Men have many names for it: The First Forest, The Wild, The Devouring Wood, The Elder Green.
Giving it a name has never granted man any control over the tangled expanse. Some say it has always been, others say it grew from the corpse of a fallen god, fueled by the divine rot to spread verdant shadows over everything for a hundred leagues.
Ancient and ageless fae stalk its twisting trails, guarding broken gates that lead to the First World. In the darkest hollows, alien and corrupted things grow, spreading malevolence through the wilds like a stain.
The elves were long the forest's masters, caretakers of the creeping chaos, but they were cast out in ages past after some offense of which they will not speak. Dwarves once marched beneath the creaking boughs, delving deep below the forest floor to mine godsblood and star-metal from the loam. They, too, were driven forth, or buried alive in their subterranean vaults. Resisting all who seek to conquer it, the Weald remains … and grows.
Year by year, it claims more land. Standing stones and village walls carved with the symbols of forgotten gods hold it at bay, for a time. But the Weald persists. And gathers strength.
A Savage Worlds fantasy campaign for 4-8 players, recruiting for January 2020
Beyond the Wall is a fantastic little OSR game inspired by classic fantasy coming-of-age tales -- think Tolkien (especially the Hobbit or the journey from the Shire to Bree in LotR), Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain or Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea. Heavily grounded in folklore and fable, it features cooperative campaign building as the players create a party of childhood friends who must defend their homes and families from the dark and fae forces that lurk just beyond the village wall.
In this campaign, we're going to Savage it, maintaining the same tone (dark, but not grimdark, with a heavy dose of Grimms' faery tales and a touch of the Weird) as well as the guided character generation. We'll use the character playbooks from Beyond the Wall to guide (not dictate) character creation. During a cooperative Session Zero, the players will generate a backstory for their characters (either randomly, by choice or some combination), flesh out the village where they live, and the world that surrounds them. At the end, you'll build a standard SWADE character, with a few bonus attributes, skill points and Edges granted by your playbook.
This will be a high fantasy game, but not the epic sort like you see in some D&D worlds where magic street lamps and sky-ships are common. Magic is known (it's hard to ignore that the runes carved on the old stone wall start to glow when the moons are full) but remains rare and dangerous, a remnant of ancient days when extinct or dying races held sway. The gods, if they answer at all, do so in mysterious ways, and "adventurers" are as likely to die in a tunnel collapse as from a rusted goblin blade in the gut.
Still, your young heroes will face dire stakes and implacable evil. Goodly neighbors may hide terrible secrets, but the characters, by and large, are not the amoral sorts you see in Sword and Sorcery stories. It is a Points of Light setting and the PCs are the light holding back the darkness.
The Lost Crusade: Three generations ago, a southern king sought to expand his domain, pushing north into the forest, fighting the wild things that dwell there and establishing several villages beneath the knotted canopy. After a decade, the crusade faltered, the king’s knights returning home weary and disturbed by their encounters in the dark and corrupting corners of the Weald. Some were cursed. Others went mad. The villages and outposts established in the forest persisted for a time, but one by one were snuffed out. None have been in contact since your fathers were children.
Today, the only trade comes from the east, where the old king's road runs along the coast to the free cities, and from the south, across the straits to the southern kingdoms. Salt-stained raiders and refugee half-folk come from the west, where the red sun sets on shattered isles. To the north, the Weald rules all.
Characters in Beyond the Wall embody classic fantasy tropes such as the Young Woodsman or the Witch's 'Prentice, as well as less common roles (there's a Village Bear playbook and even a magic fox), outlanders and members of the elder races. In addition to young villagers and members of the local nobility, there are options for playing more experienced mentors, like the Retired Veteran.
While working through a playbook, you'll roll* on a number of tables that help determine your background and defining life experiences. Once everyone has claimed a playbook, we'll do some of this cooperatively, as there are prompts for creating other villagers or local sites on the tables as well as opportunities for shared experiences with other characters.
*(Beyond the Wall suggests rolling randomly on most tables, allowing yourself one reroll and the option to choose once. I don't care if you choose your option on every table, as long as you're having fun. I just think the tables are cool.)
There are some implied setting details in the playbooks -- there's a village witch, for example, and an inn -- and I've established a few central themes, but the players will be fleshing out the details as we go along. How does magic work? What gods are worshiped in the village? Who's in charge and why is it left to the young player characters to venture out beyond the wall?
By the time you've worked through your playbook, you'll have a set of basic D&D stats, along with a few class abilities. I've got a pretty simple and straight-forward conversion document that will translate those stats into Savage Worlds ability scores, skill bumps and bonus Edges. You then build your character as normal for SWADE.
A complete list of available playbooks can be found here. I don't expect everyone to go out and buy a bunch of Beyond the Wall supplements (although they're awesome, and pretty cheap as .pdfs). Just let me know one or two playbooks that strike your fancy and I will send you links so you can view them on my Google Drive.
Unless someone makes a really compelling argument, we won't double up on playbooks, which can be claimed on a first-come basis. In addition, I'd like the majority of the characters to be young villagers or members of the nobility. If we end up with four players, no more than one could be chosen from "Mentor" or "Oddball" playbooks; with six players, up to two would be allowed and if we go to eight players, there could be as many as three.
If you want to pitch a character or join in on the conversation, here's the Hangout.
The Slumbering Sickness: Your village, like others that line the forest’s edge, is plagued by strange maladies that most believe come from the Weald. One of the most common is the sleeping sickness, which can cause a person to fall into a deep slumber and not wake up. Victims remain catatonic, requiring neither food nor water, for an indeterminate amount of time -- some wake days later, for others years may pass. Tales tell of lost woodsmen, long thought dead, found beneath piles of rotting leaves in shadowed groves. At any given time, the village houses one or two families with a slumbering loved one at home.
Setting and House Rules
At this point, I expect to use the following Setting Rules: Conviction, Dumb Luck, Gritty Damage, High Adventure, Multiple Languages, Wound Cap
Since this is not a Savage Rifts game, many EP options don't make sense. The EP Menu is still in flux, but assume anything other than buying Bennies is off the table (although avoiding Crit Fails and gaining temporary Edges are both standard options due to Setting Rules).
Likewise, your characters won't start with the extra Advance normally provided for SR characters on site (you're getting plenty of extras to start as is) and both Patron Item and Signature Items are off limits. Instead, Patrons can have an extra Benny per session. If you would normally be due a Signature Item, let me know and we will work together to give one of the items or boons mentioned in your playbook a little something extra.
In addition, I'm working on some house rules for exploration and combat that should help streamline any classic dungeon-crawling and avoid some pitfalls that come with PbP. I expect to use frequent variations on Quick Combats to handle many encounters, saving full round-by-round combat (maybe even with maps!) for boss fights or those with interesting terrain and tactical possibilities. My idea for modified Quick Combats (with some "effort" options to reduce or increase the chance for Wounds) can be seen here:
What I'm thinking about is rewarding Exploration Points (ExP) any time you make a significant discovery. ExP could be spent by an individual player to gain Conviction or a Benny, or pooled as a party -- cash in five (as an example, exact number to be determined) and the whole group gains an advance.