Friday 6 April 2018

Project Idea - Into the Utter West

I've not made much of a secret of how my fond memories of the Narnia books influenced the design of Ynn. I actually don't much mind about the blatant christian allegory side of them, even; what with the parallel worlds thing, and all the rest it works perfectly well as a Christianity-inspired fantasy setting. The religious stuff actually really helps the tone of the books, I think.
My two favourites were Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair. It's no coincidence that these are both basically wilderness adventures that showcase the weird and wonderful peripheries of the setting.

Dawn Treader has been on my mind. I've been combining it mentally with the 'sailing into the west' motif from Tolkein. A voyage by boat that takes you over the horizon towards a more unworldly realm. A metaphor for sinking peacefully into death. That's not to say that there's no adventure and hi-jinks and danger, but the slightly melancholy feel of this idea knocking about in my head is a strength worth preserving.

So here's the setup: the most westerly shore of the known world borders onto an endless ocean. Few who sail out into the sunset return, none report more lands out there. None the less, rumors persist. The campaign follows a ship of explorers as they travel over the horizon to see what's there.
Structurally, the campaign has three broad arcs:
Firstly, setting up the ship, buying supplies, and setting sail over the mundane ocean. This establishes the 'normal' of the world and ties it strongly into the ship you'll be sailing in. A few weeks of travel over the grey ocean will probably be skipped over fairly quickly. The journey serves to give PCs a chance to settle into the ship's mechanics and to separate what's to come from the everyday world.
Stage two is the Wondrous Islands. If one travels far enough, one reaches a vast archipelago of islands. Each island contains some weirdness or whimsy, maybe a mini-dungeon or a resource to exploit or some such. Here, players can explore a nautical map, with random encounters at sea, islands here and there, and so on.
One of these islands is the Red Isle; here, the route into the utmost west is unlocked. The setting sun casts an orange-red reflection over the sea, forming a path to the horizon. Once the Red Isle is found, the players can choose to sail down the sunset road whenever they wish, but doing so is a one-way journey.
The final stage is sailing down the sunset road itself. Here, there are few islands to replenish supplies at. Instead, the ship, and the PCs will be torn at and tested to destruction by the road. At the far end are the gates to Paradise; those PCs who finally struggle to the end get to enter. Once they do, that's campaign end. THAT SAID: I want reaching Paradise to be a goal worth striving for, so I'll probably have those PCs that get there get a hefty bonus to their next PC in the next game you run.

Thoughts on this:
The sunset road is optional: you can dick about in the wondrous isles for a bit, and then go home again if you want.
OBVIOUSLY the wondrous isles are procedurally generated through random tables and stuff. It's me, I love tables, what else is gonna happen? The sunset road, however, is likely to be a fairly linear sequence of challenges of a fairly finite duration.
The ship itself is gonna be detailed, as are its crew. Mechanics for the ship in combat, its cargo, damage to it, etc etc. The ship, as much as the PCs, becomes our island of normality in the weirdness that is the wondrous isles.
The bulk of the content's gonna be in the wondrous isles. The start of the voyage are more of a prelude and endgame.
The module's likely to include some religious symbolism. I'm from a christian background, so that's where most of it will come from. Obviously I'm not writing religious propaganda, but I think using these themes will give it some emotional punch by tying it into ideas about death and redemption and so on.

I want to keep the tone fairly light. A mixture of bittersweet and dreamlike. Because it's me, PCs will inevitably warp and mutate over time. So will the ship itself and its crew.
This is still fairly early stages. I'll update as stuff gets solidified and written down.


  1. Rather like Ynn and the sutff you’ve posted about it. Reminds me a lot of the historical and fantasy fiction I read when I was young, and which has always informed much of my roleplaying & world creation. So Narnia is good to be reminded of - but your stuff about the West and Sunset reminds me of a lot of historical novels: Warrior Scarlet by Rosemary Sutcliff, Viking’s Sunset by Henry Treece, and all the other books those two (and others like them) wrote. Haven’t really thought of them in years so good to be reminded of them as good background feel. Looking forward to whatever else you post on this. Makes a nice change.

  2. I think you and I are interested in the same style of play at the moment. I like the idea that a long-term goal is to quite literally sail off INTO the sunset.

  3. That would be cool. To me it has the feel of a good way to end a campaign. And then maybe to start a new, different one - probably with a different set of players.

  4. The ship would replace the traditional home-base-village as the adventurers' safehaven. I like it. Keeps finicky nautical mechanics rather light?
    Would play.

  5. I love this concept! Especially that Romantic fantasy-esque tone. I could see islands having all sorts of odd inhabitants who might become friends, or ask for passage to another island... all manner of fun things other than "the ogre attacks the party".

  6. This is awesome! Please, write it. I want to buy this and run it for friends -so- much!