Friday, September 20, 2013

A Quick World Creation Guideline

In my current campaign, Dyvers, I am using an established world map and am heavily modifying the surroundings to fit my needs. However, after reading an e-mail from John Four last night I've found that not everyone is capable or willing to do that sort of alteration to an established game world; in fact, it seems that there are many Dungeon Masters out there who would rather play in another man's world than in their own - which says too much about their inner workings for my comfort. 

That e-mail has been causing my mind to work on overdrive for the last few hours and has compelled me to write a short article on a quick and easy method for setting creation. The idea being that if you create the setting than anything you alter, add, subtract, or manipulate will be without the sort of cannon violations that drive these sorts of Dungeon Masters batty. 


The first thing that you have to do when creating a setting is to find a map. You can do this by either drawing one up or by stealing from the real world. For our purposes I'm going to be using an old map of Tennessee after it was seperated from North Carolina. 

Click to enlarge
One of the great things about using an old map is that things aren't where they really are in real life. You have a reproduction of how things were supposed to be, but when you compare it to reality, the map can often times be really, really off. This juxtaposition between reality and the reality we construct has created some fantastic maps that an industrious Dungeon Master can make significant use of for his campaigns.

The thing to remember about maps is this: civilizations flourish on rivers. If you want ruins, hostile encampments of nomadic tribes, major trade cities, or even small trading outposts put them near those rivers. Living things have to have water and it doesn't just come out of rocks when you squeeze them. 

Click me to enlarge, too!
After studying the map the next task you set for yourself is the establishment of settlements. Now you want to ask yourself a simple question before you begin: how many civilizations have existed here prior to the current civilization?

For my purposes I'm going to say that two major civilizations have existed in his area prior to the rise of the current one. On my map I'm going to mark the oldest civilization's five largest settlements in black, the second civilization's five largest settlements in blue, and the current civilizations settlements in red. Now what this gives me is an idea as to where my abandoned ruins are on the map and where I could have some long, lost and forgotten hold outs of those collapsed civilizations. It also gives me an idea of where my players will be going and what lands are completely wild and filled with danger.

This is the sort of information that can be vital when your players go west and you were expecting them to go south. 

Once I'm satisfied with the locations of my current settlements it's time to name them. Remember that the naming conventions you use will establish a tone for your campaign. If you want a serious campaign choose names that are simple, realistic and have a meaning for your players such as Rinee, Wartburg, and Big Lick (all communities around these parts); By contrast, if you prefer a game filled with jokes and that is seldom serious you could always use names such as Frodoville, Weatoness, and Whoretown. 

It's all in the tone you want to set.

Mysterious Locations

The Fly Ranch Geyser

The next thing on my list is to give my map four mysterious locations within a relatively short distance. These are designed to add a little bit of verisimilitude to the game by providing a sense of wonder to the world. After all, in the real world we have thousands of mysterious and mystical locations that still rapt our attentions even in this highly technological age.

These locations have a further purpose as well; by providing a location that has some meaning beyond the apparent you provide yourself with an easy framework to create an adventure. A great place to start is the website Atlas Obscura. Here you can find hundreds of mystical and mysterious locations that will inspire you to ask where is the magical river flowing from, what is it's purpose, and who conjured it? Where did all the people go in the forgotten temple? What caused the Fly Ranch Geyser to begin corrupting the land? Who made the deal with the devil to construct that mad bridge? What's going on in that abandoned amusement park?

This picture is just creepy as hell and I don't know why

All of these questions matter and by at least providing yourself with a location to inspire those questions you can jump start an adventure to discover the answer alongside your players.

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