Saturday, September 29, 2018

Aarklash Revisited

Years ago I spent a bundle getting into Confrontation, Rackham's defunct skirmish wargame. Most people seem to have gotten into it because of the miniatures (figurines!) Rackham made for the game, but what grabbed me was its setting, the continent of Aarklash.
Rackham was always pretty coy about doling out details about the setting... they scattered bits of it hither and yon between their various endeavors. Regardless of how much info I tracked down it Aarklash never felt as well-covered as something like Traveller's 3rd Imperium, Runequest's Glorantha, Earthdawn's... whatever they called that place. There was a lot of intriguing details, but it still felt wide open to interpretation and exploration.
Because of that I've always wanted to run a campaign set in Aarklash (whereas I've never had such a desire for Glorantha or the 3rd Imperium). And now I am.

Aarklash isn't particularly unique as fantasy settings go. It's got the standard Tolkienesque/Eurofantasy races and a few extra. To me it's always felt like a bit like Warhammer's 'Old World' setting with a coat of Disney over the whole affair (partly because Rackham's art has always been prettier than Warhammer's).
There's an religiously uptight empire, valiant baronies full of knights, elves of high, wood, and dark natures... a lands full of undead, orcs and goblins. Instead of 'Chaos', Aarklash's big threat is Darkness... which is an element of Creation and therefore natural, though creeping out of balance with the other elements.

What feels different, to me, is that the entire setting is much more magical and whimsical compared to Warhammer's. It's cleaner, but weirder... and still chock full of horrors.
For instance, instead of Warhammer's Skaven, Aarklash has a subterranean faction called The Hydra. Composed of members of the surface races that have been captured and transformed... through some process resembling mummification and shrunken heads (and a bit of Dr. Frankenstein). Tiny flesh golems housing the hive mind of an alien/demonic intelligence. The Hydra initially started among the dwarfs, but will clearly make use of any race they can get their hands on. The depictions of them are solidly cute n' creepy... I'd much rather deal with Skaven.

Anyway, my idea here is to write up ideas for my Aarklash campaign as they come to me.
I started the group with B/X D&D's 'The Keep on the Borderlands'... altered to fit it somewhere in Aarklash's Aegis mountains (Dwarf territory) as a minor outpost of the Akkylannie (zealous human allies of the dwarfs). The Caves of Chaos have had a thorough makeover to serve as an enclave of Drune (Darkness aligned nomads), Hydra and a secret lab full of Dirz alchemists (humans who experiment in magical biotech).
So far the PCs have stuck close to the Keep, but I expect they'll soon be heading out to follow one of the many rumors I've been tossing at them.

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