After deciding that I wanted to build a fantasy setting (see Why did I create my own fantasy setting?) I knew I needed a plan. By nature I am a person who creates plans and who is detail oriented. By having a plan and working the plan I was pretty sure I could get enough done so I could then create a campaign for my setting.
The very first thing I did was imagine the kind of setting I wanted. To help me get my creative juices flowing I took time to look at the Google+ group called World Building. This community is not specifically about creating RPG worlds, rather it is for game designers, setting designers and authors. By reading a lot of blogs and posts I started to develop some ideas about what I would want. I think I spent at least three to six months just thinking about what I wanted.
In that time I came up with some parameters around my new fantasy setting.
- I wanted a large world. I wanted a world that it took a long time to cross from one point to another. One of the advantages with a large world is there are always plenty of places to explore.
- I wanted a world that was wetter and warmer than Earth.
- I wanted a world where common people used bronze for weapons, someone with more money would use iron weapons and a very few would use steel. Part of this is because metal would be rare on this world and with all rain there would be a lot of corrosion and rust.
- I wanted a world with a variety of races. Some of the races could be used as character races and some could not.
- I wanted all the player races to be from somewhere other than Nyonia.
- I wanted a pantheon that was real (not just imaginary), interacted with Nyonia and the inhabitants. I wanted people in the world to know that Nyonia gods were real.
- I wanted magic to be unique and varied.
I decided to start with the geography of Nyonia. In recent years with discovery of so many exoplanets we now have more data about what kinds of planets are possible. With the information I had on reasonable planetary sizes which might support life, I turned to a fractal world generator. Fractals are repeating pattern often found in nature and can be replicated using mathematical formulas and random number generators. Here is a list of four fractal world generators you might use. I have used TerraJ and Fractal Mapper 8. Both work well for an initial map of a world.
- Map to Globe - Online globe creator based on a PNG file. It can also generate a basic fractal terrain map.
- TerraJ - An excellent open source fractal world generator.
- Fractal Terrains 3 - A commercial fractal world generator
- Fractal Mapper 8 - A commercial fractal world generator
The output from the TerraJ tool is a graphics file. I then used a commercial software mapping tool called Hexographer to create a more detailed world map. Hexographer has a feature which allows you to load a graphics file of a map and then Hexographer will interpret the underlying image and 'guess' what kind of terrain should be used for each location on the map. This effort provided me with enough information to inspire some more creative thinking about the rest of the setting.
After I finished with a world geography I ended up working on four things at the same time, races, a pantheon, a time line (world history) and magic.
Races and Creation Myths
I wanted some unique races and unique names for well known fantasy races in my world. The first thing I decided was there were no mixed races (half-orc or half-elf). Each race had its own unique genetic makeup and any attempts at mixed race reproduction would fail. The second thing I decided was I wouldn't have elves or anything like elves in my setting. The third thing I decided was that there would be a group of races known as the Elder Races and second group known as the Younger Races. Players would be allowed to play any member of the Younger Races but they could not play one of the Elder Races.
The creation myths for the Elder Races revolve around being created by the gods in the pantheon as part of a larger divine conflict. The creation myths for the Younger Races are divided into two groups, the two races which were created (Ainu and Wangai) or those who came from some other place and/or time (Koori, Easterlings and Samara).
I freely admit I stole, borrowed and twisted many parts of the races based on books and myths that I have read about.
World History (Time line)
Creating a world history was very difficult. At first everything I came up with just looked like I had 'warmed over' Earth history or some other fantasy settings history. Fortunately I was able to located a couple of tools to start the creative juices flowing. http://tripleacegame...ief_History.pdf and http://www.fantasist.../timeline.shtml were useful for me to help with being creative about the time lines. The resulting time line can be found here. And if you click on one of the ages you get more details but not a lot of details.
One thing I have found very annoying in most RPG settings is that every mage ends up looking like every other mage. They all have fireballs, lightning bolts, summon servants, magic shields, etc. I decided to solve that problem by having each race and/or culture have their own kind of magic. Once someone learned one kind of magic they could not learn any magic from another race or culture. The reasons why magic work this way within the setting is unknown to those who live there. The players just know that it isn't possible.
Some of the events in the world history hint at magical catastrophes which have almost always occurred because a mage tried to combine two kinds of magic.
I also decided that magic can be both learned or is an innate talent.
The analogy I use is based on my experience learning how to play a guitar after I was 30 years old. I can learn how to play songs, follow along at a jam and maybe even solo at a straight up blues jam but I will never be a talented guitar player. Talented guitar players tend to learn when they are very young and have a strong desire to really know their instrument and explore their talent. Talented guitar players tend to go farther in their playing and often have a wide set of playing skills and styles they can draw upon.
Magic in Nyonia works the same way. Anyone can learn a few spells from their race or culture and they might be very good with those spells but they will be limited when compared to someone who has a talent for magic. Also if they fail in casting the spell, bad things tend to happen.
On the other hand, a person with a talent for magic will have a stronger ability and a much wider set of spells, within their race/culture and they rarely fail when casting a spell and even more rarely do the effects of a failed casting have any side effect (except for the loss of time and possibly materials).
Next time I will post on how I developed technology, nations, and governments for the races and cultures on Nyonia.