Introducing Eldritch Realms

On Sunday, my team of freelance designers and I had our first play session of the new tabletop RPG we’re developing.

As I’ve said before (and told everyone I met at Gen Con), this will be an RPG of historical fantasy set in Renaissance Europe. The concept of the game has firmed up enough that I can make some more details public.

The working title of this game is Eldritch Realms. We may change that title before we’re finished with development, but for now, it will serve.

We’ve chosen Elizabethan England as the setting, because it’s awesome. Another reason for this choice — second only to its awesomeness — is that it should be familiar. Anyone who’s completed high school in an English-speaking country has read some Shakespeare. Maybe you loved it, maybe you hated it, but at some point you had to pass a test on Shakespeare and his time: and that of his sovereign. Very likely, you already know all the history you need to dive into the setting and feel comfortable role-playing there. And if you’ve been to a Renaissance fair, you’ve already visited that world.

Well, almost. Eldritch Realms is not about historical England. It’s about fantasy England and, specifically, playing a wizard in fantasy England. Eldritch Realms is a game about wizards and werewolves and King Oberon and Queen Titania and clandestine alchemical experiments and secret societies and probably giants on the Yorkshire moors. History is the starting point for understanding the setting. The game is a fantasy game, where you play a wizard and go on adventures and save the good people of England from supernatural menaces.

We’re just getting started on developing the magic system, but our approach is to try very hard to capture the flavor of Renaissance folklore. This means magic is going to be subtler than in D&D or other fantasy games (including Ars Magica) because historical magicians didn’t claim they could throw fireballs around. Don’t worry, there will still be plenty of options for magical powers. The designers’ research so far shows that Paracelsus claimed the power to levitate objects into the air. The Rosicrucians could reputedly read minds, turn invisible, and communicate magically over great distances. Dr. John Dee possessed a shewstone, which was the inspiration for the name of my company.

Our current thinking is that all the player characters are wizards, and will probably have a choice of different kinds of historical magic to specialize in.

We have a great development team, whom I hope to introduce in a future post.

It is much too early to talk about when the game will be ready. It’s still more than a year away, and possibly more than two. We are working on the game now, writing the rules in rough form and playing as we go. Eventually we’ll have a rough draft ready to try out at conventions. Please keep following us on Google+ or Facebook, and we’ll post updates as often as we have news to report. We’re going to take our time with this and make the best game we possibly can. How long that will take, my shewstone can’t tell me.

About the Working Title

“Eldritch” means “spooky” or “eerie” and, according to Merriam-Webster, is a word about 500 years old. When gamers see the word “eldritch,” they often think of H.P. Lovecraft, because “eldritch” (along with other gems such as “squamous” and “cyclopean”) was among that author’s favorite words. Eldritch Realms has nothing to do with the Cthulhu Mythos. It has to do with England about 500 years ago. Well, 450 years ago, around the time the word “eldritch” must have been hitting its stride. I think of this name reclaiming a word at risk of becoming Cthulhu Mythos jargon, and putting it back to work as a general-purpose and really cool way to say “eerie.”