Go, Go Gazette

Go, Go Gazette

With the framework of your world in place, it's time to start getting detailed.

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Sometimes I wish videogame sandboxes would focus less on the directX 11 graphics and more on hexogonal grids and text descriptions and still artwork like we got back then. I mean adventuring back then was as vivid as it is now, if not more so, and that's all we had. Keep on the Borderlands was my first module and opens a whole can of memories, though truth be told I've never really forgotten it. Being authored by Gary Gygax probably has something to do with that.

Probably the most well designed official setting I have ever seen is the world from Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies by Chad Underkoffler, published by Atomic Sock Monkey Press and Evil Hat.

It presents a great "everything should be useable for/in adventures" philosophy behind it and it presents a LOT of detail while at the same time leaving plenty open for GM's to fill in the blanks without feeling like they're treading on some future product.

I've really enjoyed reading your series of columns, I think they're very informative for people just starting off trying to get into pen and paper type games, whether as players or game masters. Seems like a very solid basis to try it out and see if you like it and such, I just can't help but feel that it doesn't really teach some of the more important pieces to game masters and roleplayers alike.

For example, when I first started playing rpgs I had no idea how to really 'make' a character. As in, how my character would act, what his motivations and goals might be, or even why he would be in the setting in the first place! I felt like I sort of had to go in blind and throw my character into the fray (of roleplaying, not combat) and see what happened. Often I found that what I envisioned was either completely lackluster and boring or just didn't work period, and needed to be adapted or tweaked so that I could actually have fun playing the game. I mention player difficulties because I feel like one of the ways you become a really good game master is to be a player first and really understand how to create interesting characters, otherwise how else are you going to engage your players?

And then I got wrangled into being the Dungeon Master for a D&D campaign. I think your advice is pretty spot on in some places in that a top down design is the easiest way to provide a framework to use for your players, but I found that with experienced players (and roleplayers) who knew how to work together and use their skills properly, and enjoy doing unpredictable things and creating oddball solutions to difficult problems, no amount of preparation on my part could provide what I would need to be able to deal with the sorts of things they would do. I ended up having to completely improvise inside the framework of the world I had created, (again, top down is great, without that framework I would have been screwed) and let me tell you, for someone who has never been a dungeon master before, that can be scary. After our five hour sessions, I would feel more exhausted than if I had worked all day, my brain would be that fried. I guess what I'm getting at is that when you don't want to or even can't railroad your players in any way, it becomes extremely difficult to adapt on the fly. Experience is probably the best medicine for this, but it would be interesting to hear your insight into dealing with unexpected situations.

Again, loving the series, keep it up!

You have me seriously tempted to start building a world or two with these articles. One of these days I'm going to actually start roleplaying something.

Reminds me of Empire of the Petal Throne, the first setting I bought (1975 / 6?) and the only fantasy setting I've ever used besides my own homebrew D&D setting. You had these huge maps of a massive world loaded with information on a strategic scale. You also had a map of one city, Jakalla, sparsely detailed. You used the info to detail your version of Jakalla, drew up your mega-dungeon (the City of the Dead) and eventually spread out into the world from there.

Man, I've yet to find a DM for p'n'p, but when I do, I hope he's read all your articles. Great work!

r_Chance:
Reminds me of Empire of the Petal Throne, the first setting I bought (1975 / 6?) and the only fantasy setting I've ever used besides my own homebrew D&D setting. You had these huge maps of a massive world loaded with information on a strategic scale. You also had a map of one city, Jakalla, sparsely detailed. You used the info to detail your version of Jakalla, drew up your mega-dungeon (the City of the Dead) and eventually spread out into the world from there.

I have never had the good fortune to play Empire of the Petal Throne, but many of the game designers I admire most praise it as inspirational. I need to get a copy!

Great Article. The only thing I would add is that from working on the Necromancer Wilderlands Boxed Set and my own Points of Light that it is helpful to have a section before your local area that details some of the regions on your sandbox map. For example a paragraph on the Darkwoods, notes on the Great River, etc, etc.

Depending on the region that you are writing about this may be about more than just geography. For example in Wildlands, in the first Points of Light, there is a section on the various barbarian tribes which range over multiple hexes.

Again good article

I have to admit, while I disagreed with a fair bit of the early articles in the series, this one is certainly enlightening. I hadn't considered the dynamic lair idea before; it's just what I need to liven things back up again.

I'm looking forward to the future installments, mate. If nothing else, they're always worth the read.

exp. 99:
I have to admit, while I disagreed with a fair bit of the early articles in the series, this one is certainly enlightening. I hadn't considered the dynamic lair idea before; it's just what I need to liven things back up again.

I'm looking forward to the future installments, mate. If nothing else, they're always worth the read.

Thanks for the kind words. I got a lot more comments when everyone disagreed and wanted to tell me how much I was wrong and didn't know what I was doing. :D

Going forward I am going to close every installment with this handy Random D&D Controversy Generator.
1st clause (roll 1d6) 1=Story, 2=Railroading, 3=4th Edition, 4=GNS Theory, 5=Episodic Campaigning, 6=Diceless Gaming
2nd clause (roll 1d6) 1=Sucks, 2=Is a tool for Bad DMs, 3=has flaws that only superior DMs know about, 4=Destroys player agency, 5=Will be forgotten in the next edition of the game, 6=Is a travesty.

So for instance and I hereby declare that (roll 2d6, 5,1 )Episodic campaigning sucks because (roll 2,4) railroading destroys player agency. Discuss.

Archon:

r_Chance:
Reminds me of Empire of the Petal Throne, the first setting I bought (1975 / 6?) and the only fantasy setting I've ever used besides my own homebrew D&D setting. You had these huge maps of a massive world loaded with information on a strategic scale. You also had a map of one city, Jakalla, sparsely detailed. You used the info to detail your version of Jakalla, drew up your mega-dungeon (the City of the Dead) and eventually spread out into the world from there.

I have never had the good fortune to play Empire of the Petal Throne, but many of the game designers I admire most praise it as inspirational. I need to get a copy!

It was, for the time, an incredibly detailed setting and a wildly alien one. Neat stuff. The old EPT is available as a PDF on RPGnow among other sites. The last Tekumel based game published was Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne from Guardians of Order (a tri-stat derivative system was used). I believe it's still available online at Tita's House of Games (despite GoO going under). They are working on an OGL derived game currently. The setting is incredibly detailed, with more detail added over the years. It's a fun read and a unique and inventive setting even by today's standards.

No problem, mate. And I disagree, railroading is a perfectly viable option...

>>

Yeah. Not gonna go there.

Anyways, I have a question. Do you have any tools you'd recommend for mapmaking on a computer, or do you do it all by hand?

exp. 99:
Anyways, I have a question. Do you have any tools you'd recommend for mapmaking on a computer, or do you do it all by hand?

Actually I don't make many maps as it ends up being too time-consuming. In my most recent campaign the only map I made was the wilderness (gazetteer) and I did that by hand. For dungeons I tend to practice "RPG archeology" and plunder maps from obscure modules, DriveThruRPG vendors, old supplements, and so on, and then re-purpose them for my needs.

I was more referring to overall world maps. Dungeons I usually just wing it, or if it's a particularly large or important affair, I usually just use Dwarf Fortress to map it out, just 'cus it's fun.

Still, thanks again for the inspiration.

Ah - I do my world maps by hand...

Archon:

With the framework of your world in place, it's time to start getting detailed.

Although I've partially drifted away from the Escapist (due to personal time constraints, this column I always read. Its just brilliant.

I have to say man, your column looks really cool and if I ever try to get into table top RPGs, I think I'll use your column as a guide.

Thanks for the kind words, guys!

That's a very meticulous approach.

While reading the article I felt like that was really a lot of effort to put in. Then I realized the two (multi-year) campaigns I've run/'m running are based around a story I wrote over a period of four years and then it all kinda fell into perspective.

I'm not looking forward to the day I actually have to cobble up a campaign from scratch.

Or I could just convert a sci-fi tale I've got into an Ebberon-esque world. Hmmm, that'd make for some interesting possibilities.

Running a homebrew campaign IS a lot of work, no question. Fortunately there are a lot of available pre-made campaigns for GMs with limited free time.

 

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