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Author Topic: Will you help me brainstorm for a Fantasy Western setting?  (Read 664 times)
Straight Outta Johto
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« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2017, 08:00:44 PM »

Steerpike

LoA

Fair enough. Once I decide what races to put in this race, I'll have them come from various places. I'm starting off on a simple foot to see where it goes. If we like what were playing, I'll expand this setting.

I don't know if you necessarily need to detail any major lands beyond the Republic right away, but I do think it's important to ask questions like how long the Republic has been around, how long ago the war was that brought it down, and how it's regarded by the other peoples it interacts with. If the Republic is essentially a realm on the frontier, founded as or descended from a series of colonies by faraway imperial powers 200-300 years ago, which has now broken down into fragmented states after a civil war, that's going to make a very different-looking world physically and politically than one where the Republic has been around for many many centuries or even millennia and where there's no real frontier being settled or colonized, just political conflict between city states and other factions in the ruins of a once-great empire.

Alright, let's say that the lifespan of the republic was 100-200 years, and the collapse of that republic was around 50 years ago. Once a handful of colonies from foriegn lands united under a republican entity, the tensions between the states blew up, and now half a century later, the anarchy continues.

Lets move on to technology and magic. Like I said, this is styled after the old west, but I also like Space Western Anime. Railroads exist, but are powered by magical mana machinery, and guns are powered by alchemy. What else should I have as far as transportation goes. Would airships work, and if not, should I have flying cowboys riding on giant eagles or something? And I plan on having steamboats of some form.
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« Reply #16 on: May 03, 2017, 08:56:46 PM »

LoA

What else should I have as far as transportation goes. Would airships work, and if not, should I have flying cowboys riding on giant eagles or something? And I plan on having steamboats of some form.

I would wonder if airships, depending on their rarity, would invalidate or at the very least detract from railroads, which come to mind when thinking of a stereotypical western setting, though you might be able to have some fun with this. Perhaps the dragon robber-baron is supporting the railroads because he or she wants to rule the skies alone but is willing to support or otherwise placate the human(oid) settlers? Although the idea of a group of people religiously devoted to a draconic god obsessed with laying railroad tracks speaks to the delightfully weird Mieville in me. Regardless, so while maybe airships aren't particularly rare, they could be incredibly risky.

Cowboys riding giant eagles or flying dinosaurs wouldn't seem too far off-base given the information you've provided thus far, though I'll admit to being unfortunately unfamiliar with space western anime.
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« Reply #17 on: May 03, 2017, 09:19:36 PM »

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I would wonder if airships, depending on their rarity, would invalidate or at the very least detract from railroads, which come to mind when thinking of a stereotypical western setting, though you might be able to have some fun with this. Perhaps the dragon robber-baron is supporting the railroads because he or she wants to rule the skies alone but is willing to support or otherwise placate the human(oid) settlers? Although the idea of a group of people religiously devoted to a draconic god obsessed with laying railroad tracks speaks to the delightfully weird Mieville in me. Regardless, so while maybe airships aren't particularly rare, they could be incredibly risky.

Cowboys riding giant eagles or flying dinosaurs wouldn't seem too far off-base given the information you've provided thus far, though I'll admit to being unfortunately unfamiliar with space western anime.

And that's why I'm asking, but the Dragon is primarily in it for Gold. Ruling over a trade network has got to be profitable. But you're right, Airships clash with the western aesthetic, so I'm not going there. But I appreciate the input on the flying creatures. I've got some ideas brewing, but I'm fleshing it out.
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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #18 on: May 03, 2017, 10:19:39 PM »

Since this is a brainstorm thread, here's a crazy idea for you, just throwing it out there, so feel free to totally discard it if you want, of course!

Anime space westerns have been mentioned, of which I am a big fan. What if the Republic was indeed a colony - an interstellar colony, the survivors from a technomagical generation ship that crash-landed on the planet. Chaos ensues, and the survivors of the ship limp from the wreck, salvaging what technology and knowledge they can from the arcane databanks. The ship, however, is ruined, and they've lost all contact with the homeworld.

The shipwrecked colonists are all human. The planet they crashed on, however, was a typical fantasy world, full of dragons and elves and all that stuff, but without humans, otherwise ticking along in boring cliche fantasy stasis until BOOM, a techno-magical generation ship arrives.

Several hundred years pass, and the colonists have now blended with the locals. The Republic's capital is located round the remnants of their crashed ship, but they've created a frontier stretching out across part of the planet. They have only a few relics of their former power, but have a strong sense of superiority and pride since they're the descendants of an advanced space-faring species. They've used some of their know-how to bring new technologies to this planet, like techno-magical trains and firearms. The indigenous inhabitants are both alarmed and intrigued. There are bloody conflicts as the Republic uses its technological power to carve out a space for themselves.

Things come to an ugly head, however, as political conflict within the Republic spills into civil war and the Republic splinters. I like the idea that there might be a religious angle here, especially if we have dragon-cults in the mix. Maybe some of the colonists abandon the religion of their homeworld and take up the native religion, and this leads to a schism, but it's the straw that broke the camel's back. Maybe there are debates about interbreeding with the local species. All hell breaks loose, and during the ensuing conflict, much of the remaining knowledge of the homeworld is destroyed. The incipient magical/industrial revolution that was brewing as the Republic slowly regained some of its past power is stalled as it splits into ethnic, religious, and political factions.

Fast forward another half century and we're now in an almost post-apocalyptic state where the Republic and the horrors of the war are barely within living memory, and the fractured states are bickering over the remnants of the arcana and technology the Republic had managed to preserve from their vessel.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2017, 10:22:55 PM by Steerpike » Logged


Straight Outta Johto
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« Reply #19 on: May 03, 2017, 11:00:26 PM »

Steerpike

Since this is a brainstorm thread, here's a crazy idea for you, just throwing it out there, so feel free to totally discard it if you want, of course!

Anime space westerns have been mentioned, of which I am a big fan. What if the Republic was indeed a colony - an interstellar colony, the survivors from a technomagical generation ship that crash-landed on the planet. Chaos ensues, and the survivors of the ship limp from the wreck, salvaging what technology and knowledge they can from the arcane databanks. The ship, however, is ruined, and they've lost all contact with the homeworld.

The shipwrecked colonists are all human. The planet they crashed on, however, was a typical fantasy world, full of dragons and elves and all that stuff, but without humans, otherwise ticking along in boring cliche fantasy stasis until BOOM, a techno-magical generation ship arrives.

Several hundred years pass, and the colonists have now blended with the locals. The Republic's capital is located round the remnants of their crashed ship, but they've created a frontier stretching out across part of the planet. They have only a few relics of their former power, but have a strong sense of superiority and pride since they're the descendants of an advanced space-faring species. They've used some of their know-how to bring new technologies to this planet, like techno-magical trains and firearms. The indigenous inhabitants are both alarmed and intrigued. There are bloody conflicts as the Republic uses its technological power to carve out a space for themselves.

Things come to an ugly head, however, as political conflict within the Republic spills into civil war and the Republic splinters. I like the idea that there might be a religious angle here, especially if we have dragon-cults in the mix. Maybe some of the colonists abandon the religion of their homeworld and take up the native religion, and this leads to a schism, but it's the straw that broke the camel's back. Maybe there are debates about interbreeding with the local species. All hell breaks loose, and during the ensuing conflict, much of the remaining knowledge of the homeworld is destroyed. The incipient magical/industrial revolution that was brewing as the Republic slowly regained some of its past power is stalled as it splits into ethnic, religious, and political factions.

Fast forward another half century and we're now in an almost post-apocalyptic state where the Republic and the horrors of the war are barely within living memory, and the fractured states are bickering over the remnants of the arcana and technology the Republic had managed to preserve from their vessel.

Okay, first off, I love almost everything about this. But I don't know what you mean by "technomagic". Magic that's technological, or technology that might as well be magic?

But yeah, i'm definitely going to run this bye my group. I dig the Science Fantasy feel of this.

I do kind of hate the idea of "blending" with the local groups genetically. I'm with GRRM on this one, genetics should be realistic. But with that said, I love the Idea of Pern with cowboys.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2017, 11:02:02 PM by LoA » Logged


Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #20 on: May 03, 2017, 11:18:41 PM »

By "technomagical" I just meant like manna-powered trains or alchemical firearms - technology/machinery that depends on some system of magic to function.
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Straight Outta Johto
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« Reply #21 on: May 04, 2017, 12:00:47 AM »

Steerpike

By "technomagical" I just meant like manna-powered trains or alchemical firearms - technology/machinery that depends on some system of magic to function.

Than perfect.

And they're down. Just so long as one gets to play a sniper like Ana from Overwatch. We are not an original bunch.
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Straight Outta Johto
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« Reply #22 on: May 07, 2017, 02:40:46 AM »

Now for the fun part. What classes to exclude, and what races to include.

Okay, number one, I'm not using the gunslinger class. It sucks. Never base a class around one type of weaponry Soulknives.... With that out of the way, I'm going for a primal magic vs. advanced magic axis. there will be witches and shamans (druids), vs. Alchemists, and artificers (Gearhead from Pure Steam). Fighting classes are up in the air.

Here are some races I thought of.

Humans: because

Rhino People: A race of bipedal rhinoceros  from the deserted areas. They have mostly been assimilated into the typical culture.

Lizardfolk: Primarily from the Desert as well, once a proud race, they have declined, and have been forced into the mainstream culture. Prejudices exist.

Elves: Once regular human babies, these children were taken into the wild (often through abandonment, but propoganda would have you believe otherwise), and raised and transmorphed by Fey. Often heavily prejudiced and are hated by the powers that be due to their combating the image they have built up in the public ethos about the Fey and "Savage Mages". Not common.

Dhampir: Descending from swamp people who had made blood pacts with a vampiric ruler, these misunderstood folk often have to hide their ethnicity.

And I'm having a brain fart. Any more interesting ideas? The thought of Dwarves in cowboy hats makes me barf emotionally, so I still need to think of an idea to for them.

Cactus people? Actually I'm thinking about porting over the "Gnomes" from Kharlonia and just making warforged into Magitech robots.

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« Reply #23 on: May 07, 2017, 11:21:28 AM »

Something sits sort of uneasily between "elves," which feel very Norse/Celtic and Old World Europe, and the some of the other races... not saying there's necessarily no room for both, but I wonder if a slightly more unified aesthetic would be good. You could totally keep elves if you really do want a very typical fantasy world plus science fantasy cowboy colonists.

What if you tried as much as possible to keep the Americas as inspiration, especially the American west, southwest, and southeast, to really try and evoke the feel of a wild west world, but without actually setting it there?

Dhampir work well in the swampy areas of the southeast. What if a vampirism epidemic hit some of the colonists and they basically got quarantined in leper-colonies in the swamps? Imagine fortified prison-colonies warded with holy symbols... But now that the Republic has been destroyed the vampires and their descendants have gotten free.

Lizardfolk and/or snake-people would work really well in the southwest. Alligator-folk could work in the southeast, too.

If you're going with animal-people, what about bearfolk instead of/in addition to rhino-folk?

Fearsome critters of the American frontier and the blog Wampus Country may be useful sources of inspiration.

EDIT: Cactus-people could work (Bas-Lag has some), and I like the idea of more plant races, though it's hard to do in Pathfinder if you give them a full Plant type, so if you do go for plant-people I'd keep their type Humanoid and give them plant-like traits. What about elemental creatures of various sorts? Mountain-folk made out of stone, vines growing on their flesh; desert-people with skin like sand and cacti for hair; reedy swamp-people with hair of hanging moss. Literally creatures tied to the land, made of the land, the ultimate antithesis of the foreign colonists.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2017, 03:22:15 PM by Steerpike » Logged


Straight Outta Johto
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« Reply #24 on: May 07, 2017, 03:57:46 PM »

Steerpike

Something sits sort of uneasily between "elves," which feel very Norse/Celtic and Old World Europe, and the some of the other races... not saying there's necessarily no room for both, but I wonder if a slightly more unified aesthetic would be good. You could totally do it if you really do want a very typical fantasy world plus science fantasy cowboy colonists.

What if we tried as much as possible to keep the Americas as inspiration, especially the American west, southwest, and southeast, to really try and evoke the feel of a wild west world, but without actually setting it there?

Dhampir work well in the swampy areas of the southeast. What if a vampirism epidemic hit some of the colonists and they basically got quarantined in leper-colonies in the swamps? Imagine fortified prison-colonies warded with holy symbols... But now that the Republic has been destroyed the vampires and their descendants have gotten free.

Lizardfolk and/or snake-people would work really well in the southwest. Alligator-folk could work in the southeast, too.

If we're going with animal-people, what about bearfolk instead of/in addition to rhino-folk?

Fearsome critters of the American frontier and the blog Wampus Country may be useful sources of inspiration.

EDIT: Cactus-people could work (Bas-Lag has some), and I like the idea of more plant races, though it's hard to do in Pathfinder if you give them a full Plant type, so if you do go for plant-people I'd keep their type Humanoid and give them plant-like traits. What about elemental creatures of various sorts? Mountain-folk made out of stone, vines growing on their flesh; desert-people with skin like sand and cacti for hair; reedy swamp-people with hair of hanging moss. Literally creatures tied to the land, made of the land, the ultimate antithesis of the foreign colonists.

I kind of feel like there should be an anachronistic juxtaposition between european mythology and American Mythology. Sort of like a metaphor for European invasion. Maybe you're right about elves though.

I'm also incorporating elements of the northwest as that was hot cowboy territory as well. Also the fact that Montana is basically Texas but colder.

Actually you're thoughts on Dhampir are better than what I had in mind. Makes me wonder how necromancy is going to work in this. I kind of hate the traditional way that Necromancers have been used in the past.

Yes, I'm totally making a place for Yuan Ti in this setting. Just figuring out how I want to handle that. Also there will be two types of lizardfolk. Swamp, and desert. Although I could stick Were-gators in this I suppose...

I kind of feel like the Rhino folk could work if I angle it correctly. Almost tempted to make them a people liberated from slavery, although you could just make them Immigrants like everyone else.

Also Thank you for those links. That's why I come to this forum.

Also cactus people, might be a bit too much. Or at least I need to think about it for a while.

I'm thinking about making Skinwalkers a part of this (They kind of already are with the Druid).
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« Reply #25 on: May 07, 2017, 08:10:35 PM »

LoA

I'm thinking about making Skinwalkers a part of this (They kind of already are with the Druid).

Yeah, personally I always get a bit anxious about incorporating indigenous North American mythology directly. A few creatures (Wendigo being the most notable) seem to have basically migrated into the greater "horror/monster pantheon" in the same way that zombies emerged from Haitian folklore, but I am also aware of appropriation issues. That said I have no idea what your background is, and if this setting is basically just for a game with friends you may not really be concerned about it. Just something that comes into my mind whenever Native American or First Nations mythology and religion come up.
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« Reply #26 on: May 07, 2017, 08:40:58 PM »

Steerpike

LoA

I'm thinking about making Skinwalkers a part of this (They kind of already are with the Druid).

Yeah, personally I always get a bit anxious about incorporating indigenous North American mythology directly. A few creatures (Wendigo being the most notable) seem to have basically migrated into the greater "horror/monster pantheon" in the same way that zombies emerged from Haitian folklore, but I am also aware of appropriation issues. That said I have no idea what your background is, and if this setting is basically just for a game with friends you may not really be concerned about it. Just something that comes into my mind whenever Native American or First Nations mythology and religion come up.

It's funny I was having this conversation with one of my professors just the other day. I asked her what difference there is in Cultural appropriation, and cultural exchange. Her main point is about intent and that the line is a fine one. However I still think that it's kind of pointless in the age of the internet to try and control this sort of thing.

I understand that the Navajo take the Skinwalker phenomenon dead seriously, so it would be a bit tasteless just to use them in a campaign. Still is there anything wrong with being inspired to make a clan of druids that go around playing heinous pranks on people?
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« Reply #27 on: May 07, 2017, 10:16:58 PM »

I don't think it's a problem to make a band of skinwalker-inspired people - shapechanging pranksters, or whatever. That seems sufficiently detached from the specifics of Navajo culture to avoid any difficulties. I think it only becomes an issue if the created characters are caricatures of Navajo people and/or if the correspondence/borrowing/appropriation is more explicit. I raised the issue in part because some of your earlier comments suggested you wanted to try and be especially sensitive with aspects of the history of the American western frontier (i.e. avoiding the "orc noble savage" trope, for example); this seems like part of that.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2017, 10:18:32 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #28 on: May 07, 2017, 11:11:05 PM »

LoA

I understand that the Navajo take the Skinwalker phenomenon dead seriously, so it would be a bit tasteless just to use them in a campaign.
I think there are two distinct phenomena in play here, and the handling of the two, in my opinion, should be quite different.

The first issue is casual racism based (presumably) on ignorance. This is bad, and should be avoided... and I think it can be best avoided by educating yourself about the traditions that you want to incorporate into your game world, so you can use them in a way that does not misrepresent them or the people that those traditions belong to. Making sure that followers of every belief system as nuanced and as human (or inhuman, as the case may be) as everyone else in the setting is a pretty good start, I think. I think you're already doing that, so, that's good!

The second issue is using someone else's mythological or religious belief system as a basis for your fiction. And to this one, I take a hardder line. Honestly, who cares? Different cultures of the world have fascinating mythology and beliefs and are a rich resource, which can and should be used to tell cool stories. If someone happens to believe (mostly without evidence) that a certain belief system is actually true... well, good for them... but that doesn't mean I don't have the right to write cool stories using that rich mythology as a basis, and they're just going to have to get over that. Some Christians get offended over Bible-inspired fictional stories, too, and Christianity is the dominant religion in most of the Western world, so it's a lot harder to point to any sort of unfair power dynamic or cultural misappropriation or whatever the reasons against doing it would be.

At least, that's how I've tried to handle things when incorporating real-world mythology into my games and settings.
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« Reply #29 on: May 08, 2017, 12:02:55 AM »

I really like fantasy/SF author N.K. Jemisin's essay on cultural appropriation and why it's essentially unavoidable, but thus also something that needs to be thought through carefully.

As Jemisin puts it:

N.K. Jemisin

Here’s one big problem with insisting that it’s never OK to appropriate: the result is segregation. And here’s another: it’s a cop-out. The anti-appropriation argument applies a simplistic solution to a complex and nuanced problem — doing a good job of depicting The Other in fictional representation. It can be done, but it requires hard work. Research, self-examination, strategy. Rather than come up with this strategy, however, the anti-appropriation argument is a punt. Let the PoC handle PoC, while the white people stick to white people. Problem solved, the Jim Crow way.

...I think we need to get away from the simplistic question of whether to appropriate, and get back to the nuances of when and how to appropriate correctly. Because it can be done. We’re doing it already. We just need to do it better.
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