I'm gearing up to run my second game of Sorcerer and taking my first stab at the Sorcerer and Sword variant. On the GM prep side, things are a bit more involved. For Sorcerer, I created one statement about demons, one about the setting, defined Humanity, and collected a couple pictures for inspiration. At that point,I was good to go. Since I set my Sorcerer game in the present day, world creation was an easier affair.
With Sorcerer and Sword, I'm coming up with an imagined setting, so there's more legwork to do. To get the ball rolling on the game, I've come up with:
- a basic geography (which has significant implications for political organization and cultural development),
- a foundational myth,
- and rumors about the "mystic otherworlds" (which reside somewhere in the unexplored swamps).
Sorcerer and Sword has a general default definition for Humanity: Having feelings for other as people. The myth I came up with adds heft to this idea. I'm imaging that the harsh world of Snia regularly breaks people down, pushing theminto the same "Screw it" attitude that characterizes its primary deity. As they give into this temptation, they stop caring about others . . . and eventually, they lose themselves.
Below is the world description I've put together. At this stage, I'm planning to let this description simmer on the back burner until I gather together with the players for character creation. Their ideas and input will guide me in creating NPCs, specific settings, and other elements.
Reactions and comments are welcome:
The Sodden Lands of Snia Mer
Snia Mer, or Snia for short, is a swamp world teeming with cryptozoological wonders and wrapped in a stifling, humid haze. Sights of surreal beauty abound. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of Snia are too busy fending off encroaching beasts and water to notice.
Human settlements take on forms as varied and bizarre as the insects and amphibians lurking in the bogs that surround them. Structures are built on rare ridges of dry land that have emerged from the muck. In most cases, villages are small and isolated, developing curious ideas and practices independently. But there are occasionally land masses large enough to sustain entire cities. In other cases, small kingdoms have formed out of swamp-islands that are close enough to be connected by artificial berms.
Religious and philosophical attitudes in settlements vary, but the roots of beliefs can almost always be traced to a core myth:
It is said that, eons ago, Snia possessed entire continents surrounded by blue oceans, and that civilizations arose that rivalled the cities of the gods. These divinities were typically callous and indifferent when it came to human affairs, but this challenge jostled them out of their apathetic slumber. Reluctant, but feeling that something had to be done, Yzal, the indolent prime deity, roused the oceans and sent a deluge down to snuff out human life. It was initially an impressive display, but Yzal could not sustain his attention. On the 17th day of the flood, he said, “Screw it!”* He and the other gods turned their backs on Snia and went off to who knows where to continue their divine dalliances. And so the world was neither destroyed nor saved on that day, and instead Snia remained mired in its curiously aborted, semi-flooded state.
*It is as this point that accounts radically diverge. Some replace Yzal’s terse exclamation with an elaborate, dignified speech wherein he justifies the interminable swamp as a just punishment for human wickedness. Others provide him with an equally long, delirious rant filled with obscenities and non sequiturs. And yet other manuscripts trail off at this point with shaky handwriting that suggests the scribe is either bored, angry, or confused.
And what of the swamp itself? Most of it is unexplored. Inhabitants try to map the bog around their settlements, but such maps are almost always out of date and unreliable, as the swamp is in a state of constant flux. Most of Snia’s inhabitants focus on eking out an existence on the ridges of lands. Those who venture into the swamp are either insane or desperate for release. Rumors and legends abound. Some religious zealots claim that the gates to salvation lie on a mountain rising out of the bog and climbing to clear skies about the mist. Those with more earthly aspirations entertain tales that a single vast continent, ripe for conquest or exploitation, still exists on Snia Mer.
- Luminous butterflies
- Polychromatic haze
(Note: Players should not be constrained by these demonic forms when creating their own demons.
Sorcerer and Sword says “In this setting, unlike most modern day stories, Humanity concerns only close relationships. Murder, robbery, and rapine are only bady (i.e. prompt Humanity loss rolls) insofar as they harm people the hero knows or has shared danger with.”
Given the foundational myth above, Humanity in Snia relies especially on care and concern. When a character succumbs to the “Screw it” attitude of Yzal, Humanity is on the line.
Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique stories.