Ape as Class

The Marvel comic Planet of the Apes has gotten me on a bit of an ape kick. Which got me thinking, why not use it (modified) as a D&D setting. Use the old sci-fi classic of nuclear war restoring magic to the world. For people who complain of elfly/dwarfy fantasy this could be a new twist.

What’s really great is how the original movie even helps us map the ape types to character classes. Based on the films, especially the first two, it is obvious that gorillas would be fighters. The scientist types are all chimpanzees so they would be our magic users. Finally, Dr. Zaius and the Lawgiver are cleric types which gives us the orangutans.

Grab the cave city inspired architecture (especially if you can find the old 70s comics) and use James M’s Stranger for Taylor like visitor humans and you’ve got all you need for a great classic D&D version of the classic franchise.

Plus, no elves.

Mentzer Dungeon: Setting

Last time out I selected a scenario for my Mentzer Dungeon. The next step is to select a setting. We are again provided with a brief list of possible settings but they come with no notes. In fact, while the scenario listing is about half a page the setting section is barely a paragraph. I suspect this foreshadows the coming influence plot would play in TSR modules. The handful general settings listed (and even the book admits there are plenty more) are:

  • Castle or Tower
  • Caves or Cavern
  • Abandoned mine
  • Crypt or Tomb
  • Ancient Temple
  • Stronghold or Town

That isn’t much to work with. Let’s look at what we have in the scenario and see if we can’t find some hints for a setting. The scenario is the party learns of a large reward to rescue a group of five kidnapped women who were carried off by subhumans into the wastes to the south. The women are actually slave girls being brought from the pleasure cities of the east by a local merchant for a brothel he planned to open. So, we need some kind of setting appropriate to “the wastes” and being inhabited by “subhumans”.

If we lookup wastes on Wikipedia we get essentially an article on garbage. However, heading to the disambiguation page we find wastelands as an option. Following up on that word we wind up on its disambiguation page. The very first entry is a definition, A landscape devoid of nutrients, soil and/or moisture; see also, overgrazing, slash and burn, deforestation, erosion, scorched earth. The second entry is about a concept in Celtic mythology, The Wasteland is a Celtic motif that ties the barrenness of a land with a curse that must be lifted by a hero.. Now we’re cooking with gas.

So, subhumans of some kind (we’ll leave the kind to the next step) have kidnapped slave girls into a land that is devoid of nutrients, soil or moisture and whose barrenness is the result of a curse heroes can lift. While the stereotypical idea would be a desert I want something more. It is times like these that random reading can come to the forefront.

Sitting in a draft post for this blog is an article about visiting a forbidden Japanese island. The island is basically a huge abandoned coal mining complex called Battleship Island. I guess taking that as inspiration moves us to an abandoned mine, but I doubt this is what Moldvay or Mentzer had in mind.

However, the idea of “the wastes” seems bigger than one island and an island per se seems out of place. I’m going to draw upon a second recent reading, the old Marvel black and white Planet of the Apes. With this we have an idea for the wastes, the forbidden zone. It is a barren land puncuated by a variety of ruins. One ruin, in particular, will be an old mining company town with closely clustered apartment and mining buildings. In a Traveler game they might border on being an arcology. The presense of the mine allows for some underground levels, but I think I’ll focus on one or two apartment buildings for now as the subhuman’s lair. For the surrounding wastes I’ll go with a grey, ashen land that has a faint bluish glow in areas at night, borrowing the Planet of the Apes forbidden zone more or less whole.

So, our adventure, before any maps are drawn can be summed up as:

You hear that a raiding party of subhumans has kidnapped women from the last caravan from the east as well as exotic luxuries imported by the merchant Pali. He has offered a reward for retrieving the women. He can tell you the subhumans tend to camp in a ruined mining town barely into the Wastes to the south and provides a map to it.

Tomorrow, we will discuss exactly who the subhumans are in Step 3: Select Special Monsters

Other articles in this series:

Inspirational Art: Frank Frazetta In Pharao’s Tomb

If I didn’t already know the title I’d have sworn this is an illustration from any sword and sorcery tale. A dark haired warrior looking up steps at shadowed men of ill-intent. Clutching him is a beautiful woman in harem like dress. The shadowed figures appear to be wearing hangman’s hoods and bear a vicious looking sword and axe. Aside the warrior is a priest or perhaps a mage brandishing a relic of some kind.

There are a few hints this isn’t a strictly fantasy story. The warrior, although wearing a scale armor shirt, is armed with a pistol and no sword. His priest companion has what looks like a US Air Force star on his chest. While that eliminates Conan it could easily from a John Carter novel or one of the many successors to that valiant Virginian.

In fact, this is one of the famed pieces of concept art Frazetta did for the original Battlestar Galatica. I think it’s a grand illustration of how in the seventies as our hobby was being born and I was discovering both it and science fiction how little artificial divisions had taken over fantastic stories.

As many people have pointed out a common trend in the OSR is science fantasy as opposed to modern fantasy. Today, most gamers wouldn’t think to use Battlestar Galatica as inspiration for D&D except in the loosest way.

Inspirational Challenge:If you are familiar with the original BSG you’ll conclude this was concept art for Lost Planet of the Gods. If you know the episode or can find the video watch it with a notepad and pen. See how many elements you can borrow for your existing or planned fantasy campaign. Not just the awesome tomb but artifacts, weapons, and even monsters.