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Thread: The Design of a New Setting

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    The Design of a New Setting

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    With my weekly gaming group getting a possible few new members, who have yet to sign up for this site, I figured it would be best to just design a new setting for it. This thread will show the steps I go through in creating a new setting. I personally prefer home-made setting to the pre-made ones. I don't turn away influnce from those settings, but I am more creative with my own. I normally go through steps in the following manner.

    The Planar Cosmos - - - (players may never deal with it, but I like if available for me).
    | |
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    \ /
    The World Itself - - - (How many moons, how much land area do I care about, oceans, etc etc)
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    \ /
    Pantheon - - - (Type of primary pantheon, what gods/being present, goals)
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    Races present - - - (what beings are available in the whole world that are playable, will be shortened later)
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    Regions - - - (start defining the playable regions. I have some worlds more developed than others)
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    \ /
    Starting location in detail - - - (What do the PC's start)



    Normally I go through these steps once with a rough outline, then repeat a few times getting more details each time.

    How do you guys work a new settings, IF you use them?

    I'll add posts later with details on the new setting I'm working on.

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    My plan of attack is as follows:

    Blank piece of paper, pencil - cover my eyes and draw a random shape. That's the continent.
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    \/
    Randomly draw lines around the continent. those are the kingdoms
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    \/
    Pull out my D&D books. That tells me races, gods, religions.
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    \/
    Pull out my D&D modules. That tells me random areas to toss into the world for adventure.
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    \/
    Draw up 67 pages of house rules for players like "Sam".
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    \/
    Make up the rest as I go.

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    Cosmos

    The cosmos. The most popular cosmos is that of the "eternal wheel" or "alignment wheel". I don't care for that one. My favorite is the one described in the origial Box Sets D&D. I use that one in almost all of my settings, with some minor tweeking.

    Code:
                             Prime Plane
                             ||       ||
                             \/       \/
                   Shadow Plane     Ethereal Plane
                      ||           //    ||       \\
                      ||          //     ||        \\
                     Energy Planes    Elemental    Astral Plane
                                         &                   \\
                                   Para-Elemental             \\
                                       Planes                 Outer Planes
    My tweeks to the "traditional" were that the Shadow plane is similar to a para-elemental plane, but it is the mix of the Positive Energy and Negative Energy planes. Also, there were an infinate number of outer planes.

    Other differences in my cosmos, (similar to boxed sets again) Time is not the 4th dimention, and the 5th dimension is known (by those who know it's existance) as the Realm in Nightmares or Alien Realm.

    Anyone else use custom cosmos's in their games?

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    I don't worry about geography or cosmos or pantheons or any of that stuff until I've figured out why I'm making a new world in the first place. Why is this world different from any other world? What makes it special? What makes it pop? What makes it sizzle?

    If I can't sell myself on the underlying ideas I have for a setting, I know I can't sell my players and however much BS work I put in on cosmologies, unique races, deities, nations, etc. won't mean a damn thing other than something for my players to trample over on their way to kill things and, ultimately, find another game that's more fun.
    Your pal,

    Adam Bomb

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    I always start out with the campaign overall plot line, and then build from there. I find that when I make my setting, those plot lines I have nebulous ideas of start gaining more substance. The world, is nothing to the plotline, but the world you use definately fills out the plot line.

    I prefer to start with raw worlds because everyone's preconcieved knowledge on a setting alters their actions. A new setting, is completely unknown and allows for more exploration and discovery, not only of the setting, but of their characters in ways they might have not seen.

    Also, in preset worlds, it is near impossible to separate character knowledge from player knowledge. Characters find themselves knowing books about a kingdom that they should really never have heard of before. I like avoiding that if at all possible.

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    Creation of a World

    When I create a world, I really don't make the entire planet map wise. I'm making the planet's general information like the calendar, moons, stars, etc. Thanks to a tool over at Arr-Kaleen, it's really easy to track phases for multiple moons and design calendars. So I'm going to reuse the world I designed ~20 years ago. (my best games were on that world)

    Day: 24 hours - - - - - - - - - - (It's what everyone knows)
    Week: 8 days - - - - - - - - - - (because of a moon)
    Month: 4 weeks or 32 days - - -(because of a different moon)
    Year: 11 months - - - - - - - - - (keeps the year close enough what we know)
    No leap year... to annoying to keep track of, and messed up the calendar.

    Moons: 5
    #1: Thorca - The Traveller, Tiny moon, smooth and white. Orbits every 8 days. The start of the week is when Thorcia is full. Or rare occations the moon gains a white mist which trails off behind it in a long tail.
    #2: Pithra - The Flower, Small moon, various shades of yellow. Orbits every 17 days.
    #3: Majara - The Magi, medium sized moon, still smaller than earths moon but similar in appearence. Orbits every 23 days.
    #4: Jandor - The Blood Moon, multi-featured moon in shades of red. Orbits every -32 days (retrograde). This moon alone controls Lycanthropy and other "evil" events related to the moon. Is always full on the first day of each month (along with Thorca)
    #5: Doojar - The Empowerer, Largest moon with mixed white and blue shades. Orbits every 53 days. Has the most control over the tides.

    Why 5 moons, but to have fun with the conjunctions of the moons and be able to write up stories tied to them to help build atmosphere. If wanted, careful playing with a small program could allow for planning for game events on certain conjunctions. I wrote one once when I was 13 in my IBMPC.

    The Stars. Current Mythology has 11 constellations in the starts, one for each month, which are also named after their constellation. Figure them out later. Planets. There was a planet(oid) present for each god/being in the realm. Why, entirely mysticism reasons.

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    My worlds are flat, like the sheet of paper they're drawn on

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    Seriously, cosmologies and histories are all well and good, but the ultimate focus of the GM needs to be "what do the PCs do".

    For example, in my GURPS campaign long, long ago, I decided that the world had more than one moon; the waxing and waning of each would affect magic. However, keeping track of the calendar soon became a chore (i.e. I lost track), so that part I just tossed out.

    Even in the campaign I've been plotting forever, I have these grand ideas ... but unless I can work players into court intrigues, religious movements, the Goblin Problem, or the multi-layered strangeness of the City of Silence, it's all for nothing.
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
    - Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)

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    Having more moons may seem like a good idea but physically, your planet would have to be super-sized to support that many moons. It would constantly be bombarded by asteroids and such because the gravity field generated would be pretty big.

    I begin the same way as InfoStorm I think. I define the plot right down to naming towns and and NPC's. Once I know exactly what I want the PC's to do , as well as having a few contingencies, I begin to flesh out the continent(s) the PC's will travel to. Once I have some maps drawn then I will map out the entire planet with all the other points of interest. If I still have time, I will dive into a detailed history of the main continent and some of the other important places. Then finally, I write down what information certain classes and geographical denizens would know starting out. I never reveal the full history to a setting or show all the maps to anyone even if they have max ranks in a skill.

  10. #10
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Arcanist View Post
    Having more moons may seem like a good idea but physically, your planet would have to be super-sized to support that many moons. It would constantly be bombarded by asteroids and such because the gravity field generated would be pretty big.
    That all depends how much of our understanding of science you want to bring into your game. In your game, you as DM can use the Ptolemic model of the universe if you want. Asteroids need not exist if they prevent your scenario from working.

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    This is a fantasy setting, not a sci-fi one, so I don't really worry about staying accurate scientifically for my planets/moons/etc. Heck, the Original D&D setting Mystara, was a hollow planet. with a 2nd sun for a core. (At one point of time before they made it hollow the planet was a living creature, but I bet you can't find the reference). I was going to have the planets/asteroids appear and disappear, depending on that the gods/immortals were up to. Speaking of them:

    Pantheon:
    - Alatoth - The Healer, Kind Father - NG

    - Pox - The Eternal Plague - NE
    - Dionesuss - Lord of Order - LN

    - Sagiia - The Trickster, The Eternal Child, Confusion – CN
    Demi-Human:
    - Matroc - Patrol of Cyclopse – NN
    + Standard Non-Human pantheons
    The Missing Five: (still with many followers)
    - Nissa - Mother Nature - NN
    - The Shadow King - Lord of the Dark - LE
    - Ugarath - Demon of Despair - CE
    - Mellador - Lord of Cities - LG
    - Sonya - Maiden of Battle - CG

    Others: any other god from other settings will be allowed, but their followers will be few and far between. This way Prestige classes based on specific gods will be available. I am relatively lenient; especially as I have has VERY few cleric players in my gaming groups for some strange reason.

    My reasons for the pantheon above is because a good number of campaign and plot options will be based on this pantheon, especially about the return of the Missing Five, who’s followers are trying to speed their return by meeting certain conditions. I actually had the basic plot lines before I created the pantheon.


    p.s. sorry to slow post, hectic 2 weeks.

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    My topography and mythos are set... I established them long ago.

    What I did (uber-over-arching plan): The 23rd century Earth was struck by a series of large meteors that were traveling only slightly faster/slower than Earth. Almost all of humanity was destroyed (99%). Then the mythic races came back (elves, dwarves, etcetera), and lived wonderful lives until it happened again. Earth is now almost 4x the surface area that it is now, with a little more land-mass than in reality (about 33%).

    This time, humanity survived better, and we enter the Present Age. Evil holds sway in most places, and outnumbers good 100:1. This keeps most groups in my world focused on playing GOOD characters (yes, I'm prejudiced!!).

    The deities were created about 20 years ago, so the mythos and cosmos is done.


    With the huge land-mass, it is easy to inject just about any type of civilization in an area, or put ruins of nearly anything I want. If I read a good book, I can put nearly the entire plot and area in my campaign world without it really impacting other areas.

    I have areas that are Gamma World-ish, areas that are Traveler/Spelljammer-ish, areas that are Vampire/Werewolf-ish, and areas that are direct rip-offs of the Realms, Faerun, and Middle Earth.

    The world-map creation took a while, but once it was done, I can just take a small section and copy it onto grid-paper and go to town on small-scale locales. And, after losing everything several times, I make sure I make copies and KEEP copies of everything. I am now beginning to transfer to electronic media... and should be done in about a year.

    Howzat?

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    Ask your players what characters they want to play and simply add those cultures to the world. If someone wants to play a dwarven viking, elven nomad, orcish pirate, or whatever; just accomodate them.

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    Personally, I work from the ground up, in reverse order from InfoStorm.

    I like to define the campaign plot first, then figure out the best configuration of cities/continents that support that plot. To be more specific, I think of the mastermind(s) and their personalities, and decide based on that what their goals are and where they are in attaining them.

    It would be something like this:

    Primary Villian(s) - Goals and ambitions
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    \/
    Villian(s) Main minions - Structure of how they are organized and who some of the main lieutenants are
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    Current state - How advanced are the mastermind(s) plot(s)
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    Protagonist(s) - Who the main foes of the Villian(s), and how much are they involved? Sage advice, general mentor, prejudices against certain classes/races?
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    \/
    The eccentrics - Interesting characters that they might meet - may be good or evil, but they aren't necessarily involved in the main plot
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    \/
    Towns/Cities involved - Just general information (here's the first map scribble)
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    \/
    Major locations - Bad guy HQ, major land features (A sylvan forest, a fetid swamp, a undead-filled ancient battlefield, etc)
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    \/
    Introduction - I plan the first couple adventure concepts here, and what possible things the players will learn that will give them information about the grand scheme.

    After this is complete, I'm ready to go. Now that I just have some of the elements defined, I play by ear and see how the campaign plays out. Maybe the players make an enemy of a protagonist early on, or are a lot more successful at some adventure than I anticipated. This above structure gives me enough flexibility to adjust adventures accordingly, and I can add to it as I go along. Also gives me plenty of options for future adventures. Finally, I can easily adjust the campaign to the player's tastes by changing how much plot vs action I give them as I move along.

    Also, I'm not much on involving Demigods and Dieties... religions exist, but I don't like direct diefic interference, I personally think it takes away from players when there are ultimate powers they have little chance of manipulating. I also don't like that its harder to put yourself in a world like this... much easier for players to get into it if player's minds can get around what you're describing.
    Last edited by Maelstrom; 12-17-2007 at 05:00 PM.

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