What is the Telengard setting anyway?

OK, if you’ve been following this blog for the past few months, in addition to the usual stuff (posting pictures of minis painted to the exacting standard of “I can kinda tell what it is from arms length” and ranting about games), I’ve been describing the half-baked “Telengard setting” I’m using for my the D&D game I am running. What is it?

It is a pastiche of dozens of sources and influences, many ripped off wholesale, along with some original ideas.

Computer games. I stole the name from the classic computer game Telengard, which provides the namesake for my Mount Telengard, a heavily mined mountain near the default town Skara Brae. “Skara Brae” is in fact the name of a real archeological site, and also the name of the main town in the classic computer game The Bard’s Tale (the name is also ripped off by the Ultima series of computer games). So the two main locations are obvious homages to old computer RPGs. I am using the Bard’s Tale‘s map for the town, and all the taverns and inns of the town are named after Telengard inns, and I’m throwing in various elements from CRPGs, although much of these are still undiscovered in actual play.

Other blogs. Norse Catholic Church? Thanks, Rolang. Combat house rules? Trollsmyth and Rules, Roles, and Rolls. Adventurer’s guild? Save or Die! Skill system? Largely Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Carousing rules? Jeff’s Gameblog and Playing D&D with Porn Stars. Hirelings Guild’s oath? Telecanter. Monsters? Several from Telecanter and Rules, Rolls, and Roles, and I think one from What a horrible night for a curse!

One Page Dungeons. Entries from the 2009 and 2010 OPD contests have been incorporated into settings, as well as maps from various web sites, resources from fan sites, and so on.

Ideas from my brother Tom and various internet forums. Tom’s been DMing for decades, and when he’s not running a game he’s endlessly tinkering and gathering ideas too.

Weird stuff that occurs to me. Under the influence of the above things, I am adding all kinds of details, monsters, NPCs, and so on. In all honesty and humility, my players seem to have enjoyed the dungeon levels and adventures that I made up myself a lot more than they’ve enjoyed the dungeons I’ve taken from other sources. I like to think that even the things I ran “as written” (the LL wiki adventures and Telecanter’s Alabaster Tower and so on), I altered a little in the direction of fun, or at least my sense of fun.

Anyway, my point (and I do have one), is that even though there is always undeniably a lot of effort on the part of the DM to create and run a campaign, I have been unbelievably lucky to have had access to the unlimited riches of all the other blogs out there, and resources other people posted at various places for free, and of course the invaluable input of my players, particularly Tom. I feel much more like an editor than author when it comes to my setting, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So when someone asked me if I’m ever going to “publish” my campaign setting for free or for sale, I realized that even if I wanted to, there would necessarily be page after page of credits to everyone else I’m stealing ideas from. In my opinion 90% of gaming supplements remorselessly steal ideas without giving credit to sources, but I think that morally, it is wrong to deny credit where it is due. So I doubt I’ll ever try to put it all together into a “package” other than this blog. I kind of wish, now, that I’d set up an independent blog for the setting, and will probably do so if I ever get another campaign going, although honestly I could go on with Telengard for years. I think I made several bad choices at the beginning of the campaign that are coming back to haunt me (mainly regarding my own bookkeeping and lack of preparation) but even if the current group decides to move on to another game, or I need a break, I could see rebooting it, perhaps as a sort of “Western Marches” thing at a FLGS or the library.

When Goblinoid Games released the LL files as text documents, I immediately wanted to start cobbling together a “Telengard player’s handbook & campaign guide.” But the fact is, I would be among the last people to want such a product from someone’s home brew game. I was briefly excited when James Maliszewski announced that he meant to publish Dwimmermount, because I imagined he’d edit together his posts on world-building and design decisions along with the session summaries. When it became more clear that he was envisioning a campaign source book with just his house rules, maps, and such like, I was … “meh.” I’d read it but don’t think I’d run it. 90% of my gaming experience has been with home-brew worlds, often house-ruled to hell. The idea of playing in someone else’s world (even Tolkien’s or George Lucas’ as in MERPS and West End Games’ Star Wars), just never appealed that much. On the other hand I have read with interest other people’s adventures, house rules, and “stuff” (monsters, magic items, tables, etc.) and really gotten a lot out of them. So it might be worth compiling for my own amusement and the convenience of future plunderers. Hmm.

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Published in: on February 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. How did I miss your blog before now? I really like the Telengard setting notes as I have had some similar realizations of how much I steal/homage from other sources for my own games too. I played Telengard and the Bard’s Tale games and the Ultima’s back then on my C-64 too.

    These references probably make a good measuring stick for which generation of gamer we are – if we get them are we old? I prefer to think of it as “Experienced”.

    I’m catching up on your session notes – I do like seeing the game in actual use.

    Anyway, keep it coming, this is good stuff.

    • Thanks, man.

  2. I “borrow” ideas for RPGs from books as well as games. I’m reading one right now where a bounty hunter’s latest target is a man who smuggled himself out of prison by grafting his body parts on (and sometimes inside!) other people, promising these mules huge sums of money for safe transport. That’s such a cool idea, I just had to borrow it.


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