Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A (mini) Setting Hack inspired by The Witcher

No, I'm not talking about the videogame, although I got to know Witcher because of them. However, what really hooked me up was the literature (original) version of the character and setting. More precisely:

- Witcher is a series of novels by polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, the first one released in 1992!

- They're heavily influenced by slavic and eastern european myths, which is a plus for me;

- Witcher also plays with a lot of fairy tales’ clichés, often in new and insightful ways (when the novels draws from the Beauty and the Beast it is hilarious; and the part about Snow White is one of the greatest and saddest moments of the first book).

- The novels also go deep in D&D legendarium! A few examples: the 1st book mentions Daos as "earth genies", and you have to remember that Daos aren't mythologic at all (the “original” genies, as far as I know, are djinn, efreeti, jann and marid). Daos were created for D&D, to fill the “earth” niche in the monster entry. The Witcher's description of gold dragons also is based on D&D. There're a lot of others excellent examples (dwarves, elves, clerics, mages etc);

- Not only does Witcher is influenced by D&D and its tropes, but it manages to use monsters in a clever, original and very entertaining way. You have to see how doppelgangers are used… it’s funny (and scary if you think about the consequences);

- Finally, the entire Wichter series is amazingly well written. The books are engaging, the characters are deliciously profane and endearing. The political and intrigue aspects are top-notch (in 1992, way before “fantasy + intrigue” became a gold standard). The series also addresses mature content, like racism, in a very thoughtful way.

So, why am I talking about the Witcher? Because reading those books gave me an idea for a simple "Witcher Hack" that can be added to any D&D campaign setting. 

Basically, if you want a "Witcher Hacked" setting, just choose your favorite D&D world and remove all its humanoid races - except the ones from the Core Books.

Yup. Just that. Nothing radical, I know, but when the play starts... gone are the kobolds, goblins and other generic cannon fodder. They're replaced by bandits, barbarians, foreigners, invaders etc. The first dungeons are probably dwarven mines, elven holdouts, human enclaves etc. When the party start killing and looting enemies, they'll be looting fellow humans (and demihumans) and dealing with the consequences.

It's really something that has already been proposed in a number of places (the old critique against D&D's numerous humanoids races and their use), but the Witcher series implement the idea in a vibrant and refreshing way. The entire series can give great ideas for your campaigns.

Of course, this isn’t for everyone’s tastes. I don’t see anything wrong when you just want to seat down, forget the world and do some good old fashioned dungeon-crawl and ass-kicking. However, if you also like hard choices and dramatic challenges, playing in a Forgotten Realms only with human and demihuman adversaries can be a good change of pace (some D&D settings already go in that direction, by removing the “cannon fodder” label of humanoid races, like – if I remember right – Eberron or Birthright).