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Ferrous
2010-09-14, 10:56 PM
I *hope* this is in the right forum. If not mods, my apologies, and kindly move it to the right one.

So I've had some down-time at work lately and I've been spending some of that time reading articles that Rich wrote for this site some time ago. In particular, I recently finished reading through his series of articles on creating a new world in which to create campaign settings. Needless to say, I was inspired, and decided that I would go through the same sort of process and create a new world in the same style and manner that he did (with a few changes of my own). I thought it'd be a fun experiment and exercise in creativity. If it is helpful, think of those 9 articles as a bit of a recipe for making a decent world, and this is one reader's attempt to make the same cake.
As always, questions, comments and criticisms are welcome.
Before I get started, I would like to establish a few things:
1. I've never played DnD. My table-top roleplaying experience is limited to a game called Aberrant, produced by Whitewolf. I have, however, played a fair number of PC games that deal with fantasy, so even if this won't be styled for DnD, it should still be familiar ground.
2. I'm not likely to care about mechanics or even the system that this world will use. I hold this (I'm guessing pretty silly) notion that the world should come first and the mechanics come second. That way, the mechanics describe the setting, and not vice-versa. I'm not looking to create another world for DnD (or whatever other system you wish to use), I'm looking to create a world for the pure sake of creating one. If any of you choose to use this creation or elements of it, I'll leave it up to you to decide how the mechanics work.
3. As alluded to beforehand, I don't care if someone else uses the ideas presented here. It will be up to the reader to decide if they are any good, although it is unlikely to be as good as Rich's work. If, in the event someone likes what I've written, it would make me rather pleased to see it get used for gaming purposes. I may be even so lucky as to see it take on a life of its own through the creations of other players. Maybe that's just wishful thinking.
Anyways, here goes:
Step 1: Purpose and Style

"As I see it, there are two main reasons to create a new fantasy RPG world: either to use with your local gaming group, or to publish (however limited that publication ends up being). They are not mutually exclusive; publishing a product does not in any way keep you from running it for your group, for example. But they do tend to suggest different approaches to the problem." - Rich
Actually, Rich, I'm going to suggest that there is a third option, which is to create for the mere sake of creating. However, I'll be taking the angle of publication, since that is the same scale that I want to be working on.
Okay, that part was easy. Next is style.
Rich's example of a "core concept" is basing a significant part of the world off of "Sun vs. Moon." He ends up tying together religion, magic, races and racial roles, classes, and to some extent political structure into this simple idea of "The Sun and the Moon are opposites."
Okay, that's pretty cool. He creates an entire theme from something pretty simple. He got the idea simply by making a list of different ideas that popped into his head, so I'll do the same thing.
Possible themes:
A vs. B - Any sort of direct opposition. Like cats vs. dogs, white vs. black, coffee vs. tea, etc. I sorta think that "A vs. B" ideas come up way too often, and make worlds seem a little bit black and white. Either you're one or the other, with little room in between. Of course, this is just a theme, and I can decide how black and white they are, but two-pole themes bug me. Not likely to go for this.
Tarot Cards - A good possibility. We have four suites that can represent different things (Clans, caste system structures, religious affiliation, nations, etc.), and 22 major arcana which could represent quite a bit as well (Gods, totems, clans, nations, whatever else). My only problem is that it automatically provides a lot of the symbols and influences by itself, not leaving me quite as much room to make up my own interpretation. Hmm, I'll come back to this one.
Astrology - Another good possibility. We automatically have the twelves signs, which could be used for religious or political reasons. Twelve "totems" would be kinda cool, and astrological symbols can be split up into a variety of ways (signs have the following attributes: elemental affiliation (earth, fire, water, air), sexual orientation (male, female), command over a part of a body (head, neck, hands, chest, down to the feet), and of course the different animals, among others). This also has potential.
Food - Food is rarely a factor in games. It's usually considered just "one of this thing you do" like going to the bathroom. I think it deserves some showtime as at least a major element. People starving? Different diets not mixing well with each other? Paying attention to it could add for showing big cultural differences. Maybe not enough for a theme, but perhaps a strong element.
Dancing - Somehow I don't think the nation of "Samba" or "Tango" would fly with a lot of players.
Animal Totems - Could take this completely my own way... but it seems kinda arbitrary. Mneh.
Pokemon - Just kidding!
Illuminati, Freemasons, Templars and other secret societies - Possible. I don't really know much about them. Would have to do research on them.. but I think they would serve a better purpose elsewhere in this universe. Instead of basing a theme off of them, it might be better to do single organizations off of them.

Alright, I think I'm already fairly settled on at least two concepts. Tarot or Astrology. My gut (and some ideas that I'm coming up with) say Tarot, so I'm going to go with that. A couple of ideas circulating with Tarot:
-In the bulk of society, the four suites would represent different castes, something to the effect of Warriors (Swords), Artisans and Laborers (Cups), Nobility (Pentacles), and Clergy (Staves/Wands). That had posited the issue of "where would wizards fit in", but it just answered itself. In some societies it would be "wands" (wizards) and in others it could be staves (clerics). Some could have both? Maybe
-The 22 Major Arcana would represent different deities. I like this for a couple of different reasons - supposing that in country A, certain deities (Heirophant, Magician, and let's say, the sun) were worshipped more than the others. The rest could be viewed in a similar manner as "saints" might be to Catholics. Or could do it the Hindu way, where there are so many different deities that each individual picks out a few that mean the most to them. All of that could differ from region to region... I'm not certain as to whether or not that would have an effect on gameplay besides roleplaying. Maybe just for the clerics or those otherwise divinely influenced. I'll come back to that. There is certainly plenty of room for development there.
-There are a lot of discrepencies for how Tarot cards are interpreted in the real world, which could help provide for a backdrop on ideological differences between different regions. A possibility.
-There is plenty of iconography in Tarot to work with, and while art is not a specialty of mine, I do like symbology (thank you, Dan Brown). That could help provide for things like banners, artifacts and other artistic elements for the campaign setting.
-Those who perform Tarot readings are called "Cartomancers". I'm not sure I want to have that as a class, but perhaps I could still use that. Advisors to the monarch? Maybe. It starts to feel like I'm bringing in a little bit much here. I'll leave that one out for now.
Okay, so theme is pretty much set now. What else have we go here...
Hm, it appears I'm doing things out of order. So for the sake of thoroughness, let's see what I missed:
-I'm also going to reject the overarching story for a campaign setting. I'm creating a backdrop for which campaigns to take place, not a campaign itself.
-Technology level: Don't want guns or cannons, that's for sure. But things like plate mail are okay. I think that makes this level of technology around "Renaissance" level. I like having more options, without feeling that anything is too industrial.
-Climate? I don't want the entire world to be dominated by a single climate. That seems boring. I'll deal with this more specifically when I deal with geography.
-Breaking assumptions in the D&D system? Well, let's take a look at the list Rich made and see what we can do:
1. Humans dominate the world.
2. Gods are real and active.
3. Magic is real and can be used by anyone who learns it.
4. Opposite alignments fight each other.
5. Arcane and divine magic are inherently separate.
6. The wilderness is separate enough from the cities to justify 3 wilderness-oriented classes.
7. There are hundreds of intelligent species of creatures, but 99% of them are considered "monsters".
8. Arcane magic is impersonal and requires no "deal" with a supernatural being.
9. Beings from other planes of existence try to influence the mortal world, usually on behalf of gods/alignments.
10. Magic items are assumed to be available, and game balance proceeds from that assumption.
11. Magic is consequence-free.
Let's see:
1. Probably keep. I like Rich's reasoning that the players would have to relate to the world.
2. Debatable. I think I'll say "real" but active will be up to interpretation. For instance, if Durkon sees a bolt of lightning, it's Thor doing something. If someone else sees a bolt of lightning, it's just a bolt of lightning. What it truly is, and whether he let's the players know what it truly is, would be up to the GM's discretion. However, for the purposes of how I want magic to work, this one is a keeper.
3. Keeping. Doing a fantasy game without magic is like making bread without salt. Or flour. It doesn't work.
4. I have no intention of having "alignments." Someone's idea of "good" could be someone else's idea of "evil." Someone could still have a diabolical plan to take over the world though, which would be evil no matter how you spin it. I'd rather have conflict based on other things. Besides, the alignments strike me as a bit restrictive - we've probably all j-walked, (chaotic, technically), but I'd be surprised if many of us shoplifted (lawful). So scratching this one.
5. I'll deal with this when I deal with magic in the next article.
6. Since I'm not beholden to a D&D system, I'm going to work on creating classes after I've created my societies.
7. I have the same issue, but I'd prefer to take it a step farther. I think that anything sentient should be able to be a PC. Half a dozen or fewer races I think would be good. Human culture is so varied already that adding too many other races would add too much complexity, either make me work too hard, or make the work seem half-assed. Conflict will be players vs. environment (genuine monsters), or simply other groups of sentient creatures, even if they are of the same race. It's easy to make conflict an "us vs. them" with little emotion tied to the scene when everyone is a different race. I want things to be messier than that.
8. Again, I'll deal with this when I deal with magic.
9. I've already decided that Gods exist. However, I haven't decided if I even want to have other planes. Maybe I'll devote a section on religion. I'll deal with this one later.
10+11. I think I want to have magic items available, but very rare. I think I would be worried about having magic users overpower non-magic users without having the extra gear... unless there is a drawback to being an exclusive magic user. If you use magic too much, you grow sick or feeble or something. That could definitely work.
Alright, so to briefly recap on what we have established:
A theme based on Tarot cards. Gods are based on the 22 Major Arcana, and social castes are based on the 4 suites. Technology level is anything and everything up to the invention of gunpowder (Renaissance era). Climate will be determined by geography and distance from the sun (or suns! Oh wait, George Lucas beat me to the concept of two suns, and three would be too much). Only a few sentient races, all of which would be available for gameplay, in one campaign or another. Magic, classes, specific races and geography will be the next couple of main topics to deal with.
Okay, not too many concrete details nailed down, but a good general framework to work with.

Fingerlessfist
2010-09-15, 02:03 AM
Sounds like a cool idea.
were could I find this worldbuilding article?

Vaynor
2010-09-15, 03:11 PM
The worldbuilding articles are in the "Gaming" section on the left-hand side of the page.

This could probably go in Homebrew but since you're not actually dealing with any gaming mechanics it could stay here as well - I'll leave it up to you.