View Full Version : Starting from Zero (Campaign Development)

11-29-2006, 12:14 PM
I'm relocating, and will spend the first few months getting to know the local gaming scene and developing a world of my won for the joy of it (something to do while I start finding gamers). What tools do you like to use when you are starting with a blank slate? Where do you go for inspiration? How do you get started?

I typically get started with a map and the Setting Search questions because they drive good answers, but looking to others for their methods (to steal of course!) is a good thing as well.

12-21-2006, 09:51 PM
You can get inspiration from any number of places. I've dug through every D&D world, products of other genres, taken ideas from movies, TV shows, books. Look at products, books and movies not only based in the time period you want your world based but from futuristic, realtime, apocalyptic, etc. as well.

Develope one area at a time -
Map out your area. Develope the area you intend to start your players - ie: detail the area with cities, towns, villages, etc. and geographical areas
Work outward from there.

Do not forget to include basic details of your races dress, culture, religions, etc. if they differ from the norms.

By this point you should know a great deal about your world and your world should blossom with ideas.

Good luck,

12-23-2006, 11:37 AM
I usually start by drawing a map. Then I flesh out the geopolitical makeup of one region on the map (government types, religions, etc.) Then I usually role up some influential NPCs based off of that. They, in turn, almost always spark a few adventure posibilities, which help me focus on an even smaller portion of the map to flesh out fully. Then for fun I make one more villian who could shake things up, or be a red herring to whatever else is going on.

For inspiration, I agree that it comes from just about anywhere. Sometimes it's a matter of wanting to do something that you haven't seen anywhere else out there that drives a homebrew campaign. For example, until the Savage Tide adventure path started in Dungeon, I was hoping to run something with a decided ancient South American feel to it... sort of the Incans, Mayans and Aztecs all thrown in close to each other.

As for tools, good ol' pencil and graph paper for me. I know there are some better tools out there. I just don't have the moolah to bring 'em home with me.

05-08-2007, 07:22 PM
First download a copy of The Storyteller's Notebook at RPGSheets.com (http://www.rpgsheets.com/). or invest in Campaign Planner Deluxe (http://paizo.com/store/downloads/roninArts/d20/v5748btpy7fxa&source=rss) (link goes to paizo.com store) I own it and it helped me with my homebrew campaign world. Both give a good starting point of things you might not consider.
That said, start broad and zero in. World map is a good place to start like grimwell said. Put down the first map without boarders. Just landmarks and the boarders make themselves. Pick one area build a country or set of city states and radiate outward.

Ed Zachary
05-09-2007, 07:26 AM
What tools do you like to use when you are starting with a blank slate? Where do you go for inspiration? How do you get started?

Take a blank piece of paper, spill your morning coffee on it, trace the outline, and there you have it... your main continent.

For the inspiration, start with a favorite movie, book, or historic event... and expand on it. Merge some together.

05-09-2007, 12:24 PM
I usually start with the campaign idea and then fit the world to that concept. Of course, like a battered wife, I almost always end up going back to my beloved and comfortable Forgotten Realms, but each campaign I have run has taken a different take on the realms and I never allow the printed material to bind my creativity. As far as inspiration, I usually get my ideas from reading as well. One of my best campaign ideas ever came after reading the Avatar series in FR, and what I saw as the next chapter in the Cyric/Cyrinishad story.

If you're looking for political intrigue or other ideas, scouring history books can yield some interesting ideas too. Turns out, there's been some funked up shite going on all through history, and a lot of it is better than I could have possibly ever conceived on my own. ;)

Digital Arcanist
05-09-2007, 12:56 PM
I take one of two methods. Sometimes I will create the characters first and then the world and other times I create the world (sans specific plot elements) and then fill it with people.

When I create the world first, I use a hybridized method of Ed's and Gethsemane's approach. I think my favorite part is throwing in the oddball attractions like a floating city or a waterfall made of fire. I sometimes throw in something whimsical to pay homage to my favorite movies The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and The Never Ending Story.

I think, in my modest opinion, that you should never sit down with the mindset of building a world for D&D, but rather build the world you wished you could live in.

05-14-2007, 08:17 PM
Take a blank piece of paper, spill your morning coffee on it, trace the outline, and there you have it... your main continent.

For the inspiration, start with a favorite movie, book, or historic event... and expand on it. Merge some together.


Fractals work wonders too!

Thriondel Half-Elven
12-18-2007, 09:24 PM
if i am creating my own world i usually start with the map. i usually get caught up in the map and go into great detail. my inspiration comes out of nowhere. just random thought jumping out. then i think of a starting adventure and go from there.

12-20-2007, 09:52 PM
I like history in my games - even if nobody ever knows.

Before you start, I recommend you read any kid's book on early civilizations. Make sure it isn't geared for anything more than about 7th grade reading, or it will go into too much depth. Find out where villages and cities were first founded and why. Find out what terrain had to do with trade routes and the like. THEN you are ready to go.

I start with a map, then I
set up villages and consider wars between them. Who wins and why? What areas developed into "kingdoms" first and what did they have to offer. Why did that king decide to build his castle there instead of over here? Will that impact his ability to persevere?

What mythos are in the area and how do they help/hurt civilizations being built? What about the bad guys? Orcs/goblins? Dragons? A whole phreaking nest of beholders?!?! These will tell you which areas continued and which didn't. It will also give you ample fodder for old ruins and dungeons!! W00T! (I can use that now, cuz it's in the dictionary!!) W00T!!

If I spent more than about two whole hours on the area so far, I spent too much. It can be fleshed out later if needed!

Then I use what I have and build today's environs. Who's in charge, and why? Is there a long line of kings that were deposed and want to regain the throne? Where's the thieves' guild and why hasn't the crown stepped on them yet?

12-26-2007, 09:31 PM
heh, I have the "Map of Mystery" poster that came with the last issue of Dungeon mag. Its a continent map with a bunch of landmarks noted in the legend. I've kept it on my desk since I opend the bag for the issue. I look at it every day & say, "later tonight, I'll start fleshing out my own world using this map".... neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever gonna happen. I tried doing that once, its a lot of work, and very, VERY, time consuming.

12-26-2007, 11:45 PM
In response to the original post; When creating any new setting I often take elements from my favorite settings in novels, comic books, movies, and occasionally TV series/mini-series (Farscape, Dune, X-Files). A plot hook here, a setting element there, a good mystery, etc... Usually just enough to get the creative juices flowing whenever I find myself churning over the same ideas and themes time after time.