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World Building

Background

When the fantasy campaign I was running came to it's natural conclusion I needed to make some decisions about the setting I was using.  I had purchased the Valdorian Age, from Hero Games. The Valdorian Age is a great setting and it worked very well for what I wanted to do.  Could I start another campaign in the same setting?  How much work would I need to go through to 'reset' the setting to start a new campaign? Did I want to continue to use the same setting?

The Valdorian Age and the campaign I had run had created a set of limitations which made it impossible to run another campaign in the setting.  The vast majority of the Valdorian Age material revolved around one very large city in the world.  That city is very detailed and has adventures that basically just spring out of the source material.  It is wonderful sandbox city based campaign setting.  To reset to another time frame using that same city meant redoing all the detail around the city.  That did not seem practical.

In addition to redoing all the detail for the city, I would have to redo the Obsidian Portal site that we had used to track everything about both the setting and campaign.

Setting vs. Campaign

A bit of definition concerning setting vs. campaign.  A setting is a place with geography, ecology, history, and physical/metaphysical rules which provide the background for any stories that might told inside that setting.  A good setting allows for many stories to be told.  Those stories can be part of a larger epic or they can stand on their own.  For instance JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth is a wonderful setting and he was able to tell many stories within that setting, some are part of the epic involving the one ring and many other stories are not directly related to the epic involving the one ring.

A campaign is a specific set of stories (or chapters of a single story) that takes place in a setting.  Usually, for the purposes of a role-playing game, the characters within the campaign are consistent and there is generally a clear beginning and ending for the campaign.  When the campaign ends the only effect on the setting is there is more information about a particular place and time within the setting.  Another campaign can take place before, after or to the side (different location) within the same setting.

The Valdorian Age, is really a campaign because it is very hard to tell many different stories within the Valdorian Age due to the focus on one major city.  It is very much like the various Batman or Spiderman franchise movies.  How many times can you reboot the Batman or Spiderman franchise and retell their origin story before everyone just says "Meh!"

Total Control

When you build your own fantasy setting you have total control over everything in that setting.  Here are some decisions you will get to make:

  • How big is your world?
  • Where is it in relationship to the sun (or suns)?
  • Does it have a moon, multiple moons, or no moons?
  • What is the climate like on the planet?
  • What is the geography of the planet?
  • Are plate tectonics a factor on the planet?
  • What is the ecology of the planet?
  • What kind of wildlife is there?
  • Why are their monsters?  Where did they come from?
  • What intelligent races are there?  What is their relationship to each other?
  • What is the history and mythology of the races?
  • Are there any god(s) (real or imagined)?  What impact does that have on the intelligent races?  If the god(s) are real what direct impact do they have on the planet?
  • Weather?
  • What are the countries and how do they relate to each other?
  • Is there magic?  How does it work?  Who can use it?
  • What kind of technology is available?  Who has access to it?  If there is magic how does that impact the technology?
  • Warfare?  Trade?
  • Languages?

That is a pretty overwhelming list if you think about it and try to do it all once.

In my next article I will walk through how I developed my current setting, Nyonia - Celestial Jewels.