At the risk of repetition, many of the generic elements of Shadow World were simply the inclusion of general Rolemaster material in earlier books to support the RM rules. If you were to parse out Terrys “canon” work, it’s clear that his material is more specific to his world setting than fidelity to RM.
In my first “Retconning Post“, there seemed to be some collective agreement about eliminating “Lugroki” (Orcs) and some mixed comments on my other suggestions. I also realize that this retconning topic is similar to my recent “Canon or Can It” posts, but in these blogs, I’m focused on questioning baked in canonic items rather than elements of Shadow World that were only mentioned sporadically–like Jewel Wells. Many of these items are revisiting past posts, but with the future of Shadow World unclear it’s worth discussing how Shadow World could be tightened or improved if ever given the opportunity.
- Giants. So my first item are “Giants”. I blogged about this a few years back so you can click the link to read more in depth thoughts. Where are Giants in Shadow World and do they belong there? Terry only mentions Giants 40 times in the Master Atlas and ALL the references are either in the “Lands” section involving other areas not fleshed out by him (not Emer or Jaiman) or the “Creatures” section. There are no mentions of Giants in the timeline or other supporting material, no Giant NPC’s other than the Titans (which are something altogether different), 1 mention in Haestra (used as an adjective re: Titans), 2 mentions of Cloud Giants (only that they are rumored to exist in the Mountains), none in Emer III . Like many other creatures, Giants were originally included to marry the Rolemaster material with the default SW setting. Certainly Giants are a classic creature in D&D and human mythology, but do they belong in Kulthea? My belief is that Terry’s writing should direct these questions–and he didn’t use Giants.
- Elves. I also blogged about Elves in the past, and I still feel like they need some adjustment and posted up some thoughts on the Forums HERE. Elves were a favorite of Terry’s and he definitely ported over some Elvish standards from his love and work on Middle Earth. Could Elves be modified to clarify some issues? Dyar certainly raise a host of issues around the “Evil Race” theory and the modal language around “Dark Elves”, “High Elves” and “Common Elves” seems simplistic now. What, if anything would you change about Elves?
- Unicorns. “Black Unicorns” ridden by the Heralds of the Night are cool…but not sure about the standard one. Thoughts?
- Undead. Here is my past post on Undead. For me there are two issues with Undead in Shadow World. First, how does it fit into the metaphysical underpinnings of the world regarding souls, resurrection, the afterlife and the deities (who aren’t really gods). Second, I think using traditional Undead creatures: mummies, vampires, ghouls etc pull the player out of setting immersion into standard fantasy RPG tropes. Personally, I like the undead “Class” system combined with either physical or non-physical manifestations. I’ve also married the concept of Undead to the Unlife–it’s more likely that intelligent undead are a manifestation of the Unlife than a trapped soul or angry spirit.
- Physical Travel. One of the original conceits of the Loremaster/Shadow World setting was the physical isolation of various lands due to geological barriers and Essence flows. I think this concept needs to be emphasized more in any future Shadow World products. What reason for the Navigators if travel was dangerous but nonetheless accessible to most anyone?
- Dragons. The Shadow World includes 160 mentions of Dragons–they are an integral part of the setting. But based on Terry’s writing, there are relatively few “real” Dragons: just the 6 Dragonlords and handful of named, older/great Dragons. I like that. Dragons are rare, powerful and perhaps not even “evil”. In fact, the Master Atlas names a handful of other Dragons: Kaedan (undead Gas Dragon), Ssamis T’zang (light dragon) and Motar Voorg (red-gold dragon). The remainder of “Dragons” are lesser types–drakes, wyverns etc that are tied to dark forces. I think it’s all great but perhaps needs to be clarified a bit more.
- Navigators & Loremasters. Both of these “professions” have unique sets of spell lists that sort of upend the normal Rolemaster professional limitations. One could argue that these lists are the 4 extra base allowed by pure spellcasters, but it’s not clear that Navigators or Loremasters are recruited at a young age and trained from childhood. In fact, Terry mentions that Loremasters and Navigators start with some other profession; sort of a dual-class situation:
Two groups which are key to the scheme of Kulthea are the
Navigators and the Loremasters. Both of these associations—
through rigorous training and aptitude—have access to lists which
are Arcane in nature. No one without the full regimen of training
could possibly learn these lists. Those within the circles of these
groups may choose these as their Base Lists (in fact, to be learned at
all, they must be chosen as Base Lists). As noted in Spell Law, .,
Pure Spell Users may choose up to four other lists to be their “Base”
lists. In the case of Loremasters and Navigators, they may also
forfeit as many as three of their Professional “Base” Lists (those lists
becoming like “Closed” lists) and select more of the following
Arcane lists for their Base. Thus, while they theoretically retain one
of the other Rolemaster professions, they are also a hybrid with
either Loremaster or Navigator lists. Note that a Loremaster or
Navigator is actually some other profession initially, then chooses
the additional discipline afterwards.
Since Lorematers and Navigators are invariably NPC’s it’s easy to hand-wave this mechanic, but rule carve-outs complicate the marriage of rules to setting.
These are just a few examples of SW content that could be “retconned”: changed, modified, clarified or eliminated. What are your thoughts?