This blog hosted “Penny Dreadfuls: Against the Nostalgia Fetish in Fantasy Roleplaying” yesterday, a pleasant-but-perhaps-confused rant against nostalgia in roleplaying game design, and in favor of progress and modernity. Maybe I’m just old enough to see the upside of the conservative worldview, but let me be the first to say “bah, nonsense!” and offer this brief rebuttal in the voice of reason. I fully realize that in doing so, I can expect to insult every active gamer in a slightly different fashion than Mssr. Hebert did.
Yes, roleplaying games in general and Dungeons & Dragons and the Pathfinder RPG in particular do revel in the antique, the ancient, the dusty tomes—as part of the genre, and as a focus for world building. But this is hardly a fetish for nostalgia or a clinging to the outworn and lackluster rules of yesterday. It’s just part of the character of its novels and settings. Fantasy RPG fans also like Renaissance fairs, medieval weapons, and tales that lean toward sagas and hero-quests. Comes with the territory.
But RPG fans preferring antique game design? Not at all, and to the contrary. Most gamers are happy to recognize and embrace a core of functional, pleasurable, and workable rules, rather than chasing after every gaming fad and novelty.
Ever since the announcement of “D&D Next”—or, to translate marketing-speak into actual English, Dungeons & Dragons: 5th Edition—more than a year ago, Wizards of the Coast’s efforts to unite the disparate tribes of fantasy roleplaying enthusiasts under one system of roleplaying has been contentious at best. Fans of disparate—and mutually exclusive, in some cases—styles of roleplaying have been contesting and debating the merits of each edition to assess whether elements of that edition should be included in the Frankenstein’s monster that is Next.
The results have been ugly, retrograde, and entirely predictable. Wizards of the Coast’s promises of modularity and freedom of choice have all been silenced by the advent of the unelected “But that’s not D&D!” committee that lurks on every forum. Its members revel in speaking out against progressive design, clutch tightly to every mechanical cow in the event that someone, somewhere might believe it sacred despite its age or dissociation from the remainder of its herd, and rejoice in purging the unclean from the hobby because of their conviction that there is only one ideologically acceptable way to pretend to be an elf.
Gnolls have slaughtered their way to gaming infamy, and they are a favorite of gamemasters (GMs) and players alike. This article can be used by GMs to round out this age-old monster, or players can use it to create new characters. The following gnoll variant is formatted for AGE—though you can convert the material to your preferred system easily enough—and is specific to the Midgard campaign world.
“My lands are where my dead lie buried.”—Crazy Horse
Tribal cultures sometimes have a different leader in war then when in peace. The tribal chieftain template I discussed last week was for a chieftain who mostly leads primarily by speaking. The tribal hero, or war chief if you prefer, leads by action.
You can represent this by simply applying the advanced template if you want fast, easy, and boring. If, instead, you’d like to challenge your players with a template designed for guerilla warfare tactics, join me after the jump for the tribal hero (CR +2).
“Ah, my old adventurer’s tent. How much I miss the days of my youth when I’d gad about the countryside, chasing this purple temple or that magenta stronghold. How my young limbs used to love a stop in the dangerous wilderness and break my fast with spring water and berries.”
“Whereas now your regal buttocks become inflamed unless they are warm and cozy on your mighty mattress.”
“True, slug-mother, true. Now get my warming pan ready and boil me some frothy milk for my supper or I’ll have you lashed.”