So this semester at UNT, I ended up taking two classes dealing with older books. The first is a class on rare books, with the second being a class on preservation. While I am only midway into the semester at this point, I have already learned quite a bit about them. Enough that I have gushed about some of the more interesting aspects to my friends and family. An example of this is old film stock, which used Nitrate back in the early days. Nitrate is very flammable (and toxic), as can be seen here: Link.
Now, why do I mention this? Well, as I said in my introduction, I am hoping to blend both what I am learning at school with my love for RPGs. Thus after thinking about this for a while, I have come up with Project Anboc. Anboc, in this case, is in the grand tradition of Gary Gygax, an anagram. It comes from the attributed author (kinda) of this quote:
Anboc isn’t likely to be the final name for this project, just a stand-in for the time being. Then again, Thedas the world for Dragon Age is an acronym for “The Dragon Age Setting.” So I guess we will see if it sticks around for the long term. Regardless, what is Anboc?
What is Anboc?
Project Anboc is a setting that has been kicking around in my head for a long time now. Back when 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons was the hip new thing, there was a post on the now-defunct WoTC forums about a setting called Nifflas (a link on RPG.net about it: Link). In effect, a strange and weird setting where the main characters are in a world where librarians have great power and they are seeking out lost knowledge.
While I never used that setting ultimately, the idea of being preservers of lost knowledge has always appealed to me. I do enjoy the gonzo-crazy aspects of the setting on some level, though, for Anboc, I am going to be doing something a bit more down to earth. At least on some level, I am sure some strangeness will be found therein. For now, I will focus on the high-level ideas of what Anboc is going to be about.
Like most RPG settings, at least in fantasy, the old world was shattered in some terrible apocalyptic conflict. This is often a past age that was bigger, better, and more pleasant than today. Similar to the sort of nostalgic “Golden Age” mentality that seems to always be present in our society. This is only half true in Anboc; the old world was a “wonderful” place, at least for a select group of people.
I am imagining a society that has drawn all magical knowledge into one place, having gained a mastery of the universe. Immortal masters ruled over the world, creating massive works that allowed for greater control over everything around them. They could have made the world better for the masses, but with their domination of the rules of reality, why would they bother? They had all the keys of power, and likely this ancient age would have continued forever if not for the disaster.
At this point, what it was or caused it doesn’t matter, and likely it will be a setting secret similar to the Mournlands in Eberron. What does matter is that the world burned and shattered. The immortals having lost their grip on their eternal empire.
The World After
I think that not all of the immortals were terrible, or at least “as” terrible as some. As the world came crashing down around them, they managed to change their bodies to survive the cataclysm. These became what more “modern” people in the setting call gods. Some seek to benefit the people today, perhaps in penance for previous acts. Others wish to recreate this “golden age” from before the cataclysm.
However, because of the changes to the world, these “gods” can no longer enter into the world the player characters will be walking around in. At least not directly. Now with that out of the way, we will see the connection between library science and the setting. In the world of Anboc is one where the main characters are, in effect, librarians. Though unlike our librarians, the adventures of Anboc will be traveling into the ruins of the old world to preserve lost knowledge, and bring them home. So they are conservationists (in the library rather than ecological sense) who salvage knowledge.
The immortals had great libraries in their ancient towers. They contained tomes of magical power along with more mundane secrets. They come in three primary flavors:
The Scroll: This is the most basic level of knowledge, a single sheet of parchment that contains a single bit of magical knowledge. Examples include a single casting of a spell, scrolls of protection against certain foes, stored objects (reading the scrolls makes the object appear), and more. They are typically stored in scroll cases, and unlike real scrolls, which are quite large and bulky, these are the same size, usually a sheet of A4/Letter paper.
The Quire: Also called a gathering or a section, this is a group of parchment that has been folded several times to create several leaves (pages). This is the basic building block for codices and acts as a middle ground between the two. These are more powerful than scrolls and can contain more potent effects on them. Sometimes multiple quires written on a similar topic are needed to complete the magic, and quests to create codices with the quires are a common adventure gimmick.
The Codex: The big one. Finding a complete codex is the equivalent to finding the Arkenstone in Smaug’s hoard. These are wizard’s spellbooks, manuals of golem creation, and other lost secrets. These are the tomes that can increase stats of characters, give them new abilities, and more.
The Great Library
The player characters are all from the center of civilization and knowledge in the new world. A massive city on an island that is marked as the center of the world in the new maps. It is here where knowledge is being gathered, though not for the elite, but instead for all. At least that is the slogan for the Great Library.
This is the main home base for the PC’s, where equipment is bought, books are translated, hirelings hired, and sages consulted. Adventures will happen in this city from time to time though generally, it is a safe haven. Built around the ruins of some great immortal’s tower it is where the PC’s embark from along with other rival librarians.
Beyond this is a vast ocean with thousands of islands. The further away from the Great Library/City you get, the more lawless it becomes. There are others out there, be it monsters or other humans that are seeking out the knowledge of the past. These are likely to be foes or at least rivals.
I think that perhaps parchment or something to do with writing is a basic currency for the world. Maybe the immortals used some special paper to do transactions or record debts. I will have to think about that some more.
Speaking of rewards, maybe XP is gained mostly from reading instead of GP or slaying monsters. Though I am still a ways off from designing subsystems. Or even picking what system I want to use. For now, though, this is a good stopping point.
These are just some of the basics for the upcoming Anboc setting. Here it is in a nutshell:
- A post-apocalyptic world rebuilding after a cataclysm.
- The players are librarians seeking out lost magical and mundane knowledge.
- The gods are a handful of the immortals from the previous age.
- There are others out there seeking the same knowledge.
- Finally, knowledge in the form of books, secrets, and the like are real power.