Wyatt Salazar is one of my favorite bloggers. He owns a little corner of the internet called The Spirits of Eden. Not only is he a good writer getting better (that alone is enough reason to keep tabs on his blog) but he’s like a physical manifestation of the 4chan boards /a/, /v/, /tg/, and /lit/… But without all the idiocy and torture porn. Following him on Twitter (@WyattSalazar) is recommended if you’re looking for humorous observations that you can later claim where your own. Anyway, Wyatt was kind enough to write a the following post for Low On XP all about his Sci-Fi/Fantasy RPG setting, The World of Adel.
For me, writing The World of Adel on my blog, The Spirits of Eden, is its own hobby. For most GMs, a setting should be the barest bones that they can run a session from, and they don’t have time for more detail. And I could run World of Adel without even three quarters of the material I have written for it. But I love to go down one layer deeper than before and look at certain elements more closely. I’ll probably never get the chance to use half the things I write, but just exploring that world is intensely entertaining for me. So in my spare time, for the past few years, I’ve expanded my campaign setting a lot. I’ve also destroyed it and rebooted it once with new ideas and a fresh take.
When I started Adel, I wanted a different take on fantasy settings. My inspirations are really varied. Hindu and Asian mythology forms a part of it. Modern geopolitics are there a bit. There’s some japanese Anime aesthetics (people with tails, martial artists, capacity for child heroes and such). Polytheistic religion is a big one. Adelians are animists and true polytheists, and their gods, the Spirits, walk the world too.
Adel is, essentially, the post-apocalypse of an older world. The Cataclysm brought destruction to the Lost World, but also revitalization. The new Adel is beautiful and somewhat peaceful, with Five Nations that keep order and provide protection and services to people. I modeled these nations more after real political units, rather than the usually despotic and essentially helpless nations that exist in common D&D-type games. Adel’s Spirits are needed for the ravaged world to stay lush and beautiful. Without spirits, the world would be dead.
However, that’s not to say everything in Adel is well. Though it is a more livable place than typical “points of light” style settings that are beset every day by horrors, Adel has problems of its own. The center of the continent is a dead wasteland filled with demons and insane beings. Buried beneath the world are ruins and relics of the Lost World, ancient technology that will periodically come to life and ruin someone’s day. As well as the ravages of nature – things like dragons and sabertooth tigers and whatnot – there is plenty of conflict.
My mindset when I’m building the world is to write things in layers. There’s the layer that typical readers and GMs would need: a map, the names of places, and generalized information about religion and other customs. I put all of that in one section, a superficial look at the world. From there I go deeper. What is the Adelian view on technology? On sexuality and gender? What is their food like, what are their homes like? What kinds of traditions and communities do they have? All of this lets me create ideas for adventures and to give more texture to the world, and to give stuff for interested players to mine for ideas. I wanted to give a sense that these people aren’t “fantasy Europeans” or “fantasy Hindus” but rather their own people who think about their problems and culture in their own way.
One thing I wanted to do was to create a setting that isn’t trapped by a medieval European mindset about society. In the World of Adel men and women are equal and can do any task. What’s more most people in Adel are very tolerant of bisexuality or homosexuality. Bisexuality can be considered to be “normal” for the Adelians, except for the really elitist rich folk who are staunchly about heterosexual marriages to beget heirs and consolidate wealth. I’m bisexual myself so this reflects me. But I also wanted to include some room for romantic conflict in a part of the setting that usually works for that: monied heirs.
There is no racism. None of the characters are really human though, but their features can accord to any human culture you want to be. A lot of people have told me this sacrifices conflict, but I disagree. The conflict in the World of Adel is the enemies and monsters that exist, the mysterious dungeons of the Lost World, and human problems such as thievery, intrigue, jealousy that create antagonistic character interactions. Widespread bigotry isn’t necessary.
One problem I ran into with the first incarnation of the setting, was that I had included too many ideas that expanded the scope too much. There were too many races, too much space, too many nations and places. It even went into outer space! I didn’t want it to be this huge and convoluted, so that’s when I rebooted it. I took out the old index and made a new one, with a new plan. From there I’ve been much more satisfied with my output, because I’ve refocused my ideas with a new mindset. You can have a big setting without having twenty nations, twelve different races and five systems of magic. What really matters is that the elements you do include are each interesting and expandable, and that they can be used in different ways. I focused more on having interesting elements than having lots of elements.
The World of Adel started off in D&D 3.5, migrated to D&D 4e, but ultimately, I felt constrained by game systems. So I just write now, and I try to give tips or hints on how you can adapt the material to your own games. It’s still essentially a world for fantasy adventures, but it has its own melange of elements that I hope set it apart and make it an interesting place to draw inspiration from.
Thanks again to Wyatt for taking the time to make this happen. I look forward to more news from Adel in the future. You know, I can’t help but smile at the potential of playing in the setting. Until next week, Good Gaming!