Tip Tuesday: Sketch Big then Zoom In

By | 24th July 2018

It’s Tip Tuesday here on the Red Dice Diaries blog, and for this post I thought that I’d give you a tip for campaign creation.

A lot of GMs make the mistake of trying to detail out their entire campaign world to the nth degree. What tends to happen with this approach is that it takes a lot of time and can be very frustrating as a lot of the information doesn’t get used or is ignored.

Sketch Big

In order to keep a sense of logic and verisimilitude to your campaign world I wouldn’t recommend just making everything up as you go along, this can lead to contradictions and a patchwork feel. I stead, sketch out the very broad strokes of your setting.

For example: You might decide that there are two kingdoms in your world, in the north and south separated by a mountain range. One is a theocracy lead by a Priest King the other s feudal kingdom ruled by a hereditary monarch.

In this example we’ve got enough detail to give the players the broad strokes of our setting and can expand parts of the setting as needed. But crucially we’ve not exhausted ourselves nor have we boxed ourselves in, there’s plenty of room to incorporate new ideas.

Zoom In

Once you’ve decided where your player party is going to begin the campaign (normally a small settlement or something similar), zoom in and detail that place more thoroughly. The PCs are going to spend their first few session there between dungeons, buying provisions, drinking in taverns, etc it’s worth having a few NPCs, some encounters and other bits and pieces prepared in advance.

You can use this time to determine what you’re going to need to detail out in future, bait your hook with hints about the wider world (using your sketched out world outline) and see which ones the players bite.

Make Notes

When your players bite into one of your baited hooks, use your world outline to improvise more world details, make sure to take notes so that you can portray the world (and any NPCs, locations, etc) consistently.

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