Monday, March 2, 2020

My Flavor of Vanilla

Since my post on my occasional craving for vanilla fantasy, I've been thinking about what sort of vanilla setting I would do, if I was to do one. At least, what sort I'm leaning toward right now.

I would start with a setup substantially similar to Tolkien's Middle-Earth at the start of the Lord of the Rings. A great war, devastated the shining human kingdoms of the West. Amid the ruins are scattered petty kingdoms and free cities, "points of light" in the D&D parlance, dominated by the Small Folk--dwarfs mostly, but more of the folklore or fairytale variety than a Tolkienian one.

There are still humans there, of course, but the human dominated lands are mostly to the South. Elves exist too, but they are diminished (quite literally) from their Golden Age. They were once fairy lords, but now the elves of the West are short in stature and decidedly less magical. The Dwarf Folk view the elves with some suspicion, since some of their race sided with the forces of darkness.

The approach would be a bit more The Hobbit than Lord of the Rings; leaning more whimsical than epic. The 1937 original version of The Hobbit would be the most central of Tolkien's work. Other influences include Weirdworld, Wally Wood's Wizard King series, selected stories from Lord Dunsany, Scott Driver's Dwarf-Land, and bits of The Princess of the Goblin and a smidge of my own Land of Azurth, particularly some early ideas that got abandoned.


Anne said...

To me, this almost sounds like a post-LotR world, a place where the forces of light gathered to fight off the Dark Lord - and won! - but now the whole area is depopulated and there's no more central government, since the old one was Dark Lord controlled.

It's sort of an interesting thought experiment - what do you do after you win? What happens in Middle Earth or Narnia or wherever after the ancient evil has been pushed out at great cost? What's it like to be born right after the great battles have just finished being fought?

Andre Norton's "Witchworld" might be another touchpoint, although like Tolkien, her Dark Lord is still very much intact at the start of the series.

Anonymous said...

I was just re-reading Driver's Dwarf-Land! Great stuff. And Weird World too, for sure. I have a tattered issue of that I've been dragging around with me since I was a child back in the 70's... :-)

Trey said...

There's a Dark Lord or two still lurking here, but to your interesting question: it could be that the magic greatly and literally goes out of these worlds. I mean, Middle Earth loses a whole bunch of elves and whatnot to the West.

Anthony Westenberg said...

That setting sounds great. I may just steal it for my home campaign!

Also - what's that first picture from? That captures the aesthetic I've been looking for for ages

Trey said...

It's pre-production art for an animated series Wally Wood was involved with that never got off the ground.

Jay Exonauts said...

Oh dude, this reminds me that I've had Wizard King sitting in my shopping cart for SOOOOO long. Need to pull the trigger on that ASAP!

Gus L said...

I get that this would have Vanilla Fantasy trappings and even Tolkien trappings - but I think when you add Dunsany and whimsy it won't be recognizable as the Vanilla D&D Fantasy of today. I'm pretty annoyed by the Forgotten Realms and this sounds nothing like them - sure it has elves and dwarves and some of the fixtures, but it's more fairy tale then epic fantasy and I see nothing of the magical positivism (the inclusion of magical items everywhere to replicate modern technological convenience).

Then I'm not sure Tolkien is Vanilla Fantasy these days - what with emphasis on an elegiac tone, the power of myth and fading empires of good (Gondor isn't doing well, Rohan has a succession crisis and gets badly mauled, the dwarfs are going extinct and the elves splitting Middle-Earth for sad Atlantis)fighting one last war?

As usual good stuff.

Trey said...

@Gus - That's a good point. I was thinking more of literary vanilla fantasy, but you are right gaming vanilla has drifted in some ways and in some ways watered down the flavor of that. It's also true that vanilla literary fantasy might be a different thing in 2010 than it appears in the late 80s-90s.

Tanner Maze said...

Fairy Tale Dwarf ruled lands, Wally Wood/ Weird World style Elves, and a post war setting? Sounds like a setting I would enjoy playing in.