WHAT & the Mwangi Expanse

The jungles don’t recognize time. To them, every year is the same: one of birth, and of death. The plants and beasts care little for the works of man, but those cities are there – oh yes, they’re there.

Shem Ervismore, Eyes in the Dark: My Life in the Expanse – Pathfinder Chronicles Heart of the Jungle, page 20
The Mwangi Expanse book cover – Paizo

A Brief Why

Most games from Two Hour Wargames are what some gamers call an “open sandbox,” which means the rules can be used in many different settings with little or no changes. WHAT, Warrior Heroes Adventures in Talomir, is one such game. You can use the rules in any fantasy setting or world, even Talomir, the setting which comes with the rules. Talomir is a broad sparse canvas with very little detail as to how its lands are populated or how its societies function. This leaves the gamer to create the encounter settings as she or he wishes.

But sometimes, a commercially published setting comes along which begs to be played. There are literally thousands of them that have been published since the 1970s with more being written and published every year. (The Floozy has even written a couple.) The setting that has grabbed my attention is The Mwangi Expanse from Paizo.

I’m a sucker for exciting locations, especially Africa. Some of my earliest memories of watching television are of watching the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies on Sunday mornings. I loved Ava Gardener and Clark Gable in Mogambo. I salivate over the dresses Meryl Streep wore in Out of Africa. I sit on the edge of my seat when I watch Val Kilmer hunt the man-eaters in The Ghost and the Darkness. I hold my breath as Michael Caine, Stanley Baker, and the 24th Regiment of Foot defend Rorke’s Drift. And who hasn’t seen Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr in King Solomon’s Mines? It’s not all serious, I adore The Gods must be Crazy, Hatari, and Meerkat Manor.

Now, with my imagination and research abilities, I could have spent months of world building to bring Talomir’s nation of Kurinthia to life. However, as a newly minted septuagenarian, I’ve grown a bit lazy, especially when The Mwangi Expanse does so much of the heavy lifting for me.

What’s the Difference Between WHAT & Pathfinder?

The answer is in the details – honestly. The WHAT rulebook is 111 pages and contains everything you need to start playing. Likewise, the Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rulebook clocks in at 638 pages. Two Hour Wargames WHAT encounters can be played in two hours or less. Pathfinder encounters are designed to be played in an evening. How long is an “evening” session? Well, most game conventions schedule RPG encounters to be played in four hours. I’ve played in some of them and they either move at a fast clip to get the encounter done, or they don’t quite finish in the four hours.

Let’s get one thing out of the way for some of you – neither game is better than the other. That’s marketing nonsense designed to sell product regurgitated by fringe players wanting to feel superior. With that out of the way, we can safely say that there are times when we want to play a faster paced game with less detail and there are times when we want to soak up every nuance of a game’s setting as we play. Writer’s and game masters tend to combine elements of both to try to provide their players a good gaming experience.

WHAT has 10 character classes (including creatures), Pathfinder has 22 classes (not including creatures) as of this writing, and Pathfinder has over a hundred archetypes to customize a character’s class. This is just a sample of the magnitude of difference in detail. The one constant we have to keep in mind is more detail often adds more complexity requiring more game time to resolve.

So, why even talk about WHAT? Well, Pathfinder is not designed to be played solo.

The “How To”

They say to play a role-playing game (RPG) solo, you need to use an “oracle” such as the Mythic Game Master Emulator. In this case, an oracle is a system of tables and logic to drive the game narrative in place of the human game master. I’ve always used the Two Hour Wargames game mechanics as the engine to drive my games and in this case, I’ll be using WHAT.

The challenge, or experiment, will be that of two choices –

  1. Use just the Mwangi Expanse setting and play WHAT.
  2. Use the Mwangi Expanse setting playing Pathfinder while using WHAT mechanics.

I’ve already done number one, most of my science fiction games use the Cyberpunk 2020 or Cyberpunk Red setting (with names changed) using 5150. So, I’m going to be daring and do number two for this project. Now, mind you at any moment I could dump the Pathfinder rules in favor of playing WHAT exclusively, but it is a worthy experiment to try to discover how much of an “oracle” the WHAT mechanics can be.

The Premise

The second son of a nobleman, meaning the one who didn’t inherit the title or the bulk of the money, has in his possession a mysterious map to an immense treasure hidden in the jungles of the Mwangi Expanse. He and his companions spend their life’s savings to sail to a port city where they hire the star character to lead them on an expedition to find the treasure. Unbeknownst to them, the treasure is guarded by a powerful entity and its followers. Will the party succeed in finding the treasure and return home with it?

That’s the campaign in a nutshell. What do you think? Of course, it’s been done before, but I haven’t done it.

Grandmother Spider – The Mwangi Expanse, Paizo

When?

When will I begin work on the campaign? Why, today of course, there’s terrain to build, miniatures to paint, characters and creatures to develop, encounter tables to build, and encounters to design.

When will I begin to play the campaign? I’m not completely sure, but I would like to play the first encounter within a month or two. Don’t forget, I’ve never played Pathfinder 2E before and only one session of Pathfinder 1st edition at a convention. I have played a lot of WHAT and, in the past, I played GURPS, so I think I’ll be okay.

Also, I have a granddaughter graduating college and getting married at the end of this year, so a lot of the Floozy’s time is going to be spent getting into shape and looking fabulous for the occasion. This means there will not be as many posts as the last couple of years.

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome and much appreciated. Let me know if you’ve ever used a setting from an RPG in a game from Two Hour Wargames and how it turned out.

WHAT & the Mwangi Expanse Post

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