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Doom Crow

DM Worldcraft: Planet Shaping

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Hello again and welcome back. Last time I discussed what kind of campaign setting I wanted to create, touching briefly on the prevalence of magic in the world. Today I'm going to be talking about the actual world I want to create, shaping the planet and giving it the properties and appearance that will eventually house my campaign setting.

D&D and many other fantasy games stretch the imagination and what we can accept as fantasy, but the fact that science still impacts these worlds cannot be denied. I've had a few of my former players argue the laws of physics in my games, among other things, and I've come to understand that at some point there is a line that is drawn when it comes to believability in fiction, whether it's fantasy like in D&D or science fiction. Where that line actually is differs from person to person, but there are some things that some people think are just too fantastic to believe.

That is why science still plays a part in the development of a campaign world; it brings order to the chaos of the wild imagination, giving structure to the fantastic. Now when I talk about science I am referring to the scientific aspects that are relevant to the actual planet, things like orbiting satellites [moon(s)] and how they affect the tides, global rainfaill, climates & weather, the change of seasons and geography.

A lot of the high-quality map creating programs address all of these factors when creating a map. Pro Fantasy's Fractal Terrains program is a good example of this, a program I own and use. I know these things are not something players think about (if at all), or even care about but as a GM it's something that has to be considered. In my opinion, to just say my world is called Pariatas and draw a map and put things any which-where is just shoddy craftsmanship.

I never do anything without doing it right, and to me doing this right involves imagining myself on the surface of my world and seeing in my imagination what the topography of the land looks like, where the lakes, rivers and oceans are, what the weather would be like here and there, how many moons and suns will there be when I look up at the sky, and put these ideas I have into tangible form.

That means getting a map program and learning how to use it as proficiently as I possibly can, which is why I purchased Fractal Terrains Pro and began practicing with it. So I started crafting my world by tackling the issue of geography. The first two things that came to mind were how many continents did I want to have, and what percentage of the world did I want covered by ocean?

I settled on 70% ocean coverage and six continents. One continent is in the northern hemisphere, with some of it at the northern pole and so it will be a winter-dominated land, while another will be in the south and predominantly a desert region. One will be a rainforest and the rest will have various temperate climate conditions, with one exception. I have chosen one of these continents to be a place ruled by a collective elemental consciousness, and it will have a variety of unique geographical features that reflect the primodrdial forces that govern and shaped it.

As far as moons, I chose there to be three and so will be researching the effects they will have on the world such as tides. There will be one sun so I need to figure out how many eclipses there will be with three moons.

That's all I can write for now, it's getting late. I will continue with another entry later.

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Updated 07-28-2009 at 08:40 AM by Doom Crow

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Campaign Logs , World Building


  1. Casimir's Avatar
    You know, back in the day when I created my campaign world, unfortunately there were no programs like Fractal Terrain Pro and others available (of course, this was mid '80's too). I had to map out everything by hand, with the help of a 50 color pen set for clarity.

    I'd spent a few years fleshing out what I wanted in a campaign world, and how I wanted it, but every time I put together a preliminary map, I found that I didn't like it.

    I prefer a much more low, dark fantasy setting than most people, and am heavily "science" oriented as well. I eventually decided to "settle" with the Forgotten Realms setting, and based most of my campaigns around the Moonsea area.

    What I didn't realize at the time was that the reason why I never liked any of my preliminary map designs was that I had a preconceived ideology that a "world" should / needed to conform to a base theme similar to our own (from my perspective in the way I design games).

    What I did then was take each race, geographically "locate" them where they'd fit best on our own earth, and once I had that done I mapped out my world, basing the moonsea area I'd already campaigned in roughly on the Forgotten Realms. The rest of the world had a similar shape and feel to our own with notable differences here and there to facilitate some things.

    Now, I realize that with many people this method probably wouldn't work. But with me it was perfect. The players could more readily identify certain things based on the map, and had a rough expectation of environmental and climate issues also. I still use that same world today, after almost 25 years of gaming.
  2. Doom Crow's Avatar
    Hey there and thanks for commenting. I see what you mean about the preconceived notion about having to envision a world that is similar to ours, and like you, I have been very unhappy with the first few preliminary maps that I've created using FT Pro. I'm glad your method of geo-racial placement worked out for you, that's the kind of example of the kind of niche I am looking to find for my world. I don't think that same idea would work for my world, as I have envisioned a kind of mixed society throughout most of the lands, but you have given me some great perspective.