DM Worldcraft: Ideas take Form
by, 07-06-2009 at 02:43 AM (2034 Views)
Welcome back. I'll begin by catching everyone up to where I am on the project right now, starting from the inception of the project.
The best thing about D&D to me from a DM's perspective is the world in which you are telling your story. I have long been a huge fan of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting ever since the old AD&D box sets, and have ran many games in that world. It has so much lush detail, so many avenues to take your imagination that I couldn't get enough of it. I began to realize that I wanted to create something that could stand on its own as a campaign setting and yet have the same mystique, the same kind of creative latitude that Forgotten Realms gave to the players and DM's who gamed in it.
I know it's a lofty goal but if one can't dream big then what's the point? I decided to get started, but where would I begin? I had to start researching various campaign worlds that were around to get a sense of what concepts were attractive to roleplayers, and to also see what kind of themes and ideas were commonly found in each setting, so I could try and avoid them. The last thing I want to do is create some kind of cookie cutter setting that is just another mainstream trend. I want my project to stand out from the rest, but not isolate itself to the point that it's too outlandish or out there to play and therefore becomes uninteresting to play.
So I began doing research, which for me is something I am more comfortable with than most. I got my Bachelors in History & Political Science so I am not a newb when it comes to research and analysis. My educational background also helps me pull historical facts, geo-political demographics and all kinds of other data into the mix to assist me when I get to the stage of crafting governments in my world and piecing together the world's history and political intrigue.
I studied pretty much every setting that could be set in a D&D game that I had heard of, trying to see what worked, what didn't and glean as much wisdom as I could. There is literally so many settings out there with so much information that I could have spent years analyzing all of them and would have come up with something that was comepletely outdated by the time it was completed. Themes stretching from traditional medieval-era fantasy like Forgotten Realms to steampunk in Iron Kingdoms, space opera fantasy in Spelljammer, Planar world-walking in Planescape all the way to the post-apocalyptic scarcity heavy environment of Dark Sun. Now there's the newer settings like Eberron which are popular but not nearly as popular as the older stuff like FR. It's hard to single out what gives a campaign setting that "it" factor that can turn it into a gaming giant.
So I looked at my own playstyle and that of the many players I've had the pleasure of GM'ing for over the years and all of our likes and dislikes in a setting. One of the biggest issues was magic. What kind of prevalence did I want my world to have? I saw that Low magic settings largely didn't work, with Dark Sun being a glaring example of that fact. Let's get put the players on a desolate world where food and water are scarce, magic hardly exists and industry is at a point where bones are the number one material for weapon and armor crafting. The whole idea to me and pretty much everyone I talk to on the subject sounds absurd.
Magic brings a sense of awe and mystery and fun to the game, giving players and GMs alike another level of options, broadening the realm of possibilities of what can be achieved. Limiting that kind of factor in a game is like dying of hypothermia, it just sucks the life out slowly but surely, and puts a damper on the gaming atmosphere. I think the reason behind this is that gaming for many is an escape into one's imagination, where the individual can achieve these awesome feats like slaying dragons or casting spells, things that aren't possible in real life. They feel empowered, excited to be at the helm of a story that can take them wherever they wish, and magic lends a large part of that to the experience. Restricting that is not healthy for the game in my opinion, because it then brings the game down to a level which is comparable in deed to real life, and its attractiveness diminishes consequently. That was enough for me to toss out the low magic campaign possibility.
On the flipside of that, too much magic in a setting tends to dull its lustor. Take Eberron for example. Technology and magic are so close and interactive with each other that the line between them has become blurred, and everything you see is powered by magic in some form or another. The street lamps, the modes of transportation, the methods of communication, immigration documentation, even digging holes in the ground involves some item with a bound earth elemental in it to assist you. I wonder if the antechambers there are elemental/magically powered to help one out on the pot. I digress, but you get the idea: magic is so prevalent and immersed in society that it's become a dull, glossed over part of every day life. Sure, there's glitzy things that nobody's seen before with the locomotives and the use of shards to power this and that, but that kind of wonderment lasts only so long, before long you'll have players armed to the teeth with so much magic you'll wish you WERE running something akin to Dark Sun! So needless to say I decided to stay in the middle on this issue.
But so has 80% of everyone else, right? That obviously can't separate my world from any other. Of course it can't, magic is only one part in a very large and complicated puzzle. There's so much to consider, like how many continents there'll be, what the pantheon will consist of, how the planar dimensions will be set up, what races, what types of societies, where in the societal/technological timeline they'll be in their evolution, what is the "present" in my world as in what year and at what stage in this evolution? Then there are things like seasons, calendar, how many moons will there be and how will that affect the tides, what the geography will look like, creating maps, all of that fun stuff.
I've already answered a few of these questions so far and I will let you know what those answers are as I continue to post entries on this blog, and the rest will come as I continue my process of Worldcrafting. I can tell you one thing right now, I did come up with a name for my world.
It is called Pariatas.