One of my little side-projects that hasn’t really been worth mentioning before is a system for playing a “montage” — in effect, a mini-game that allows the players to pass the time. Whether it’s for travel, training, or spell research — this is intended to make “watching paint dry” a fun activity. I think anything can be gamed.

This led me to an interesting train of thought which I can’t really repeat here — it was a localized brain storm really, and I couldn’t follow every thought or idea that came to mind. It brought me to the question, “What is a truly epic adventure?”

Fiction provides us with lots of examples of successful and failed attempts at conveying an epic scope. I think the easiest example to draw upon would be the destruction of the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings.

There are a few points to consider however, such as a the time frame. How long exactly did it take for the One Ring to be destroyed? How many thousands of years did it take? I had an email conversation with a friend about scope and the passage of time, where we discussed the creation of a new race of people.

Now in our world, cultures rise and fall with the passage of a few generations — they tend to flow one into another, but from a distance you can make out the hazy lines between one set of beliefs and another — its splinters and reformations.

And I’m left asking myself — what is truly epic? Exactly how epic was the final destruction of the One Ring? What is the least epic an epic can be before it isn’t epic anymore? Movies from the Disney animated canon came to mind.

Sleeping Beauty is a “pretty big deal.” It involves the magical stasis of an entire kingdom, and the slaying of a powerful sorceress/archfey/dragon. I think I would probably set a tale like Disney’s Sleeping Beauty in the Paragon tier.

Snow White, by comparison, would be in the Heroic tier. While the Queen is a formidable sorceress as well, she appears more or less human (unlike a clearly demonic Maleficent) and her powers are much more limited in scope.

Disney’s Black Cauldron is an interesting case — while I would place the film in the Paragon tier, as it involves a substantial number of magical creatures, artifacts, and so forth — I would describe the Chronicles of Prydain as “Epic tier.”

What’s the difference? Well, in addition to including at least three times as many antagonists, the books include a number of different kingdoms and feature a plot that concludes in “The Magic Goes Away.” The elves leave Middle Earth.

I think that’s probably what’s required to make an epic campaign — there must be a profound change on the world — even if it’s a bunch of people moving from one part of the world to another, and taking all the cool stuff with them.

Something to think about, eh?