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Wilderlands Judges Tips

"Be careful with labels. Look beyond the stereotype for the reality."
— Marc W. Miller, "The Aslan Question," Travevllers' Digest #18

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The "Metagame" perspective on the Wilderlands Campaign

Inspired by the occasional "Ref's Notes" feature of the Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society, Judges Tips are "an informal discussion of some aspect of [the Wilderlands campaign] from the referee's viewpoint, with the aim of helping beginners get started and helping the experienced ref add a little spice to his game."

Judges Tips includes information which varies from the established Wilderlands canon or which fleshes out details about the Wilderlands which are not adequately explained in the canon.  A particular focus will be those elements of this Wilderlands background which vary from the original.

Judges Tips also features discussions of the role-playing philosophy of the Wilderlands campaign and will examine the ways in which role-playing philosophy has influenced the campaign setting.

Free‑form Role‑playing | Alignment — Not! | Humans & Non‑Humans | Monsters — Not!

Free-form Role-playing

"This will be a 'free-form' (i.e. non-rules-based) role-playing game that emphasizes character (and plot) development over rules-crunching."
— "Space Viking's Daughter," 2004

This Wilderlands campaign adopts an explicitly "free-form" approach to role-playing which was used previously in the "Space Viking's Daughter" game, an online science-fiction role-playing game campaign set in H. Beam Piper's Sword-Worlds.  As in Space Viking's Daughter, the emphasis of Wilderlands role-play gaming is upon character, setting development and adventure plotting.  Here, for example, were the "character generation" instructions provided to players in the Space Viking's Daughter campaign:

". . . send [the referee] your character write-up (a prose description of appearance, history, experience, and personality, not a list of statistics from some RPG rules system). . . .  Your character should be the sort that one might encounter aboard a Space Viking ship (interpreted broadly — Space Vikings can have some interesting visitors at times) but should not be an actual character from Beam's novel.  (A not-too-close relative or acquaintance of a character from the novel will be acceptable but is not encouraged.)  [The referee] will review your character description (possibly suggesting some modifications) [and] we [will] begin play [once] we have agreed on your character description. . . ."

This approach which favors "narrative" over "rules-crunching" will be apparent throughout all aspects of the Wilderlands campaign.  Descriptions of player characters (and non-player characters) won't typically include statistics for characteristics or skill levels.  There will be no detailed statistics for armour capabilities, for weapons damage, for encountered creatures.

Nevertheless, some elements of the Wilderlands campaign will, from time to time, be informed by rules from "Old-School Revival" (OSR) rules such as Cepheus Engine and Sword of Cepheus inspired by Traveller.

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Alignment — Not!

There is no Alignment in this Wilderlands campaign.  While individuals may have inclinations toward "good" or "evil" and "order" or "chaos" these are not characteristics which apply to types or groups of non-player-characters or other creatures or beings in the campaign.  And because "alignment" is not a phenomenon related to a "type" or "group" of beings, there are no "alignment languages."

Furthermore, while a given character or being may tend toward "good" or "evil" and "order" or "chaos" at a given point in their lives these are not innate or immutable characteristics.  They can and likely will change over time or across different social or cultural contexts.  No character or being is irredeemable — or incorruptible.

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Humans and Non-Humans

Most player-characters and non-player-characters in the Wilderlands campaign will be Humans — not "Men" but Humans.  (Humans in this Wilderlands campaign will vary as widely in appearance as do humans in the actual world but, unlike the actual world, there is no particular tendency of connection of Humans of any particular appearance to any particular region of the Wilderlands.)

Some player-characters and many non-player-characters will be Non-Humans.  There are four principle types of Non-Humans: Elves (see also Elves), Dwarves (see also Dwarves), Gnomes (see also Gnomes) and Trolls (see also Trolls).  Each of these Non-Humans will vary in appearance as widely as do Humans.

More importantly, Non-Humans have no specific "advantages" — or "disadvantages" — as compared to Humans. Dwarves, for example, have no limitations on fighting capabilities, no special resistance to "magic" or facility with specific magical weapons, no special sensory capabilities while underground and no special language capabilities.  Likewise, Elves have no special facility for both "fighting" and "magic" capabilities, no limitations on fighting or magical capabilities or special facility with magical armour, no special sensory capabilities with respect to secret devices or advantages when fighting fantastical creatures and no special language capabilities.  As with Humans, any seeming predilection for magic or other extraordinary abilities among any individual or group of Non-Humans is strictly cultural or social (or perhaps a misconception by others).

Furthermore, while there are characters who have a forebear who was a Human and another who was a Non-Human — or any Non-Human combination one might imagine — there are no Half-elves or any other such characters with innate characteristics which matter in any capability-related manner in this Wilderlands campaign; such distinctions are also simply a matter of cultural and social context.

There are no "Hobbits" in this Wilderness campaign; rather "Halfling" is merely a name for some groups of Gnomes who tend to prefer to live in hills and forests.  As with Halflings, many of the other traditional "non-human" peoples do not exist in this Wilderness campaign.  "Orc" is simply a pejorative term for some Elves who tend to be nocturnal. "Kobold" and "Goblin" are pejorative terms for some Gnomes and Dwarves, again especially those exhibiting nocturnal behaviour.  "Bugbear," "Hobgoblin" and "Ogre" are all pejorative terms for some Trolls.  "Gnoll" is applied pejoratively — and often indiscriminately — both to some Gnomes and to some Trolls.

Finally, while some Non-Humans are often shunned by Humans — and by other Non-Humans — none are innately "evil" — or "good."  (See discussion of Alignment.)  Some Non-Humans tend toward nocturnal behaviour and their avoidance of daytime activity can contribute to the prejudice of diurnal peoples toward them (evidenced in epithets like "Dark Elves").

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