Sunday, November 21, 2010

Building my world

Wow! Daily Blog Challenge post 21. Past the 2/3 point. The home stretch. The 3rd period (for hockey fans). We're almost there, folks.

Lots of ideas floating around in my head lately. One that is really sticking out right now is the idea of finally creating my own campaign setting. It's sort of a rite of passage, I suppose. Gygax had Greyhawk. Arneson had Blackmoor. Greenwood has the Realms. Bolam will have...well, I don't know yet. Those are some pretty lofty company, but that's one of the great advantages of playing table-top RPGs. You get to stand on the shoulders of giants, taking all that you have learned, and make up your own place to play.

From Wikipedia:
A campaign setting is usually a fictional world which serves as a setting for a role-playing game or wargame campaign. A campaign is a series of individual adventures, and a campaign setting is the world in which such adventures and campaigns take place.  [...] many game masters create their own settings, often referred to as "homebrew" settings or worlds.
Since returning to the hobby, I've played games set in Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, and Ravenloft. I've played in the Warhammer 40k Universe, post-post-apocalypse earth of Gamma World, the weird wild west, and the 1920s, as envisioned by Lovecraft. I haven't tried my own hand at making a world, though. It's quite a daunting task, but there are some great resources out there to help the designer along.

One key idea that I keep seeing and hearing is "start small". My idea is to start with a single, self sufficient, and slightly isolated town. The players will be from the town, and they will know a bit about  nearby area. The world will be built around the players decisions. If they decide to cross the mountains, then I will develop the area beyond the mountains. If they hit the high seas, then I will develop the area beyond the ocean. Anything unrelated to the adventurers will remain in the darkness until they explore it. It doesn't matter if the players don't ever go there. Essentially this world is for me and my players, not the rest of the world. If everything goes well, together we'll develop this world and it's history.

I'm going to stick with the standard fantasy tropes. I don't see a need to rewrite everything the players might know about dragons or dwarfs, just for the sake of trying to be different. I want to come up with a few general themes and some recent history to help understand why the players are in this world and this town, but I want to keep things as simple as possible to start out.

Here's a few good resources I came across recently that might be helpful. If you know of others, post them to the comments. I'd love to see them. If you have developed a world and have it documented online, I'd like to see that too. Let me know...
  • The Dungeon Master Guys Podcast episode six has a great interview with Micah Wedemeyer of Obsidian Portal. In the podcast, Micah gives a lot of great tips on what not to do with your campaign wiki, that can easily be applied to world building.  
  • Brandan Landgraff from d20 Source also has a great series under the title World Building 101. If you search for that phrase in the Google search widget on the site, they should pop-up.
  • Michael Harrison did a series of three articles on world building on the Geek Dad section of Here's part 1, part 2, and part 3. Part 3 has a great video on using Obsidian Portal to build your campaign. 
Well, the Steelers game starts in 10 minutes, so I better get this posted and hit the couch. Hopefully this is helpful for you other burgeoning world builders out there.

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