Thursday, December 17, 2009

World Building Again

I still have an actual play to write. Motivation is low since I missed that session, and I'll miss two more because of the holidays. I'm not alone in this, I think holidays muck up *everyone's* gaming.

I've been spending my down hours, like driving, showering, and falling asleep, thinking about trying my hand at a real, honest-to-goodness homebrew world. My, that was a lot of commas. I don't have a chance to DM in my future, but honestly. . .that is the best time to work on this kind of thing, right? No pressure? No outside influence regarding PC choice or players or anything? I will be sticking with 4e though, so not an edition neutral build (though that is mostly to accommodate player choice regarding race and class).

This was all spurred by this enworld post on campaigns. I tried to do this with the couple of small attempts on world building in my recent past, and realized they were very, very derivative. Not that derivative is something new for me, it is a major reason I don't write much any more. I get this bug in my brain to write something, and it turns out to be a reflection of some earlier book/story. We'll see if this turns out like that.

For my starting point, I'm taking a theme or trope that I really like and building on it. One of my favorites is the post-apocalyptic world. This is not Mad Max (though Mad Max does exist in this space, as does Fallout), this is more generally a fallen world. One where the glory days have passed. Some good fantasy literature does this, like the Shannara books or the Wheel of Time books. What really got me thinking about it was Lord of the Rings. The book doesn't emphasize this, and the movies don't show it, but at the tail end of the third age, most of the glory days are behind Middle Earth. Relics like Narsul and Glamdring are beyond the ability of man to create, and ruins like Weathertop are all that remain of a great civilization.

I'd like to emulate that, but focus it more. I initially went to far and started in on a Logan's Run style place, where the entire history of the outside world was unknown, and everyone was gathered to one small place. While that might make for an interesting story or one-shot, it has an implicit level of player cooperation. I'd like for this world to be as house rule free as possible, and the smaller I made it the more that became difficult.

So, I have four areas I am working on, with a fifth I try to keep in mind as I go:


This is one of the simpler questions to work out. In keeping with my original Logan's Run (and The Island, and Aeon Flux) inspired idea, I want the landmass to be small. A single continent. The historical clues point to emigration from elsewhere, but details are lost to the sands of time.

I don't want to get too fancy or crazy with the geography. Ideally the world will have no wilds left, with only the fringes having any sort of mystery. While most or all of the possible races have a home, fantastic beasts like Dragons and Medusas are legend.

One country accomplishes this. No Eberron-like fracturing of the continent. My current plans in this regard are to take an existing map, whether real or fantasy, and work it over to my satisfaction in Gimp. Not far out of the planning stages here.


The most developed section of my world. I'll save a full individual writeup for another post. I worked on races first with the understanding that knowing how so many races fit in a small amount of space helped me to visualize the shape and current state of my world. For example, in this campaign, Tieflings are viewed with a cultural bias as being excellent managers and bankers. Since most non-humans are faced with some amount of discrimination, intelligent Tieflings often exploit this bias as route to power. This results in an old boys network of Tieflings that aid each other in this line of work, and an underground that assists in siphoning off assets from their masters.

Little insights like that help me to guide the rest of my thoughts, and hopefully the end product is better for it.


The makeup of the world has meant that classes are viewed differently. In a traditional medieval fantasy world, there is plenty of room for fighters and their derivative classes. In a world without a meaningful standing army, and with no wilderness to speak of, ruffians who like to stab things are almost always criminals. The integration of Primal classes also impacts this, but I am making headway there. I think this section will get put on hold until I finish my work on. . .


I struggled with this, since it is likely the largest amount of work, and will have the smallest payoff. I am tempted to go with Core here, and save myself trouble, and make it easier for Divine PC's, but that feels like a lazy move to me. I still have some thinking to do here.


I do not want to make an adventure path. I will likely not get to run this world for a long, long time, if at all. Putting work into something like that is folly. However, I do want to consider where the plot can go. This means placing interesting hooks and things throughout the fluff. It means building with an eye towards interesting changes, not making a static world and standing back. It is also the thing I am itching to dive into, but won't waste my time with.


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