Knights of Dragoneia

Designer Diary 1: Inspiration & Intention
Where "Knights of Dragoneia" came from and where it's going

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!

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My Gamemaster Manifesto
Rights & Responsibilities of the Players and GM

Most, but not all of you, have played with me as a Gamemaster before. Every group has their own social contract, and here is the social contract I intend to work from during Knights of Dragoneia.

  1. I pledge to use the characters you made to help determine the kind game you want to play. This includes class, stats, skills, and backstory. I will also take into account your expectations and style as a player. In exchange, I would like to place certain limits on the types of characters available at character creation to ensure that nobody’s character is disruptive to the campaign or to the party as a whole.
  2. I pledge to try and tell a good story. I will give you characters to conspire with and against, nations to save or ruin, and memorable encounters to terrify you or provide comic relief. In exchange, I hope that you’ll contribute ideas of your own to help make the setting something you want to be invested in.
  3. I pledge to value “rule of cool” over game rules. This means that I might cheat or fudge rolls in order to tell the best story possible. Conversely, if you want to try an awesome stunt or do something to enrich the story that’s not covered by the rules, I will work with you to let you do it.
  4. I pledge not to play favorites. I will not show preferential treatment or give special favors to a single player for any reason; everyone will have a chance to shine. In exchange, players will not gang up on or bully other players out of character, or do the same in-character without that player’s express permission.
  5. I pledge to help you create a character and understand the rules. If you have any questions about your character’s abilities or why the enemies are doing what they’re doing, please ask me and I will slow down to explain what’s going on. In exchange, I would like you to take a reasonable amount of your own time to familiarize yourself with the system we’re using.
  6. I pledge to stay within the limits I’ve set in terms of mature content, and I expect you to also to adhere to the game’s agreed-upon rating.
  7. I pledge to keep to a schedule, and to give advance notice of cancellations as much as I can. In return, please come on time and let me know if you expect to be late or miss the session. I will work with you on availability to the best of my ability.
  8. I pledge to honor fun above all else. Above egos and above rules. If there is something interfering with the fun at the table, work with me and together we can address it.
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