21 February 2013

Ancient Libya in Swords and Wizardry

This could be you, if you work hard enough

If you wanted to play D&D in ancient Africa, what kinds of changes would you have to make?

You'd want to excise the Cleric almost entirely, I think; a warrior-priest with healing magic isn't really a thing in the early African worldview, I don't think. It isn't really in any worldview, when you think about it, but I'm not here to complain about the Cleric. That's for another time.

If you took out the healing spells from the Cleric's list and gave them to the Magic User, you'd have a pretty good mystic or shaman. He'd have the detecting spells (can sense evil spirits), can purify water (an old mystic trick), can charm people (hypnotism), that sort of thing. And since, under Whitebox rules, you don't get actual flashy fireballs and lightning bolts until 5th level, there's really nothing else to change. And honestly, when you're at 5th level, you can throw a fireball once in a while.

I'd probably want to give the mystics something cool they can do, and some sort of ritual or taboo they have to obey. Something like "Must never bathe, but can always find food, given time," or "Must wear white face paint to ward off Bambu-Paku's ghost, but can find water with a dowsing rod." You know, that sort of thing.

Next, you reduce armor choices, but make padded armor more effective, like it historically was. I understand it could block arrows? So give it medium armor statistics, and you're done. You have naked (-0), light (-2), and medium armors(4), and then of course you have shields. Double their value (-2), and you're left with about the same armor values as before, except now everybody's carrying shields.

For weapons, just have everything deal 1d6, since everybody was using knives and spears and bows and slings and they didn't seem to notice too much of a difference between them. It's not important to the game anyways, what weapon does what. Maybe you can give a penalty to crap weapons and a bonus to great weapons, but I think it's fine. Magic weapons can be the only ones to deal extra damage, which suits me just fine.

The Fighter is fine as written, and so is the Thief, if you feel like including that guy. Doesn't really matter; there were sneaks and skulks around just as often as there were archers and spearmen in legends and armies.

Campaigns can be drawn from mythology; there were lots of monsters and spooks and spirits and shit running around their legends, so include a couple. "Mundane" threats like a man-eating tiger are pretty easy too. A curse from a wandering, mad mystic could be a great hook; now you've got to go find the shaman of the next town and get him to lift the curse before it's too late. Or maybe something as universal as "You're being raided! What do you do?"

If you make it long enough, you can raise your own cities. Remember, in ancient times, it wasn't an enormous desert. Ancient Greek travelers knew Libya as an incredibly verdant and fertile region with an ancient and highly civilized people. I don't know of any really good domain rules off the top of my head, but it's certainly more appropriate than continuing to adventure in caves and dungeons and kill chimeras and other beasties. Certainly, B/X has some decent rules, and I think they'd be appropriate enough for our purposes.

Anyways, I've spent far longer on this than I had intended to. Please, enjoy.

Also, on a completely unrelated note: Happy Communism day today, everybody. Yes, on this day in 1848, Karl M. published his famous Manifesto. I'm sure you've heard of it, it was quite popular for a time.

Interest seems to be flagging though, for some reason. Wonder what that's about.

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