Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Returning to Darkwood

With my copy of the Dungeon Master's Guide arriving in the mail today, it may be time for me to dust off an old blast from the past...my campaign setting, Darkwood.

I invented Darkwood back in middle school. It started as a copycat work. As a young teenager, I was enthralled by the worldbooks of old-school RPGs, particularly the ones for Rifts, Shadowrun, the boxed campaign sets for AD&D, and, later on, Earthdawn. I read them voraciously, the way others probably read the Wheel of Time or Forgotten Realms books (though I read a reasonable amount of those, too). I wanted to create a worldbook just like Rifts: Vampire Kingdoms, or Earthdawn's Barsaive!

The original world of Darkwood was drawn shoddily on a single piece of graph paper. The document itself, written on WordPerfect, was over 60 pages of what basically amounted to Palladium Games fan fiction, minus the kick-ass art and all the typos (OHHH!!!!!). The book was written from the perspective of Woodrick Brownbeard, famous explorer. There were no gnomes in my world, because I thought gnomes were stupid. I did allow gnolls as a playable race, but in my world they were more like wolf-people than hyena-people. I had this massive stone wall that separated Darkwood from it's feral, untamed neighbor, Wildwood (of course I plan on suing George R.R. Martin for stealing this particular idea).

All of that, looking back, sounds completely awful, as most teenage ideas do. There were some keepers in there, though, that I'd love to come back to in an adult, 5E version of this world. The main concept I'd like to revisit was the religious system I made for Darkwood.

The people of Darkwood did not worship gods; they worshipped Passions. The system went through several iterations, but in its last form, there were eight "Prime" Passions: four "good" (Love, Honor, Hope, and Courage); four "evil" (Hate, Greed, Fear, and Lust). There were also numerous "Lesser" Passions, such as Happiness, Humor, Revenge, and Loyalty. Each Passion had its own church with its own doctrines, philosophies, and customs. Though Passions were primarily based on a single emotion, several Passions were not; they were just ideas powerful enough to inspire emotion, such as the aforementioned Honor, Greed, or Loyalty.

In Darkwood, anyone who felt these Passions strongly channeled mana, the raw power of creation and destruction. Mana, except in its most concentrated, powerful form, is invisible to mortal eyes, and the vast majority of Darkfolk couldn't manipulate or control it. Clerics of my world, however, were living conduits of their chosen Passion. They were able to fill their hearts with their "patron" Passion on a moment's notice, and use that energy to power their spells. High-level clerics, collectively known as "Embodiments" (their exact name varied per Passion) were considered some of the most powerful and influential people in my world.

Mages in Darkwood channeled mana, too, but they did it the opposite way: by purging themselves of all emotion. By keeping their hearts and minds a blank slate to the influence of the Passions, mages could manipulate the latent energies of mana found all around the world, using a complex language known as Draconic. High-level wizards, so used to not feeling emotion, were cold, emotionless machines, and were often treated with great suspicion in my world.

When D&D's third edition came out and the sorceror suddenly became a thing, I revisted Darkwood and added them to the world. Their philosophy was the polar opposite of the mages; they embraced all Passions simultaneously, reveling in the chaos of mana, and through an intuitive understanding of Draconic, they conjured their magic that way. High-level sorcerors (very rare) were emotionally unstable, borderline insane individuals who's mere presence could cause random magical effects to happen all around them.

I never went back to Darkwood after third edition. Now, with fifth edition upon us (and it's being awesome and all), maybe I'll consider dusting off the old world and modernizing it for a new audience.

Earthdawn was a huge influence on Darkwood.

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