Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rating Fictional Lands as Gaming Lands

Whisk and I have been reading H.G. Wells's Time Machine.  In fact the book I have has 7 novels included.  I read this a decade or two ago.  I am reading this thinking, "My god, what a boring gaming world this would be."  There i said it.  A classic novel known through out the world and I am dissing it.  Love the story, but the world...zzzz. 

First off you only have two races, the wimpy, innocent surface dwellers the Eloi and the more famous machine addicted, subterranean race, the Morlocks.  Neither is that compelling to play.  Eloi are pretty much useless and helpless.  Morlock, although a little more aggressive not all that terrifying.  A mage with a light spell would exterminate the race.  The features of the word are the most interesting, locations such as the White Sphinx, Palace of Green Porcelain (although i do admit I think of a giant toilet bowl), and the catacombs.  All cool.

But as I am reading his I thought about how boring of a game setting this would be.  Although the Morlocks are a bit creepy they hardly could be considered a dangerous enemy.  If a party of adventurers did pop in they would be kicking ass at will.  Although the Morlocks could develop more guerrilla warfare tactics.  Still I doubt the Eloi would be much for changing their ways. 

Don't get me wrong, story is very interesting.  The concept is great.  As is the movie with Rod Taylor playing H. George Wells.  But as a gaming land I have to give it a big fat thumbs down. 


  1. Interesting point, but I'm not so sure I agree completely. If you take into account the Time Machine itself as a device to alter the location in time of the player characters than that could make for a very interesting adventure within the context of a larger campaign where the PCs romp around the Time-Span going to lesser and greater dangerous (and interesting) places. Nothing could be a more boring world than the end where all there thats left are giant snails slithering in tracks circling a completely smooth world under the dying red sun. But it could be absolutely fascinating for PCs to visit that place, even if briefly. The same is true for the Eloi and Morlocks time period. By itself if that was the whole world, then yes - way too boring... but in the context of also being able (or forced) to go to the Fall of the Roman Empire as Rome is burning, and then to see Alexander's armies invading India, and then in another adventure encounter the horrors of the Cambrian Period... could all be great for gaming... if taken together as a whole. But Morlocks and Eloi? Yup... that would be dull by itself. Agreed.

  2. I think you make a good point (the needs of action/adventure gaming versus idea-driven speculative fiction), but I think that feel is exacerbated by 19th Century writing convetions. Written today, the Time Machine might look better in this regard.

  3. Well, you know there are Morlocks and Eloi..but what else is there? Saying "Morlocks and Eloi" is like saying Vietnam would be a boring campaign setting because its just Humans and Cattle. The eloi are a misnomer, they are a foodstuff and no longer any more human than a capuchin monkey.

    But you never really know much about the morlocks other than they are all the engineers, techies and (if written today) IT admins evolutionary descendants.

    What else do the Morlocks do? Are the Morlocks spacefaring? They could be. Are there multiple Morlock states, which in other parts of the world engage in WW300?

    Are the unmentioned beetle-men (pre-great race of yith) conquering Morlock held Australia and the Time Machine just happened to land in backwater Britain, A quiet Morlock Ranching community?

    A game world isn't just what is said, its also what ISN'T said.