Work Continues on Shadow, Sword & Spell: Companion

I have been busy with a multidtue of projects. One of these projects is Shadow, Sword & Spell: Companion. After suffering from a case of writer’s block with this book earlier this year, I have found the block gone, and my work pace on the first manuscript has picked up speed. I am enjoying writing this book, and it is fun to just be able to cut loose and create optional rules, and the like, that do not have to be strongly tied to humanistic pulp fantasy. Companion is going to be a book of options. Gamemasters and players alike, will find a book filled with little bits that they can use and craft the style of games they want.

One area that I struggled with, however, is races. I knew I wanted to create a section that dealt with fantasy races. I also knew how to approach the rules. I knew some gamers did not like that Shadow, Sword & Spell: Basic or Expert covered races at all. For them, a fantasy game is not a fantasy game if it does not allow for elves, dwarves and the like. For me, Shadow, Sword & Spell was never about this, after all it is based on the pulp fiction of Howard, Smith and Lovecraft. In those works, humans are front and center. They are the driver of events. They are the protagonists, as well as the antagonist.

Still 12° is flexible, and one can easily create different races, as well as other things (see Background and Modifiers in Shadow, Sword & Spell and Backgrounds in Colonial Gothic) that any type of character enhancement is possible. As such, Shadow, Sword & Spell is all about flexibility, and the Companion is designed to give you different styles of fantasy. So races exist.

What I had trouble with, was not what races to include or create, but how to make them not cliches. It is easy to fall to cliches, and the last thing I wanted to do was follow convention. So I have tried to make races different. Here is a recent example, Orcs, that I wrote last night. This is as is, by that It is a rough draft, I am still thinking through some things.

Orc

Stat Adjustments: +1 Brawn, +1 Vigor, −1 Reason, −1 Will

Bonus: +1 TN Melee, +1 Tactics

Traits: Scent, Nightvision

Orcs are an interesting race when it comes to fantasy role playing games. They often depicted as creature of pure evil, who only live to serve as foes to put in the way of player characters. It was J.R.R. Tolkien who turned orcs into a pervasion of the elves, and even with him, they were a race devoid of any redeeming characteristics. When Dungeons & Dragons was introduced the ors was depicted as nothing more that a “evil” creature. This is a boring take, and the concept of a race who is inherently evil, though a staple of the genre is rather silly. It strikes me, and has always strikes me, as, well, silly.

No race is inherently evil. For me this is lazy writing. Villainy is not a racial trait it is a outlook, and philosophy if you will. You choose to to willfully due what is wrong, and you are not born to it. Thus, orcs, are evil. To this, I say no. Orcs are no more evil, that the general who orders his troops to slaughter a village of innocents.

For Shadow, Sword & Spell, orcs are a race of warriors. For them strength is what is honored, and those who are the strongest are seen as the more capable of leading. Though not as smart as elves, or even some humans, they are a race who has perfected the art of war. A simple people, their word is their bond, and they are quick to protect those who are in their care, and even quick to avenge a wrong. Though warriors, they do not live for war. It is a part of their culture, but so to is hunting, weaponsmithing, and studying the ways of battle.

Orcs are an enigma. One minute they are ready to charge into battle, and the next they would rather debate the finer points of siege craft.
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