Friday, November 27, 2020

Go to Very Distant Lands

Art by Steve Ellis

 Adventure Time ended its original run in 2018, but there's a now series of single episode stories on HBOMax. Watching those reminded me how a lot of rpgers were excited about Adventure Time, at least in its early seasons. It's sort of gonzo, post-apocalyptic setting seemed very much cut from the same cloth as a lot of rpg worldbuilding.

No official AT rpg has ever appeared in English, and in the end the show is a kid's cartoon, perhaps more character driven, than exploration based, but I think it would be pretty easy to derive inspiration from the form of AT's Land of Ooo, as opposed to exact content. In other words, if you wanted a D&D campaign for adults to do D&D stuff that was just in some ways reminiscent of Ooo, this is how I would go about it. (If this thread gets comments someone will no doubt mention the Far Away Lands rpg. Let me preempt that by saying that it has slightly different goals. It's more doing an AT but not AT rpg. I'm thinking of "if you want D&D to have more of a resemblance to AT" without going full cartoon.)

So this is what I think:
  • Make the setting more expressly post-apocalyptic. Not in the usual Tolkienian way that D&D usually is, but in the Gamma World way.
  • Avoid the standard versions of standard monsters. You can use names like "dragon" if you want, but avoid the standard fantasy dragons of D&D. Ok, maybe goblins or giants can stay, but no orcs. My suggestion: borrow a lot of monsters and races from Gamma World, and lean heavy on the AD&D Fiend Folio derived monsters.
  • Elementals are important, but maybe not the standard Greek ones. They seem to be part of a fundamental magic structure of the universe, but Fire, Water, yada yada may not be where it's at. Luckily, D&D gives us para- and quasi- elementals that are weirder.
  • Don't be afraid of the player's getting ahold of more advanced tech, but not weapons so much. Let them freely pick up a bit of the 20th or 21st Century here and there, but don't make weapons or combat related. Let them find record players (or ipods), or gameboys and the like.
  • Mutagens and weirdness. While AT doesn't dwell on it, it has decree of weirdness and even body horror that seems drawn from the most fevered of post-apocalyptic or atomic war fiction. The zones of Roadside Picnic have more in common with it that you might think.
  • Negotiation is always an option. Very few creatures should be attack on sight sorts. Most of them have got the same sort of troubles and aspirations as the adventures, just a different point of view.
  • Don't be afraid of humor. The first edition of Gamma World embraced the silliness of its premise and with something like this, you should too.


Gus L said...

Adventure Time is wonderful.

Your changes look workable and remind me of Nick Whelan over at Paper & Pencil's more recent campaigns: Red World Alone (faction intrigue in the crumbling dome city of post apocalyptic mars) and King of Space. More generally it is nice to see a little gonzo in one's D&D - whimsy and a dash of absurdity are both fun and create ironic distance that I think helps players except bad luck and consequences more easily then when the game is viewed as a hero's journey or epic fantasy.

JB said...

These are all good points for a PA D&as game, and I’ll be making an effort to incorporate them into my current campaign.

I *do* use orcs though, in place of bog-standard mutants (i.e. the ugly, non-powered version). “Half-orcs” are simply mutants born to otherwise normal parents (though ones who live to close to “the wastes”).
; )