Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Elric Explored - Part 1: Elementals

A few days ago I posted about my desire to create an original sandbox setting (codename Icosa) to explore with my players. I posted this simple formula: campaign = Elric + Cthulhu + OD&D. Well not it's time to start taking this apart and seeing what makes this formula tick in my mind starting with the first variable for inspiration: Elric.

I'm re-reading the series of books about the albino Eternal Champion by Michael Moorcock to get reaquainted with the setting. I read it long ago and found many things I liked about it. Back then I had approached the series as a result of the appendix in the DMG. Now I'm going through the stories again with more of an eye toward what elements (no pun intended) I like most and would like to use in Icosa. I feel this is an important first step to help me focus the tone of the setting. I can also then compare the elements I want to the game system to see what is supported and what needs further fleshing out.

Let me make it clear to start off with that I am NOT trying to recreate the Elric saga in my sandbox. That's already been done quite well and I have no illusions to outstrip that excellent game. I only want to borrow those bits and pieces that I (and hopefully my players) find cool.

Another reason I want to start this way is I like to design top-down. This may seem counter intuitive given the exploratory nature of sandbox play, but I need that top-down framework to provide the structure to work within. It establishes boundaries and gives me something to build upon. Hopefully that keeps things from feeling too random. I do plan to leave plenty of places to explore and discover as a result of play. To begin with, some areas of the world will only have a sentence or two at most to give it flavor without dictating reams of history. If you catch me creating long (ala Tolkien appendices) genealogies or histories feel free to call me on that. So let's get started...

The world Elric inhabits has a close relationship with elementals. By elementals I mean not only the four classics (earth, wind, fire and water) but also the animal elementals, those primal beings that are the epitome of their type. These beings are powerful entities that are called upon to do various things for those summoning them. Included under this heading are the demons that are summoned as well. These otherworldly elementals are fearsome and a powerful tool of any sorcerer.

Elric interacts not only with the more basic types of elementals, but with their kings as well. This presents a hierarchy of power that could prove interesting to tap into. PCs could make bargains at lower levels with some of the more pedestrian of the elementals and work their way up the chain as they gain power and experience.

Swords & Wizardry (SnW) has Conjure Elemental as a 5th level magic-user spell, something only a potent magic-user of high level can cast. This fits in for the most powerful of their type, but I posit a more diverse strata of beings, something that magic-users at various levels can tap into (role-playing possibilities galore) as they gain levels. This points to a possible variant of the magic-user that deals specifically with these other worlders (perhaps with charisma as prime requisite) or perhaps a customization of spell lists.

Elementals could also be a possible source of magic (a more thorough exploration of magic is required another time): Levitate is performed by calling on air elementals and Wall of Fire by calling on their fiery cousins. Also there is the obvious need for stating the various elementals that the PCs can interact with. SnW has the basics but a little more variety can go a long way to spicing up play and exploration. In all cases (spells/class/monster) SnW provides an open framework for developing these ideas.

I hope the inclusion and use of these elementals will help bring a facet of the fantastic to this setting: both dangerous and exotic like the fey of old. I want players to look forward to and, at the same time, fear interactions with the Elementals of Icosa.

As a final note, I'm looking for a name for this campaign. I want it to be something 'pulpy' for lack of a better term. I'm not too worried about it at this point. I'm sure something will spring to mind as I continue to explore the setting.


  1. Been meaning to post this since yesterday!

    Not having looked at S&W specifically...
    You can handle this issue with Summon Monster. It already scales up with level so you're golden. All you'd need to do is create specific summoning lists for each level of the spell, or create a correlation with HD. You could also rename them and have them do the same thing (Summon Monster I becomes Summon Servant Elemental, SM II becomes Summon Lesser Elemental, etc).

    I like what's fueling this world, dude.

  2. @Daniel I agree, the spell is the way to go. SnW does not have summoning spells other than summoning elementals, so I think it should be easy to work backwards from current spells to get a simple hierarchy of spells to mimic those summoning effects.

    I'm liking this world too. It is the culmination of over two decades of ideas simmering in my brain. I'm gonna be drawing from some interesting places. I can't wait to see how it all come together; I'm trying to approach this as a cook would a new recipe. First I'm gonna collect my ingredients and then see much of each to combine into a wonderful dish. Thanks for the feedback.

  3. I was looking over my Spell Book iTouch app which is for S&W and I saw Monster Summoning I-IV, so it should be there. If not, just port it over from 3.5 SRD and go from there.

  4. I think the app is for the core rules SnW so that would make sense. That would be an easy place to grab them from. Thanks.