World Workshop

Core Assumptions, Redux

I’m getting ready to run my first 5th Edition game pretty soon, and you know what that means – time to sink an unknowable number of hours into creating a homebrew setting! And since it was the most popular segment here, in the days when I used to update, I figured I might as well bring the World Workshop back from the grave!

A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe, Second Edition
Possibly the best “non-core” rolepalying book I’ve ever bought, in 25 years of gaming.

In addition to the 5e DMG, I’m using another resource: A Magical Medieval Society, Second Edition by Expeditious Retreat Press. I cannot recommend this book enough if you’re into world-building. I’ll probably write a whole post about it sometime, but suffice to say if you want your setting to really feel legitimate, especially in the context of social norms, politics, and demographics? This is the book for you. And, while it’s technically a 3rd Edition product, it’s practically system agnostic – at least all the best parts are.

Okay, core assumptions! The 5th Edition DMG presents five of them, so lets sink our teeth right in:

  • Gods Oversee the World: Yes and no. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never exactly been thrilled by this one. Having the gods taking too direct a hand in world events just cheapens the activity of mortals (at least from my perspective). The end result, for me, is a world with less nuance and potential for moral complexity. So, to that end, this one is a qualified “sort of.” I’ll be writing a whole post about gods and religion at some point, but the short version is that a person’s god (or gods) are mostly social and cultural – and the gods are distant enough that no one can prove, one way or another that one theory is “right.” Divine classes still exist, and they still worship gods for their power/spells.
  • Much of the World is Untamed: Another yes and no. Much of the world is untamed, but much of it is tamed as well. Rather than go for the traditional “points of light” concept I’m going for “beacons of light” instead. True nations do exist, carving civilized societies from the wilderness. But beyond those borders, there is an untamed world filled with horrors and incomprehensible dangers. I’ll talk more about those dangers below, under “Conflict.”
  • The World is Ancient: Yup. I loves me some history. I loved putting links to Arkhosia and Bael Turath into my 4e campaign, and I fully intend to do something similar here. I have a few ideas, but nothing too concrete yet.
  • Conflict Shapes the World’s History: Absolutely. Now conflict, as I’m defining it, comes in three different flavors – civilized, savage, and monstrous. While not a hard rule, where the conflict happens is typically the deciding factor. Civilized conflict happens inside the kingdom’s borders (e.g. a civil war), savage conflict happens on or near the borders (e.g. an orcish raid), and monstrous conflict trends to be found out in the wilderness (e.g. a clutch of wyverns). These things do cross over, but the point is that when a monstrous conflict happens in a civilized area? The people there don’t know what to do or how to handle it – which is where adventurers come in.
  • The World is Magical: Another qualified “yes.” I’m not running a low-magic game – magic items are a thing, as are wizards and sorcerers and everything else. But, at the same time, magic is going to be more rare than the typical setting, at least in the kingdom the campaign’s going to be set in. That’s for a handful of reasons – the main one among them is the legacy of a pretty devastating war with a much more magically-inclined nation that I’m sure I’ll talk about later. In short, players can still play magic-using classes without restriction – but magic items will be A) rarer and thus B) not for sale. I’m really going to push my players toward magical research – if you want a flame tongue you’re going to have go adventuring to find out how to make it yourself.

Lastly, before I wrap this thing up, I think a name is called for. I already know that I’m mostly going to be focusing on one specific kingdom for the campaign – other, bordering nations will be important but adventures probably won’t be taking place in them (but who knows how that’ll actually work out). So, for now the working title of this setting is the Grand Duchy of Timaeus.

Next time we’ll look at the Grand Duchy in a little more detail. Not quite “completely mapped out” detail, but we’ll look at how it functions and a bit of its history.

Administrative

Changes

You might have noticed a few changes around here in the last day or so. I’ve rolled out a new look and I think that I’m mostly finished tinkering with it, though I’m sure there’ll be some little changes here and there as time goes on. There’s a new About the Author page up, actually giving some details about who I am as well as – and this is the main attraction – a couple pictures of my dog.

I’ve scrubbed the old Blogroll, since most of the content I was linking to is either no longer being updated (thus I’m not really reading it), or is just gone entirely. In its place I’ve put up a more generic “Stuff I Follow” list of things I check out. Blogs, podcasts, webcomics – whatever I’m following, like the title says.

I also dropped the list of Dark Sun-specific links because this page has kind of outgrown that. A little. Well, maybe not – I’m still planning to gush about Dark Sun as time permits. But, honestly, if you’re here for Dark Sun stuff? You probably already know about athas.org – but if you don’t? Go to athas.org.

Anyone else remember this thing?
Anyone else remember this thing?

I’ll be launching two new series of articles, with a third one planned (that I’m not quite ready to talk about just yet). Well, launching one new series, and re-launching one old series to be more accurate. On the new front, I’m getting ready to start my first 5th Edition campaign, so I think I’ll be writing about that. I’m not at all sure how its going to work, but there’s enough interesting stuff going on there that I’m sure I won’t have much trouble finding something to write about. As far as the old series? I’m going to be doing a new World Workshop, as I create a new setting for that campaign to take place in. A warning for mapping enthusiasts – I probably won’t be doing another in-depth Photoshop tutorial this time around. Just not enough time. You’ll have to hit up the Cartographer’s Guild for your fix.

Oh! And Shameless Plugs are probably also gonna get some love, on days I feel like blogging but don’t really feel like thinking.

So that’s it for changes, at least as far I can think of. I’m sure there’ll be more coming down the pipe one of these days.

Administrative

From the Ashes!

Is anyone still following this thing? Anyone? The spambots aren’t even trying to breach the gates these days, so I imagine the answer to that is a solid no.

Which, to be honest? Is fair. It has been just shy of 1,240 days since my last update. Which is a bloody long time for anyone to pay attention to anything without any signs of life.

The RPG world has gone on without me piping up to make comments no one asked for, which ought to surprise absolutely no one. Last I posted 4th Edition was in full swing – well now 5th Edition has come out, and it’s phenomenal. I’m getting ready to run my first 5e game in the coming weeks. But there’s more than just that:

  • Monte Cook’s Numenera has blown my mind, both with its streamlined and simplistic core mechanic and its innovative way of incorporating DM fuckery (which they call a “GM intrusion”) into the system.
  • Related to that, the team behind the best CRPG of all time – Planescape: Torment – kickedstarted a “spiritual sequel” called Torment: Tides of Numenera. I am a backer, and am crazy excited about this game. Every screen shot and update makes me practical jump in place.
  • I discovered the Dark Souls series, which I absolutely love. I spent a long time trying to explain to some of my newer players why I wanted to run a darker, grittier, more challenging game – and failing to make them understand why I thought hard = fun. Now I wish I’d just gotten them to play this.
  • Darkest Dungeon came out, which is just phenomenal. Basically, a Dark Souls-esque philosophy brought to the adventuring party dungeon crawl. With lots of Lovecraft thrown in for awesomeness and madness! This also led me to Torchbearer the tabletop system the game is based on. Both are fantastic. (Edit: I apparently got this wrong; these games are similar in theme but otherwise not related to one another.)
  • And the 2nd Edition of the new World of Darkness has started launching. Vampire the Requiem 2e and Werewolf the Forsaken 2e are both out, with others (such as Mage, Promethean, and Changeling) coming out in the future. I haven’t finished Werewolf (it just came out), but my impression is the same as of Vampire: mostly impressed, a few minor gripes. I’ll do a post or two about these sometime in the future.

I have no idea how often I’ll be posting. That’s on the short-list of things I need to think about, and you can expect my next post – whenever it drops – to touch on that.