NeoExodus is not the product of a single source of inspiration. Rather it is a sum of a number of sources merged into one.
I joined the NeoExodus crew after seeing a Facebook post by Louis. The post said he was looking for an author. I was looking to write. I had looked at his Obsidian Twilight setting and thought it was innovative, so I contacted him. He explained to me a lot of things, put the history of the world in my inbox and quickly got me working on something.
I liked what I saw. A lot. However, as I sat down to write my first NeoExodus adventure, the yet un-released “Origin of Man”. I remember having to go through a number of books and sources to find things I wanted to know: Who lives here? What are these creatures like? Why can’t I go here? What does that city look like? As long as I could ask Louis, things were fine. He knew the answers to my many questions. But the answers were scattered across a number of books.
After a while, I had enough and started working on the Campaign Book. I started with the history of Exodus, then expanding to the nations, then expanding into character options. This massive amount of work required me to dig in Louis’s mind to make sure I understood what he wanted. What the original book meant and expand that information so that a GM could run a game from that book.
In case you don’t know, Louis’ blog is named “In the mind of a madman”. He is many things, but a liar he is not. The name is very appropriate. Through these weekly talks, I was able to figure out what those many things meant and sometime add my own additional spin to it.
Let’s talk a little about the themes of NeoExodus. I’ve frequently presented and defined NeoExodus as A traditional fantasy setting dealing with themes commonly found in Sci-fi.
Let that sink in.
. . .
Now, it’s a traditional fantasy setting because it is rooted in the common paradigms of fantasy: Sword-and-board, magic is present, deities grant spells and direct miracles to certain worshippers, there are humans and other races that have a common history (or a history of cohabitation). That does not mean “elves and dwarves”.
But it approaches themes generally found in Sci-Fi. Themes such as the nature of one’s humanity, the concept of loyalty, absolutism in religion, national loyalties, nature of good and evil, the role of man in the world. This does not mean D&D with laserguns either.
You will know that when I say “man” I mean “PC races”.
From such an ambitious overall theme, we went to work.
Louis is a HUGE fan of the comic book industry. I was a big fan myself long ago, but nowadays… Not so much. But I understand enough of the comic world to understand what Louis is talking about.
For example, he once asked “Who is our Magneto?” or “we need a group of villains that would serve as our Doctor Doom”. I also explained to him “NeoExodus is not the Legion of the Super Heroes, we need villains and things to have more than one-line in the story” (for added fun read his angry comments below. He’ll be greatly annoyed that I talked about LoSH, again, yes Louis, there are too many Legionnaires and 75% of them should be killed off-screen and no time wasted on them).
Comics are a great source of inspiration for both of us. Although he has a longer, more continuing history, my own love affair with the European Bandes Dessinées (such as Tintin) gives me a different perspective. The two of us understand each other on that, with different visions, but visions that complete each other. You won’t find Tintin or Superman in NeoExodus. Some of our villains serve roles similar to villains. For example, the First Ones (one of them in particular) serves as a sort of Doctor Doom. He is nothing like DD but he fills the role of “major, immediate menace.”
Speaking “comics” was definitely a gateway between us to convey concepts for certain things.
Sci-Fi and horror classics and not-so classics definitely came to minds. For example, I have told people that the First Ones were a mix of Classic Drow (not the sappy, angst-filled two-scimitar wielding bums, but the classic total evil bitch with web bikinis) and the Cenobites from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser.
Horror movies have inspired me, but not in what I would call a traditional sense. They have conveyed a sense of plot and feel. I think older movies (the Hammer movies from the 60s especially) had a way of presenting the situation and giving you a FEEL for where they were. Yeah, yeah the monsters were horrible and the plots barely holding together with twists that got the hot girl scream at everything. But I think they frequently did a better job to get me into the mood, or feel of a given location without ruining everything my showing me an obvious CGI landscape.
One of the “horror” movies that succeeded in conveying that feel what “Le Pacte des Loups”, “The Company of Wolves” for my non-French speaking readers. The French Trailer is much more appropriate than the English one (which seems like a non-stop action movie, which it is not). Just because that movie is just so awesome, I included the (French) trailer.
Scifi movies nowadays frequently double as horror films. Movies like “The Thing”, “The Fog” (by Carpenter) and “Aliens” of course come to mind as inspiration.
Anyone who tells you they have not spent a lot of time looking at “other peoples’ setting” is either a complete liar or someone who is doing the same thing as someone else.
For NeoExodus, we looked at other settings that were out there: some still supported (such as Golarion) and some no longer supported for D&D/PFRPG (such as Arcanis), setting from other editions (Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk), and even setting worlds for like DC Heroes, Oeil Noir, Legend of the Five Rings and Doctor Who (NO, I won’t create Weeping Angels for Pathfinder). I looked through my own collection of old material for inspiration. I looked and analyzed the products before me and tried to distil these elements into half-formed ideas.
I know where we wanted to go. We had a general idea of what we wanted for the setting. Now it came time to see what we could add, what we had to leave out, what fit, what did not fit, what could fit but required a lot of work or justification. One good thing about existing products is that you can look at them thinking “If I were to write this; what would I put in the product?” What about their organization? What element do I think should have expanded upon? In short improve your product by comparison.
Inspiration does not only work from the “this gives me an idea” angle. Sometimes it’s “they did it [THIS] way. Let’s do thing differently.” And work from that design decision. In many ways, we looked a number of products with that optic in mind. Let’s not offer the same thing that is out there.
Louis and I both play other games. We looked at settings for miniatures games, thought about the background of certain monsters from the Warhammer 40k universe, drooled and glossed over the Warmachine books (Louis does not want me to show them my Warmachine books) talked about Munchkin a few times.
Our approach of those games was similar to that of RPGs. What is so interesting about them? Why do people like them? We were not out there to create a mini skirmish games, but some elements and some of the coolest monsters in those settings, we imported and re-skinned with a new spin. Be prepared to see some miniatures from Privateer Press and/or Games Workshop at some of our events in the future… Okay, I already used some of my Warmachine stuff in “Encounter at Ramat Bridge” at PaizoCon and Fandemonium. Those guys make awesome minis… And I have them, so I’d better use them!
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, my love affair with history is known to you. If not, well… now you know. History is a great teacher. Unfortunately most of us learned a series of meaningless dates and our eyes glazed over. But history is an awesome story book.
Like the world of comics, we used history as a way to create people’s role. For example, we can take a great military mind, like Julius Caesar and use him as a general. This general would be a shrewd politician and a careful planner. Another might be based on Alexander the Great: young, brash and extravagant. Another might take after the Cardinal de Richelieu, a shrewd politician who keeps his end goal in mind. The list goes on.
History has one great advantage: we know how it played out. How a given event can impact later events and events that originally seem completely unrelated. For example, how the Moroccan crisis in the early 20th century led to the First World War, which led to the rise of Hitler and the Second World War. There is a long list of events.
The history of NeoExodus is built around similar apparently unrelated events that eventually lead to something big. History of our world definitely served as a template for a number of moments in NeoExodus. Can you guess which ones?
Next: the races of NeoExodus