I’ve been using Evernote to collect my notes for this campaign in anticipation of character creation sometime in April. As I was scrolling through the notebook, I checked the date of the earliest entry. Wow. It’s hard to believe that the first note related to the world of Dragoneia was written over a year ago on New Years’ Day of 2014. Since then, it’s morphed from a series of YA novels to a gamebook and back to an RPG campaign using an adapted version of the Legend of the Five Rings rules.
It began when I started considering the adage “write the book you want to read.” As a teenage girl, I never got into Dungeons & Dragons because I felt there was something lacking about the settings: where were the strong, adolescent female warriors and casters I had grown up with? Where was the wonder and magic of the world? In seventh grade my best friend snickered as she lent me one of her Dragonlance novels that had a sex scene in the beginning. “These books are so good,” she said, but what excerpts I read somehow didn’t do anything for my anime- and manga-drenched sensibilities.
In January of last year I started brainstorming what the RPG that would have hooked 14-year-old-me might look like:
Must have dragons. Dead dragons make up the constellations in the sky? Therefore each person is guided by a Dragon mentor, like zodiac signs.
You can see the influence of Dragonheart and also my love of astrology. I added notes like “evolving armor” and “January = Determination.” I cooked up a simple d6 dice pool system with four stats and twelve skills, one for each of the Cardinal and Ordinal Dragonei. I had a basic cast of four characters who filled the archetypes of fighter, wizard, rogue, and cleric.
From there, I was heavily inspired by the Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce as well as Magic Knight Rayearth and Fushigi Yuugi. The end result also has some parallels with Avatar: the Last Airbender and the original Dragonlance Trilogy. I’ve taken a “steal like an artist” approach to this campaign, so if things feel familiar, it’s probably done on purpose, but I hope that the rearrangement of familiar elements—combined with the creative inputs of 10+ people—will transform it into something really special.
Over the last couple of weeks, the campaign has also begun to morph in terms of tone and mood. Our Sailor Moon game, with the exception of maybe two moments from the entire campaign, could have just as easily been played by a group of 12-16 year-olds. I find myself wanting to go darker and more mature this time, partially for a change of pace, but also because there are different philosophical spaces I want to explore as a GM, and I want to make this a game that twenty-something year-old-me can enjoy for months to come. You can blame Zoe a bit for having let me watch some of the Twelve Kingdoms anime episodes, but my appreciation of dark fantasy as a genre no doubt contributes.
Right now it’s trending PG-13 in terms of material. I can promise you there will never be any kind of sexual violence depicted “on screen,” nor any torture or graphic violence (such violence might be implied, but I’ll let you fill in the details). Yet, as I consider the types of threats the Knights of Dragoneia are going to be facing, there will be some level of violence. War affects everyone, from women to children to noncombatants to animals. Put simply, your enemies need to be stopped for a reason. If you have any concerns, please don’t hesitate talk to me.
Anyway, I don’t expect anyone to read these, but it’s fun for me to chronicle the evolution of the campaign, so I may post additional “designer diaries” as we hit major plot points or reveals in-game. I’m going to do my best to let go of the setting enough for you all to make your mark on it, but I’ll also warn you that it’s begun to occupy a special place in my
heart creative workspace, and perhaps with these blog entries you’ll begin to understand why.
I can’t wait to start and look forward to getting more character concepts from you in the coming weeks!