Author Topic: Of Wood and Water: Warhammer Turtle Islands Campaign Rules  (Read 5126 times)


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Of Wood and Water: Warhammer Turtle Islands Campaign Rules
« on: September 30, 2023, 12:11:19 PM »
‚ÄčOf Wood and Water

This is the second of a pair of campaign systems I wrote originally about 2009-10 for exploration-focused campaign games in the Warhammer world: the first was an Underway campaign, Of Stone and Iron, whereas Of Wood and Water takes players to the Turtle Islands, a mysterious jungle land on the far side of the Warhammer world to the areas players are usually familiar with.

The campaign system provides rules for exploration, with forests, hills, and water all in existence around the map. There's a detailed random encounters chart for players to have something to fight even if they're not battling fellow players in a particular campaign turn, too. Some specific rainforest battle rules are also in there, and there's a full system for income, troop training, and buildings.

There are four local factions: the People of the Moai, the People of the Consuming Forest, the Jungle Goblins and the Skink Tribes. These can all be encountered in villages and, depending on the player's faction, battled or allied with. The People of the Moai and of the Consuming Forest have new rules for units like frenzied man-eating giants, powerful walking statues, and sculptor-mages.

Do let me know in the comments if you read through and have thoughts, and especially if you actually try playing the system! It probably needs a lot of balance work, but hopefully it'll be chaotically fun regardless.

Design Notes

I think these design notes have to start with the obvious, so let's talk colonialism. The inspirations for Of Wood and Water are both obvious and sort of awkward: it's a campaign that looks at exploring and building in a mysterious jungle and it has some obvious C19 adventure tropes as factions can gain from discovering ancient temples and other things beyond their ken. And it's true that a bunch of European-coded people going exploring and building in a jungle is inherently going to have some inescapable colonial tropes going on. Even back in 2010 I was somewhat aware that wouldn't be ideal (dropping the pejorative term "pygmies" which official Warhammer materials had used in the past for indigenous people in the far reaches of the world), and instead theming the people of the Turtle Islands around a more Easter Island theme, beginning a long interest in the history of the moai statues which has cropped up at various other points in my fiction writing.

In the 2023 rewrite I refocused things to try and further improve matters. The new opening and closing fiction vignettes show things from the perspective of the People, as the Moai builders of the Turtle Islands call themselves, putting the local perspective more centrally in how players approach the book. Also importantly, I did some re-theming on the peoples that I'd written as allies for more evil-aligned factions, who I'd initially simply written as adventure-trope cannibals but have now been a bit tweaked to become the People of the Consuming Forest, still good allies for Chaos or other villains but focused more on the general sense of nature as a ferocious, all-consuming force rather than centring the specific act of cannibalism. One small rules tweak that I think sets out the change well is that their alliance list now includes Wood Elves, making them a more ambiguous force as opposed to just having all the obviously-evil factions on side. Finally, some optional rules for actually playing as a local faction were added, which would be tricky due to the lack of a fully developed army list but could also be a very fun way to approach the campaign.

All that said, this campaign still is what it is - an exploration and expansion focused rule system, in a world where how we think about those processes is heavily defined by our own world's colonial past. Your mileage may vary on whether that's something you want in your games! I'm not sure old-school Warhammer as whole can duck it, that said, given how much of the Warhammer world's theming and technology has a decidedly age-of-discovery flavour. I hope, then, that I've treated the issue with at least some more care than might otherwise have been the case.

In terms of other design notes - this can be quite a chaotic campaign, with the variant faction rules giving very different play-styles. Like in Of Stone and Iron, the lava/volcano rules can be immensely destructive on a campaign changing level, probably too much so but at the same time I think having a natural disaster that really really feels like a natural disaster has quite something to be said for it, there's good possibilities for an epic level of horror as the pyroclastic flows come crashing down on your marshalled forces.

I think if I were to do further rewrites of this I might reintroduce variant victory conditions like in Of Stone and Iron. This might allow some player choice in what sort of attitudes they want to take (especially for morally grey factions where e.g. a Dwarf player might both sympathise with the need to protect the stonework and culture of the Islands or simply be in it for the shiny objects and loot that can be gained). That said, I don't know when or if I'll next run this sort of campaign, I've not picked up Warhammer for a decade or so now - we'll see if I ever get there.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2023, 03:05:24 PM by Jubal »
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