Heretic Saga is my big fantasy game. The big, setting-rich, multi-racial, magic and swords and shit, high fantasy game that I thought I’d never write. ‘Cause, like, what’s the point? Everybody’s already got their favorite elfy-dwarfy game, even if I think they’re all stupid. Except for Burning Wheel, which makes elfy-dwarfy interesting, in addition to being totally badass in a million different ways.
But, like game ideas are wont to do, it wouldn’t shut up until I started working on it. The key to it is in my strong emotional reaction to the very idea – the fact that I think elfy-dwarfy games are stupid. Why do I think they’re stupid? That’s a long, hatemail-baiting story, but it boils down to how frustrated I am that words like “elf” and “dwarf” have lost all their super-cool folklore meanings because, if you’re talking to fantasy fans, they just apply to six-foot girly immortals with bows and four-foot drunken miners with (for some reason) Scottish accents. And here I am, with a random-knowledge database that is just overflowing with folklore regarding “real” elves and dwarves and other such things – loads and loads of cool shit that has, to my knowledge, never seen the light of day in a roleplaying game. (Vincent Baker’s Otherkind comes close, but it’s still not the same.)
And, again, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this stuff per se. I play Dwarf Fortress, and sometimes I play D&D. I think Burning Wheel’s dwarves are the second-coolest high-fantasy-trope dwarves out there, with the top coolest being the dwarves from Terry Pratchett’s Disc World books. I also like Tolkien (although his elves and dwarves have only a tangential relationship to the ones I’m talking about).
The standard high-fantasy gaming fare isn’t bad or wrong. I’m just tired of the same porridge every day. This genre of gaming needs new territory to explore, which means a new set of elements to play with, which means a new game. And the only real reason to be a game designer is that the game you want isn’t already out there, so here I am.