“Your community sits at the mouth of a cave that stretches impossibly far into the unknown depths of the earth. Since time immemorial, your heroes have been guardians of the surface world against the horrors beneath.
“But now an age of the world has ended. A new age is beginning… one in which the sun is dead, and the surface world is dying too without its light and warmth. Your heroes must now venture into the underworld and return with a seed for a new sun: The Fire Down Below.”
This is a new tabletop role-playing game project that I’m cooking up; its roots can be found in this Moana-inspired post. Right now, the broad outline of the campaign/setting/megadungeon looks something like this:
- Each player controls several heroes from a given family. Each game session sees one member from each participating family descending into the underworld in a single foray as part of their long-term quest to find and retrieve The Fire Down Below; the heroes remaining on the surface can be assigned to a variety of “downtime tasks” while they wait.
- Available tools, weapons, skills, powers etc. will reflect not the standard late medieval / early Renaissance European pastiche, but something closer to the very dawn of agriculture-based civilization… at least for the humans living on the surface.
- The mechanical base of play will be grounded in D&D 5th Edition (I know, I know; welcome to the hegemonic umbrella) but house-ruled almost entirely out of recognition because I’m just that punk-rock at heart.
- The overall “play loop” will be inspired by “Metroidvanias,” with exploration leading to discoveries that allow obstacles to be bypassed, which allows for more extensive exploration.
- Player creativity, role-playing, and problem-solving should be more important than skill in manipulating the mechanics. To meet this goal I will be trying to decrease the importance of elements such as class and level, and will be stripping away a number of special abilities (especially ones focused on tactical combat) to be replaced with abilities that are less powerful, more flavorful, and most rewarding when used creatively.
- For example, as discussed in the previous post, magic will be present but will operate entirely through a devotions-and-boons model, with players offering specific observances to specific entities in return for specific benefits.
- In an attempt to encourage dramatic storytelling and role-playing, lethality will be relatively high, with systems added that encourage heroic action and even sacrifice in the face of danger. The fact that each player controls an entire family is the first of these, of course.
For the next however-long-it-takes, I hope to develop this into something playtestable, if not outright playable, with various major elements forming the material of a new Magic Monday style series of posts.