Primeval Thule Campaign Setting: Having a William Gibson moment

Damn you, Richard Baker! Did you steal my notes?

While browsing around on my continuous search for inspirational material for my Ancient Lands setting, I stumbled on Primeval Thule, a new RPG setting by Richard Baker, David Noonan, and Stephen Schubert that had a Kickstarter last year, but never really got a second glance from me. The final version was completed and released just last month, and with the 272 pages pdf being only 15€, I decided to make the gamble and give it a try without any helpful reviews of it being around it. And it looks good. Really good. You might even say too good!

Just after the first two pages I was starting to get a William Gibson moment. The story goes that Gibson was just in the process of finishing up the last touches on his groundbreaking novel Neuromancer, went he went to the theater and watched an obscure sci-fi movie called Blade Runner. And realized with a shock that he was seeing almost exactly the same thing as his own original and entirely new vision. Primeval Thule looks a lot like the outline for my own Ancient Lands setting on which I have been working for the last four years. A large, mostly unexplored continent of wild forests, where humans have arrived just 300 years ago, finding a world inhabited by the remains of the kingdoms of elves, snakemen, rakshasa, and cyclops, with much older and stranger beings slumbering underground and the weapons and armor technology being primarily bronze. Replace “cyclops” with “mountain giant” and make the elven kingdoms still powerful, and the description matches perfectly with the Ancient Lands as well.

To be fair, the idea for the general concept of my own setting came from me looking for a certain kind of world for my campaign and not finding anything that really fit. So I went ahead and started to createmy own setting and considering the idea of eventually publishing it, as I though I had found a big unoccupied market niche. And apparently, so did three other guys in America.

Actually,this is not the first time this has happened. A few years ago I got my hands on the Manual of the Planes for Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition, and their whole ideas of the Feywild and the Elemental Chaos also matched what I considered my own new takes pretty closely. Here in Germany we have a saying “two fools, one idea”. Sometimes a great idea isn’t so much a stroke of genius, but actually obvious when you consider the same situation.

While it might indicate that my ideas are not actually that unique or original, I am not going to let this stop my in my goal of seeing the Ancient Lands to completion and getting it out to the people. There are still some big differences that set it appart from Primeval Thule. Shaman and witches play a major role both in the setting and as important leaders of their society, the Spiritworld is a big part in the daily life of people, humans are a “lesser race” just rising from the shadows of the lizardmen and elves, and the mortal people are not the survivors of a greater civilization that has fallen into ruin. The two worlds are certainly very similar, but there’s still a lot that sets them apart and justifies their respective existance. And if I am trying to use all the same monsters and environments as the creators of Primeval Thule, it doesn’t make me less creative. Only them a bit faster. And as I said before, their work looks really good. I plan spending the rest of the weekend working myself through the entire thing, and expect to be greatly enjoying it.

And in the end, the release of Gibsons novel Neuromancer came to be regarded as the birth of the entire Cyberpunk genre, not the movie that came out shortly before it and shared so much of its style.

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