Adventures in a Decaying Empire
Welcome to my new Swords & Wizardry campaign
1st- if you are new to old school gaming, or RPGs at all, you should check out these links-
A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming
I am using the Swords & Wizardry Complete rules set- it’s not a bait and switch- S&W Complete is a restating of the original Dungeons & Dragons game system. Those rules are freely available here
This campaign is going to be completely old school. I (William) will be your referee (although I will continue to call myself DM out of habit) and the cool, gonzo feel of early edition D&D awaits you!
My primary working thesis is that I want this to feel like 1970’s D&D, something I was only there for the tail end of. So I jumped in and did some research on 0e and it’s retroclones Swords & Wizardry and Delving Deeper.
What I came out of that with was that 0e was just as much about science fantasy as it was about swords and sorcery, there are Androids, Cyborgs and Robots on the monster lists. Gygax, Arneson and crew didn’t limit themselves to just standard fantasy fare. “Expedition to the Barrier Peaks” was not a fluke, it was fairly standard for the game at the time. So too was the almost forgotten art of the really random mega-dungeon.
There is a strong “Arthurian” vibe to the overland encounters. Randomly you will almost certainly be challenged to a joust by some knight or other noble, just to prove yourself. There is an entire separate rules section covering jousting, something pretty much lacking from later editions.
Robert E. Howard’s “Conan the Barbarian” was a much larger influence than Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”; all Gygax seems to have lifted from Tolkien’s work were the Hobbits, Ring-Wraiths and Ents. Honestly, pulp fantasy and sci-fi elements are practically exuded from the games metaphorical pores.
Early D&D was set in a post-apocalyptic world, not necessarily post-nuclear holocaust (although it could be), but like a fantasy version of Europe in the period immediately after the fall of the Western Roman empire.
In retrospect, my own style of DMing tends to amplify the weird, post-apocalyptic tone of early D&D.
So I started working on a campaign world that would reflect these ideas and I first came up with the city of Dusk, then Helltown. Here, in this setting, you will find Sir Thomas Mallory, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, an abundance of pulp era science fiction and a curious bit of actual history. Feudal Lords and noble knights abound in the rural areas, evil priests and sorcerors scheme everywhere, the cities are invariably decadent and corrupt, noble savages batter the ramparts of civilization, but so too do armies of Undead, and the lands between the civilized areas are untamed, howling, primeval wilderness filled with nature spirits, savages, monstrous creatures and demonic hordes.