Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Weird Adventures, The Forgotten Realms and Historical Earth

So when I went to GenCon I had the opportunity to meet Trey over at the Sorcerer's Skull and pick up a copy of Weird of Adventures which I am still devouring and enjoying immensely.  Its a setting book (not a system),  it features the pulp and noir era, and is an incredibly charming style that makes it a great physical artifact so I am 3/3 on the book itself.  But I did notice something that has gotten me on a tangent.

In Weird Adventures things are named similar to their earth equivalents,  but oh so slightly off.  Enough that it is 100% clear what is being referenced such as "The Union", "Borea" and "Yianese".  This is similar to things like Maztica or similar such names in the Forgotten Realms, Fricana in the Quest for Glory games, Bretonnia, Norsca, Tilea and damn near everything in Warhammer, and quite honestly how I have almost always named things in my own games.

Lately I have been thinking on this topic.  In my own games I did this to get across that it was visually and thematically similar to the person, place or thing in question but still different from history.  How different could vary by how much I wanted it to be.  Warhammer was one of my earliest and strongest influences for setting,  Quest for Glory up there strongly too I'd wager, and in the 90's you couldn't escape Forgotten Realms products if you walked into a comic book store,  so this is to be expected.

Since being on G+ however I have noticed it seems easier almost to just use real earth history,  until you want to be VERY clear that something is different.  When I just say something is "Norway" or "Ireland" instead of "Nordland" or "The Keltic Coast" or some other thing people seem to clamp down on the region easier.  Then when I put in something that while visually or superficially similar is very different (Say the Church of Spartacus as opposed to Catholicism, because  I like the imagery but I want some bloodthirsty, pro-dungeoncrawling faith tenants) it stands out more.

So I waffle back and forth on this one.  The idea is clarity and a link to a historical analogue, but also clearly saying "don't assume its the same below the surface".   I am really not sure which approach is better.

1 comment:

  1. This is an idea I've put some thought into (obviously). I think there are different levels of "stand-ins." There's the "names changed to protect the innocent" version, like Golden Age comics or some parody stuff, where the place is really the real world thing just with a different name. Then there's the "cognate shorthand" wherein the thing is far from identical, but a referencing name makes something about it clear by linking it to the RW. For instance, the Union in WA has a different political structure, history, and composition than the USA, but it occupies a similar ideaspace. I sort of view the WA worldbuilding as similar to Howard's in building the Hyborian Age.