June 8, 2010

Farstead Part 1

I am starting a new 4E campaign and will be building a fresh world from scratch. These Farstead posts will be about the process of building that world. Its intent is to show a practical form of world-building as it happens. When all done (over many articles) I am hoping people can gain some more insight into the development of a world and there will be a ready made world setting to be used for those so inclined.

The first thing to consider when building a world is the overall concept. This is not about what makes the world different from all the others out there, but rather what the goal of the world design is. This hinges on the concept of the campaign itself. A world is meant to push the campaign concept. How will the world being designed facilitate the campaign that is going to be run there?

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Side Note: Why create a world from scratch anyway? Why not just use a published setting? Two answers; 1) There is no setting that does what you want it to do; 2) A self designed setting is easier to remember while running. What’s the name of the village to the north just past the river? You put the village on the map so you are more apt to remember it’s name than if you briefly skimmed the info from a setting book. If nothing else you’ll know where to find the information faster instead of fumbling through a setting book.
If you can get around those two points (the setting is perfect for your campaign concept and you have a really good memory) then by all means use a published setting. Also, if the world is not a major component of the campaign then a published setting will do nicely, especially since you won’t have to spend time building the world. This is usually when knowing what the name of the last town was is not important to the campaign or game.

The Farstead concept is: The player characters are from the Motherland and are going to the New World to explore a new continent recently discovered. Basically this is similar to the nascent days of the discovery and exploration of North America. On day 1 of the campaign the players will be given an old style hex map with the thorp of Farstead on it. The rest of the map will be empty and they will be told to explore and fill the map in. It will be a sandbox style campaign, wherein the players are allowed to go where they will without any type of railroading or plot-forced paths. Encounters are placed on the map ahead of time and players can choose to interact with them based on their own decisions.
There is a background plot that the players can interact with if they so choose. This is an age-long battle between the Yuan-Ti (and other snakes, such as the Naga) and a set of chaos gods. As the character progress in level the information and interaction will increase, especially at the Epic levels.

Rather long winded but the points can be boiled down to:
• Exploration of new world
• Sandbox
• War between snakes and chaos

As I get to the actual creating part of this I want to keep these points in mind. Everything I do should harken back to these points and the intent will be to move those points forward in the design. A campaign concept, and thus the world concept, needs to be clearly defined so you know what the boundaries are you can work within.
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