Monday, August 29, 2011

Weird Fantasy and Gygaxian Probability

It should come as no surprise that I am quite fond of D&D With Porn Stars.  A friend recommended I Hit It With My Axe with the standard gimmick presentation that it's porn stars playing D&D, which sounds like the sort of thing that is funny once and probably worth a few seconds of one's time.  It became swiftly obvious that this show was the play log of a gaming group that just so happened to be composed of porn stars, and since I like to hear about roleplaying games as much as I like to play them, I started watching.

This is how I met Vornheim.

Vornheim is this baroque, gothic, surreal campaign setting that somehow manages tropes of high fantasy, pulp fantasy, and fantasy of manners with minimal fuss.  What's not to love about a setting like that?

After wandering my way through some of the headspace of the Old School Renaissance, I determined part of the secret to making a Weird fantasy setting.

The charts do much of the legwork for you.

Go through that Vornheim link and look at some of the tales about random charts.  This post is an excellent example.  Look at how the random results force the Game Master to forge a coherent story out of them.  Sure, an uninspired GM might figure out some mundane way to connect these disparate elements, but the charts tend to force odd elements together.  Roll on enough of them, and pretty soon, you have a whole culture based on what a sister, a candle, a talking rock, and a floating castle have to do with each other.  You still need skill to weave these elements together in an interesting way, but you have a handful of elements that you probably never would have associated on your own.

I'm still not in the habit of using random charts to determine outcomes — I suppose I'm still a Newtonian determinist — but this revelation makes it a little more appealing.  I've even seen a random chart for a modern day game.

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