It’s a chaotic time for me at the moment, and it’s going to be at least a week before I can get a new Eberron Q&A together. I’m still dealing with all the complications involved in moving from Austin, Texas to Portland, Oregon (let me simply say that my life is a world of boxes right now), and in the middle of that I took a trip to San Diego Comic Con, which was fantastic. Meanwhile, I’ve got lots of work projects in the air – Eye on Eberron; an expansion to Cthulhu Gloom; my still secret RPG/Fiction project; and more. So: Crazy town banana pants. Not having time to do an Eberron Q&A is where I run the risk of sliding and not posting anything at all, and I wanted to make sure I broke that pattern.
So first of all, here’s some things I think you should check out.
This is a video explaining Cthulhu Fluxx, starring myself and Fluxx creator Andy Looney. Cthulhu Fluxx comes out in August, and if you want to see why I think it’s awesome, check out the video!
This is the website of The Doubleclicks, an awesome Portland-based nerd-folk band. I met them at SDCC and saw them perform at a recent Amanda Palmer concert, and they are awesome. Go and stream some music now. Better yet, buy it. Buy it all!
This is the website of Alameda, an awesome Portland-based folk-folk band. They were also playing at the Amanda Palmer concert, but I’ve known them for a while now and love their music (which has, incidentally, been featured on the famously folk-driven TV show Chuck). Likewise: Check them out! Stream some music! Buy it if you like it!
I’m backing a number of Kickstarters right now. Here’s a few you might be interested in. Sticking with the musical theme, Marian Call is doing an Adventure Quest Kickstarter to fund her live European tour album. As with the others, check out her website! Stream some music! Fund her Kickstarter (only one day left!)! I’m also looking forward to A Guide To The Village By The Sea. Check it out!
I want to end this with another open question for discussion. In working on Eberron, it’s always been important to me to learn what you – the people actually using it – enjoy, and as I work on new fantasy projects I’m interested in raising that discussion to a broader level. I appreciate all of the ideas and feedback that people provided on the previous question on religion. So now, let’s talk about races.
When approaching a new fantasy world – whether in fiction or for games – there are roughly three broad approaches you can take to races. Someone once laid it out as Martin, Mieville, and Tolkien, and I’m going to run with those terms (though one could pull up any number of other authors equally deserving of such attribution).
Martin‘s world is based on humans (with a few odd things in the shadows). Culture and family are the defining factors. A Dothraki is very different from a noble of Highgarden, but both are human. The bearded warrior who loves to drink is Robert Baratheon, not a dwarf. This creates a more realistic fantasy – the basic elements are here in our world, just shaped by different history and geography.
Mieville uses nonhuman races, but they are NEW races. Part of the process of discovering the world is learning the role these beings play. This allows for a break from traditional fantasy tropes, but it also means that the reader/player doesn’t have those traditional touchstones to work with.
Tolkien drew on races from earthly folklore and gave them a spin that has since been inherited by D&D and many other games. Haughty, magically inclined elves don’t get along with the generally Scottish ale-drinking dwarves. Orcs are warlike brutes. Dark elves are elegant but evil. And so on. This isn’t simply about Tolkien, mind you, but Warhammer, Warcraft, D&D and all the games that have continued to use the basic ideas as foundations moving forward.
So first there’s the simple question: You’re picking up a new fantasy product, be it a RPG, MMORPG, or book. Which of these approaches appeals to you, and why? Do you want to be able to play a dwarf fighter? Would you prefer different cultures of humanity? Or would you like to play a creature of living stone or incarnate rage?
As a follow-up question – secret option D – when looking to the Tolkien approach, do you prefer the races to hold to their traditional roles or do you enjoy seeing them twisted? Dragon Age and Eberron both use the classic races but do unusual things with them… like the vicious Machiavellian culture of the Zil gnomes, the warrior culuture of the Valenar elves, or the Gatekeeper Orcs saving Eberron. Would you rather see entirely new approaches to familiar races… or simply take that next step and make entirely new races from scratch?
Thanks in advance for your opinions!
The first is what I’ll call the Tolkein model: using those races that have become staples of fantasy over the decades, cemented further by their roles in D&D. Elves, Dwarves,