The Classics

Submitted by Ian on Sun, 17/07/2011 – 10:33

With The Coming Storm coming towards completion of it’s next full draft, I wanted to talk a little bit about it’s influences. Partially to help you get some understanding of what it contains, but partially to give some credit to those influences. In this post I want to talk about influences from the Gloranthan classics, later I may talk about other Gloranthan antecedents and influences from outside.

The first on the list is that Gloranthan classic Griffin Mountain. I know that many of the Moon Designs team look back upon that RuneQuest supplement with fondness too, perhaps I can explain why. For my part at least.

It can be difficult now to remember quite how much Griffin Mountain advanced the state of the art when it came out in 1981.

Prior to Griffin Mountain the emphasis of gaming had been on dungeons, ruins and labyrinths stocked with monsters. Even early adventures for a SF setting like Traveller focused on dungeon like environments. Of course we had some city campaigns – but they were mostly places for the adventurers to go between trips to the dungeon, buy and sell equipment, learn spells, or just rest. The wilderness campaign existed too, but it was mostly for those campaigns where the dungeons were not ruins located outside the city walls, but in a remote location. Wilderness campaigns were mostly encounter charts to roll on as the players criss-crossed hex maps.

Griffin Mountain was in some ways all these things: PCs could buy, sell, train and rest up in the citadels before heading across the wilderness to Festering Island of Griffin Mountain itself. But it was far more than that.

For me, characters were at the heart of Griffin Mountain. The wilderness encounters were not just random monsters – at very least they told you about the motivations of the groups in the area, and gave the PCs a chance to discover them, at their height they were colourful, full-fledged characters with whom combat was just one option. An entire evening’s entertainment could happen from just picking one of these encounters. The movers and the shakers of the citadels were all interesting characters with their own goals and motivations. And all of these characters interacted, drawn into a web of relationships.

That was what I took from Griffin Mountain – a great campaign is as much about the characters, as it is about the setting. Go on, ask an old timer what they remember about the setting and I bet they will name the NPCs of Griffin Mountain.

The other influence from the Gloranthan classics is Borderlands. Much like Griffin Mountain we had setting, information on the local cultures, and an extensive set of encounters. But whereas Griffin Mountain was freewheeling, and undirected Borderlands had a series of interlinked episodes. Those episodes told the story of a community, Duke Raus of Rone and his settlers, and their conflicts as they tried to make a new home from themselves. Here was the beginning of story.

Perhaps what I learnt most was that one strong way to tell story was to make characters part of a community, and have them share the trials and tribulations of that community, helping it through the challenges it faced.

The Coming Storm won’t be the first subsequent Gloranthan supplement to try and bottle the lightning of these two supplements, nor the last. Blood over Gold was strongly influenced by Griffin Mountain and Borderlands and their DNA runs through Sartar, Kingdom of Heroes and the Sartar Companion (especially the encounters section of the latter).

However, the emphasis on following the episodes of a community as it struggles to survive, and of the personalities of that community and the surrounding communities – those are strong threads to The Coming Storm.

That’s where I owe my debt.

Submitted by Hervé (not verified) on Tue, 26/07/2011 – 09:18.
I wanted to thank you for highlighting this oft-forgotten book, Blood over Gold, which does indeed captures the spirit of Griffin Mountain quite well. I’m curious to see if you can make us discover new/surprising/unexpected ideas and facts about heortling communities ; the subject does feel over-exploited to me sometimes !

Submitted by Harald Smith (not verified) on Mon, 18/07/2011 – 08:29.
I second your notions of Griffin Mountain and Borderlands as the Gloranthan classic supplements. Griffin Mountain was the reason I centered my campaign and subsequent writings on adjacent Imther — it was simply a great place to quest to beyond the edge of the empire. Borderlands heavily influenced my scenario design getting characters involved in either existing or newly formed communities and how they interacted with neighbors — so while I never had the opportunity to bring my players and their characters to Prax and the River of Cradles, the sense of a story arc really emerged with that supplement.

Submitted by Mike Gibb (not verified) on Sun, 17/07/2011 – 21:36.
I look forward to it! And maybe sometime getting you to run some of it for me? ;O)

Submitted by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood (not verified) on Sun, 17/07/2011 – 20:12.
I think the ‘community as character’ is something that came out very strongly when I played in your campaign, Ian. It’s a lesson I have taken into mine.


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