Game Pitch: Stonetop

Pretty decent summary of Stonetop.

It’s definitely a rougher-cut game, but I do like how barely roughed in the setting is as well. “An iron-age that never was…” yeah. Pretty good stuff.

The only thing I’m uncertain about is the “no non-humans” bit, for anecdotal reasons. I’d probably be happier if the playset said “non-human or demi-human characters are okay as long as you plug the character’s heritage into the overall theme of community in a meaningful way”. “A character faces racism” is a traditional approach, but there are others.

Edit: rather than just saying “there are others”, I should list a few.

  • Divergent biologies. Maybe dwarves need different healing herbs than humans, or elves can’t eat the figs that are a staple of the local diet. This can cause friction if the nonhumans don’t pull their weight in harvesting, but can work out if (for example) the halflings are immune to the poisonous nettles that grow around the succulent fruit everyone likes, and thus can pick it more easily.
  • Conflicting culture. A band of orcs buried their ancestral dead under your hill, and now appeal to the village half-orcs to side with them on some related issue. There’s rites that need to be performed, the orcs are willing to rebury the bodies (but it’ll be disruptive), someone in town has religious disagreement and causes trouble, etc. The orcs don’t have to threaten violence early on, or at all.
  • Expertise silos. Only the eight elf families in town really understand tracking the winter buffalo, and are reluctant to train anyone who isn’t part of the family. The dwarven jewel-work that keeps the village a destination for regional traders won’t outlast the aging craftsman who makes it, and he’s stubborn about teaching the secret to a non-dwarf. It need not be due to racism - maybe he’s obeying a vow to his teachers in turn, or the skill depends on dwarven infravision and can’t be taught.
  • Misunderstandings and mistranslations. It turns out that the halflings aren’t honoring some of the deals they made with the humans, because one or both sides didn’t grasp a nuance of language, and now someone has to settle the matter.

In the context of Stonetop, it makes sense. (I’ve been digging through all the source materials the author has shared over time via g+. There was a point where I hoovered everything up.)

Basically, it’s either even further along the ‘fading of magic’ timeline that Demihumans proposes (in the setting docs "no one has seen a dwarf in living memory, and no one’s seen any of the Forest Folk (elves) in 10 years), OR it’s at the same point in the timeline, but SO FAR out into the hinterlands (10 days hard walking from the outer edge of anything like civilization) that it doesn’t see any of last few demihumans.

The Makers’ (precursor giant) ruins are all over the place, evil things are multiplying in the forest because the elves aren’t there to hunt them back anymore, deep water = instant evil death (which everyone knows and no one knows WHY), and there’s a library’s worth of lost knowledge in the old building next to the Maker runestone in the center of town (a stone that get struck by lightning so routinely, no one in town even really notices it anymore - it’s just a thing).

So… from a narrative set-up, there’s just humans because the setting presumes vast stretches of lost/just-recovered knowledge in a very old, long inhabited land from which the precursor races have faded.

Having an elf around means there’s someone who knows WHY to avoid that patch of ‘red wood’ that you can just see growing in a clump out in the Old Forest, or can tell you about the weird hornets-nest-building grey-skin humanoids that have started raiding out of the forest. Having dwarves around means (a) more traffic and better information from civilization (b) someone who can speak semi-knowledgeably about the vast Maker tunnels that run under all the old ruins, or © someone who knows things about the mask-wearing humanoids that come up from the deep tunnels to trade orichalcum with the mining town about 3 days to the west of Stonetop.

It’s a wild setting. This is a more detailed 4-pager that introduces some more info and more mysteries. All the standard playbooks are replaced with setting specific ones that say (or let you say) a LOT about the world.

I will confess that, for some reason, Stonetop is not jazzing me (from the short write-up I read, and what’s been said). I’m not sure why – maybe the setting of living in precarious poverty and dangerous ignorance just doesn’t sound fun.

That said, esp. in the short run, I can probably have sufficient fun doing anything that doesn’t involve eating crippled talking puppies. More fun with some things than others, to be sure, but …