Sunday, June 16, 2019

Drawing Gaj'Uth the Three Headed Elephant

I have circled back around to Dead Wizards, having taken the very long way to get here. For those who might not remember or care, Dead Wizards is a sword and sorcery tabletop RPG I have been "working on" for a long time now... how long? Let me just go and check...

The earliest post I can find on my blog is 01/22/2017. But I believe I was posting about this on G+ (long may it dance in the Happy Fields of Memory) before that time. I know I ran a playtest of a Swords & Wizardry version of the game at least 3 years ago.

So I have been in a bit of a creative slump lately. I haven't been getting streams of new ideas like I used to. I was beginning to worry that my idea well was dry or I was just so old and jaded I didn't give enough shits anymore to make the pump work. But I was driving home from Indiana on a work trip and I had this amazing 4 hour long brainstorm. Normally I listen to podcasts and audiobooks on journeys but on this one I just let some music play the whole time and I let my mind go nuts. Essentially, I wrote the core of the game on the road.

Because I didn't have a "game" yet. I had versions of a game and I had playtested a few of them, but wasn't really satisfied. That's why I kept thinking I might just make it an OSR game and stick with old D&D mechanics. But now I feel kind of liberated from that idea. The setting could work with those mechanics, but there's really no reason it should have to. I haven't written a standalone RPG of significance in years. Many years. The Questing Beast was probably the last one. It's high time I got back to the work.
Gaj'Uth is not amused by life

Which brings me to drawing Gaj'Uth the Three-Headed Elephant. I mention the elephant in the opening tone-setting for the game thus:

"On the rare occasion the Exalted Prince enters the city streets he is carried in a glowing howdah on the back of an immense three-headed elephant called Gaj’Uth. A brigade of his arcane guards go before him to clear the path, crushing those who refuse to move and demolishing structures so that not even mighty Gaj’Uth is made to touch the dirty city and its dirty people."

For context, the game is inspired by Arabian, Indian, and African mythologies and concepts. It is absolutely not a representation of any particular culture or people at all and is filled with all sorts of feverish fantasy flizbits from my brain that aren't even part of the three influences I mentioned. So it's kind of tricky to decide how to describe it, how to "market" it, and so forth. I'm doing it for my own pleasure and satisfaction, as I usually do everything for that purpose. I want to make something cool and wicked and evocative in the vein of pulp fantasy stories as filtered through my own head. So that means as much or more Tanith Lee as Robert E. Howard.

But I've said all this before. I even presented some mechanics from previous incarnations of the game on G+, generating some nice conversations and debates about how the game would work. I believe in those iterations I was enamored of using the descending AC to-hit matrix as a core mechanic for all game actions. While that's still a sexy idea in my book, I do not believe that's the way I'll go with this game. I have a pretty clear schema in my skullpan that I feel like makes some kind of sense. It's a theater of the mind approach for sure, with less emphasis on game tactics (such as blow by blow combat) and more emphasis on the bigger picture... the life's work of a character and the juicy way they fit snuggly into the game's setting.

And it does have a setting. I'm not shying away from that here. I have often tried to keep things loose in terms of setting so my work can be picked up and dropped into existing game campaigns. Not here. This is a very specific place with a specific ethos and way of existing with it. Not too complex, mind you. I don't like games with a huge wall of text or series of novels I have to read before I can "get it". I don't want to make that game.

Ah see now I ramble as is my wont. Stream of consciousness eat your heart out.

I will post again down the road a bit, probably discussing the mechanics. And I'll arrange some playtesting with my Monday night friends as soon as they will indulge me.

Until then, be kind and enjoy your moments.