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.