Thursday 10 June 2021


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Anne and Richard have both written about the idea of French Vanilla and, this week especially, I've been feeling that appeal. Essentially the idea is that a setting can work really well if you accept some clichés, do them really well, and include just enough twists on that recipe to keep things interesting.

Electric Bastionland was written long before I'd heard this idea, but there's a lot of crossover with how I wanted to have relatable anchors to every bit of the world. Bastion feels like a city, ideally your city of familiarity, but weird. Same for Deep Country, and even the Underground has some familiar elements for anybody that's ridden the Tube or their subway of choice.

But I obviously leaned away from traditional D&D fantasy tropes, while keeping some of the structure. Yes, you hunt treasure and find magical items, but there aren't orcs to murder, dragons to flee from, or elves to buy bread from.

So perhaps it's all the time I've spent in that world that leaves me craving a little bit of that vanilla. I picked up the Young Adventurer's Guide after reading Sam's post about them, which sent me back to the D&D5e core books that I'd forgotten I still had. I've complained about how the game runs too slow for me, and I don't like some of the design of spells, class abilities, monsters, the adventures don't really appeal to me and... well, lots of things.

But I've sort of blocked those things out for this readthrough. I'm treating the three core books like an expanded version of those Young Adventurer Guides, which appealed to me through their utter removal of anything resembling game rules. So I'm reading through with an imaginary black marker in my hand, slapping mental REDACTED bars over anything that tries to introduce numbers or mechanics. Under that method, I actually quite enjoyed it!

I like the way planes are described in the DMG. It actually got me a bit excited to try and use them.

I like the way monster descriptions are broken down into little subheadings so that you can almost ignore the text underneath. Sahuagin get Devils of the Deep, Way of the Shark, and Elven Enmity? Okay, those three things give me something to work with.

I even like all that character fluff like traits, ideals and flaws if you remove the inspiration mechanic that's attached to them.

So what, I'm going to run some ultra-light FKR D&D?

Yeah. If I can flesh out this idea enough, I think I might just do that. Like a pallet-cleanser after so long away from the table.

French Vanilla Sorbet.


  1. I think you're right. GOT uses some very old & well trod tropes but just does them very well. Horse nomads. Dragons. Zombies (ice zombies + Wights guiding them is the twist). Almost everything starts as a but of a cliche- grim northerners, boy kings.

    Goblins, Ogres & Trolls are classic D&D tropes that I've seen made new again.

  2. Tropes exist for a damn good reason, and they shouldn't be discarded out of hand