Sunday, June 18, 2017

Building the World (pt 2) - The Region

In part 1, we built a fairly low-resolution image of the globe, using icosahedral projection and 150-mile hex scale. We also zoomed in on a region (ie. one triangular face of the 20-sided polygon) to take a look at the 30-mile hex scale. You can see the hand-drawn results here. As you can see, one region takes up six sheets of 8.5x11 hex paper. And it ain't pretty, but that's ok--this map is just for organization, not showing to players. You just need to be able to look at your map with your own eyes and understand clearly what everything means.

The great thing about working in multiple scales is that each has its own functionality. At 150m, you're managing geology: continents, oceans, and analogues to the Rocky Mountains or Himalayas. You're painting with a thick brush. 30m scale still has geographical functionality, of course. This is where you place your major rivers, lakes, foothills, canyons, and so on. You break into the edges of those grand mountain ranges ever-so-slightly to reveal great valleys when you drill down to 6m later. But this is also the scale where you start placing major nations (mine are visible on the region map if you look closely--they're the red-bordered areas). Note that a nation isn't necessarily a formal concept, depending on the era and the cultures involved. A nation in this sense can be merely a sense of shared cultural identity, as in the warring clans of Ireland and Scotland, or the tribes of Mongolia prior to unification. In the case of my map, some of those nations represent no more than a single great dragon, possibly its mate and young, and the range of its demesne and hunting grounds. We'll explore this stage in greater detail in the future, particularly regarding how to populate your world with its intelligent and monster races, but for now it's sufficient to say that I used the tables provided in the excellent World Builder's Guidebook to lay down some basics.

It's always a good idea when building a campaign to rely on random tables here and there, because they help you break up the ruts of your creativity by introducing elements you wouldn't have thought of, which you now can integrate into the parts that you have. Of course, you don't have to obey the tables--they're just there to get the juices flowing. For example, the dragon-ranges-as-nations bit I mentioned above was a fluke of randomness that I immediately fell in love with. We tend to create with an eye toward the logical, but the real world is full of weird, unpredictable bits that are difficult to emulate without some degree of random input in the process.

Using those World Builder Guidebook tables, I came up with two dominant races. I made one of them human and rolled for the other, which is where I got dragons. I further rolled for distinct cultures and got five for humans and five for dragons (which I interpreted as five dragon types. Within each culture or type, I rolled for a defining attribute and a number of independent nations, then for the nations I rolled a number of occupied hexes.

A similar process governed my major races (halfling, orc, goblin, dwarf), minor races (aarakocra, urd kobold, standard kobold, giant, forest gnome, ogre, troll, and elf), marine races (merman, triton, aquatic elf, sahuagin, koalinth), and subterranean races (drow, duergar, myconid). A lot of these will be reskinned or replaced to suit my milieu as it comes into clearer focus, but these are the basic nation-building races of the region.

Speaking of milieu, now's a good time to look at my human cultures and their characteristics, zoom in on one of them, and start building an ethnocentric concept of the surrounding region from their perspective. This will serve to create a timeline, names for monsters and other intelligent races, and religions. I put some options that were floating around in my head out to my pool of players to hear their thoughts on what sounded fun, and we settled on a Celtic-style starting area.

Good thing I've got the Celts Campaign Sourcebook on hand to help me along.

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