by, 01-24-2010 at 06:29 PM (853 Views)
After reading lots of threads and several different boards about how to establish a campaign world (or just a campaign!), I thought I'd wax poetic here about my methodologies that have developed over the years.
I went on forever about how I do the big background stuff in my first entry, so here's more of a nitty-gritty view.
My world works... that's as clear as I can get to it. There are kingdoms that are foundering and failing, to either just disappear or be subsumed by another ruler, and there are kingdoms that are doing everything right and are thriving as centers of commerce and knowledge.
The question is - WHY??
Simple - it's the rulers! I personally know every king and queen. Don't get all excity and think that I've lost my marbles (they are in a small bag next to my computer monitor!!) - I don't know the characters, I know the PEOPLE!!! King Eustain of Elbac can be described as if he's sitting right in front of me... because he used to. Mr. Eustis was my sixth grade science teacher in my home-town of Cable, Wisconsin. He's heavyset and has nearly no chin and most of his hair has escaped (but he obviously fights to keep the last of it - comb-over and all!), he was one of the quickest people to I've ever known to holler and shut kids up, but he laughs quickly as well. As a King, he's much the same - quick to anger but quick to smile and take mercy.
ALL of my big movers and shakers are the same - I met them or knew them some time during my life. Some are former PC's and NPC's from campaigns that I've run - and it's kind of funny, but I think that I know them better than the people I knew in REAL life!
The Kingdoms in my world that are failing will leave a history around to be discovered by adventurers some day, whether the Kingdom sinks into the swamp or is overthrown by a rival.
I've gone in and done calendars for my world - and I know that one fief over here will fail in 22 years after the present leader dies and has no heirs. I know that that one Kingdom over there will suddenly become a world power when they find a huge vein of gold and platinum in seven years. That's all long-range planning, and most of us do that stuff.
The short range stuff has more of an impact on the PC's.
Do your PC's become movers and shakers in the world, or does it go on without consideration of them? In my world, it's a mix.
When I start a new campaign, I ask the players, "Okay, your character is nearing the end of his/her days, and a small child comes up to them as they are rocking in their chair on the porch and asks, 'So what did you do in your life?'" It's up to the player to answer.
Oh, sure, some default to, "I was famous/rich/powerful," and those are the easy ones to DM for. Some are the campaign movers, though... they're the ones that say, "I slew the great Dragon of Antioch" or "I became the King of Saltania."
I then start coming up with a campaign for the ones that gave me concrete dreams of greatness. I merge storylines for slaying the Antioch dragon and becoming King of Saltania into one campaign. I map out milestones for both story arcs and begin to flesh it out in my mind.
Then I go back to the calendars that I have. I know that the party should be in Smallsville in late Octember or Septober and my calendar says that Smallsville will be attacked by Orcs late in that year. Whether the party is there or not, the attack will happen - if they are gone, they'll hear about it - but if they are there, they may change the outcome.
This is what makes them movers and shakers in my world. When the party hears that there was an attempt on King Andar last week, they know that there is a much larger world out there than what surrounds them.
It's just something else to keep those pesky players interested!