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Monday, 3 August 2015

Dark Albion is my Most Popular Game Ever; Also, Game of Thrones Exhaustion Syndrome (and Dark Albion)

So I've had the pleasure of seeing tons of people posting on social media, including people I don't know personally, and people I don't even have as friends/circled/whatever, posting about their Dark Albion books arriving, showing it off in pictures, and generally praising it.  In fact, no one who's got it has had any kind of really negative impression of it at all. It's had nothing but praise.

This makes me ridiculously happy, of course.

(in spite of the pipes, this is NOT my picture!)

(nor is this)

So yeah, the buzz for Dark Albion is not like anything I ever saw before with my previous games, even though both Lords of Olympus and Arrows of Indra got very decent buzz at the time.

I think part of the reason is that it captures a zeitgeist both in gaming and in geek culture.  It's an OSR game, and the OSR is hot right now.  It's jam packed with art and production value (thanks to my amazing editor, Dominique Crouzet!), and that obviously helps.  Its a rich setting, both familiar and different than the D&D standard, and that makes it stand out. And of course, I'd already pointed out that it has a certain historical/genre connection to one of the hottest tickets around these days: Game of Thrones.

(It even has the original version of this insufferable little shit)

In general, it's a pretty safe bet that for a lot of people, getting to play in a fantasy-historical campaign where they can get some GoT-style intrigue and action going is a feature.  But I have had a few people ask whether Albion HAS to be played in a Game-of-Thrones style; I guess there's a few gamers out there already suffering from Game of Thrones burnout.

So here's the thing: you can definitely run Albion in a Game Of Thrones style, and push that particular dial up to 11 if that's what you're into.  But you can also run a game in Albion that will end up looking very little like HBO's most famous show, if Westeros just isn't your scene.

For one fairly extreme example, you could always choose to skip the War of the Roses period completely and start your campaign after that whole deal is over and done with.  And if you're setting your game just a short while after 1485, there's still a lot of the material that will be generally usable to you. What it does shift is that the Chronology chapter will turn into a more standard "timeline up to the startpoint of the campaign" rather than "timeline of how events historically went in the period the campaign is intended to run".
It also means that a lot of the NPCs in the NPC section are dead, but not all of them obviously; and you can then run your game either along roughly historical lines, or just use the existing campaign background as the starting point for something that goes its own way.

However, if the thing you don't like is the "Game of Thrones"-like part of the War of the Roses, and not the period itself, I think there are easier ways to get around this. For Dark Albion to feel a lot like Game of Thrones, the PCs have to interact with the nobility. If they don't, if your group is a lower class group, maybe based in one specific region of Albion, it will feel like dark gritty fantasy but not all that much like Game of Thrones.  Obviously, if you run something in the middle of the court life during the Yorkist/Lancastrian struggle, certain parallels will emerge.  But if you were to run a game set around Derbyshire, with (or against) the Merry Men of East Sherwood, your campaign could have a whole different feel.  Ditto if you played it focused in the still very isolated and semi-barbaric Welsh hill country.  Or if you ran a game of local feuds in Dover.  Or if you ran a game focused on Calais and Brittanie, fighting the Frogmen.  An urban campaign based on the streets of London, where the PCs are guild masters or gang leaders engaging in the never-ending dirty politics of that very dirty city would only very occasionally be touched by the larger events of the War, and you have pretty much everything you need in the book to run that.

Nor would you necessarily need to be stuck in one area: an itinerant game focused on one or more Clerics and their agents, tasked with dealing with supernatural and cult activities in the land, would only move through the periphery of the events of the Rose War while being focused on their own very different type of war against Chaos.

There's more than enough material on Scots' Land (including the Debateable Land, and Edinburg) that you don't even have to run an Anglish campaign if that's not your thing. And the Continent is detailed only a little more generally than that, but with a bit of fleshing-out you could run a campaign in the wars of the Commonwealth against.. well, in the course of the campaign, pretty much every single one of its neighbours.  Or a Wallachian game featuring the struggles of the border principalities against the Turk (complete, if you want, with the whole saga of how Vlad Tepes goes in this setting from being the greatest hero of the Unconquered Sun to being betrayed by his own brother and ending up coming back from death as a servant of darkness and terror).

While it's certainly not how things went for MY campaign, I could definitely see a GM run a game of Albion where he gets through the whole campaign with the big events of the Rose War just happening in the background, and his PCs not really directly involved in any of the major intrigues or battles of it.

So to sum up: Albion is as much or as little Game-of-Thrones as you may want it to be.

Now, go buy my book!


Currently Smoking:  Ashton Old Church Rhodesian + C&D's Crowley's Best


  1. "Now, go buy my book!"

    What again? But I've bought it twice already...

    1. They say the third time is the charm.