On Alara (Philosophies on the Continuation of Alara)

Okay. Upon reading that title, many of you probably thought “oh noes, oh noes, he’s ending alara, burn his house and rape his women”. This impression is wrong on two counts: one, Alara is my baby and ending it would be akin to feeding a spawn of my blood to a ravening howler. Two, I have no ‘women’ as such. More sadness for me.

NOTE: that introductory paragraph was written before I retitled this post from just “On Alara” to its current title, so as to prevent reader heart attacks.  I’m keeping the first paragraph because quite frankly, I think it’s fucking hilarious.  The end.  Bitches.  /NOTE

No, the purpose of this post is not the ending of Alara. Rather, ’tis the revitalization of Alara. Put shortly, I’m starting up with the updatefulness again. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why. I loves my Alara, and while I may have spent the last month or so attempting to update in ways that interest people who don’t have time to read several dozen posts on world creation, quite frankly it occurs to me that that’s just a shitty way of doing things. Alara is back, bitches. With a vengeance, and several new philosophies.

The introduction to these new philosophies is thus: D&D 4E is coming out soon. If that didn’t give you a fangasm, you shouldn’t be reading this blog. Now, D&D 4E has had a lot of shit thrown its way. This is mostly by people who haven’t read the introduction books. Read them. Now. They’re worth your time. Here‘s a link to one, (technically illegal, but so is half the shit I do) and here’s a link to some excerpts from the other, which hasn’t been internet-loaded yet. That second one might require you to sign up for D&D Insider, but if you still have problems with signing up for random shit on a whim late at night on the internet, just get a damn gmail account already. Fuck.

Anyway, D&D 4E is supposed to do a lot of things. Among them is making things easier for DMs, something I wholeheartedly support, as the only role I would really be playing in any D&D session is that of a DM, as I am a mad creationist. By which I mean I enjoy creating things, not I believe God created the world in six days. Funny how those things get confused.

Damn, I keep tangenting. Oh well, it probably makes for a more amusing read. I hope. The real point of this entire post is thus: D&D 4E uses a world-building concept that they refer to as ‘points of light’. The basic concept is thus: the cities, civilization, etcetera in a D&D world are ‘points of light’ in a blackness of uncivilized savagery. Like the night sky, only instead of the void, the darkness is you being raped by monsters. This may seem to be a fairly obvious concept, but it’s really brilliant in its simplicity, if you think about it. As someone who basically spends all of his free brain-space on world-building, I know exactly how tempting it is to lay down borders for all the various factions in one’s world. The problem with that is it essentially removes every little bit of mystique from a created world. If we know exactly where someone’s lands end and someone else’s begin, the assumption is that that area is civilized enough for that border to be consistent. This sucks the life out of the base D&D ‘wander five feet from a town, get raped by goblins’ concept. Because if there was a unified country, you’d better be damn sure they’d get rid of those damn goblins before anything else.

So, I am going to be using the ‘points of light’ concept in the creation of Alara. Wyrmspire is, of course, the greatest point of light, followed in no particular order by Elenaiar, Irongate, Below, Tartaras, and Argan Vas. Traveling between these, however, is a great risk. There’s the occasional village along the way, and there are of course smaller cities that are still pretty big by the standards of whatever region they may be in, but the fact of the matter is that most of it’s untamed wilderness. Of course, you move north to the Wastes or west to New Aldar or Requiem, and the blackness becomes almost absolute. Places of safety become few and far between.

Even places of safety are not that ‘safe’, oftentimes. Wyrmspire is pretty safe, after all, as long as you don’t get mugged in the Old Quarter, captured and forced to sell Varith in the Noble Quarter, sacrificed by cultists in the Temple Quarter, burnt to a crisp by a rampaging demon/wizard/magically-enhanced-rooster in the Arcane Quarter, caught in a crossfire of dwarven mountain clan street battles in the Dwarven Quarter, or… ummm… merchanted at in the Merchant Quarter. Oh, and don’t go into the Undercity. Ever.

Also, I dislike the rigidity of politics in Alara. It’s the Alliance versus the Twelve and that’s that. Boring as fuck. How ’bout we make things more interesting. Of course, the Twelve are all crazy warlords, so they’re perfect for random falling-in-on-each-other-ness. So obviously there’s large-scale wars between them commonly. As Argan Vas is essentially the capital city for the twelve, this would make it a very, very war-torn city. Maybe various parts of it have been under control of various warlords at different times over the years, and thus the city is riddled with various half-torn-down walls from when the landscape of control was different. Since humans are such avid builders, they often build right over these walls, stealing materials from them to build other things, etcetera. Which would make Argan Vas a city of ruins that still has a vibrant community and is filled with people. I like this. Especially since Argan Vas didn’t ever really have a ‘look’ of its own. I always imagined it as a huge black fortress, but that’s sort of silly. I like the walls idea better. Maybe it’ll be near a cliff overlooking a river or something. Something really medieval.

So, that’s the Twelve. But even the Alliance should have some strife every now and then. After all, if they were all always agreeing, wouldn’t they just call it an empire and be done with it? No, the alliance should war every now and then. Maybe the conservative Irongate dwarves decide to teach that new-fangled Wyrmspire to stop moving forward so quickly, or maybe a xenophobe takes temporary control in the elven senate and decides to genocide some motherfuckers. Maybe Below builds an army of wind-powered constructs that get twenty miles from the edge and just stop working in a hilarious mockery of an actual army. The point is, none of the Alliance really trusts each other, though they still send their representatives to do business in the council.

New Aldar is more complicated, as it’s hard to have political strife among a bunch of hive-mind squid-things. But they’ve got the Phoenix Guard fucking with them, and the Hand of the Alliance playing the Phoenix Guard off the Amen-Kathar, and a bunch of bandits running around looting and pillaging too. So it’s still a political buttfuck.

The point is, things can go off at any moment, and anyone can attack anyone. Of course, everyone still gets together in their major factions when big wars happen, so big wars are usually the Alliance versus the Twelve versus New Aldar. But everything is unstable when there aren’t any major wars.

All this sets up a world rife with conflict, and with adventure around every corner. Perfect for, oh, I dunno… a D&D Campaign Setting. Which, I am announcing right now, is exactly what I will be turning this world into once 4E comes out! Now, you may be saying, “but Tusked, o benevolent and wise maker of worlds, what’s the difference between a normal created world and a D&D Campaign Setting”? Well, stereotypically unintelligent stock question asker, the difference is that Alara: Campaign Setting will have actual game stats for many things! Such as races! And classes! And specific characters! And stuff! And that means that, with a minimum of effort on your part, you can make your own campaigns, set against the wonderful backdrop that is Alara! Weeee!

Anyway, I am going to begin the Alara Campaign Setting Transmogrification Process ™ as soon as 4E comes out. Which translates roughly into “as soon as the core rulebooks are available for wide-scale pirating”. There’s a chance I’m a cheap bastard. Until then, I shall continue building the world of Alara. I think I’ll finish up Wyrmspire, and then move on the some of the shit happening in the far west. It’s gonna be fuckin’ crazy.

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2 Comments

  1. Pieboy from school said,

    February 5, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Awesome. Seriously.

    We should really play this. Like, actually get a group together and play. That would kick ass.

  2. Tusked On His Mom's Laptop said,

    February 5, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    I know! It would be sweet. ‘course, I’d probably have to DM, and that amount of pressure would make my head kasplode.


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