Dev Notes – Ibu: The Emerald Canopy

The germ of an idea that would become Ibu: The Emerald Canopy, was deceptively simple: Mess with the players.

emeraldcanopycoverIt’s surprising how often that’s what motivates my decision making. And I don’t mean mess with the players in ways that will frustrate and annoy them, I mean mess with them in ways that they’ll like.

In this case, specifically, I’m talking about messing with their preconceived notions.

Heroic Expeditions

Ibu: The Emerald Canopy is the first setting book in a line of Hexbox campaign settings oriented around the idea of exploring a new and unknown continent from the perspective of the first humans (and demihumans) to set foot upon it.

On its surface this seems similar to the real world’s age of exploration and “conquest of the new world,” but only superficially. What the players find in the Ibu and lands connected to it, but lands and context closer to Robert E. Howard’s Hyborean Age.

To add a second layer to the subverted expectations I designed the “Old World” the players come from to very closely reflect the Imperial powers during the 15th and 16th centuries. This is an intentional ploy to mislead the players about the nature of what they’re going to find without actually saying anything.

The goal is, again, not to delight in tricking them, but to shape their experience. Not only are they going to a land that doesn’t reflect typical Dungeons and Dragons feudal European tropes, but they’re finding a world that is a far cry from what they might expect.

But the Katak-

The Katak are not the Tupi or any other South American tribe, or really, based on any specific indigenous people. I designed them from the ground up (as I did with the other races in Ibu and the other Heroic Expeditions settings) starting with their biology.

The Katak? Tree frogs. Amphibians. Great climbers. Live their entire lives in the trees. Everything else about them, about their society, sprang from that, and the limitations and strengths of their environments, tweaked to fit a vaguely Hyborean theme. The other races presented in Ibu: The Emerald Canopy follow similar lines.


Another note I’d like to make is that the setting presented here was the campaign we used when playtesting the Hexbox system. Many of the subsystems used (foraging, navigation) were developed within the Ibu. There were some things that took longer to flesh out than anticipated – the Firakale artifacts table was one of the last things written – but all in all it all came together at the table.

Which is as it should be.

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