Worldbuilding - tell me about your world

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Campaign in gestation:


What is interesting:
  • Save the world. If the entire planet is about to be destroyed by a great evil, what can a group of 1st-level PCs possibly do about it? Here, the world is much smaller and it is plausible that the PCs are in a position to avert catastrophe.
  • Problem solving: I don't intend this to be a hack-n-slash murderhobo campaign. I expect the players will use a variety of approaches to the challenges that I present. Of course, this depends on the players and the characters they bring.
  • '70s moustaches. This seems to be what that my friends grabbed onto when I proposed the campaign. :p
I don’t recall a series by that name, but DAMN that looks familiar.
 

DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
I'm gonna spruik my Beyond the Keep on the Borderlands campaign setting.

1. When I create a setting I like to consider physical, geographical issues first.

The Borderlands have a very high level of volcanic activity and cover an area of some 4-5 million square km. Rift valleys sink deep into the crust and rugged mountains rise high into the skies, smoking volcanoes interspersed among them. There are great mineral riches and the deep volcanic soils produce a verdant landscape. The central region of the Borderlands are dominated by a vast plateau. In the north the plateau drops suddenly down into swampy, low lying taiga that stretches to the arctic wilderness. A north/south rift valley and the river that flows through it mark the Borderlands eastern boundary. A long line of mountains that run NE to SW mark it's western. Its southern coast line is long and rugged with many deep bays and fjords.

2. After I've drafted a rough outline about the physical I'll start to consider the social and economic aspects. I believe these are so heavily influenced by basics of a world's geography that I always do them second.

The rugged landscape makes travel between areas very difficult and has prevented the formation of large political units. The terrain likewise inhibits the encroachment of large political units from outside. This has left the peoples who live here to develop their tribes and cultures. Interactions among the tribes are sometimes peaceful, frequently not. There are a few places where people from outside (merchants, soldiers) meet and interact with the locals; these areas are either rich from trade, or war zones. One such point of contact is a certain keep that is itself the last (or first depending on direction of travel) bastion of "civilisation."

3. No hard and fast rule for number three. In this case I went with "an unusual feature."

The inhabitants of the Borderlands are the so-called "humanoid" races. goblins, hobgoblins, orcs, bugbears, ogres, giants, lizardfolk, kobolds, and grippli. I've detailed each of the tribal groupings and tried to come up with something distinct for each of them. For example the Bugbears of the Smoking Coast live in large tribes and go whaling in paddle driven prahus. The Yellow Face orcs live in an area with a lot of unpleasant natural gases, they wear plague doctor masks with special moss stuffed in the nose to act as filters, and use gas grenades. The Ogres of the Blood Bogs (named for the colour of the mud) are extremely poor with no local access to metal or arable land, but make surprisingly beautiful and robust pottery from the local mud.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker
Was that (The Starlost) one of the series Harlan Ellison was involved with, that he ended up disclaiming the final result, that he won some award for the written script, which bore roughly no relation to the episode/s as aired? The title seems familiar ...
 

Len

Prodigal Member
Was that (The Starlost) one of the series Harlan Ellison was involved with, that he ended up disclaiming the final result, that he won some award for the written script, which bore roughly no relation to the episode/s as aired? The title seems familiar ...
Yes. Note the credit for "Cordwainer Bird" - that's the name Ellison used when he disowned something.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker
Yes. Note the credit for "Cordwainer Bird" - that's the name Ellison used when he disowned something.
I knew about the Cordwainer Bird thing; I didn't have time to watch the video and was wondering if it was the series I remember reading Harlan writing about. Turns out, it was.
 

Aldarc

Hero
Not a current campaign world, but I would also like to someday run a game where the player characters are dealing with the aftermath of a tarrasque rampaging across the continent.

It's "what happens to society after Godzilla devastates your country?" The players would not face the tarrasque; it has returned to its slumber. But maybe the events that the tarrasque has left in its wake are worse than the tarrasque itself.

The old heroes died in the process of defeating it. Armies were laid waste before it. Nations and empires are crumbling due to the tarrasque's destruction of farmlands, famine, infrastructure, and cities. Barbarians and monsters are migrating as their lands were also affected. Some believe that the old nations are still their best chance for protection, while others smell weakness ripe for conquest. The tarrasque's rampaging also uncovered old ruins, possibly from empires that existed the last time the tarrasque awakened.
 
My current homebrew realm of Zuur:

1 - It is a world of earthmotes. Some are the size of a studio apartment, others run for miles.
I really like the idea of cluster of earth motes over a standard planet. :)

1. Humanoids do not have a fixed alignment, only tendencies. Orcs for example have proven to be pretty honorable thus far.

2. There are different styles of magic in different areas of the world. The players just learned that most of the magic in a land based on Ancient Egypt is based on alchemy.

3. Falling stars and the meteorites that reach the world are almost always laden with a message from a deity.
your first point really should be the basis of most games. When I did the 3.0 version of my game, I created the term mook and then reskined it based on what the enemy was for that very reason.

I've always liked the use of alchemy which is criminally underused in 5e

the use of cosmic events really should be used more in rpgs.



I had no desire to make my setting publishable or unique. It's too much work to really fill in all the details of the world for the purpose of gaming, much less publish it. It's purpose was to accommodate any published material or home-brew material I wanted to include in a framework that I felt made sense. Thus, it's definitely not a trope world where a small number of key ideas sell the world, but a more traditional kitchen sink environment where I've really only thrown a few things out of the kitchen sink (notably orcs). Rather than being defined by its tropes, I'd like to think the world of Korrel is defined by its coherence.

1) It's an intensely animistic world were small spirits dwell in almost every environment. It is the world of Grimm's Fairy tales, where things can go bump in the night, fairies live in garden and wood, fairy godmothers are real, princes can be turned into frogs, and third sons of millers can inherit kingdoms.

2) It's a world of deep and frightening mystery, where ancient half-forgotten civilizations lie hidden in taboo regions, secrets man was not meant to know are hidden in lost tomes, and experimental magic threatens the health and sanity of anyone that fails to respect it. It's a world of strange radiations, mad scientists, and things beyond comprehension that see people as mere food.


3) It's a world of deep historical grounding, where social and government structures don't mimic those of the modern world, where race, ethnicity and class matter intensely to most people, where there are old wounds and grudges between peoples, and cultures rather alien to mainstream Western thinking thrive. Indeed, if anything, it's a world where things are rather more diverse than they ever were in reality, because instead of one race of people (humanity), or a bunch of Star Trek aliens as humans with bumps on their forehead, you have seven different races each with their own distinctive biology and emotional framework. It's a world where superstitions are mostly true, ritual has physical power, and Plato's ideas can become reified in his metaphorical cave and come off his shadowed wall in a very real way.
Would be interested how you bridge potential pcs, or is it more like runequest?
 
I've actually yet to confirm that there is an actual planet surface below them.

One time they had cornered a vampire they had been chasing and thought that he couldn't escape them this time. So he just stepped off into the void. Because falling damage maxes out at 20d6 and his regeneration, he just fell for a few miles until he hit something...

I really like the idea of cluster of earth motes over a standard planet. :)
 

Nagol

Unimportant
I've actually yet to confirm that there is an actual planet surface below them.

One time they had cornered a vampire they had been chasing and thought that he couldn't escape them this time. So he just stepped off into the void. Because falling damage maxes out at 20d6 and his regeneration, he just fell for a few miles until he hit something...
Couldn't he just go to mist form after falling a couple of hundred feet?
 

Celebrim

Legend
Would be interested how you bridge potential pcs, or is it more like runequest?
Not sure what you are asking, but generally when starting a campaign I try to get PC creation started about two weeks before I plan to have the first session, and we go through an iterative process where they submit a potential background and we start jointly refining it until the PC is grounded in the setting, and the player has some idea of the character's role in the setting. Also, since my original goal was to provide myself a setting that I could set whatever modules I purchased in, but which made more sense geographically and culturally than any of the resources I had access to, a lot of the core Tolkien inspired consensus fantasy still works. There might be some unique features to being an elf in Korrel, but you're still fundamentally in the umbrella of post-Tolkien elvishness.

I also try to start campaigns in areas which are easier for players to relate to and more like consensus fantasy, and then start gradually introducing ideas to the players. For example, players may come to learn that buildings often are sentient, and have spirit that reflects the character of those that have inhabited them, and the longer that a building has been inhabited and the more consistent the character of those that have inhabited them, the stronger, more active, and more intelligent this spirit is. Then at some point down the line they might solve a murder mystery by asking the house who it was that entered it at 2 o'clock in the morning, because they realize that the house penetrated the disguise self spell the murderer was using to throw them off the trail even if the butler did not. Or they may learn that the forces of good are responsible for putting up a barrier around positive energy that prevents it from being directly manipulated by mortal magic, and this is why wizards cannot heal, and then they may eventually learn that the bad guy's goal is to find some way around this barrier and get a source of positive energy that he may then empower arcane spells with. I don't try to dump all this bits of how the world works on the players all at once.

The weirder and more alien areas I tend to avoid gaming in both because I recognize that it would be a challenge for the players to fit in, and a challenge of world building for me to really make it work right. Mostly in practice those areas intersect the game in the form of colorful NPCs with alien cultures and outlooks.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
1 - Inspired by post-Roman Britain through to the Viking invasions (so 600ish AD to maybe 850 AD) in terms of aesthetic and style, not necessarily culture. The campaign centres on a city called Pegbarrow and sort of acts as a last bastion of civilization before heading west into the unknown and monster infested lands*.

2 - Uses an upside down map of the region I used to live in, because hey its already a map (plus I used to live a relatively large city that didn't have much beyond small farming communities for basically 200km in any direction).

3 - Deities may or may not be real. For example The Church of Singularity is a monotheistic faith that has no real proof the deity at the heart of the faith actually exists. There are very real nature spirits that can and do manifest, but they are not divine beings per se, more like immortal being that have absorbed different aspects of reality that they can now control to varying degrees. All of the spirits are based on animals and plants, no "people" so when asking Gorbe the Lynx to help on a hunt you're going to be dealing with a superpowered intelligent cat spirit.

* Monster infestation not guaranteed.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
3. Falling stars and the meteorites that reach the world are almost always laden with a message from a deity.
In Magnus Skyhammer s backstory for a 4Ed game, I wrote that Clan Skyhammer had taken an oath to protect the world from incursions from the Far Realms. Skyhammer’s stronghold was on a mountaintop, from which their many astrologers watched the night sky, scanning tirelessly for signs of falling stars striking the ground.

...because they had figured out that some- but not all- such impacts were actually “eggs” sent from the Far Realms.*




* Plus starmetal was highly prized by Dwarven crafters, and no one made better use of the material than those in
clan Skyhammer.
 

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