Apparently, I can’t help but do some world building.
Looking through the Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion, there is a lot to like: many weapons, interesting races, and a bundle of professional edges that emulate classes. All well and good.
What it doesn’t have is much in the way of setting – which is to be expected, this being a generic game, but it means I need to come up with something for a context within which my boys are going to play*.
Just Enough For This Story
I don’t need a deep story here yet. It’s not like A New Dawn where there is a plot to uncover: the game here is of ordinary adventurers in an extraordinary world. I just need some context for things like magic systems to function. To that end, apart from some broad concepts, I’m not going to define much about the world.
Most fantasy games have at least two basic divisions of magic: the magic of humans, be it wizardry or sorcery or some other mechanism, and the magic of the gods, that divine energy called upon by clerics and other devout.
I don’t especially care for gods in my stories, though. Their use is essentially unsatisfying to me, moving the interesting parts of the story into an unopenable box: literally “deus ex machina”, the god outside of the machine.
So what basis shall I give for clerical magic? It still needs to be there, but who should the clerics appeal to for their powers?**
I’m going to use the classical elements of fire, water, earth and air. If I have those four in both positive and negative aspects then I have a pantheon of eight right there.
And look – no Cthulhu Mythos influence at all.
A Simple Start
But where are the players playing?
I can always come up with a new world, but I think I will reuse some ideas from both my work and others. I am thinking of an Atlantis-like place in the late prehistory of our own world, during the last glaciation.
- most of the planet’s water is frozen in the ice caps, so sea levels are low.
- the culture of the central land, a chain of volcanic islands in the middle of what will become the Atlantic, is an amalgam of various ancient cultures: a bit of Egyptian, a bit of Mesopotamian, a bit of Greek and Phoenician Mayan and Aztec. And so on. Different islands have different cultures, perhaps?
- Hyperborea to the north is the freezing centre, the great enemy, of the world, seeking to freeze the world entirely.
The influences here are many: Pratchett’s Nation is critical, as is Michael Scott Rohan’s series The Winter of the World***. In both of these there are prehistoric civilisations which thrive during the last glaciation. Tales of Atlantis often speak of a land from which the founders of so many of the great civilisations fled, carrying the seeds of Atlantean knowledge with them. I also have a story [link to The Manx Connection?] which uses an Atlantean back story.
Anyway, it’s pretty derivative but that’s largely unavoidable. It’s also enough to be going on with. Time to be making a dungeon.
[*] not, I will concede, for their benefit so much as mine. Having some setting makes for an easier time coming up with stories.
[**] do these elemental gods really exist? Or are the clerical characters drawing on elemental energies using their faith as a lever to crack open the world? I don’t know, but it will be fun to find out.
[***] there’s also an interesting magic system here based around smithing which I did a bit of work codifying for a fantasy game many years ago. Might need to pull those notes out.