Thursday, November 27, 2014

Campaign Setting: Dun Kells

This is an update on my ever-developing "fantasy Christendom" wargames campaign: "Dun Kells."

I've been working on house rules sense last Christmas when I got the collectors edition of Original Dungeons and Dragons from my wife as her present to me.

Here is the introduction to the house rules document, which is almost complete:


Use this campaign-specific “house rules” document in conjunction with the first published rules for fantastic medieval wargames campaigns (0e), especially the first three (3) “little brown books” (LLBs), and follow their precedent for making rulings. Jimm Johnson’s Planet Eris House Rules provides an example of a similar document and may resolve missed or over-looked details. Alexander Marcis’ Adventure Conqueror King System (the ACKS) inspires much that is different from 0e in these rules, especially rules regarding the building, keeping and administration of realms in later phases of play. Other documents generally recognized and played as part of the “Old School Renaissance” fairly contribute to the rulings of this campaign.


These campaign specific rules seek to do three things: to engage a legendarium of a fantastical medieval Christendom, to build into the mechanic reward for more heroic, “high fantasy” play-style and to build more obviously into the core rules the conquering, building, ruling and keeping, not only of strongholds, but their concomitant realms as home-bases for more large-scale wargamming. There are three basic phases of game-play and these three basic phases loosely correspond to about every three levels (lvls) of character advancement:

·      Adventuring: to build fame and fortune in order to
·      Conquer: by claiming, clearing land, and establishing strongholds in order to
·      Rule: a realm as a base of attack and defense, and for the accrual of wealth necessary, for larger-scale fantastical medieval wargamming

In pursuit of these ends, this document supersedes much of the first of the three “LLBs” and more than half of the following rules are dedicated to that task. The referee will still need to make extensive use of the later two “LLBs” or their simulacra.

And here is the "forward" to my now growing "world bible," or "campaign setting description," the so-called "fluff," or, what I would rather call the guide to its "legendaria:"

Dun Kells names a wargames campaign set in a fantastical medieval Christendom. The published rules, additions and modifications are designed not so much as a “retro-clone,” but as a “retro-supplement” to the original edition of the first published rules for fantastical medieval wargames campaigns. So, just as that game had several supplements that still relied upon the core three digests, so too the rules for Dun Kells do not stand alone but require the same three, or their “retro-clones” and simulacra. In this document I provide a description of the “campaign world” for which I designed those rule additions and modifications.

Original edition rules were designed for a medieval-fantasy campaign. The original setting construed “medieval,” as anything “pre-“ or even simply “non-“ modern, including, e.g., the fantastic worlds of Howard, Vance, etc. It deliberately skewed the Christian context of the medieval world of our western history, except, perhaps, the “cleric” class. The rules and this legendarium for Dun Kells attempt to provide the “mechanics” and setting for a more obviously fantastical medieval Christendom, while avoiding the twin-shoals of a forced, one-to-one allegory on the one hand, or any possible disrespect on the other. This is not an easy task, and I must, of course, leave it to the individual reader to determine how well I have achieved these goals.

The great benefit, I hope, is that some of the more obvious features of our own inherited medieval past and its diverse and varying legendaria will become available as features of play. Achieving this end requires the game to engage and reward what has come to be called “high fantasty,” as opposed to the more “low fantasy,” “swords and sorcery,” of the original rules and setting. One important part of this engagement and rewarding, therefore, is building in more obviously something assumed in the original rules and setting, but fairly side-lined in the later development of role-playing games in general: the so called “end game,” where characters build, maintain and battle with their own realms and kingdoms.

Dun Kells engages the legendaria of the Christian “dark ages” triangulated between J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and the “Three Matters” (that is to say, Arthurian Legend, the Carolinian Cycle and the medieval reception of classical myth and legend) that they interpreted and reimagined. Imagine back a kind of dark ages where Merlin from Lewis’ That Hideous Strength roams around with paladins and archbishops, knocking on Grendals' skulls and getting into all sorts of trouble. Project forward from Tolkien’s alternative history. Then add just a bit of the ballads of Robin Hood and some of the Brothers Grimm. So, to get the “feel” of Dun Kells, imagine King Arthur and Beowulf meet in a post- “Middle Earth” Christendom. Magic is waning, the church is waxing, but they are not necessarily at war. King Arthur consults with both the Archbishop and Merlin, etc.

I name it "Dun Kells" after the German word for "dark," (dunkel). I wanted it to have a vaguely but not trendily "celtic" sound (Kells) and I wanted to wave in the direction of the Grimm brothers' fantastical "Black Forest," and, of course, that legendary haunt of fantastical campaigns, “Blackmoor.”

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