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Spellbreakers (Setting Idea)

Spellbreakers (Setting Idea)

This idea just hit me yesterday and I've been mulling it over since. I've never attempted to make an Indie RPG or even tried writing up anything conceptual before. I just felt especially compelled to get this particular concept I have in mind down somewhere so that others can see it and share their thoughts with me about it.

Setting Premise:

Anyway, the basic premise is that it's 1910 on the American frontier, and the players are members of the Spellbreakers, a special branch of the U.S. Marshals Service. While the Marshals deal with enforcing the law and dealing with mundane crimes and criminals, the Spellbreakers are tasked with dealing with the strange, magical, and supernatural elements that break the law. In this alternate history, magic is real, and so are many other things to roam the Old Eldritch West. Dragons, the Fae, Old Gods, Demons and many other assorted creatures do exist. But they aren't above the law.

Technology has progressed normally, for the most part, though the Dwarven Clans that reside in the Appalachian Mountains are a bit more advanced, though not particularly interested in sharing with young, reckless, humans. And, of course, there are some men out there with a strange spark of genius, capable of inventing wondrous, though sometimes unpredictable and dangerous, devices. Though not strictly magical, those men who would use their engineering and technological expertise for criminal acts also fall under the Spellbreakers purview.

It is a period of great expansion for the United States, and the belief in Manifest Destiny is strong. Settlements are built further and further out into the burgeoning territory each day, though not all of them last. The frontier is a dangerous place, filled with many dangers including several of the Elven Tribes and their Gods, who after showing no interest in being 'civilized' have fought against attempts by the U.S. government to relocate them from lands that they have lived off of since before the race of man even existed.

These are very strange times, when robberies are just as likely to be made by a pack of outlaws with revolvers as they are by a staff wielding sorcerer and a retinue of elementals or a mad scientist backed by mechanical spiders and armed with a tesla cannon. It is a time of great change, where even the greatest seers are incapable of seeing the coming future clearly, where the capricious 'Fair Folk' still steal babes from their cribs and destroy those who they believe have slighted them, where the caves and mountains of the land are home to great Wyrms who rest for centuries amidst their vast treasures, where the forests are protected by eternal spirits who have lived since the Earth was first formed and where the dead do not always rest peacefully in their graves.

But the Spellbreakers, be they men, dwarves, elves or others, are determined to make sure that no matter what might be out there, it will not prey upon the innocent with impunity.


I know that I should try and better explain what I am trying to attempt with this game idea. Mainly, I want to try and mash together elements of Wild West and Fantasy adventure together for the people that love both of those things. Not idealized but not gritty either. The goal isn't to horrify those playing, but rather to really try and highlight the bizarre, the strange, wondrous, and fantastic elements. True, there are going to be plenty of scary moments, but they should never be so scary that that aspect overwhelms the entire experience.

I'm uncertain currently what sort of system I want to go with here. I don't know if I should try making a whole new system or if there might be a system that would be very easy to use with this setting.

This is all a very new experience to me (as it might be easy to tell) and I just hope that I'm doing it right. I crave whatever feedback, concerns, and other thoughts that any of you would be willing to share.

This is not meant to compare your idea to this setting at all, but rather I wondered if you were familiar with Deadlands. I've only recently discovered it. And while it doesn't have fantasy elements at all, it's a good source of ideas for everything else. As I read this Deadlands was all I could think of (which has to do with the fact I'm playing it here on MW too)

Now to look at your idea purely: I think the Spellbreakers is groovy. I'll be keeping an eye out to other bits you may come up with.

Savage Worlds - Definitely look this system up. You can run this with the previously mentioned setting and add some of their fantasy races. You'd be up and running in a jiffy.

Deadlands was a partial inspiration, as I've always wanted to run or play an RPG in a Western setting. However, the main difference I would say is that I'm trying to get away from the apocalyptic, bleak, dark sort of feel that Deadlands usually has. I'm sure there could be plenty of scary things in Spellbreakers, but the focus is meant to be on the fantastical and the strange. It's a strange place to live in, but people don't really have a feeling that everything is going to fall into oblivion anytime soon.

Old West meets fantasy is just tons of fun as a setting idea. So much flavor to play with.

Right away I thought of Spellslinger, the D20 Old West meets D&D. Which I loved to death. Also some links to the Malifaux game from Wyrd Games. Old West meets necromancy type setting.

Keep up the work for sure, I like what I have read so far, would love to see more.

At this point, I'm not entirely sure how to go forward with this idea I have in mind. I'm not entirely sure how to expand on it. It's hard to describe, but I just have a lot of vague ideas and not really anything solid and specific.

This is all pretty new to me, but I would love to have help in fleshing the whole thing out if there is anyone willing. Even if its just being a sounding board for ideas.

I wouldn't mind being a sounding board, though I think you should settle on a Rules System (and sadly, the only one I'm really familiar enough with to tweak is 3.5).

I noticed in your description that Elves seem to play the art of the Amerindians (at least, that's implied). Is that set in stone, or would it work well if they were Human, and the "White Man" was played by another thematically appropriate Race? From a 3.5 perspective, I could see Dwaves playing the part of Chinese workers laying down a Railroad, and Gnomes being White Men with their Alchemical form of Gunpowder and strange Steam-powered devices like Trains.

Lovely idea, Blind Venetian!

In counterpoint to Adamantrue, I'd advise staying away from too much race assignation for various ethnic groups of the time period until you've settled on the system you wish to play. Even then, I'd advise you avoid filling in all of the standard tropes. What you have going here is a very nice creative endeavor, and you should populate these ethnicities with the peoples of your imagination, not the stock races of a game system. Keep the imaginative sourcing free of such constraints, until those more codified sources actually inform the unsolved queries in your mind.

There's a bit of literature that deals with these sorts of themes. Not necessarily 1910 American frontier, but urban fantasy, urban fey, modern fantasy. Gypsy by Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm is a nice one, but there are even better ones, whose titles I cannot recall. British mythology and fantasy literature are full of crossings between the fey supernatural and the 'modern' world.

1910 might be a bit late chronologically for the Wild West, but you may have a firm grip on that time period as what you want.

Ways of moving forward include:
  • Flesh out a specific locale. Town, county, or region.
  • Flesh out specific organizations
  • Flesh out a villain
  • Conceive of a plot or story for one scenario of a game (Technomancer robs a bank, etc.)
  • Flesh out other NPCs
  • Find some players, and allow their character constructions to assist you in delineating the world. Choosing creative folks with whom you have some creative synergy is best, if you're relying on them to help your idea solidify.

There is no order or hierarchy in that list. Keep mulling the gameworld over, and develop more fully various sections of it as you are inspired to. Over time, it will start to have some shape of its own.

I've been trying to figure out ways of incorporating more 'traditional' fantasy races into this game and having them fit in. While the Elves are meant to fill that role of the Native Americans, I think its because they fit that role a bit better than any of the other races, except perhaps for orcs who already have a tribal culture of some sort in most RPG settings.

Atlictoatl, you think it might help if I were to run a game in this setting? I can see that, I'm just a bit inexperienced at GMing, though I certainly suppose I could give it a shot. I'm a little uncertain on what game system to use, though.

It's for this reason that I suggest you either find some additional source material (books, myths, fairy tales) or just open up the crevices of your creative mind. The land can be populated by whatever you wish. Fantasy tropes or game rule races can be a good backup source, but let your mind run free a while first, if you can.

You can always use game system mechanics at a later date. For instance, maybe you want for there to be annoying gremlins that harry the advancements of technology into the wilds. Were you playing D&D 4e, you could use the gnome race as a template, but fluff everything using your conceptual framework for "gremlins".


Well, it could be you're not ready for a game, but one way to jump-start the process is to invite others into it... which you've done with this thread. Maybe instead of a game you call it a collaborative writing exercise, and you find 2-3 folks willing to make some Spellbreaker characters. You'll discover in the process of answering their questions and witnessing their own creative ideas within your concept that creative blocks you may be experiencing now get unstuck. Taking on the full demands of a game can, itself, be a creative obstacle... and what you need right now are creative sparks. Best to find folks willing to go down that path with you, in whatever vehicle you decide upon with them from game to short story to simple creative exploration.

My point is simply that populating the world with creations of your own (and especially those of others) really fleshes out the process of gameworld creation.

If you can get your hands on it, Aria: Worlds is a fabulous tool for helping folks to build gameworlds.

Assuming the specifics of the Era you want to explore is somewhat up in the air.

The Land is a place of Magic. All Tribes know this, and live in harmony with the Land. The Magic for them conforms to their Spirits, taking the form of Totems or Manitou, giving them Visions and Omens, as they reciprocate with Reverence and Offerings.

But these Pale Faces are not a people of harmony. Nor are the Spirits tied to their world, their Demons and Faeries and Dragons. But the Land breathes Life into them, just the same. And like the Pale Faces, they do not respect the boundaries of our Nations, harassing our Tribes.

The Pale Faces are not a people of harmony, and try to control their Spirits with Bad Medicine, instead of from within. Repeating Firearms, Locomotives, Silent Films, and Telegraphs. They win their battles against their Spirits from time to time, but never learn to find harmony with them.

The Pale Faces are not a people of harmony.

Badly written while I'm exhausted, but I need the stepping stone to organize my ideas. I probably shouldn't post like this when I'm this tired.

Basically, the premise is that the "West" is a place still tied strongly to Magic, formless but powerful. It interacts with the minds of people, taking forms from their beliefs. For most Native Americans, this is a benign force (but not always).

As people move into this area, the Magic interacts with them in strange ways. Sometimes, Fairy Tales are suddenly made manifest, the Ghost Stories suddenly come to life. And as they are observed, they are reinforced, gaining a certain independence from what had created them.

Suddenly, you have Dragons laying siege on a town. Vampires preying on certain trains. The Devil making deals in saloons. Graveyards animating with Zombie Hordes.

One always has to include a Zombie Horde.

And then there are those that begin to understand this Magic, and learn enough discipline to bend it to their conscious will. Wild Western Wizards, wielding Enchanted Six-Shooters. Some are connected more intuitively, unconsciously. Their Aim is uncannily true, their Timing is always just right, their Luck seems to know no bounds.


Is any of this stuff that you could use?


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