Friday, July 8, 2011

In the beginning. . .

So, as I mentioned previously, when I first read Warlock, it just 'clicked' with me, pressing all of the right buttons for what I want in a fantasy game. Notably, Warlock fixed many of the problems that I had with OD&D (1974), leveling the playing field for all classes by implementing a new spell system for Magic Users (and other spell-using classes), introducing special abilities for fighters, and specialty clerics. I knew right away that I wanted to play it. I also knew right away that I wanted to remain true to the rules as written, using the implied setting elements therein (e.g., the religious orders detailed in the Clerics document). This presented a bit of a conundrum.

While I wanted to remain true to the Warlock rules as written and the implied setting therein, that implied setting information was the only setting information that I had access to. I didn't (and don't) have access to any documents detailing the actual setting for the ongoing Warlock campaigns at Caltech outside of what was implied in the rules. This meant that I had to either create a setting from scratch or modify an existing setting to accommodate the implied elements of the official Warlock world.

Now, I would have loved to create an entire setting from scratch. In fact, there's no real reason why I couldn't do it, save for this: I wanted to actually play Warlock sometime in the foreseeable future. I knew that this was something that probably wouldn't happen if I got invested in building a world from scratch. World building is, after all, a pretty time-consuming endeavor. I had done my fair share of it, but I didn't think that was what was called for in this particular instance. That meant I was going to be looking at published settings with an eye toward modifying them.

I started by looking at my old favorites of Greyhawk and Harn, but quickly ruled them out because they make far too many assumptions about gods, religion, and magic - all of which run contrary to the assumptions that Warlock makes about those things. I then took a long, hard, look at Pelinore, the old TSR UK setting that appeared in their Imagine magazine. Now, while Pelinore assumes a certain pantheon of gods, because of its piecemeal presentation it's pretty easy to say that the pantheon detailed in the pages of Imagine is unique to The Domains (e.g., Cerwyn, The City League, etc). Plus, TSR UK kindly saw fit to leave the continent of Aurianne completely undeveloped, making it a perfect place to situate the world of Warlock. So, it came to pass that I chose Pelinore as my planned Warlock setting. But that was really just the beginning of my work.

As I mention above, Aurianne was a completely undeveloped area of Pelinore which made it a perfect place to set my Warlock campaign - but it also meant that I had to develop that area of the setting. For reasons already mentioned, building an entire setting from scratch wasn't in the cards. For the same reasons, neither was developing an entire continent within a setting. This meant searching for more material to cannibalize. Luckily, my search was a fairly short one - Rob Conley had recently released the entirety of his excellent Blackmarsh mini-setting under the Open Game License. This meant considerably less work for me.

Blackmarsh, as a setting, focuses on a small region of a world otherwise left undefined within its pages (not unlike County Cerwyn in Imagine), making few assumptions about religion or magic - and those that it does make are relatively easy to dispense with. I needed to dump the bits about viz and the Blackmarsh Rangers (possibly replacing references to the latter with one of the fighting schools in Warlock), strike the few mentions of Thoth and Thor, and introduce the church hierarchy detailed in Warlock. This wouldn't take long and the end result would be a fairly robust area in which to begin my own Warlock campaign.

With my next entry, you'll see the fruits of that labor.