The other genre that Points of Light fits really well – besides Post Apocalypse – is The American Frontier. Wild West, in other words. The basic idea is nothing new – Weird West has been around for a long time.
Weird West combines our own world’s Wild West with supernatural elements and themes. Sometimes to a lesser, sometimes to a greater extent. But it’s still – mainly – a Wild West story.
The (probably) more accurate term, Fantasy Western (cf “Space Western”) isn’t widely used – probably because there are few examples of the subgenre, but also because there is so much overlap with other types of Weird Western. Fantasy and the Wild West are good matches for each other, really. The cowboys have much in common with knights or paladins. Put Conan on a horse (actually, he does use horses) and give him a revolver and he’d feel right at home in Monument Valley. And Elves have been used as a Native American stand-in before.
I think the iconography is the strongest element of this. Elves with rifles. Orcs with sixshooters. Cowboy Kenku. Hell yes.
There are some issues, too. If you want to create an actual Western, you gotta have much higher technology than your normal D&D fantasy setting. Guns – you could substitute magic wands but at least for me that just doesn’t work – as well as railroads, and perhaps telegraphs and riverboats. Not in itself impossible, but once you add technology to a magical setting, you can’t avoid the question of how magic and technology combine. You end up with steam- or magipunk, and again, at least for me, that doesn’t quite work.
As I was contemplating what to do with Enderra, I remembered the D&D 4th Edition “Points of Light” setting. Points of Light has specific, if fairly typical, D&D assumptions.
After mulling them over, I realize that not only did this describe most D&D settings (there are exceptions), it describes most settings where the “wilderness” dominates. Fallout? Points of Light in a nuclear wasteland. The American West? Points of Light in the arid regions of a world without magic.
When we think “post-apocalyptic”, we usually think of nuclear war and its aftermath. For my generation, that was the most likely scenario for the end of civilization; these days, we can add climate change to the list. Nuclear wars and other world-ending calamities have been a popular excuse for introducing magic and elves to Earth for a long time.
However, threats to all of civilization, even the world or at least life on it, have always been a staple of Fantasy fiction – and gaming. So what if the unthinkable happens, evil triumphs, and wipes out everything that we hold dear? Boom. Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy.
While some settings do feature this in some fashion – ancient civilizations that disappeared in some great catastrophe, either natural or man made, only to leave behind treasure-laden ruins – I believe few, if any, settings play this straight.
The heavy stone door, fashioned by Dwarven artisans to withstand anything and everything, trembled and shook, then slowly slide aside. Bright daylight entered the ancient vault for the first time in a century. One by one its inhabitants emerged, shielding their eyes against the sun. “What do you know,” said the Fighter. “The wizards got it right. The stasis field worked. We’re alive!” “The same can’t be said of the others,” the Ranger replied. The others followed his gaze. Far below them, a field of moss-covered ruins littered the floor of the valley. Trees poked through the ancient stonework, swaying gently in the summer breeze. “That’s the Capital City, isn’t it?” the Bard asked. “By the Gods, it feels like we left only days ago!”
Obviously, the characters do not have to be “vault dwellers”, they could be regular survivors or the descendants of the same. You can lift any sort of post-nuclear fiction, theme, or location, remove the high tech aspects, and put them directly into a fantasy setting. The “points” in “points of light” are the few civilized settlements. Everything else is a vast Wasteland of magical mutants, marauding monsters, and rampaging raiders.
I know, I know. I am great at making plans, maybe not so great at following through with them. But, contrary to what you might believe, not finishing things actually annoys me greatly.
One of the things I realized I really want to do is decluttering. Both in real life – it is amazing how much crap one accumulates if one lives in the same spot for a decade – and digitally. And Enderra.com is at the top of that list.
I started the process last year, with the big blog cleanup of 2019. I quietly continued that cleanup since then. There is more work to do, but there’s very little return on time invested after a certain point, and I’ll likely just fix whatever I find when I find it, rather than actively looking for stuff to change.
So, anyway, what’s my plan for Enderra.com?
Well, simply put, I’d like to turn Enderra into and actual thing. Something I can look at and say, “yup, this is done”. I mean, we all know that fictional worlds are never “done”. What I mean is something someone who finds their way to this site can grab and use. A complete campaign world. I will identify what “complete” means in another post.
The Future World of Enderra
From this point forth, everything that has ever been posted about Enderra is non-canonical. Enderra, in its almost 30 years history (oh boy – I am getting very old), has always gone through revisions and changes. Some minor, some major. And while I am happy to re-use old material, I don’t want to be bound by it. Times change. Tastes change. And one has to wonder if the world really needs another pseudo-medieval European fantasy setting.
(Indeed, the main reasons why I keep the “Enderra” name are a) it has history and b) I’d have to come up with a new name…)
While much remains to be worked out, and this really warrants at least one future post, I do have a general idea of what Enderra should look like.
D&D compatible: There are a couple aspects of Dungeons & Dragons I do not like, but in the end D&D remains popular and accessible, there’s a huge body of third party material out there, and, well, it works. (And this is an excuse for me to finally pick up D&D 5th Edition.)
Sword & Sorcery: Enderra has always been more of a low magic setting. Not that there were no major plots or high stakes, but the player characters were always more likely to free some prisoner, search treasure in a dungeon, fight some dark cult, or hunt some criminal than to have a tea party with the gods. Dragons exist, but are rare.
No Color-Coded Morals: Speaking of dragons, they’re not color-coded to alignment. Nor is anybody else. Some cultures, organisations, or species may tend towards specific alignments, but that’s it. In reality, nobody does something to be evil; villains are just as convinced they’re “doing the right thing” as the protagonists are. In the context of D&D, alignments are a tool to aid gameplay, nothing more.
Wilderness and Exploration: Enderra has always been reasonably civilized. Sure, with a lot of wilderness between the towns, but most of the known world was under the control of one organized, functioning kingdom or another. I’m thinking of limiting the civilized spaces a lot more, with most of the world wild and untamed. Of course, adventuring opportunities abound. Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition stipulated a setting type called “Points of Light” which is the right direction (again, I’ll post more detailed thoughts on this later), but I am thinking about “The Frontier” and a possible land rush.
Technology: I am very tempted to move the technology forward a little, notably to include firearms. I’ll have to see just how well it works. More technology probably moves the setting closer to a Fantasy Western. Which actually sounds like fun.
As usual, all of this will probably be refined as we go.
Last but not least – a teaser: I signed up to host the RPG Blog Carnival in February. I always enjoyed running these events, and they always spurned me on to create stuff.
Oh, Enderra. You were my first fantasy world. I named this site after you. And yet, I have neglected you for a decade. I am sorry.
I’ve recently been in the mood to do some fantasy world-building again. Part of it is that I’d really like to get back into gaming; part of it is a desire to get rid of all those post-Enderran attempts at fantasy worlds that are cluttering my Worldbuilding folder. And part of it is that I’ve been doing too much Science Fiction in the past few years.
And there’s another reason. My nephew is going to be old enough to start gaming in a few years. I should prepare for that.
Enderra is now over twenty years old. It was created, more or less ad-hoc, for a GURPS Fantasy campaign, but it’s been used with my own D&D clone rules, Tunnels and Trolls, AD&D 2nd, D&D 3rd, and even TORG. We played campaigns of our own invention and “official” modules. The Temple of Elemental Evil, to me, is not in Greyhawk – it’s in Eastern Enderra.
Enderra already went through one major revision, in circa 1999 when we started our D&D campaign. I had not been happy with some of the decisions I had originally made, so I advanced the timeline and changed a lot of stuff around.
So – what are my goals for Enderra 2015?
Since Enderra is not actively used by anybody, and I have published very little of my material, I feel like I can afford to reshape the setting from the ground up – apply everything I have learned about world-building in the past twenty years. One of the lessons I learned is that it really helps to have design goals and guidelines:
Enderra Is Real: Well, it’s of course not really real; but the approach should always be that “this is not a game” – Enderra is a parallel earth, and can easily be found in a universe one phase shift away from our own, if you just know how. I believe that treating it as “real” will help make the right design decisions.
Enderra must be internally consistent: This is really my number one golden rule for worldbuilding. Everything must make sense inside the setting. If there’s a Raise Dead spell, then why isn’t the world ruled by immortal kings? Or is it? Hmmm!
Enderra is not a hexcrawl:Hexcrawls might be compelling, but a world consists of more than random hexes filled with combat encounters. Enderra is a place, its inhabitants lead lives, plot against each other, wage wars… I’ll use the story-based approach described by Paul in the Shakespeare & Dragons Podcast.
There are no holy cows: I’ve got a lot of material and notes about Enderra. I have even more in my head. I will re-use material where I can, but if there’s a better way to do something then I will change it.
Enderra shall be a fantasy setting that works with D&D and its clones. This doesn’t mean that much, considering how archetypical D&D really is. It does imply certain assumptions, for example how magic works, and will guide certain thematic or stylistic choices.
Enderra must be compatible with Contact Light: Enderra is the “lost homeworld” of the Contact Light setting. This places some minor restrictions on my design – for example, I can’t turn Enderra into a Ringworld.
Produce a publishable World Book: By publishable I don’t mean “for sale”, but my end product should be a campaign guide that other people can use. This places some limitations on the scope of the work, and above all, provides me with a measurable goal.
Thanks to everybody who has voted in the poll where I asked what topics I should cover. In total, I received 116 votes. The results were not that much of a surprise; you guys voted mostly for what I have been posting about anyway:
It’s easy to explain that – if a certain type of post is common, the people who are attracted by that will vote for more of the same type. Still, it’s good to know my readership.
As a consequence of this poll, I will retire the plot-a-day series – it’s been mostly plot-a-quarter anyway, and I haven’t quite been happy with them anyway. They’ll stay in the archives, but don’t expect any more of them.
The one true surprise is that Game Design received so many votes, considering I have not posted much about it, especially lately. I have heard you, and I will pick up my efforts to design a game system again. Just give me a little while to get some other stuff out of the way.
As for genres, science fiction was the clear winner over fantasy, but again, I have been posting a lot of science fiction stuff. I won’t alienate those of you who enjoy it that way, so no worries, but I will provide more fantasy posts as well because I believe it’s underrepresented. The site, after all, is called Enderra.com after my fantasy world, and it’s a shame that there is so little material on, well, Enderra here.
The New Poll
The new poll is even more blatant: With this I wish to find out which of my settings are actually interesting to you guys! Let me know – and I will give you what you want… 😉
I’ve been digging through old files all day working on… something. During that digging, I unearthed something very interesting. According to documents from 1998, Enderra saw its first game session on October 23rd, 1993. Now, I will probably never be entire certain if that’s right, but it was a Saturday – and the files and the folder look like they were evolved from my very first notes about the world.
It’s good enough for me. October 23rd is now officially Enderra Day. And it gives me 1.5 years to prepare some sort of celebration for its 20th anniversary.
During the day, the Sun is the most prominent object in the sky of Enderra, and its light drowns out all other objects. Very rarely some of the moons or even parts of the Glitter can be seen during daytime hours. During nightfall, the scenery changes: The dark sky is sprinkled with stars. Some of these, “The Wanderers”, move around: The Planets. Enderra has three moons, and one very special feature called “The Glitter”, a thick ring that surrounds the planet and dominates the night sky.
The Sun: The sun is the embodiment of the solar deity, Helion. It is identical, for all practical purposes, to Earth’s sun.
Illustration 1: Relative sizes of Enderra’s moons in comparison to Earth’s moon Dures: Dures is the largest moon. It is silvery-white, and its surface is heavily cratered. Its orbit – and thus phases – is 31 days long. The visible size of Dures in the sky is about 50% larger than Earth’s moon.
Meriel: This is the medium-sized moon, orbits in 62 days. It is colored blue-green, with many white streaks, that some astronomers say are clouds.
Neron: The smallest of the three moons, and nicknamed “blood moon” because of its red coloration. Usually, it is orange-red, but in some nights it is a dark, deep red. It orbits in 93 days.
The Glitter: The Glitter is a ring around Enderra. It is a collection of tiny asteroids and dust; it does not look as solid as Saturn’s rings look on some photographs; rather it appears as an extremely thick band of stars that crosses the sky. The Glitter is used as a navigational aid and appears in many myths and legends.
Planets: The Wanderers
All worlds in Enderra’s solar system are spherical.
Goras: Appears to be a small, yellowish and very bright planet. Goras is a desert world, scorched by the close sun. The air is too hot to breathe. It has no moons.
Sharee: A very bright, white planet. Jungle World – Jungles and swamps, complete with monsoon rains and heavy cloud cover. Dinosaurs and other reptiles are the dominant lifeforms. One moon. White coloration is due to the thick cloud cover.
Kayla: Larger than the other planets, but darker than Sharee and Goras. Yellow-brownish color. A desert world, larger and further away from the Sun than the other two, this world is much less hostile. It has one asteroid size moon.
Delora: A small planet of white and blue-green coloration. “Cold” desert World, very few plants, Tundra and Taiga. Ice caps at the poles. Dried-out canyons and oceans. There are many sites of ruined cities spread around the globe, indicating the former presence of a now extinct civilization. There are short “green” times during the spring and fall; the summers are rather hot (about like the northern Sahara desert on Earth). This planet has 3 moons; two of asteroid size and one larger moon.
Celeste: A large bright blue planet. Huge Air World with a core of liquid fire. Many smaller chunks float around the air sphere, some of them as big as small moons. Virtually all of them support some form of life. 5 Moons and a ring system.
Aeron: This world is only medium sized as far as air worlds go, but it’s still large enough to have a solid core only a little smaller than Earth. It also has many moons, some of which orbit within the atmosphere.
Aguara: Medium Sized Water World. The surface of the water freezes when the planet moves away from one of the suns in orbit 11. There are permanent ice caps at the poles.
Orec: Small air world; cold, windy, no solid bodies in the atmosphere. This world is dark and scary; rumour has it that the planet is haunted. It has 10 minor and 5 major moons as well as a thin ring system.
Mikturu: Medium-Sized water world. The water is kept from freezing because this world has a small fire-body moon. In fact, temperatures on the world are very comfortable or even tropical. Far below the surface, volcanoes heat the water.
Dakordu: Ice World; A world of eternal snow storms and glaciers. There are some ruins scattered over the surface, many of them buried beneath the snow. Four moons, two of them only of asteroid size.
Nemesis: “Ice ball” – basically a sphere of black ice, polished like a mirror, reflecting all light sources. There is no atmosphere, and the planet has no moons. Nemesis is feared by space travelers for it is said to be cursed and inhabited by the frozen souls of those who die in deep space.
Enderra is also quite close to Andorra, though this also wasn’t my inspiration for picking the name.
None of which are related to how I actually came up with the name. I think I didn’t tell that anecdote to many yet: When I was building my world way back in ’92, I urgently needed a name for it and I just couldn’t think of anything. At the same time I was listening to the radio, tuned in to a station with the code/abbreviation NDR2. And when I rearranged and twisted it, NDR became En Der Rah. Enderra. I liked it, and it stuck.