Thursday, June 22, 2023

Wasted Lands Playtest: War at the Gates of Dawn. Chaoskampf in your Games

One of the later additions to Dungeons & Dragons lore was that of the Dawn War. Introduced in 4e and detailed a bit more in The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea book, this war dealt with the war between the Gods and the Primordials at the Dawn of Time. Among other things, it leads to the creation of the Abyss, the devils, and more. It destroyed entire planes and creatures and built the shape of the D&D multiverse.

It is also nowhere near an original idea.

That is not a slight. In fact, it is a feature.

In studies of mythology, this is known as the Chaoskampf or the battle against Chaos. We see this in Greek Mythology as the Gods vs. the Titans. In Norse Mythology, as the Gods vs. the Giants. And in Sumerian Myths such as Marduk vs. Tiamat.  We even see it in Christian myths as God and the Angels vs. Satan and his followers. It features again in Ragnarok and Revelations. 

It is, quite literally, one of the oldest stories in the world.  The roots go back to Proto-Indo-European Gods and myths, but it is likely much, much older than that even. Jung would say it is something buried deep in our collective unconsciousness about imposing order over chaos.

It is also part and parcel of the Wasted Lands experience.

In the Wasted Lands, you play human (or near human) figures fighting back against the forces of chaos. The forces of chaos are the Old Ones, but these creatures and their minions are largely indistinguishable from the Titans, Giants, or even the Primordials of any number of myths and legends.

How does this all tie together? Easy really. 

Let's say you are a D&D fan (doesn't matter the edition) and you would like to play out this Dawn War (something I have done myself to great enjoyment). Why? Well it could be for fun, or for me it was to let the characters gain insight to what is happening in the world of the gods and this all came to them in a dream.  You can use the Wasted Lands RPG to accomplish this.

War at the Gates of Dawn

The War at the Gates of Dawn is my "serial numbers filed off" of the Dawn War. Though there is really no need for that since like I said, there are many of these in all mythologies and since it took place in (or at the beginning of) the Multiverse.

So how do you dothis? Easy.

Step 1: Choose Your Setting

This is the easiest; you are going to go back in time in your own D&D/Pathfinder/d20 game setting. I take the point of view that all the worlds that share similar gods began in one universe and then fractured at this point. 

Step 2: Choose Your Primordials/Titans

When I ran this before my Primordials were Vaprak, who late become Demogorgon, Tharizdûn, and the god that would become Orcus and Dispater. Additionally, I could use my concepts of Die Hüne from my Roma/Norse Pantheon.  But any Titans will do, really. I find Kaiju fit this role rather nicely.

Step 3: Choose your Gods, aka Characters

This will depend on your setting, but if you go with the notion that all Dawn Wars are THE Dawn War and all worlds come from a similar source, then you can go nuts. A place where Pelor, Odin, Isis, the Raven QueenBahamut, Selûne, and Sarenrae all fight side by side. In fact, I would say it is highly appropriate for all the gods of different myths (aka games) to come to this battle. 

I let my players choose the god their character worshipped, was closest to, or had a Pact with. 

Would-be Gods

Step 4: Go Nuts

Now the characters, either as 1st level or higher, need to battle the machinations of the Old One/Titans/Primordials. This makes the Dawn War/War at the Gates of Dawn a much longer conflict.

The Wasted Lands rules are VERY customizable. You can cleve very close to the D&D of your choice in terms of gameplay. The differences in the rules and the tone and tenor of them will give your "War at the Gates of Dawn" a different feel than your typical game, reinforcing how this is a different time.

My son is play-testing Wasted Lands with his D&D 5e group now, and they all claim that the rule differences make them feel like they are playing something "old and brand new" at the same time. The rules aid in the immersion of the game and help them get into their characters better. 

Now, could you get the same effect with, say Basic D&D or some other version of D&D/AD&D? Sure, but what you would be missing are the customizable rules of Wasted Lands and, of course, the Divine Touchstones that really set the characters apart. 

Doing it this way lets you start with the early days of the war and build up to what is really the biggest battle in all of D&D/Greek Myths/Norse myths or the myths of your own world. 

I ran this a while back it worked amazingly well. My oldest is doing it now in his own world where the players take on their favorite gods and have to battle the forces of chaos in the manifestation of The King in Yellow. If the shouts and cries I hear coming from our game room is any indication then it has been an epic success so far.

I think that encapsulates the Wasted Lands well. Simple in execution but epic in scope.  

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