Saturday, December 26, 2009

Not Quite Forgotten

(Cross-posted to my LiveJournal.)

Owing to an extended idea-drought, I've stopped working on my homebrew setting for Labyrinth Lord. I'm going to use the new version of the Forgotten Realms that was released for 4th Edition (though I'm definitely not using the 4e rules – I'm sticking with LL).

I mostly like what they've done with FR. It's a big change: there's not only been a “Realms-Shaking Event” justifying the rules changes, but also a hundred-year gap. That's obviously put off (to say the least) a lot of the long-time fans of FR. I'm a long-time fan myself, but while I liked the setting as it was, I was finished with it. I felt that FR was suffocating under the sheer volume of accumulated lore and metaplot, and that was one of the main things that made me decide several years back to part ways with the FR setting; but FR4e has changed so much that most of that old info is obsolete. I suspect that was a specific goal in FR4e's redesign, a sort of “clearing the decks”. There's not going to be any quick return to the setting-clutter either, since FR4e is only getting a single Campaign Guide and Player's Guide and an adventure trilogy, and no more RPG material (though the novels are going to continue).

Although I like the setting, I'm not as impressed with the Campaign Guide (FRCG) itself. In a lot of ways it's like a return to the original 1e grey box set, filling in the world in broad strokes with atmospheric writing (some of which is really inspiring). Unfortunely, the level of detailing is highly inconsistent, and a lot of the vagueness in the FRCG looks more like bad editing than artistic intent. A prime example is the off-hand mention that the Harpers were disbanded decades ago, with no further explanation. Um, what? The Harpers were a major part of FR since even before the 1e box set, when the setting appeared in series of articles in the pages of Dragon – surely that event merits some kind of description. The book continually describes locations that aren't on the map, and vice versa (i.e. places on the map get no description). To give the benefit of the doubt, some of this might be a deliberate design choice – DM's get a free hand to place the described adventure sites where they wish, or to take the names of places from the map and fill them out themselves – but there's just too much of that in the book. I can't help but think that the designers have tried to cram too much into too few pages, and the required editing to make it fit has cut bits out haphazardly. Oh, and the index? Useless.

Despite the FRCG's shortcomings in presentation, I still like the setting itself. It's got just the right balance of old and new for what I'm looking for. Also, it's luckily a perfect fit for LL in one way: the Spellplague (the “Realms-Shaking Event”) has left behind ruined wastelands and magical mutation, which would make a good reason to use material from Mutant Future, LL's post-apocalyptic (and LL-compatible) sister game.

No comments:

Post a Comment