Long ago, Jeff Rients wrote about the genre of Dungeons & Dragons. He described it as, “You play Conan, I play Gandalf. We team up to fight Dracula.” I have thought a few times about how to do it somewhat directly. Last Saturday, while taking my BIL and oldest nephew to Nan’s Games, we listen to The Hobbit on audiobook. Long ago, I realized the Gandalf of that book was a better basis for that than the Gandalf of The Lord of the Rings. While listening, I got a much better feel of directly converting the map from The Hobbit into a map with the names changed. I also saw how to fit the more Conanese assumptions, such as building a barony as a high-level character, to match older editions of Dungeons & Dragons. Last night I revived some notes on doing so with Adventurer, Conqueror, King.
Another bit of Jeff Rients lore that stayed in my head was his “Alchemical Proposal.” My original realization about the better source from Gandalf came from using that framework with the quote. A Conan book and The Hobbit could provide his two obvious fantasy books, but what about Dracula. Knowing a bit of the history of the game and the cleric specifically, I jumped to The Hammer Horror Dracula films starring Christopher Lee as Dracula. The cleric was heavily inspired by Van Helsing, as played by Peter Cushing in those movies. I bought but did not watch Horror of Dracula, their first movie outing in those roles, last time I played with this project. I think I’ll watch it this weekend.
Another factor in this realization was C’s interest in drawing a map for our current online campaign. We looked for How to Draw Fantasy Art and RPG Maps by Jared Blando. We did not find it, but we did find his Fantasy Mapmaker. The former is about drawing the wilderness, while the latter is about drawing cities. It was thinking about getting my copy of the former out when I got home and drawing Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains that I realized how to use it for a game.
The interesting thing is, as Rients points out, this is a very circa 1980 or earlier way to build a campaign world. For me, it seems somewhat old hat. Despite that, it is very exciting. I think the issue is we haven’t had much material that is the 70s whatever is on your bookshelf goulash campaign settings in a long time. Either it’s something commercial designed to be a licensable franchise (or at least a multiple seller) or some DM spinning a very specific personal vision. I’m guilty of the latter, such as with my “Crusade Beyond the Door” 5e campaign pitch.
I’m enjoying writing up some notes on a copy of Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains, where Elrond is an innkeeper at the last inn on the old royal road before it enters the mountains, the orcs overran in your grandfather’s day. The necromancer is a vampiric sorcery, the king who traded his mortality to fight off the invasion.