Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Wilderlands of High Fantasy


There is something to say about this campaign setting.  Originally designed for OD&D, the Wilderlands of High Fantasy is . . .well . . . inspired by the Fantasy fiction of the 1960s and 1970s.  Although there's nothing to stop you from adding High Medieval Romance, the Wilderlands of High Fantasy is specifically designed for wandering barbarians, dark wizards, neolithic cultures, orcs that would slay you before talking, and high adventure in the land.

Everything about Wilderlands just screams Frank Frazetta and his Fantastic art.  From the adventures of John Carter of Mars, to Pellucidar, to John Norman's Gor, to Robert E. Howard's Conan and Kull, to Ancient and Prehistoric cultures the Wilderlands of High Fantasy is a place you get to by "turning left instead of turning right."  It's not typical fantasy, but some of the best of every Campaign Setting can fit there.

The premise behind the Wilderlands is the Points of Light idea found in 4th Edition.  However, unlike the PoL idea where you have city states of Medieval Romance, the setting has impacted the City States of the Wilderlands a great deal.  The untamed wilderness is untamed, and there are hardly any roads leading to other lands of civilization.  In the untamed wilderness there are dangers everywhere, ruins waiting to be explored, neolithic and paleolithic cultures, dinosaurs and wild beasts.  Amazons who feel that they are superior to men, dangerous undersea cultures.  Slavers, and the enslaved.

The Wilderlands is a campaign unlike any other.  It's not something they'd dream up at Wizards of the Coast.  Although, Dark Sun does come very close to the Wilderlands in feel.  Bob Bledsaw and others have taken a lot of liberties to put this together, and what they've put together is a campaign that would make certain people blush.  It's a no holds barred setting that doesn't pull any punches.  Fantasy is fantasy to Bob, and to play in his setting is actually being edgy and tells people you want to play something different than a typical fantasy setting.  So, putting together a Wilderlands campaign, you do need the Wilderlands of High Fantasy Player's Guide to get started -- but to add awesome sauce, you need to read a lot of fiction from the Early and Mid Twentieth Century.  Typically:

* anything by Edgar Rice Burroughs, including Tarzan, A Princess from Mars, and At the Earth's Core.
* Anything by Robert E. Howard, especially Conan the Barbarian stories.
* Anything by John Norman: such as the Gor series.
* The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
* Anything by Jules Verne.
* Anything by H. Rider Haggard including King Solomon's  Mines and She.
* The Clan of the Cave Bear
* The Scarlet Pimpernel

Movies that will help:
* Anything where Ray Harryhausen was the Special Effects coordinator.  Including: The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, The First Men in the Moon, Jason and the Argonauts, and the original Clash of the Titans.
* King Kong (1930's and 2004).
* the Indiana Jones series
* Alan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold (a cheesy movie)
* King Solomon's Mines (1932 British Film)
* The Tarzan B-Movie serials
* Hatari! with John Wayne
* Sheena
* 10,000 B.C. (both: the one /w Raquel Welch, and the Roland Emmerich film)
* Conan the Barbarian
* Red Sonja
* Stargate
* Stargate SG-1

References of History:
The World's Last Mysteries (Time/Life books)
America B.C.
GURPS Low Tech.
GURPS High Tech.
GURPS Greece
The Antediluvian World by Ignatius Donnelly
The Bible
The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt
Putting together a campaign in the Wilderlands is easy no matter what edition you have.  Just remember, you're playing in a World that Tarzan, Conan, and John Carter of Mars would be happy to be in.  There seems to be no room for powerful knights and damosels in distress; although you can put them in there.  Roleplaying and adventuring in the Wilderlands is an interesting experience.  You're leaving behind the Forgotten Realms and its spell-scars and so forth and venturing in territory that your fertile childhood mind could only imagine.  Welcome to the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.  Enjoy your stay.

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