Well! I guess I finally got around to working on this project in earnest a week or two ago and I suppose it’s time to share the first part of the draft. For those unaware, the short version of Gygax ’75 is that it is a guided project to create a game setting suitable for beginning a campaign according to the instructions of Gary himself an eon ago. The long version can be found here.
My draft setting is:
- As yet nameless
- Full of opportunities for role-playing and trickery
- Real depressing
Week One of My Unnamed Gygax ’75 Setting
Though I will clean it up and digitize it one way or another as a PDF when all this is said and done, I felt like it was important to do this project with as much emphasis on the physical part of creating – that is, analogue materials – as on the material I create. Just felt right.
I chose to do the draft work in this little handmade exercise book from Italy as I have a bad habit of hoarding stickers and notebooks instead of actually using them, because I suffer from whatever weird brain thing compels me to save them for “later” or “just in case.” I will one day die with a mountain of unused stickers. Such is life. However, the Ray Otus booklet that guides we few doomed Gygax ’75 participants seems to know this about me, as it contains explicit instructions to crinkle your book and stain its pages to remove the mystery and intimidation of a fresh and unmarked page. Wisdom. I didn’t go that far, but I did set out to immediately begin scratching away at the pages without overthinking it and it was pretty cathartic. I wrote these pages very rapidly while sitting in bed with my wife and listening to music in an effort to distract myself. Good call, Ray!
The book, for those who may be curious, is one of these and the pens used were a TWSBI Eco M nib full of Diamine Oxblood and a Lamy Safari EF nib full of Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris. It always feels douchey to announce stuff like that but I know I’d want to know if I came across this blog post myself, so there it is.
Onward to the internal pages:
The last great epoch of man has passed in the stormy tumult of war; the great clash of the empires of order and the empires of chaos has plunged what survived into an Age of Sorrow. The Great Scourge lashes the land still, though more than a century has passed; patches of blight sour pastures and sicken man and beast, gouts of foul miasma erupt from fissures, pits scar the landscape, the clattering dead haunt battlefields still, and in the shadowy places where the sun hides behind unnatural clouds there echo inhuman screams.
Lost ruins contain great wealth and, it is said, ancient secrets – perhaps even clues to putting the world right. These dangerous corridors and caverns are the crumbling edifices of the last age, and some are even stranger and more ancient than that. Some say these places…
… have attracted cults, or worse. Some foolish souls delve into these places in hopes of amassing treasures to provide and easier life or to pay off possibly fatal debts; some even more ludicrous dreamers go in hopes of finding the means of driving back the crackling magenta skies and the malicious creatures of chaos.
Much of what was, is no more. Small constellations of human civilization barely cling to a meagre existence with dismal harvests, guttering flames, and failing walls. these places remain battened down against the elements and the monstrous foes that inhabit the surrounds.
Some people – and even whole settlements – have been corrupted, either by their ancestors’…
… dealings with dark forces in the Great War or by the cancerous influence of the Great Scourge in the times since. These people are twisted as a result. Many of these people are cruel or evil, and behave in odd ways. This inner evil is reflected in their outer appearance. Some can subvert the external signs of this transformation, hiding their Cursed heritage to enable them to sneak about and enact evil deeds. They sabotage, taint, harm, and murder normal folk. When they are uncovered or otherwise pressed, this curse invariably reveals itself.
- Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards (1977). One of the foremost formative films of my life. Saw this at a young age and have watched it regularly since. Brilliant movie. Responsible in this case for the clash of empires ruining the world, the desperation of the few good folks left, and the visuals that fill my mind when I close my eyes – colorful and kaleidoscopic, but also dark and threatening.
- Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series (1981-present). Bruce Campbell is a treasure and I refuse to believe there is someone out there who doesn’t enjoy these movies and the legend of the Necronomicon ex Mortis. The big give here, though, is the Deadites, who I have unashamedly stolen wholesale and made into the Cursed.
- Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991). I was obsessed with Zelda games as a kid. When I think of a storm-battered version of a once-lovely land cursed by foul magic to be depressing and inhospitable and ravaged by monsters, the Dark World from this game springs to mind.
- Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series (1990-2013). A minor influence, really just the idea of a magical apocalypse and tiny pockets of decency struggling to keep out the world’s many – and increasing – dangers.
- Blue Oyster Cult. One of the best bands of all time. BOC practically is D&D music in my mind. Almost anything I do with dice is either inspired by BOC, scored by BOC, or both. If you tell me to turn off the music I will still be playing BOC in my mind. You can’t stop me. This is the odd one out because the rest has a distinctly 80s-90s goth rock thing going on, but BOC is inescapable.
- Sisters of Mercy. Heavy, low, ominous. It sounds like nighttime and rain. Experiential associations are neat!
- Siouxsie and the Banshees. What can I say, I grew up in the times where all the girls I had crushes on were goths and they were way too cool for me. Face to Face (1992) was the title track for Batman Returns, which was a terrific movie and it is a terrific song besides. You can’t miss with this band though.
- Inkubus Sukkubus. Especially Vampire Queen (2018), but really anything from their catalogue will suit the vibe. If you played this song at one of their concerts in 1991 no one would even notice.
- I should have added Type O Negative if we’re being honest, but you get the idea by now probably.
Bonus Marks: The Mood Board
You can’t legally force me to use Pinterest, Ray. I tried for like five seconds and my annoyance was brutal indeed until I remembered I can just use my own damn blog that I pay too much for each year to host.
So here’s a “mood board.” Usually I am extremely good at sourcing and crediting images, but full disclosure: I looked these up on my cellphone through arcane Google search terms late at night while sleep-deprived and frankly that’s not the best way to save and rename files, so I am going to fail at that this time.
Many of those are stills from Wizards (1977). One is a still from Hocus Pocus (1993). The rest are the property of their creators – since I gathered these from various sources that didn’t necessarily cite them I have tried to do so here with the following list of artist credits: Asahisuperdry, Markus Lovadina, Denis Klim, Vladimir Manyukhin, Andrei Pervukhin, VityaR83, Flavio Bolla, Irina Metsu, Andreas Rocha, Daniel Chou. A couple pieces weren’t easily traced via reverse image search, so if you recognize them and know the creators of those images, I’d be happy to append their information here!
Onward to Week Two – The Surrounding Area
Next Gygax ’75 update is going to bring a hex map. This is also something I have put together in a physical media sort of way, with pencil crayons and paper and pens and things like that. I enlisted some help from my lovely wife to do the heavy lifting on the coloring as I really wanted to do a little project with her; it was a lot of fun that way. Maybe by the time I write that post up, I’ll have a name for this little world, but no promises!
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed touring Week One of my Gygax ’75 draft. I don’t really know how it will all turn out yet but I guess that’s true of anything, right? If you have any thoughts you need to get off your chest, please let me know over on Twitter, on Instagram, or in the comments below!