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Beyond Warriors and Wizards: The Fantasy Fringe

July 28, 2018


In our previous two installments (first post, second post), we presented ideas on how The Fantasy Trip can go beyond the obvious Hero and Wizard characters to model common RPG “character classes.” We could stop there, but why?

With just TFT:ITL and a little thought, you can explore areas beyond the pale of regular “heroic fantasy.” Here are just three examples of ”out of the box” campaigns, and the characters who could give them life.

Yankees in the Court

Set in Arthurian Britain, the PCs are stranded time travelers trying to make a place for themselves in the time of Arthur and the Round Table. They have no substantial surviving modern tools and it is difficult to introduce even modest improvements — the infrastructure isn’t there to support it, local authorities are resistant to change, and the moderns have little idea of how to build their home technology from scratch.

Mark Twain has anticipated many of the cultural clashes that would result, and his A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is an essential text. The GM should not take it as easy on the PCs as Twain did on his lone hero, however.

Unique characters would include locals with useful skills — soldiers, blacksmiths, and armorers — and at least one hedge wizard or witch woman who has had “visions” foretelling the arrival of these strange people. A minor religious figure like a monk or local priest might be interesting as well.

Overcoming suspicion and court intrigues would be early PC difficulties. Later, they might assist Arthur to unite Britain under Camelot’s banner. Local wizards, including Merlin, might be powerful friends or deadly foes. Plus, the PCs could always decide to go after the Holy Grail . . .

Cities of Gold and Magic

Europeans came to the Western Hemisphere to create colonies. They found advanced civilizations already there — Aztecs, Inca, Maya, Toltecs.  Suppose the Europeans — despite weapons and armor the locals could not match — were met by powers they could not understand?

This campaign proposes pre-Columbian civilizations had mastered magic to match against the horses, armor and firepower of the invaders. TFT combat gear provides the more primitive weaponry and limited armor of the locals to the metal armor and early gunpowder weapons of the Europeans. (The GM can easily extrapolate firearms of the period, a bit more portable but only slightly more effective than the ones listed in ITL.)

Gold takes the place of silver as a magically-inclined metal, and Summon spells include local predator animals as well as mythical creatures of the culture. Making the use of captured gunpowder weapons a local taboo might be good at first, with the leaders split between shamans who fear gunpowder and war leaders who covet them.

First Contact’s early cultural/technological shock has already occurred. Most PCs are indigenous warriors equipped with pre-medieval weapons and little armor above the equivalent of cloth and leather, plus priest/shamans trained in the arts of magical war. Unusual background PCs might be refugees from overrun tribes and Europeans who have allied with the indigenous people.

The PCs have been sent to watch and harass a European coastal settlement not far from a still-unrevealed indigenous city. Smaller villages have already suffered at the hands of the invaders. Freeing captives, liberating villages, and creating a resistance under the noses of the interlopers are goals of the campaign.

Floating Kingdoms of the Imperial Planet

During the first third of the 20th century on Earth, our solar system is invaded by a wandering planet entering orbit between Earth and Mars. One daring scientist mounts an expedition to the mystery world, using his newly-invented Phlogiston Rocket, and finds it inhabited. After a crash landing leaves them stranded, the PCs are captured by minions of the planetary Emperor, whose plans are grandiose and hostile.

The Emperor uses a gigantic artifact/mechanism to allow his world of Zydov to roam space in search of conquest. He destroys the conquered planets after robbing them of anything he finds diverting. He keeps a few surviving inhabitants on giant islands floating high in the atmosphere, reachable by magical flying mounts which are the local equivalent of horses.

Each of the trophy “kingdom moons” has a unique ecosystem and humanlike population (similar to orcs, elves, dwarves, and other fantasy races, or created from whole cloth by the GM.) Kingdom leaders serve (more or less) the Emperor in the hope he won’t tire of them and use the Great Machine to blast their homes into space.

The “technology” of Zydov is magic, with the Emperor himself and his highest advisors being wizards. Weapons and armor are strictly medieval in nature, with any Earth artifacts brought by the PCs captured and in the hands of the Empire unless they can be somehow “liberated.”

The PCs must escape imprisonment, organize the leaders of Zydov's moons, and turn them against the Emperor. Allies among the kingdoms may have magic of their own.

Defeating the Emperor will be the long-term goal, but first they must thwart his schemes to conquer Earth. They will do so with boldly heroic feats, exotic allies, and — perhaps — an occasional Flash of brilliance.

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