Oh ho HO! What is this I don’t even-
She does TABLETOP, TOO?!
You bet your gamer ass she does.
So, while I have had quite a bit of time on my hands as of late, I have been working on a project. See, I’ve done DMing before- that’s geek code for being a Dungeon Master, and if you’re here and reading this and you didn’t know that, shame on you- and I’ll say… it was a learning experience. I briefly ran a Dark Heresy campaign for my husband and QM (who’s still not posting on his blog, but I’ll annoy him about that later) who thought it would be best to ‘break me in’ on them since they were ‘tame.’
Like fething hell they were. But I digress.
I love tabletop gaming- lets face it, its one of the ultimate modes of escapism. You can pretend to be anyone you want! In my career as a tabletop gamer, I’ve been a half-elven druid with a HUGE wolf companion who grew weed (druids grow the good stuff, after all); a Jackalwoman Warrior who was more like a rogue with the amount of hurt she could put on a baddie at any given point in time- oh, and she could fly; a half- silver dragon paladin who was the designated goody- two- shoes of the group but could knock a man off his lizard mount with one arrow; a halfling cleric of disgustingness who singlehandedly killed a nine-headed pyrohydra with a touch; a tech-priest of Mars who could fix anything- and I do mean anything,including people; a gunslinger who took down a World Eater with a pair of hellpistols and a rather unnerving knack for getting the feth out of harm’s way; a Lord Commissar who punched through walls with her power fist and had rather loose morals; etc, etc, etc. You get the point. I’ve been around. Anyways, at one point in time, I decided to do the whole ‘I want to direct, not just act’ thing and decided to try my hand at DMing. I wasn’t terrible. In fact, my husband and QM told me they actually like the way I did a few things, though I obviously had some room for improvement. Good criticism, mostly because I think they’re both sick of running and want to just play. As I’ve been out here, I’ve been putting some serious thought into running a campaign when I get home, and while I like game systems that provide the world for you, I wanted to dive into something that was well and truly mine- I wanted to build a world, with lore, for my players to putz around in. So I did. Well, so I’m doing, I should say, as it’s still a work in progress. And that’s what inspired this blog post- its a trek through my mind as I built my own world in which I fully intent to torture people.
-insert maniacal laughter HERE-
Let’s get crackin’, shall we?
How To Post: Build Your Own Game World
But first, a DISCLAIMER: There is absolutely nothing wrong with using pre-made adventure campaigns in pre-designed worlds. Nothing at all. I’m just bored off my ass out here and inspired. So, moving along…
There are many, many things to consider when trying to build your own world, but the first thing you should be thinking of is this: what is your overall campaign plotline? Yes, I’m telling you to think of this first. Why? Because knowing what you plan to throw at your PC’s will help you determine what game system suits it best, what kind of world it will be, and what kind of baddies you can throw at them and make them armflail over. My inspiration came from watching a friend play Castlevania: Lords of Shadow while waiting for my girlfriend to get her ass out of the shower and dressed so we could go shopping (see? I do girlie things, too.) I have always been a big fan of Castlevania, and so I decided to write a campaign with a very dark fantasy feel to it- and the undead are such a pain in the ass to fight against. -evil grin- This in turn, begot all sorts of evil plot devices and monsters, which gave me a campaign idea. But no world I knew of (besides Ravenloft, and even I think that’s a little too much) could house my evil little plans to
kill my friends test my PC’s. So I decided to build one- my own little world with its own little problems and issues and whatnot. Now, there are many ways you could go about doing this,but I have always believed that knowing what kind of world your PC’s intend to muck about in is the best place to start- from there, you can figure out all of the other details. So that’s where I began- with the world itself.
Step 1: The World
The world is itself the most important aspect of a game- its the whole mood, the environment, from which you build your players up- or bring them low. The first of many decisions you’ll have to make along the way is ‘what kind of campaign are you running?’ This will clarify some of the things that are typically acceptable- and accessible- in your world. Here are the basic genres:
- Fantasy- your typical all hours of the night DnD game. Ancient weapons and armor, magic spells, race selections. Magic is prevalent in these sorts of campaigns, and can often be a blessing or a curse- to you and your players because, lets face it… there are some crafty fething PC’s out there, and they WILL find a way to use Ivard’s Grasping Tentacles in ways you never imagined (for instance, like tying up four constructs for ten rounds so your party can concentrate on killing the four that are already bothering them. -points at herself and glares at her old DM- Guilty as charged, there.)
- Modern- this is more of your superhero/ mutant/ corporations rule the world kind of situation. Guns are around, magic not so much. Cars. Trains. Planes. Spy games often take place in modern settings, and investigative games are always more fun with a flexible tech level. This is the complete polar opposite of the fantasy campaign, but you can always have some very fantastic elements in it!
- Futuristic- where weapons are light and laser, you can travel across the galaxy in the blink of an eye, and the aliens are coming, and they really DO want to kill you! This is the fantasy campaign’s twin sister- its fantasy for sci-fi geeks.
- Mix-n-match- things get interesting when you start tossing things together. You can always go space cowboy a la Firefly, or space opera a la Star Trek (I don’t care what you people say, Vulcans are space elves. FACT.) Anyone seen Cowboys and Aliens? Hell, if they’re doing it in movies, you bet you can pull it off in a game!
For my game, I went dark fantasy- one part high fantasy DnD style, two- parts World of Darkness. I wanted magic, but I also wanted the intrinsically bad stuff that goes with the darker stuff. With this accomplished, you can now sit down and draw maps- don’t forget to include major cities and sites, as well as natural features- of the world, of cities and towns- and dungeons! (Or you can save the actual map drawing for last- that’s what I’m doing because I need graph paper. -grumble-) Now, once you’ve got that all figured out, you can move on to the next step- figuring out what kinds of people populate your world!
Step 2: The People
Things you need to consider: what races populate your world and how do they interact with the world- and each other? You could always stick with the basics, a time honored formula:
- elves, who live in forests and pretty much avoid everyone
- dwarves, who live in mountains and pretty much avoid everyone
- humans, who live in cities and are like a plague
- what about halfbreeds, who are always stuck somewhere in the middle
Again, I say, time honored, well known, and quite possibly the most played races of any tabletop RPG. Always a good choice. But elves are elves and dwarves are dwarves- they pretty much don’t change. But humans? Man, humans can be ANYTHING! There are tons of different human cultures you could model them after- Egyptians, Mongols, Celts… the possibilities are nearly endless! And you don’t have to stick to one particular culture- you can have as wide a variety of humans has we have IRL, and separate them the same way- geographically. For my game, I decided on a predominately human population on a continent eternally shrouded by night- no, not darkness, that’s been done to death. Night. Moon- and- stars night. Sure, there are some humanoids- but they’re not elves. Or dwarves. They’re more like advanced humans, I guess… or devolved elves. Elves that have interbred so often with humans that they are no longer elf like, more like elf-ish. Once I got that figured out, I tackled the next problem with people- how they interact with each other and the world around them. You know what that means, right?
Yep. Built my world a whole religious system hat is integral to my PC’s, as they will be working for said religious group. This is something that can be done without, if you want, but… why not? And here are tons of old religions you could use as bases if you don’t like the religions that the game systems come with! Mine’s Egyptian based- but I’m biased.
See? World building is actually amazingly simple! And it doesn’t stop there! Now, you have all of your basics- its time to start working details! Pull things from your favorite TV shows and books! My world has portals that allow for ease of travel across the continent called chapa’ay (Stargate). The PC’s will start of with magical weapons that are semi- sentient and have release forms (Bleach). Magic is performed through hand gestures (Naruto.) The Queenpriestess of the Order of Exorcists (Dragonlance and D. Gray-man) wields a whipsword (Castlevania and Soulcalibur.) Hell, Sigil, the Order’s HQ, is guarded by trees that move so that no path through the forest can be mapped (nalwoods, anyone? Hello, homage to Tanith!) Once the basics are done, there’s no end to the possibilities! Just remember- going overboard is bad. You want your PC’s to have fun in an engaging world. Bring your favorite things together in fun, interesting ways!
That’s it for now! Let’s take a peek around the blogosphere and see what some other geeks are up to!
- Over at I Like Bubbles, Amber is still a dork- and she’s apparently addicted to healing. (I feel you, girl.)
- Over at K&G, the boys give us their impressions of the Reckoning demo.
- And over at We Fly Spitfires, apparently EQ2 has turned into Aion.
Enough from me for now. Stay tuned where next time, I’ll be covering the absolute necessity of having a good cosplay handler at a convention. Until then, stay classy, geeks!