Greetings and salutations!
Let's talk about genre crossovers. Not the barely-there sorta kinda stuff, but where it is built into the very bones of the game.
First, you take a fuly-formed concept of say a fantasy world with all the trimmings. Orcs, Trolls, Elves, and what-have-you.
Second, you pick another fully-formed genre of say Science-fiction (of the hard kind). Aliens, spaceships, stars, and what-have-you.
Third, you SMOOSH THEM TOGETHER FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN BECAUSE YOU CAN.
This can, of course, lead to a pretty hit-or-miss approach and your mileage may vary.
After all, each of these settings is fully-formed and completely standalone. Does doubling the level of complexity just interfere with the storytelling? This is an excellent point.
As a counterpoint, I offer that any short-term issues of overcomplexity are more than compensated for with the sheer sense of wonder that comes with the murder of a conventional genre. All but the newest players have a pretty good idea of what to expect from a "traditional" fantasy RPG game. There will be dungeons, there will be dragons, there will be orcs, etc. etc. etc.
When they reach the basement of an evil wizard's laboratory - only to find a metallic hatch leading into a steel womb filled with blinking lights and walls that talk...prepare to see that childlike wonder I spoke of earlier pop up. Suddenly the rules have changed. This pony-ride is actually the first phase of a roller-coaster you never saw coming!
Now turn that on its head.
A group of space rangers have painstakingly tracked a notorious thief from his brazen robbery of the Galactic Federal Reserve bank. Weeks of interrogating terrified minions. Months of tracing cut-out after cut-out. YEARS of trying to figure out exactly how he has been able to pull off heist after heist leaving little to no evidence behind...Only to corner the bastard and watch as he twiddles his fingers, says a few words that confound the universal translators, and vanishes utterly from your custody.
This Saturday, I am running the fourth episode in the current (first) season of my latest campaign. We are playing a Savage Worlds campaign hosted by Square One Clubs (if you are in the CA bay area/Sacramento area come on by and spectate!).
I was asked to come up with something "completely different" as a campaign concept...I think i succeeded.
IN LEVIATHAN'S SHADOW has been a smashing success so far.
Picture this - if you will.
The field was set. The battle lines were drawn. The war was finally here.
Two great hosts arrayed across the golden plains of Galenia.
The two lines of troops spread out into the distance, an hour's ride on a good horse to move from one end to the other.
One on side, a golden host of righteous men and women. drawn from their freeholds and villages all over the kingdom of Arnheim. At their heart sat a giant of a man seated upon a gryphon as larger than two wagons side-by-side. He fairly glowed with power and presence as he sat in his golden plated mail. A shield as large as a man sat on his harness, while a golden hammer that crackled with arcs of lightning was clutched in his massive hands. He gazed out at his army through the visor of his winged helm and marvelled at all that had happened to bring him here. Hundreds of brightly colored pennants flapping in the light breeze all carried the golden hawk in addition to their other multitude of symbols and sigils. These bannermen were here to support their king. They would fight and die here to save their friends and families from the enemy that had forced them here. Here and there among the host were bands of unicorns, elven archers, even Dragons. All had chosen to heed the call. All had been waiting for this day to come. Even the glowing avatars of the Mother and the Warrior were there, inspiring by their mere presence. It was a glorious sight to behold.
On the other side; a chill wind swirled about, spreading the faint smell of death across the field. Rank upon endless rank of the dead stood in perfect and silent stillness. In their midst - and atop an elegant palanquin of bone and silver sat a gaunt man in finely made black robes with elaborate silver-threaded runes stitched minutely across every inch of its surface. Glowing red eyes looked out upon his army from deep within the hooded cowl of his robe. In one withered hand he held a staff made of fused bones - melted like a glassblower had had a go at them. Whatever they were, they were most definitely NOT human, and the things he could do with that staff was the stuff of flesh-warped nightmares. Among his host were undead giants, Orcs, Demons, and even a trio of Avatars representing the Killer, the Trickster, and the Devourer. Their auras bolstering the strength of the unholy hordes they stood among. There were no banners here, just slaves and slayers eager to do their lord's bidding. It was a terrifying sight to see.
At some unseen signal, the Golden King and the Lord of Shadows rode out into the no man's land between them. The brothers had been destined to meet this day. It had been long prophesized that their final meeting would be at the head of a vast army that would end in blood and fire. They both knew this.
What they didn't know is who would depart from this place the victor.
For the first time in decades, the two brothers looked upon each other. One with revulsion and the other with amusement. There would be no parley. there would be no last-minute agreement. One had to fall for this cycle to end. Still...there was much left unsaid that had to be spoken. they both knew this, and would indulge the other for the last time.
As they dismounted, the sky began to darken. Fearing betrayal - the Golden King glared at his brother....but saw only confusion on his face. they both looked up to the sky as the clouds parted above them. A great mountain of fire as large as the sky itself was falling upon them. It was coming so fast that they both knew there was no escaping it. They died there that day. So did their armies. As did the score of towns and villages nearby, swollen with camp followers and late-comers.
Years later, the smallfolk still remember the tale and speak of a prophecy fulfilled in the most impossible way.
When at last the smoke and fires did end, curious folks slowly sought out the battlefield seeking treasures or a loved one's fate. What they saw was a great rent in the earth at least three leagues in length. It was torn deep within the earth, so deep a small lake had begun to fill from the fall rains.
Bits of golden metal from specks to the size of houses lay littered across the field. There were bodies too - blasted apart and burned they were but they wren't the most amazing thing there. For at the end of this new canyon dug into the fertile plains of Galenia was a mountain of smoking metal. a tangled castle of broken bits and secrets. Sitting nearly a king's mile from ground to top and at least twice that wide, it was at once magnificent and terrifying with a sense of not being of this earth.
And on it's flank, in curious writing taller than ten men was one word...LEVIATHAN.
...and that is where our group fo miscreants begins - well actually they begin 20 years later. a boom town has sprung up - in its shadow (get it, lol). All manner of technological marvels have been discovered in its rent open bowels. A guild of sanctioned explorers even operates with near-impunity here as a de facto government. It is into this maelstrom that we begin this tale.
The actors in this play?
A one-armed ratling pit-fighter (asshole archetype)
A damaged android surveyor (know-it-all archetype)
A Dwarven killer-for-hire (dark man with dark past archetype)
A Brain slug zombie-driver (your guess is as good as mine)
2 Catfolk with chips on their shoulders (seriously, this is getting crazy)
...and a Komodo Dragon Lizardfolk big-game hunter (Shark officially jumped, right!?)
If anyone is interested, SquareOne Clubs is going to be posting recorded audio and later animations of game events. I will post links as they become available.
And that folks, is how you smoosh genres.
Oh, obligatory: BUY MY STUFF, that tropical island isn't gonna buy itself!
also, reviewers wanted! apply @ Rashamon@bytemegamez.com
Thank you and seeya next time!