John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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Dying Earth RPG Thoughts

simonrogers posted something to his blog today that I really felt that I should post about, as it's somewhat close to my heart:

This month so far, we have sold precisely zero Dying Earth-related products on rpgnow/dtrpg, zero on IPR and only two orders on Pelgrane (although they were of a decent size.)

The Dying Earth roleplaying game is very close to my heart, as it is one of the few rpgs to have been published in the last ten years that I have run on-and-off for an entirely long period of time. My Friday night gaming group still chortles at memories of the very first session of the game, when Kathy and SteveB's characters escaped from a pelgrane by pulling off its wings and using them to fly down (i.e., the madly flapping manoeuver!) to the ground. I still fondly remember the Sunday group session, where we were playtesting a scenario, when Tammy's character convinced Andrew's character to peel potatoes in order to pay their boat passage. And there's a whole lot of other terrific memories that I have of the game, and will recapture when I start running the DERPG again some time sooner rather than later.

As Simon posted in another, earlier journal entry, the license for the Dying Earth RPG stuff has expired, and the company has six months roughly to sell off stuff and all that. simonrogers's post today about the fact that the DERPG isn't selling all that well in terms of PDFs and paper products kind of surprises me a lot.

This game has to be one of the most under-rated fantasy rpgs out there on the market today (but not for much longer - subtle hint there!), and yet the reasons for this are pretty clear, if one reads various blogs and roleplaying forums. People are intimidated by the setting, by the rules and game mechanics (one of the most brilliant sets of game rules created in the rpg industry and by robin_d_laws in particular), and yet roleplaying is the primary focus of The Dying Earth rpg. What is really so neat about the game, imo, is that if one takes the main rulebook and three particular sourcebooks - Cugel's Compendium, Turjan's Tome, and Rhialto's Book - the game offers a multitude of different styles of roleplaying. If one wants to play a humourous, fatalistic game, use the Cugel-level rules. If you want to run a more adventuring, dangerous game with a horror element to it, run the game at the Turjan level. And if you want to run a game where the player characters have the powers of the gods, run the game at the Rhialto level. This is one of the most not mentioned, underrated aspects of the game.

And then there are the supplements. While reading Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories (you can follow this link to Amazon to buy the books in one volume) is useful, the various supplements for the game provide a detailed, rich world that provides inspiration for all kinds of adventure. The Kaiin Player's Guide is one of the most detailed city sourcebooks ever seen in fantasy roleplaying, and sets a precedent for how books such as this should be written. The Scaum Valley Gazetteer is a remarkable work that details an entire region and offers years or roleplaying game ideas and potential. The Compendium of Universal Knowledge is the equivalent to a 300+ page encyclopaedia of all things Dying Earth, and makes for a superb addition to any fantasy world, let alone the game based on Vance's works. Finally, the superb Excellent Prismatic Spray magazine (yes, it's based on the name of a spell that was specific to the world of the Dying Earth, and pre-dates D&D rather) features a host of adventure ideas, world details, plot twists and tweaks to keep even the most inexperienced GM happy with all manner of material for the game.

And yet for all of this, The Dying Earth roleplaying game is virtually unknown, and has a reputation of intimidating both players and GMs alike. Well, the game is now defunct in the sense that the license has expired, no new supplements are going to be produced, and the game will slide into roleplaying oblivion. Given that one can purchase the game in paper and PDF form, as well as most of the game products and supplements, I think that a lot of folks who haven't considered purchasing the game before would be pleasantly surprise if they were to do so, and they would certainly see the special world that awaits them in this remarkable roleplaying game.

While the game may well disappear from the written records of folks who run and play rpgs, I plan to keep the Dying Earth rpg alive on a set of webpages (when I find a new place to host them). While the forums on the official Pelgrane Press website may well disappear when the end truly arrives and the sun finally expires on this magnificent game, I also intend to keep the Yahoogroups mailing list devoted to the game going. Hopefully, the game will find new fans, new players, and a new life as an underrated, niche game that folks will not forget.

That's my $0.02 on the subject. I'm out of here.
Tags: pelgrane press, rpg, the dying earth, the dying earth rpg

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