World Building: S&W + Dinosaurs

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
So, for the first time in many years, I'm working on a setting for a homebrew Swords & Wizardry campaign.

The basic premise is that your typical pseudo-European fantasy society has established a colony on a far off continent that is populated primarily by dinosaurs and that is home to ruins of an ancient, magically advanced, society (so lots of artifacts, lost cities, etc).

I'm leaning heavily toward having the colonists be cut off from their home country by some kind of magic storm, though that's subject to change (I'm open to suggestions for isolating the colonists, magical or otherwise). Additionally, suggestions for books that I should look at are welcome.

I honestly haven't thought ahead much further than that. I'm letting it percolate for the moment. :)
 

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Aldarc

Legend
I'm leaning heavily toward having the colonists be cut off from their home country by some kind of magic storm, though that's subject to change (I'm open to suggestions for isolating the colonists, magical or otherwise). Additionally, suggestions for books that I should look at are welcome.
The colonists were connected to their home country via a portal to another world. The closing of the portal cut the colonists off.

Or the colonists aren't cut-off at all, but their homeland has been so thoroughly devastated by a magical cataclysm, war, or a legally-distinct tarrasque that there is no desire to return home.
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
Or the colonists aren't cut-off at all, but their homeland has been so thoroughly devastated by a magical cataclysm, war, or a legally-distinct tarrasque that there is no desire to return home.

Oh. Oh. Ooooooh. That's a very good idea!
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
One of the last times I homebrewed a campaign with a “lost” civilization, I used a conceit that the ancients in question had left no known artifacts or architecture that depicted themselves, and their writings were not exactly clear either. There was a race of primitives- I used a D20 version of Seshayans- that had legends about the ancients, but even they were uncertain about what they looked like.

Turns out, the ancient civilization was Seshayan, but a cataclysmic war had caused a collapse (cribbed loosely from the legends of the fall of Atlantis).

I suggested an entirely different take on a setting like this a decade or so ago to another ENWorlder. The natives of the new lands had a society similar to Plains Indian culture post the introduction of the horse by Europeans. Except in this setting, horses were replaced by domesticated dino raptors or large flightless predatory birds like moas.
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
I'm trying to steer clear of using primitive humanoids of any sort, actually. It's been done to death and it's not particularly looked upon kindly these days. I may have a pocket of technologically advanced descendants of the ancients living somewhere on the continent, though. I also do plan to incorporate giant lizards as riding mounts and, perhaps, flying dinosaurs.
 

Yora

Legend
Or the colonists aren't cut-off at all, but their homeland has been so thoroughly devastated by a magical cataclysm, war, or a legally-distinct tarrasque that there is no desire to return home.
So kind of Red Tide for Labyrinth Lord.
 


Yora

Legend
I think when starting with homebrew worldbuilding, the most important thing to decide on is what kind of gameplay and campaign structure you want to produce with the campaign.
It's not just that you need the kind of content that makes the kind of desired gameplay possible, but also makes it desirable and preferable for the players. And it can be a good choice to deliberately avoid creating content that could be "distractions" by inviting players to spend a lot of time doing things that don't contribute to the main concept.
Of course, when the players discover something about a setting that they really like and want to focus on, it's always a great option to shift the focus towards that. But that also means that much of the content prepared for the original goal becomes redundant. In a well designed setting, the parts that are meant to be the focus of the campaign should also be the most interesting and exciting parts of the world.
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
I think when starting with homebrew worldbuilding, the most important thing to decide on is what kind of gameplay and campaign structure you want to produce with the campaign.
It's not just that you need the kind of content that makes the kind of desired gameplay possible, but also makes it desirable and preferable for the players. And it can be a good choice to deliberately avoid creating content that could be "distractions" by inviting players to spend a lot of time doing things that don't contribute to the main concept.
Of course, when the players discover something about a setting that they really like and want to focus on, it's always a great option to shift the focus towards that. But that also means that much of the content prepared for the original goal becomes redundant. In a well designed setting, the parts that are meant to be the focus of the campaign should also be the most interesting and exciting parts of the world.

This is probably going to be a West Marches-style campaign, so no pre-set narrative/plot structure to adhere to. Players get to decide what they want to do, then they do it. There will be hooks (i.e. missions) available, but players get to choose what they pick up and run with and what they ignore. The narrative is emergent through actual play. There will likely be one large colony/city and a few smaller, outlying, villages or towns. Most of the new continent is unexplored wilderness.
 




Yora

Legend
For a campaign that is about exploring a mostly abandoned land, I would put some work into developing the disappeared civilization, and perhaps making it multiple civilizations or at least distinct factions.
A big thing about exploration is that exploring isn't actually the fun part. Discovery is fun. What makes exploration as a whole engaging is the anticipation of discovery. What this means is that there has to be something that can be learned by searching old ruins. And where it gets really fun is when things learned in one ruin provide useful information that applies in other ruins as well. Recognizing repeating symbols or features, and eventually understanding what they indicate about what lies ahead is a big part of creating a sense of progress. Your not just discovering things, you are forming a greater picture.
 

MarkB

Legend
Possible twist for the ancient civilisation: Have there be numerous references in outlying ruins to outposts being abandoned due to being logistically untenable, with plans to consider re-opening them in another ten generations if conditions are favourable. It gives the impression that this was an empire that was gradually shrinking back to its core cities.

The twist, when they finally dig deep enough, is that the "outpost" mentioned in so many texts is this entire continent's civilisation - it was merely a small part of a much wider multiplanar empire. Oh, and this ancient race had lifespans measured in millennia, so that timespan of ten generations until they come back may be expiring any time now.
 

ART!

Legend
One thing that could provide information, clues, insight, cryptic commentary, about this ancient civilization - or just taunts, threats, terror, and possible loss of life: ghosts or other undead.
 

Hand of Evil

Adventurer
Epic
Go the Warhammer route (also used in Karl Edward Wagner's Bloodstone book), Frogs or an amphibian race. They go from a Magic-tech to primitives. Dinos are fine but don't forget the mega-fauna! Just remember to make the magic different, they used crystals for power and spells. Or runes.

Worlds collide, done in sci-fi, myth and fantasy, planes/planets/dimensions/etc., just merge.
 


Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I'm trying to steer clear of using primitive humanoids of any sort, actually. It's been done to death and it's not particularly looked upon kindly these days. I may have a pocket of technologically advanced descendants of the ancients living somewhere on the continent, though. I also do plan to incorporate giant lizards as riding mounts and, perhaps, flying dinosaurs.

For what it's worth, if it were me, I'd 100% have there be a race of sentient dinosaurs or dino-descendants.

Oh, heck yeah! I think I might know where my technologically advanced kobolds may come into play. Thanks!

Well, the Stargate franchise did subvert the trope of primitive humanoids- particularly those living in the shadow of a presumptively fallen empire- pretty nicely with The Nox. Might be a fun alternative take in the kobolds.

 

Yora

Legend
One option when you want to have foreign humanoids in your exploration setting but don't want to rob the natives is to have the other humanoids be another faction of explorers coming into the area from the other side.
All the treasure isn't their stuff either, and while they may have a claim on the land they have settled so far, it doesn't entitle them to the areas still unexplored.

In my setting, the naga are just as greedy treasure hunters looting old asura ruins as the mortal explorers. And they don't even care for gold, just demonic magic.
There's also goblins living in the wild lands, but they don't have much treasure that PCs could steal and usually don't want anything to do with the asura ruins. (Except for those who join treasure hunter parties.)
 

Hand of Evil

Adventurer
Epic
Older version of Klingons come to mind, a warrior/slave race for another race. The builders disappeared and all the Klingons were left with were the templates. They did not create anything new, just keep building the same designs. The race did not improve or level up, staying at a period of time. Is game, this would be their society, everything done because that is the way it has always been done.
 

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