I get together with a group of friends "weekly" (it's supposed to be every Sunday, but, often times we only end up meeting once or twice a month) to play table top pen and paper roleplaying games. We've played 4th edition D&D, 4th edition Legend of the Five Rings (L5R), and new World of Darkness (which will probably sometime in the near future become a Werewolf or Vampire game.) Right now we have a game of World of Darkness running and just ended our 4th ed L5R game and are replacing it with 3.5 D&D (which we used to play back during high school.) As it turns out, I'm the one running this campaign.
Unfortunately, although I want to run the campaign, as I enjoy running campaigns, I also have found myself really slacking off lately with getting everything ready and planned out for our gaming sessions (I also ran the L5R game.) So, with my most current procrastination in mind, I decided that maybe if I create a blog about what work I have done, and still need to do, to get things ready for the 'bi-weekly' 3.5 D&D game that I'm running, it will help me get things done in a more timely manner than sitting there on Saturday night/Sunday morning trying to scramble enough stuff together to be able to at least run the session by winging it.
I don't know what kind of structure these blogs are going to take, exactly, if I'm going to want to include my entire work process, if I just want to talk about what things I have to do and create still, if I'll use it as mostly a means to talk to myself without actually talking out loud to myself and write out random ideas as they come to me and use the blog itself as an actual work tool to sift through them and see what I want to keep and throw out as I'm writing it, etc. So I'll kind of just be writing these out randomly, and the format/content might change on a per episode basis, but, I figured there are probably people in the community that may like a behind the scenes look at how someone (or at least how I) create the content for a D&D session, and, there are probably people in the community that might actually be able to help give me advice or input on things as they go.
So, with all of that out of the way, let's get on to -
Creating A D&D Campaign: Episode 1: Creating A World!
So, from the get go I knew that I wanted this campaign to focus around a single location, whether that means setting the campaign in a single city, or just having a single city be the main hub for the group and keeping them mostly limited to the city itself and the region around it. One thing I've found in our sessions so far is that I think most of our games move around so often that people don't really get invested in any NPCs or locations or anything because they all mostly feel disposable. I want to try and change that by having the group based out of one location for as much of the campaign as possible.
So, having this in mind tells me a couple of things already: I need to create a city for them to be based out of, I need to create a region around the city so I have places for them to go that allow them to still work out of the city. That may not sound like a lot, but, I'm going to break down what all kind of information I need to come up with to be able to create those two basic foundations for the setting.
Some Questions To Consider
- What kind of city is it?
- Trade city?
- Capital city?
- Port city?
- I need to create something of a history for the town and the region. This can include, but is not limited to -
- Has the city ever been involved in war?
- What kind of rulers/power structure has the city typically had in the past/does it have now?
- How did this city develop? Did it develop because the natural surroundings made it a good defensive position? Because it was near natural resources that helped make it important? Etc.
- What does the racial make up of the city's population look like? Is it mostly human? Are monstrous humanoids 'accepted'? How do the races within the city treat and view each other?
- What laws does the city have?
- Is magic restricted beyond the obvious types of spells that cause mass destruction or rob people of their free will?
- How are weapons treated in the city? Are adventurers just allowed to walk around town with their weapons on them all willy nilly? Or is drawing/wielding a weapon considered to be a crime instead but adventurers are allowed to carry whatever they want?
- Are there any other strange or notable laws for the city?
- What alignment is the city as a whole and what alignment is the ruler of the city? Is the general population good? Are they neutral? Are they evil? Are they good people being ruled by an evil king? Or neutral people being ruled by a good council that's trying to help make the city a better place?
From there still more questions arise, but, for now, I'm going to try and narrow down the answers to at least some of these questions here already.
Answers! Maybe! To at least one question surely!
I figure I'll start at one of the more general questions, and one of the easier ones to answer; What kind of city is it going to be? There are a lot of options to choose from: military, port, trade, capital, slave... it goes on. I think, however, that I have it narrowed down to a capital city, a trade city, or a port city.
A port city forces me to put the city by a body of water. This can be good because it already helps me set up the natural surroundings of the city. It also opens up a good bit of choices for things to happen in the city; pirate attacks, smuggling rings, water monsters, water based natural disasters, and so on. The downside is that there isn't likely to be anyone overly important at the head of the city, it won't be like a king or a prince or anything is in charge of the town. It also comes with a pretty different air about it than either a capital city or a trade city, which can be either good or bad. As much as I like port towns as a whole, I think this is the least likely option. I think I would end up being more inclined to having a port town be located 'near by' the main city.
A capital city is nice because it means that you end up with a lot of elements of the trade city, but also have a king or someone like that residing there, which can open up a fair amount of adventure and plot hooks, like assassination attempts, attempts to overthrow the ruling body, to be attacked by an invading force, peasant revolts, etc. The downside is that it means that city would also probably be larger than what a trade city or port city might be, though, being the creator of it all, I suppose that's still up to me and I can have a somewhat "small" ish capital city. One of the downsides of a capital city though is that the laws there would probably be more strict than in either of the other two options, since they have to be considerably more careful about protecting
Lastly, a trade city would probably be closer to a bunch of farms, mining towns, fishing towns, be on good ground for trade routes and all that, and could still be near some 'frontier' land. A capital city can be close to much of that as well though, but a trade city is a bit more likely, and probably would be home to a more diverse group of races. A trade city also makes having an arena/coliseum more plausible than in the capital city (since it's bound to bring in more dangerous types and house dangerous monsters that they may not want in a capital city.) It also allows me to be somewhat more relaxed on the laws within the city, and gives me a bit more flexibility with the power structure in the city.
Writing this out I'm realizing there's perhaps not a whole lot of difference between a capital city and a trade city, except that the trade city may be a bit less work. But the extra work may be worth it for the extra things it adds, or at least adds to the list of possibilities. I do kind of enjoy the idea of having an arena in the town, however.
So, I think in the end I may end up going with more of a trade city. I can still have important political figures within the city without having them be as high up as straight up royalty or anything, and can also work in princes or people with connections to the royalty that governs the region. Though, now knowing that it's a trade city doesn't do a whole lot, but, it at least helps me narrow down some things and lets me know I have to worry less about some other things.
With that out of the way, I think I'll bring up the next question I'm working on, lay out some of my thoughts for it, and then call it good for episode 1, since, I don't want this to go on for too much longer.
The next thing on the agenda is history!
I don't need a ton of history to get started, after all, there can be some amount of 'secret history' as well, but, I do need to have some amount of history established for this place. How old is the city, what major events have happened in or to the city over the years, potentially how was it founded, things like that. I don't need a mountain of history, mind you, just enough to kind of set up some potential plot hooks as well as to help set up some of the city's layout and that kind of stuff.
So, already I'm going to have the city founded around a river, which I think will actually divide the city up into 3 sections. This tells me that the city was probably established here because of the source of water that the river provided, as many cities are established on or near rivers due to the benefits they provide.
Next I need to figure out is the faction that currently owns and runs the city the people that originally founded the city, or, was the city taken by force, or, did they just move in on some ruins of a former city and take the place for themselves? Or maybe it was actually a wizard's lair originally that was abandoned and someone just decided to build over it for themselves. I kind of want there to be SOME kind of ruins around the city, so I'm thinking that the city was established over top of an existing settlement of some kind. Maybe when going to expand the city in one particular direction they discover some ruins that reveals the truth of the matter to much of the cities population. Then I have to figure out who those ruins belong too, how old they are, things like that, but, much of that can wait. I at least know that the city will be founded on top of some old/ancient ruins.
I also need to figure out what kind of turmoil the city may have gone through over the years. Has the government ever been overthrown? Has it ever been involved in a war of some kind? Has it ever suffered economic hardships despite being a trade city? Have droughts, plagues, or violent weather ever been a serious problem for the city? Have criminal organizations helped shape the city in any way? Is there anything of racial or religious significance in the city? Was it maybe built upon a holy, or, unholy, site, dedicated to some unknown god?
I'm not sure of a lot of this stuff yet. One thing I've toyed with, at least entertained the thought of so far, has been a war with lycanthropes (were-creatures, if you will, though not limited to just werewolves, as the D&D rules support all kinds of creatures, like wererats, tigers, bears, and on, and on) that ravaged much of the region. Though, other than purely 'just because' I don't have much in the way of reasoning behind why such a war would have taken place, aside from the war was actually more like a plague that just tore its way through the populations. So, I could put it as more that it started as a plague that spread across the region that turned into some group of the population using their newfound power to try and start a war. Either way, lycanthropes would still be relatively rare in the current day of the city, but it gives me an excuse to explain in shifters (which are sort of bestial humans descended from lycanthropes that take on more animal traits and appearances, but aren't true lycanthropes either) as being something of a more common race in the setting. Not that many shifters would live within the city, may just live 'around' the city, but, still, I sort of like this idea so far, so, I may run with some version of it. Though I'd be curious to hear some feedback on the matter.
With that said, heck, I'd be happy to hear some feedback on this blog all together. Should I keep it up? Should I use this blog to help me keep working on my D&D campaign? Is it an interesting behind the scenes look at what all has to go into actually creating a pen and paper campaign/setting? Is it boring as shit and should I stop digging the hole before I'm in over my head? Do you have any useful advice or tips or just general input for helping me create this campaign setting? Let me know! Though I've already given some thought to looking around online for already made city maps and that kind of stuff, but, for the most part I think I'd like to come up with as much as I can on my own first before going down that path (though we'll see how I feel by the end of the week when I need to have everything done...)
At the very least I'll probably have episode 2 up by tomorrow sometime, as these first several ones I need to put out pretty quickly to help me get ready for Sunday, but after I get all of this ground work established the episodes will start showing up more like on a weekly basis or something. Anyway, thanks for reading and please leave some feedback.
Edit: Episode 2 is now up! Located here! Go check it out!
Edit: Episode 3 is now up! It is located over here in this link! Go check it out!
Edit: Episode 4 is now up! Over here, in this link!