I’m in the final stages of bringing my latest project to publication, meaning the self-doubt is really kicking in. The Greydeep Marches is a short (34 pages), system-neutral, OSR-suitable setting sourcebook for fantasy roleplaying adventures. The setting flowed from some initial brainstorming that first appeared in one of my old Hobby Games Recce pieces – “The Importance of the Setting Bible” – with development enabling me to dabble in some new concepts and techniques from various influences. On the surface it looks like plain “vanilla” medieval fantasy: a kingdom, knights, villages, elves, dwarves, halflings, dark forests, ruins, etc. “Boring,” one might say. Yet, like a serving of vanilla ice cream, it offers gamemasters the chance to add toppings to suit their own tastes, a foundation on which they can build a particularly tasty treat.
And yet like plain vanilla ice cream, The Greydeep Marches waits for gamemasters to read through and pick up on the potential toppings to enhance the game experience in their own way. Perhaps they want a light dusting of conspiracy from one of the factions pursuing their hidden agendas. Maybe they’d prefer a dollop of impending metaplot doom trickling down through that shadowy forest from the Ostmaur Peaks. Or possibly they’d prefer to just heap everything on and see what flavors the players like best. Do the Sentinel Knights and their sense of “justice” really keep the peace or simply fuel a simmering discontent? What’s causing the flood of of monsters (or are they refugees?) to filter through the brooding forest into more civilized lands? What’s really behind the horticultural magic protecting the village of Thornhedge? What’s Duke Latikov really doing with all those powerful magic items he hoards? Is that tavern really a good place to plan your next adventure? Take your pick, sprinkle a little over a mere encounter or a full adventure, and see how the flavors and textures work together.
I like “vanilla” fantasy settings forming a foundation on which to build engaging game campaigns. I like presenting a seemingly basic setting with lots of intrigue, danger, and other enhancements lurking just beneath the surface (much like the fantastic elements lurk beneath historical reality in past work like Pulp Egypt and Heroes of Rura-Tonga). I’ve had lots of playful fun crafting various elements (and a few humorous references) writing and developing The Greydeep Marches...an experience that hopefully shows through in the final product. I’ve created a setting in which I’d enjoy running fantasy roleplaying game adventures...one I hope to share with eager readers. As I offer it to the very public, world-wide audience of gamers I can only hope it doesn’t seem too bland to satisfy them, that they find within it some of the subtle toppings they can carefully sprinkle into their own explorations of the setting. It might seem vanilla on top, but I invite readers to dig deeper and mix the ingredients I’ve offered to suit their gaming tastes.