Monday, August 15, 2005

Shakespeare, Future Tech, Celtic Myth and OGL Systems

Our friends Josh & Chris came to visit tonight with their almost two-year old girl, Alexis, and we had a nice dinner to the loud screams of a toddler watching her (current) favorite movie, The Lion King. It's been years since I saw the movie, and it was actually cool to see it again. One thing my wife pointed out, and which I kick myself in the head for having failed to see before (me with the Shakespearean studies specialization), is that Lion King is a retelling of Hamlet, without the crazy Ophelia and but complete with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It made me like the movie a little more, I have to say.

Speaking of Shakespeare, there's another gaming idea I have in my head that I have to, one day, find the time to put to paper. Though there was already an attempt to bring Shakespeare to d20 by LPJ Designs (and with all due respect to LPJ), I don't think it was the best d20 expression of the Bard, not by a long shot. The releases were way too much Cliff's Notes, not enough gaming material. That said, and to be fair, I did enjoy them, even if I still have two more to get (Othello and Romeo & Juliet). I have a distinct idea of how to bring Shakespeare to d20, and perhaps one day I will have a chance to do so (this is also one of those projects that I would not be adverse to sharing with a like-minded, and qualified, partner).

In the gaming arena, lately I have had two major interests in mind. The first has been Future material, especially all the cool mecha stuff that has been released in the last couple of weeks by Ronin Arts and LPJ. I also just picked up The Game Mechanic's Future Player's Companion, which looks very cool so far. This is all because I am currently finishing putting together my own Future line, DaVinci Labs, which I hope will be ready to launch by the first week of September or so. I'm actually very excited about this line, though I'm noticing that currently there is no setting that can take full advantage of my line, along with the material above. BDV's Dawning Star setting has the capability of fitting pretty much anything sci-fi into it somewhere, but it's not the same as having a setting built to take full advantage of a section of rules. LPJ has announced they have a setting in the works called Polymecha (which I think is a weak name for a setting) written by Dawning Star's writer Lee Hammock (who did a great job with Dawning Star), so I guess we'll see what comes down the line.

My other current gaming interest is Celtic Myth, and that's because I've had a couple of ideas for new Bardic Lore releases. Well, that and I've been thinking if it's time to start working on the actual Bardic Lore setting once and for all. Although there are two Celtic themed books in the d20 market, namely Slaine and Celtic Age, I don't think either catches Celtic Myth well. Celtic Age is more historical, and is very good as a reference, though the game material could improve a lot. Slaine, though it evokes very nicely the heroic and magical nature of the sagas, is at the end of the day someone else's setting based roughly on Celtic Myth. I would like the Bardic Lore setting to be more historically-based than Slaine, though less academic than Celtic Age, with a good mixture of historicity and myth, erring on the side of myth and legend (this is one of my personal dichotomies--I love historical gaming, but can't leave the magic behind, though that's a topic for another post). Again, I have a pretty good idea of what I'd like the Bardic Lore setting to be, and a fairly good laundry list of features I'd like to incorporate.

Which leads me to the one big dilemma I face, which OGL system to use? The current Bardic Lore releases are done in default d20, mainly because they are stand-alone and I want them to be as usable by the greatest amount of people as possible, but I'm not 100% convinced that straight-up d20 would be the best choice for my Celtic setting. d20 brings a lot of baggage with it that may not fit very well with a Celtic setting, and may require way more fixing than is worth doing (for example, fixing the druid and bard classes, toning down the magic power and selection, adjusting creatures to account for the adjusted power levels, etc.). My current train of thought is to create a new system out of tidbits of other OGL systems, but I feel that would be counterproductive to the setting, commercially speaking (and as a setting, its already starting with a huge commercial disadvantage), since in effect I'm forcing people to adopt a new OGL system, which many (myself included) are just not inclined or willing to do. The other option is to adapt one of the newer, simpler OGL adaptations of d20 to the setting, adding new rules modules as needed, though leaving it, in essence, something still recognizable as an established rules set. I'm thinking here mainly of True20 or the new system in Iron Heroes (and as a quick aside, my first instinct was to write Iron Lore, a sign that Malhavoc should have just left the original name since they had already managed to successfully implant the brand into the public's mind).

Leaving trademark issues aside, True20 is simple and elegant enough to handle just what I need; its combat is simple, tough and deadly if need be, the magic is potent but not overpowered nor overabundant, and the character creation options allow for great customization of numerous archetypes of history and myth without much fuss. What's more, it supports easy modification via rules modules that can be easily inserted without messing up the greater whole. Iron Heroes has various elements that call my attention, elements I think would mesh great with Celtic myth and all the legendary feats of combat told in the stories, elements that I am pretty sure can be ported over to True20 with little problem to create a more vicious combat-based game that still retains the simplicity of True20's engine.

Did I just convince myself of the solution?

If I do go this way, eventually I'll have to deal with trademark issues, especially since this is not the setting we are submitting to the True20 Setting Search, so that may mean either applying for a license (with associated costs) or releasing it by itself and let word of mouth take care of publicizing the compatibility. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Now, if I can only get these editing projects I have piled up out the door...


Mark Gedak said...

Shakespeare - Michael Tresca said on the Dragon's Landing podcast that "All the King's Men" from Monkeygod was a d20 Shakespeare product.

Daniel M. Perez said...

Not exactly Shakespeare, though certainly Shakespearean in spirit. It's set in a fantasy Elizabethan England-like setting, and it's actually quite fun. I should have it out on PDF now in September.

Alan Kellogg said...

Macbeth during a 23 century Scottish Elizabethan festival. Mangles three birds with one conceit. :)