Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Tiny Kingdom: How Random Things End Up in the Campaign

  I want to tell you more about my really, really old campaign. Seaward. And I want to talk about a supplement/game that I want.
  But first, let's talk about ideas.
  By that I mean - how do little bits of inspiration, insight, confusion, and such lead to creative ideas?


  Let's talk about the Briars. This is a section of my main campaign world where a lot of adventures have happened over the years and I plan to have a great deal more happen as long as I am still alive.
  And I know exactly where the Briars came from.

  Growing up I was lucky enough to spend part of every Summer at my Uncle Don's farm in Indiana Amish country. We visited throughout the year, of course, and did everything from help with livestock to snowmobiling. And part of what we did was pick blackberries, dewberries, and cut back sweet briar. It was those outings that made the 'Lost in the Briars' picture in the 1e book so spooky to me; having gotten stuck in the briars when I fell into them at the age of 4 that seemed pretty horrible.
  But more critically I remember when the only real neighbor of my Uncle Don sold his place - Uncle Don bought all the farmland, but the neighbor sold the house to a guy that owned a carpet and tile store in town 20-30 miles away. The new owner immediately put in a pool, about 18 tacky garden statues (lions with gold paint; cupids; that sort of thing), bought a peacock, and stopped maintaining the hedges and thickets.
  That all happened the Summer I was 5. By the time I was 9 we needed an extra week every year to cut back briars along the property line. And briars are tough - the stems are long, very tough, and often covered in thorns. To get rid of the plants you have to trim them back, and then dig out the root. The new neighbor ignored my Uncle Don's questions, and his warnings, because he was only concerned about his 'main yard'.
  My Uncle told me how much that upset him. Briars can spread  fairly fast and can take over meadow and farm land making it useful only to rabbits and weasels. Without pruning and watching they can cover large areas and reduce the output of even uncultivated land. He said,
  "If we ever get many abandoned farms around here the briars could take over miles and miles of the countryside."

  That was the day after I drew the coasts and mountains of my setting. I added a large swatch of briars that night and they have been a fixture ever since.

  For the first few years the Briars were just a well-nigh-impassable area with an old, very old, road cutting through their center. I placed the entrance to my Big Dungeon, Skull Mountain, at the other end of that road, but for a few years it was just 4-5 days of custom random encounters on the way to the dungeon. Of course, I had secrets tucked away in its depths, like the druid's grove that only druid (with their ability to travel through undergrowth) could reach, a hidden wizard's domain surrounded by impassable thorn hedges and cloaked by illusion, etc. But I was still eager to flesh them out.
  I had been reading Tarzan and the Ant Men, a fun read. and then my kid sisters discovered the books about the Littles, tiny people who live in the walls of human houses. After a fair amount of wheedling I made some small houses and such and tucked them around the backyard so the two of them could play games about little humans, just 4" tall, visiting each other.
  That is when I saw an ad in Dragon Mag for miniatures of armored knights on gigantic bees. I immediately thought,
  "Why not little men on large bees? Heck, why not wee men on just bumblebees?"

  And the Tiny Kingdom was born.
  Deep in the Briars, surrounded by thorn hedges so thick only a druid could get through them, surrounded by harsh terrain and fierce monsters is the Tiny Kingdom. At the center is a walled city surrounded by tiny farms and villages, then a ring of forts - the Bee Men live here, called that because they have tamed bees. Their best warriors, the Knights, ride bumblebees to and from battle.
  Outside the forts are the wild places where the Mice Men, fierce barbarians, roam. Ruins of past nations litter the area with ruined towers and abandoned vaults scattered about the realm. It would take a Bee Man 20 days of walking to travel from the center of the city to the edge of the Briars that surround the realm, the vast distance of - five miles!
  I had sketched out rough maps, names, etc. when all sorts of Real Life things happened and I put it all aside. For the next 30+ years the Bee Knights and the Tiny Kingdom were flitting around, always on the edge of turning into something, hinted at in 100 things: pieces of loot; notes from sages; and tales from madmen; but never directly a part of my campaign.

  Until this weekend.

  Now that the Mice Men have been introduced my players have seized upon the idea with both hands.

  They love the idea of the Tiny Kingdom and we brainstormed late into the night about possibilities. Some of the ideas so far are;

  -The Tiny Kingdom as a full-bore OSR supplement/setting full of maps, NPCs, magic items, etc.

  -Switching to normal-size anthropomorphic animals and release a setting where good-guy mice battle bad-guy weasels and there might be some sort of religious building involved.
 
  -A complete, soup-to-nuts OSR game, with a number of tiny races and their foes.

  -Change things a bit and make the setting a vast, enchanted garden of a powerful wizard who is unaware of the empires and battles of wee people in his arbors, then release that as a supplement.

  -Combine the full game with the wizard's garden setting.

  What do you guys think?