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Heralds of the Sun
Hey folks! It's been a long time, and I thought I'd write about my attempt to introduce creative D&D to a new generation.

A new gaming place called The Geekery opened in my neighborhood and they held D&D sessions every Wednesday. I attended one of them. The DM ran a short scenario, ended it on a cliffhanger and told us we were free to run own own adventures from now on. I emailed the DM and other players and offered to run a follow-up session, which I did the following two Wednesdays.

My games were jokey affairs, as I can never take standard "D&D Worlds" seriously. So the PCs delivered black velvet paintings to an Orc chieftain; got in trouble when a Gnome Wizard stole the chieftain's lawn ornaments; played "Dunk the Monk!" in a monastery; and sucked them into an inter-tavern feud based on the 1980 comedy Used Cars. Everyone seemed to enjoy the games, but I didn't feel I could up the comedy week after week. When the Joe -- the original DM -- offered to take over and run an Out of the Abyss campaign I happily let him do so.

We played Out of the Abyss for a few months. As he approached the end Joe suggested I run another published D&D campaign. To me, that would defeat the whole reason I gamemaster tabletop RPGs, which is to have a creative outlet. I want to create an environment and give others a chance to explore it.

So I returned to my old fantasy world, where Dominion of the Dead took place, but moved the action back a few decades and several thousand miles to the southwest, to a place that looked a bit like sub-Saharan Africa.

My reasons for doing so were two-fold. First, I had already established that something important had happened there: Anteron, the Lord of Light, had been grievously wounded and was cared for by a fisherman named Elo; Anteron rewarded the fisherman for his kindness by filling his mind with the text of a holy book, the Sanar. The parallels with Mohammad should be obvious, and I thought it would be cool to run a campaign where players are the followers of Elo/Mohammad, spreading the Word of God across the world by sword.

Second, I was responding to a silly argument I had on Twitter. (Is there any other kind?) People complained there weren't enough characters of color in The Witcher video game series. Now I never cared for The Witcher, and I understand the need for more POC in games, literature and other media, but I thought it was silly to expect the same diversity in a medieval setting as you would in an NYU graduate seminar. I said that if you want (pre-modern style) fantasy stories about people of color, write stories based on African, Asian, American Indian or Oceanic myths and legends. Since then, I decided it would be hypocritical of me not to take my own advice.

So the campaign is called Heralds of the Sun, and you can see the player handout here. I've been delighted by the players' response, which has been very enthusiastic. They never considered the possibility that you could take a rule set, introduce minor changes and use it for a different type of setting. (Of course this is WotC's fault, not the players'.) I'm proud I got a chance to show them this alternative.

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Is The Witcher set in a real-world historical setting? Wikipedia’s entry about the novels makes it look like an invented world. (“After a period of war between the elves and dwarves, the dwarves retreated into the mountains and the elves settled in the plains and forests. Human colonists arrived about five hundred years before the events in the stories, igniting a series of wars.”)

And that’s not even taking on the question of diversity in real-world medieval Europe, or in invented settings with medieval technology.

Or, for that matter, the question of whether most fantasy gaming worlds are actually medieval! D&D seems to take on more steampunk features with every new edition. In 5th-edition, you can buy a 2-pound bag of 1,000 ball bearings for the price of a bedroll; that’s pretty clearly industrial-level tech!


Will you be attending the upcoming reunion, or do people have to hunt you down to say hello?

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