For the past few months I’ve been preparing to narrate a new campaign, as I’ve mentioned how much I love being a dungeon master. I gathered the players and convinced them to join me in exploring a new world in Dungeons & Dragons.
Because as much as I love the lore of the established Dungeons & Dragons realms and how much fun I’ve had playing in the worlds created by other authors and Dungeons Masters, I have always felt there is so much more you can do with your own world. It takes much more work, especially if you’re doing taking care of all geographical, political, economic and even racial aspects of your world.
It’s harder than it seems. It’s not just a matter of slapping cities together with strange unearthly names. These cities must make sense in the world they inhabit, their economy needs activities and people to support it. If they are part of another kingdom, there should be a ruling presence in the city connected to the kingdom’s authority, and the economy now has to feed another mouth, that of the nation they serve.
And what about the relationship between the town and the other locations in the kingdom? What about the feelings of the populace about their rulers. How are the different races treated in the towns? And what of magic, divine vs arcane?
I’m still very early on in this regard. I’ve set up a few settlements, mostly capitals and their cultures as they tend to drive the views of those around them. I have a merchant capital, for example, where deals are everything. Here the ruling merchant princes and the wealthy control everything, but even so, the poorest of the destitute has a chance at greatness if they’re clever, knowledgeable or ruthless enough. It’s a unique place that is rife with storytelling opportunities and I haven’t even delved deeper into the kingdom at the centre of which it stands proudly.
I’m also still working on the world map to settle its biomes, decide which regions have rolling hills, which ones have long winding canyons and where the snow-capped mountains lay. I have my northern kingdom and my great desert, but the spaces between, the less extreme climates are still in progress.
I could be the one working on this on my own, to just present the finished world to my players, but I decided to do something different, something that begun with my first participation in Extra Life—which I’m doing once more this year—and that is to throw my players a little curve ball: they had complete freedom in designing and writing about their character homeland, the cultures, the people important to them for good or ill and even the deities and rituals.
I did this for a few reasons. The first of them is that I believe that it gives the players something to look forward to in the game and it makes them much more invested in what’s going on with the world, as they had a hand in shaping it.
The second is that the people I chose for this game are all incredibly creative people and I felt I would be doing them a disservice if I didn’t give them the chance to leave their mark upon my little world map.
The last reason is where the Dungeon Master in me pokes his head out, as one good rule for dungeon mastering is to let the players do as much of the world as possible. Let them create the enemies, let them feed the world with their stories, so you can pick up the threads, twist and spin them into something new and interesting and then place them in their path again to deal with another chapter or just with the consequences of their actions.
It’s been fun and my players have exceeded my expectations and not only created things for their characters but added new touches of wonder and madness to the world itself, including races and cultures. And as a great boost of confidence to me, it seems my own creations are of interest to them.
We’re getting close to the day my little world, Telia, will come to fruition and we’ll kick off the campaign, which I’ll of course do my best to record and even broadcast. After all, I’m spending a lot of time practicing different voices for a myriad of characters and I want the internet to have a chance at laughing or shaking their head at them. Because, I can assure you, all accents are offensive, some because of how bad they are, but others because of how good.
But before that day comes, Telia needs to grow a bit more, to get a few more places where danger may lurk. I have already thought of a few, with their adventure seeds firmly sown. Because that’s just as important. Make the place feel real, but also give it something shiny for the players to focus on!