Saturday, March 13, 2010

Design Goals - Multiple Interpretations of Planet Algol

Gene Wolfe On One Shoulder, Encounter Critical On The Other

A Short List of Influences Upon Planet Algol

Clark Ashton Smith
Lin Carter, especially The World's End Series
Jack Vance, especially The Dying Earth and the Demon Princes series
Richard Corben
HP Lovecraft, especially The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and At The Mountains of Madness
Leigh Brackett's Eric John Stark stories
China Mieville's Bas-Lag series
Robert Heinlein
Fritz Lieber
Michael Moorcock
Sterling Lanier's Hiero novels
Star Man's Sun by Andre Norton
RE Howard
Abraham Merrit
HG Welles
The Book of the New Sun series by Gene Wolfe
Dune by Frank Herbert
Edgar Rice Burroughs especially Barsoom
William S Burroughs
Star Trek, the original series
The Warlord comics by Mike Grell
Encounter Critical
Metamorphosis Alpha
Gamma World
Theosophy and similar movements
The Lords of Light by Robert Zelazny
Fomalhaut and Kard & Magica
Heavy Metal magazine
Flash Gordon, the movies
Mysterious Planet
Planetary romance
Lots of science fiction

Currently there's several Planet Algols in existence. There's the AD&D Planet Algol campaign that I DM every second sunday or so in Vancouver. There's the generic oldschool D&D Planet Algol booklet I'm working on that's based on and written for my AD&D campaign. There's also Sean Will's Planet Algol campaign in the UK that was originally Swords & Wizardry/Savage Swords of Athanor but is now a Barbarians of Lemuria game, and is also more gonzo than my own campaign. And than there's my own gonzo ideas which surface on this blog, such as Kurt Russel related magic items and Blue Oyster Cult based campaign elements.

One of the design goals with booklet is to facilitate usage with a wide range of game styles and interpretations of the setting. I want this to be a campaign setting that you could use for a "serious high science fantasy" game in the spirit of Urth or Tekumel. Or you could use it for a Mutant Future or Encounter Critical campaign. Likewise you could strip away the science fiction elements and use it as a swords & sorcery setting, such as a distant exotic land in your own "normal" campaign world. You could also use it as a strange planet for a Traveller campaign. Making an Encounter Critical stats & conversion document after publishing the initial Planet Algol booklet is one of my goals...

Hopefully the resources contained within, such as sword generators, NPC generators, encounter tables, technological items, monsters, locations, magic item generators, mini-dungeons, etc. will make the booklet useful resource for all sorts of non-Planet Algol games as well.

The Planet Algol booklet is being designed as an orthodox sandbox/random table campaign setting. However, while musing on the "idea campaign setting," I thought it would be pretty neat for a campaign setting to have a complete sandbox while also including the information needed to run an adventure path style campaign in it. As I'm intending for it to contain several detailed lairs, locations, ruins, mini dungeons, and the like it wouldn't be terrible offensive to include a few pages with a simple campaign outline utilizing said elements as the stops on a "soft railroad." That way, regardless of which playstyle your group prefers, you can have a campaign practically "straight out of the box."

All of this means that I'm taking my own dang time putting it out. I do want this booklet to be as awesome, versatile and useful as I can make it.


  1. No rush. It's not like we can't come here for a Planet Algol fix. :)

  2. A soft railroad for those holding exploding tickets... other words, William S. Burroughs, Fritz Leiber, Clark Ashton Smith and Heavy Metal magazine?! Oh yeah!

    Sean, aren't you also doing something with BoL and Algol?

  3. I do hope that the random Kurt Russell Generator makes it into the book. I loved that.

    If you're going to have one foot in "adventure path" and one in sandbox, it might be worth looking at how Savage Worlds does it with its "plot point" campaigns. Essentially, it's a series of linked scenarios, but the links are loose so that one adventure doesn't lead directly into the next. The idea is that you have the first scenario to introduce the setting and the main plot, then there's a gap for the GM to fill in with their own stuff, getting the player-characters to a point where they're ready to take on the next part of the published campaign, and so on up to the climax. I've never played in one of these, but I've read a couple, and the concept seems solid.

  4. Once again we seem to be moving along a parallel course: Focus on the Setting, let the rules be swapped-out as the case may be. I have got to see this random Kurt Russell generator now...LOL...that sounds awesome!

  5. I look forward to it--whenever it's ready.

  6. H'mmm... do I use Planet Algol to playtest my sword-and-planet-with-vampires project, or do I run a Call of Cthulhu 'campaign' where a flying saucer abducts the investigators halfway through the second game session and takes them you-know-where? Decisions, decisions! ;)

  7. (I hit post too early)

    It's interesting to see how many sources we share, ut maybe more, those we don't (notably Lovecraft, whom I love, but I'm more or less avoiding in UTDS).

  8. Weird, because I could have sworn that if you drew a line from Wolfe to _EC_ you'd run right over Jack Vance, but Algol isn't really more Vancian than it is Wolfean.

  9. Hope this still comes out one day.