Include a borderland or two or three so I can pick from a few possible “immediately go” starting campaign regions. Can be a map with 10 or so pages of descriptions of goings on, dungeon hooks, etc. I’d also like maps of the major unique places with this sort of information: Aura, maybe a Kemeshi city, an Jutland capital, so PCs could go to the Paris, Cairo and Rome of the setting and I don’t have to make it up whole cloth from the region descriptions alone. Having good 24-mile maps of the whole setting would blow my socks off, but at least put in a few “zoomed in” important areas.
Other stuff like detailed dungeons, major artifacts, PC prestige classes don’t help me. That’s easy to create. 25 random encounter tables filled with the proper (monstrous) demographic breakdowns is alot of work and benefits me immediately in game. The same with tidbits like the Canons of the Ammonar church or the Empire’s current troubles with the Sunset Kingdoms, since those will be things I can show to my players to make them experience a ‘living world.’ Thick discussion of the historical events of 200 years ago does not help me in any way.
I’m really excited about this setting, since it’s the first homemade world I’ve been excited about since TSR’s Birthright or MERP’s Middle Earth. I would actually want to ‘experience’ this world alongside my players, so please make it usable for a game, not a future novel series. I have a feeling y’all will given what you’ve written about the setting so far, but I just wanted to emphasis the point.
Sorry about the necro, but I just wanted to give my 2cps on this…
My preference for setting description is:
- Low level details. Ie. a typical street scene: what and who’s there, and what would rise eyebrows and what would pass without comment.
- No prose. Nanofictions are good, though, but anything that would not fit into a tweet is too much unless the writer is /really/ good, and even then I find them to be of limited utility. (If there’s one bit in ACKS that leaves me really cold and almost made me stop reading it, it’s the game fiction inserted into the foreword…)
- Terseness. I much prefer reading an intriguing reference to “Valamar the Sorcerer, previous king of Barre” than a wall of text about him. Don’t be afraid of bullet points: the goal is to make folks like me able to use the stuff with minimum effort, and sometimes bullet points are ideal.
- An area guarenteed not to get any future supplements, so I know that whatever I put there will never conflict with future releases.