Adam’s Retroverse DM Blog: Entry 2

Entry 2: A Quest Format and a World

     I decided immediately upon reading the lore behind Laser Dragons that one would be the main quest giver of my campaign. I’m fully leaning into nostalgia for this story and all of its elements (nostalgia is something of a force multiplier for anything included in L&L), and a creature that craves hoarding collectibles, memorabilia, limited edition promotional swag, and one-of-a-kind items associated with pop-culture cranks everything up to 11. Revakfaraandeinmaar would be the dragon’s name (he prefers “Reggie” as a more humanoid name), and those of you keen to do research will find that his dragon name translates to (and it’s likely butchered, I’m sure :P) “Sacred Fortune Keeper” from the language of the dragons used in The Elder Scrolls universe (subject to change if any of the words in his name or the entire name proves less than above water in terms of copyright laws). I thought it most appropriate, and if you don’t think I’m going to hide an enormous paperback video game guide to The Ancient Codices V: Rim of the Sky (complete with a partial Dragon-Common dictionary) somewhere in my game world, you’ve obviously missed the point of the Retroverse.

     His job in the plot is to give the party a list of MacGuffins to find and deliver to him. Not very original, I know, but like I said before: tropes and nostalgia. The items aren’t a secret, and I have no qualms about sharing them with you, reader (and some are subject to change anyway):

  • A Holographic, Shadowless, First-Edition Charizard Pokemon Card.
  • A Limited Edition Gizmo Furby.
  • The Lost Boys…on Betamax.
  • Atari's Star Wars Game Cabinet.
  • Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) Album on Vinyl.
  • A T-shirt from Nirvana’s Last Tour/Kurt Cobain’s Guitar.
  • All Three Books from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Bonus for The Hobbit)

 

     Each item, of course, has an accompanying location and challenge to reach and overcome, respectively. Here, I should mention that a fundamental property of the Retroverse is that the plane “wobbles” on its axis like a spinning dinner plate on a stick. When it “wobbles,” it interacts with other universes, “copies” what it finds, and “pastes” it onto the plane. From what I've read and understood from the test wave documents of this supplement, it seems to me that sometimes the “copied” information mutates, changing a name or an appearance that’s slightly different from the original person, place, or thing (I see what you did there, Chris 😊). For the items above, I just let them be perfect copies of their original inspiration for the time being. The cultural significance seems important to keep intact for the players to be more excited about the search, and maybe they ARE perfect copies, making them that much more unique. We’ll just have to see if I get any cease-and-desist orders if I make a show out of this.

     In keeping with my “mixed-bag” approach, I’m instituting heavy variation among the gameplay methodologies of the different challenges, and it would be no surprise to also say that the locations are just as unique, aided in no small part by the nature of type of world L&L is designed around.

     See, the primary planet of the Retroverse is a gargantuan cube (called Cube) comprised of 26 smaller cubes that rearrange themselves on strict linear axes according to the orientation of their edges (a cosmological Rubik’s Cube, and yes, the faces CAN and DO rotate). The six faces of the planet are comprised of 9 quadrants built around a larger theme with the points of interest contained therein inspired by the elements of that larger theme. Now, the intended method of deciding these quadrant themes as described in L&L is to give the central quadrant (the very middle square in the 3x3 grid of a face) an element (here they list the four cardinal elements of fire, water, air, earth plus good and evil for a total of six) and a flair (more on that later). Then you give each of the remaining eight quadrants on that face their own individual elements (there will be double-ups) which are then also influenced by the element of the central quadrant. Following so far?

     THEN, you give each of the remaining quadrants their own flair that further adds to theit uniqueness, and from all off this you start designing the actual geography, cultures, flora/fauna, and features/points of interest that exist within those quadrants. They give an example in the most recent test wave of an Earth quadrant influenced by a central Water quadrant with a “Beat” flair (think music and rhythm) as being a sea dotted with tropical islands and filled with pirates who quest after the “…greatest sea shanty ever created…” It’s a fairly simple formula that anyone can follow and use to build pretty much any area they want.

     I…didn’t use any of it. You could probably tell by the fact that I italicized ‘intended’ a couple of paragraphs ago. I’M NOT SAYING IT’S A BAD FORMULA OR THAT I DIDN’T LIKE IT. The creators state that you don't have to stick to the rules and lore that they've laid out if you don't want to. One of their main goals, as I understand it, is to create a supplement that embraces and supports your ideas and does nothing to impede their growth. For my creative process, I started with the actual intentions, main influences, and gameplay/story elements I had in mind for a quadrant first because I felt the need to start off with strong visual and emotional elements for me to build out from. I’m also going to add I can, with relative certainty, break down the quadrants I have created into elemental themes and flairs. One quick example is a very Classic & Hollywood Horror/Lovecraftian quadrant with a very deep sea (water), a strong, rocky coastland (earth, likely from the central quadrant), and a bounty of just…horrible things, places, and people (a “Blood” flair, but definitely a “Cosmic” flair as well because of the Lovecraft influences). I might have been able to come up with the same result if I started creating with the tools provided, but if I already know where I need to go, I tend to take the shortest road there and indulge in the scenic route on the way back.

     My goal is to span this campaign across one face and all of its 9 quadrants, which, mind you, are supposed to be large enough to hold “…a major continent, a few smaller plots of land, a small sea, and enough variety to start your adventure” (blinkingwhiteguy.gif) because each FACE of the CUBE is supposed to have “around the same surface area of the Earth.” This is fine and dandy, and it should not be counted as a negative review of what Chris and Lluis have created (thank you both, by the way). It’s just a LOT. Gods forbid my players fucking rappel onto a new face (that shit ain’t gonna fly, by the way, because “magic” [and no, I am NOT ashamed of that excuse here]), and I have to make, on the fly, a whole different godsdamned...planet, basically. If they visited EVERY face, that’s six planets, fifty-four (54!) UNIQUE quadrants, and I’m not going to even fathom the dozens upon dozens of cultures, hundreds of cities, thousands of “important” NPCs and their quests, and millions of people (I'm not opposed to expanding later, but one face is at the extreme edge of being a "manageable chunk").

     So, before I try to pull a Tolkien…six times (I would kindly like to remind you that he died before all of the work he ever did towards his ONE (1) world was published, and the latest addition to the lore just came out…in 2018, 45 years AFTER his death), I’m going scale this down a tad. The one face I’m fleshing out at this time will only be able to contain a small-sized continent that even Australia could confidently take in a fight (provided we took away all the deadly animals to make it fair). This accomplishes two things: it makes the world large enough to be profound and interesting, and it makes it small enough to not be absolutely daunting when I tell them the MacGuffins could be ANYWHERE on the face they currently inhabit.

     Before you say, “Aw! Come on! This is just a boring collect-a-thon,” know that there is a meta-plot (there’s always a meta-plot) that they’ll discover, and they might even abandon the MacGuffin gathering along the way to pursue it. All the quadrants will be linked in some way to this meta-plot (more plausibly done, I feel, now that the scale is smaller), so it won’t be hard for them to stumble across elements of it. It will be a tad more difficult, however, to piece it all together. Therein lies the real puzzle to unlocking the “true ending.”

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