Happy Ireland day to all. It seems like the perfect day for me to finally talk about Ierne, don’t you think?
For a few weeks now I have been writing these little vignettes set in a land called Ierne, each showing a small glimpse of ongoing events before moving on to the next tale. I have also been dropping vague statements about my plans for Ierne as well as some hints as to what I’ve had in mind right from the start. Astute readers as well as customers of my Bardic Lore products for Highmoon Games (and also anyone who read my last Ierne tale) may have figured out that Ierne has been showing up for a few years now; this is a world that has been brewing in my mind, in one form or another, for over a decade, and I think it’s time to move from brewing to serving (stretching the beer analogy to its limits there). So, let me tell you about Ierne…
Ierne is based on a mythic version of Ireland where all the legends (and some history as well) of the Emerald Isle have come together to create the most dramatic combination. The invasions have already occurred and the descendants of the Milesians are now the dominant race on the island. The Fomorians, the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha De Danann (the fable Sidhe) have all retreated to the edges, be they geographic or mystical, leaving the impetuous, enterprising and savage humans to their own devices. A hundred tiny kingdoms flourish all over the land, each with a king intent on conquering all around, while a nascent alliance seeks to install an Ard Righ, High King, for the first time in a generation. From the north the Fomorians stir, while from the west a race of seafaring raiders sail their longboats up and down the coast from their new city of Dyflin. It is a land of heroes, monsters and magic. A land of mighty warriors, some capable of calling on the power of chaos itself to warp their bodies in fits of rage. A land of poets skilled in tales and lore, capable of immortalizing a man with a verse or curse him to death with a word. A land where the reverence of nature will soon be tested by a cult to a newly-risen god.
I have loved Celtic myth since I first came across it years ago, and have always wanted to game in a Celtic-themed setting. AD&D had a Celtic sourcebook which I bought and memorized, but never got to take out for a spin. Throughout the years I have collected pretty much every Celtic roleplaying game I could get my hands on: D&D Celts Sourcebook, Celtic Age, Slaine, GURPS Celtic Myth, and even Celtic Legends, an English version of a French RPG. I’ve liked them all, mined them all for ideas, and used them as resource for my Bardic Lore Celtic-themed d20 products. But they all lacked in something, at least for me. None captured some of the things I felt were very essential to Celtic myth, treating it as just another setting for whatever fantasy RPG they targeted. This is of course all personal opinion, but hey, I’m writing here.
When I became familiar with the FATE System (via Spirit of the Century), I had an inkling that there was something there that could help me. It’s taken a couple of years but it finally coalesced well enough in my mind that I now know why FATE is the right system for the type of Celtic roleplaying experience I want, even if I now have to figure out how to properly express it.
In any case, here’s what I want to do with Ierne:
Ierne: Celtic FATE is to be my roleplaying game of Celtic Myth set in a mythic Ireland-like setting. It is to be a game of heroes, monsters and magic, where the powers of the word are as strong as those of the sword. I have some specific design goals I want to hit:
- Must be a simple game – I will keep rules to the bare minimum, character stats to the essentials, and setting information to just what is needed to spur the imagination. I want this to be a thin book that does not intimidate anyone when picked up.
- Must be an introductory game – I want this game to be appealing to non-gamers, in addition to starting gamers looking for their second or third game to try.
- Must be Celtic – may seem an obvious thing, but I want to keep it very much in mind. I want the game to capture Celtic myth and dish it out in all aspects of play. The rules and setting must convey the myths of the Celts.
With that in mind, here are a few reasons why FATE is the system of choice for me:
- Descriptiveness – The combination of Aspects and Skills all based around words/statements make FATE a very approachable game, far more than seeing a sheet full of numbers with + or – signs attached to them. The character sheet should bring to mind a story, not remind someone of a math test.
- Aspects – Celtic myth abounds with tales of how words have power, something not easy to convey in number-based systems. Aspects, as a game mechanic based on words, fits this idea perfectly. Whether it’s a title or a curse, and especially when we talk of geasa, it can be handled by Aspects.
- Abstractness – FATE adapts very well to abstract thought since it can be very narrative. Combat, for example, can be carried out in terms of zones of effect, which can scale from the individual to the regimental level just as easily.
- Unified Mechanic – What is known as the FATE Fractal, this is the concept that, in FATE, anything and everything can be described/statted using the same mechanics: Aspects and Skills. Once a person understands these concepts, the rest of the rules are easy to understand as they follow the same pattern.
- Open – FATE is an open system released under the Open Game License, which means I have access to an existing pool of previous design work from which to draw inspiration and building blocks. It also means that my game will be open for others to tinker with and build upon.
So there you have it, my plans and some of my thought regarding Ierne: Celtic FATE. I hope you are excited and that you’ll come along for this ride.
I am not setting any kind of time table at the moment, it is important to say. Between university classes and the work I am also doing on another game (see Rebuilding Vampire), there’s only so much time I have. Ierne will be ready when it is ready. That said, I intend to continue writing little vignettes set in Ierne, revealing bits of the world to both you and myself. Along the way I’ll also write about game design thoughts and issues as well.
You can follow along all Ierne development by checking the “Ierne” tag.
Many thanks to Mick Bradley for the triskele artwork featured above.
Join me, and let us together explore Ierne: Celtic FATE.