CBP Worldbuilding #2: Draw Your Map

This is the second post using Angeline Trevina’s book 30 Days of Worldbuilding (available on Amazon), the book provides 30 prompts/exercises to help guide world-building.

Day 2: Draw Your Map – the author advises us to draw a map to prevent us getting lost in our world.


Colonial Blackpowder

Since my setting is based very loosely on American colonisation I decided to use a map of North America as my starting point, I downloaded an antique map from Google.

I then printed the map and–using the old-school technique of tracing a drawing whilst holding it up to a window–I created the following outline map.

I scanned the outline map back in, using Photoshop to darken it and correct a few errors.

Next I filled the landmasses in a solid colour, using Photoshop.

This looked cool but the map was still very obviously North America, after some time I decided to rotate the map and use the shaded section as the sea rather than the land. I printed out the map and extended some of the bits on the right hand side of the new picture.

Next I scanned it in again and filled in any areas of sea that were still unshaded.

Finally I changed the sea colour to blue and shaded the land green, putting a simple colour effect, making the sea lighten nearer the land.

Finally I added an outline around the landmasses.

As you can see from the image above I’ve still got some work to do on the map and there are a few bits and pieces I’ve missed out (I’ve also not decided on scale or things like that), but–in about an hour–I’ve got a promising map that I’m pretty happy with overall.

CBP Worldbuilding #1 : Genre & Setting

This is the first post using Angeline Trevina’s book 30 Days of Worldbuilding (available on Amazon), the book provides 30 prompts/exercises to help guide world-building.

Day 1: Genre & Setting: in the first prompt the author advises us to describe the genre of our world and write a brief description of it.


Colonial Blackpowder

Genre

Colonial Blackpowder will be a mixture of Gunpowder Fantasy and Historical Fantasy; although the campaign world I intend to create won’t be a strict re-creation of Colonial American history, it will be strongly influenced by it.

Setting

The discovery of the New World has lead to many of the Human kingdoms of the Old World sending colonists and explorers in search of new resources, they are joined by deported criminals, religious exiles fleeing persecution and others. Along with the Humans come the Uruch, a race with a once rich history of shamanic worship and legends, beaten in war by the Humans and enslaved, much of their history forgotten.

But the New World is not unoccupied, ruined Ziggurats and idols dot the mountains and jungles of the new continent, inscribed with the legends of the Eld and their Gods who came from the stars. Although most Eld left with their gods, some outcasts remain, drawing on the sustaining energies of their holy sites, energies that prove ruinous and corrupting to others.

Campaign Kludge: Underworld Monsters

As discussed in my first Campaign Kludge post I’m trying to weld several of my favourite OSR properties together with the emerald-hued core of the Midderlands by Monkeyblood Design. At the moment I’m focusing on the Middergloom (effectively the Midderland’s green-coloured version of the Underdark) since that’s where the PCs are in my game.

In the Midderlands setting the Middergloom is broken into a number of discrete levels:

  • Upper Middergloom
  • Lower Middergloom
  • Deep Middergloom

Things get increasingly bizarre the deeper you go as you draw nearer to the spinning hunk of radioactive Gloomium that lies at the centre of the campaign world.

I’ve decided that I want to create some random encounter charts for the different levels, but to do that I need to choose which monsters and creatures are going to be most prevalent on the different layers, I’ve made lists below:

Upper Middergloom

Creatures

  • Greater Horned Groat MIDD/110
  • Slitherling MIDD/119
  • Short-horned ratdog MIDD/134
  • Ommatophorian Half-Goblin MIDD/146
  • Six-headed Sewer Gripe MIDD/179
  • Gloomgool MEXP/156
  • Gloomium Dragon MEXP/157
  • Tentacled Horror MEXP/169
  • Devil Lurefish MGL/190
  • Midden Horror MGL/193
  • Bandits BXM/6
  • Bats BXM/7
  • Fire Beetles BXM/8
  • Carcass Crawler BXM/10
  • Giant Centipede BXM/11
  • Goblin BXM/21
  • Grey Ooze BXM/22
  • Green Slime BXM/23
  • Insect Swarm BXM/26
  • Kobold BXM/27
  • Ochre Jelly BXM/33
  • Purple Worm BXM/35
  • Rats BXM/35
  • Rhagodessa BXM/35
  • Skeleton BXM/39
  • Spiders BXM/40
  • Yellow Mould BXM/47
  • Zombie BXM/47
  • Ogre OSR/208
  • Dark Creeper OSR/279
  • Mongrelmen OSR/296
  • Misshaped animals FAM/47
  • Troll FAM/67
  • Giant Pill Bug OPU/87
  • Science Fungoid OPU/88
  • Beastmen TNU/320

Key

  • MIDD = The Midderlands
  • MEXP = Midderlands Expanded
  • MGL = Greater Lunden
  • BXM = BX Essentials Monsters
  • OSR = OSRIC
  • FAM = Frost-bitten And Mutilated
  • VOE = Veins of the Earth
  • OPU = Operation Unfathomable
  • PSS = Pod Caverns of the Sinister Shroom
  • TNU = The Nightmares Underneath
  • CAR = Carcosa
  • TSL = The Stygian Library
  • TGY = The Gardens of Ynn

Lower Middergloom

  • Fire Beetles BXM/8
  • Carcass Crawler BXM/10
  • Giant Centipede BXM/11
  • Mongrelmen OSR/296
  • Misshaped animals FAM/47
  • Troll FAM/67
  • Firebomb Beetle OPU/83
  • Psychephage OPU/88
  • Science Fungoid OPU/88
  • Pod Man PSS/15
  • Shroom PSS/15
  • Vampiric Moss PSS/16
  • Gloomgool MEXP/156
  • Gloomium Dragon MEXP/157
  • Tentacled Horror MEXP/169
  • Beastmen TNU/320
  • The Cavemurdered TNU/324
  • Ogre spiders TSL/47
  • Neurovore TSL/54

Deep Middergloom

  • Mongrelmen OSR/296
  • Misshaped animals FAM/47
  • Troll FAM/67
  • Archaens VOE/26
  • Cambrimen VOE/35
  • Fossil Vampire VOE/53
  • Pyroclastic Ghouls VOE/
  • Vampiric Moss PSS/16
  • Gloomium Dragon MEXP/157
  • Tentacled Horror MEXP/169
  • Changelings TNU/326
  • Crab dogs TNU/327
  • Faerie Nobles TNU/334
  • Spawn of Shub-Niggurath CAR/245
  • Sidhe TGY/66
  • Neurovore TSL/54

Those are my idea for now based on my OSR books I could easily lay my hands on, I’ll probably tweak the lists and create similar lists for the City and for the Sewer system. In my next post I’m going to start looking at creating factions for my version of the Middergloom.

Image used is Slitherling in the Tunnels by Glynn Seal, used for non-profit purposes, no challenge is intended to copyright.

Campaign Kludge

Continued planning for my current Midderlands Game

Anyone who knows me will be aware that I’ve fallen heavily for the OSR side of the Force (it even replacing my once-beloved Fate in my affections). I’m also much enamoured when people talk about how they’ve run D&D for a million-years in the same campaign setting – okay, I exaggerate slightly but you get the idea?

I also think that have a long-running campaign world offers some more tangible benefits, these being:

  • You get to know the material better over time.
  • Your world builds up a personalised history with it’s own heroes and villains you can pull on for inspiration.
  • The actions of earlier groups can become legends for later groups.

I certainly known that my friend Rob Davies has run an awful lot of D&D games in his own campaign world and–as a result–has developed it a great deal, adding more nuances and material as time has gone on. I’ve always fancied doing something similar, there’s just one problem though:

I get bored easily

Here, the sage example provided by Rob comes to the rescue, I know from my experience of games he’s run, that Rob often–when dealing with a new group–will turn them lose in a previously unexplored region of his game world. This has the benefit of allowing him all the good stuff listed above, whilst also giving him license to expand/tweak that area of his world to try something a little different.

Well I was thinking about this recently in terms of the OSR and all the various different source books that I’ve got, and it occurred to me that I could do the same thing but by using the different sourcebooks for different areas of my campaign world.

This is what I’ve got so far:

  1. Main World – Principle Game Area: Midderlands by Glynn Seal of Monkeyblood Design
  2. Main World – Ireland: Dolmenwood by Gavin Norman of Necrotic Gnome
  3. Main World – Eastern Provinces: Yoon-Suin by David McGrogan
  4. The Middergloom/Underark: Operation Unfathomable by Jason Sholtis of the Hydra Collective, Pod Caverns of the Sinister Shroom by Matthew Finch and Veins of the Earth by Patrick Stuart.
  5. The Moon: Carcosa by Geoffrey McKinney

I’m planning to start working on collecting some material shortly for creating the Middergloom in my game (because that’s where my PCs are at the moment) and will be collecting the information on the blog as I go forwards.

If anyone has any cool suggestions for other sourcebooks I can use please let me know.

Podcast Episode 44 – Getting a Campaign Started

In this podcast episode, Lloyd, Dennis, Mathew and myself discuss some of the potential issues and pitfalls surrounding getting a new campaign off the ground.

You can find the uncut version here:

Watch Podcast Live & Uncut: Getting a Camaign Started from RedDiceDiaries on www.twitch.tv

The edited (audio only) version is also available on Anchor:


Title Music

Shinigami by XTaKeRuX:
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/XTaKeRuX/Empty_Grave/Shinigami

Used under creative commons licence:
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Want to make campaign creation easier? Make like Doctor Frankenstein

JosIn-case anyone is planning to point it out, I’m aware that the featured image for this post in Frankenstein’s monster rather than Frankenstein himself 😉

Any of us who’ve created and ran a campaign world–whatever the game may be–you know that it can be an awful lot of work. Not only are you having to put in all the normal amounts of session prep, but you’re spending time between games creating mythologies, drawing maps, not to mention the work that goes in before the campaign even starts, creating the bedrock of the campaign setting so that your players have some idea what world they’ll be adventuring in. This isn’t to say the campaign creation can’t be fun, if–like me–you enjoy creating stories and seeing things scribbled on paper come to life in games, then you probably get a lot of enjoyment from campaign creation, it’s still a lot of work though.

So what can you do about it?

I think that one of the greatest mistakes that some GMs make–when it comes to campaign creation–is assuming that they have to create 100% of the campaign world from scratch. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst creating elements of your campaign whole-cloth can be very rewarding and satisfying, it also drastically increases the amount of time you’ll spend agonising over your campaign world notes. We all have non-game stuff going on in life competing for our limited free time, and sometimes it can be difficult to find the time to sit down and spend hours writing up whole swathes of a campaign world.

Now there are a few different approaches you could take to get around this:

  • Just wing it

Don’t worry too much about your campaign world prep and just wing the details you need. This obviously cuts down your prep to pretty much nothing and can work, but only if you are confident in your improvisational skills and take copious notes (or have a really good memory), otherwise your liable to find yourself running into trouble as you forget details previously established in play.

  • Use a pre-published campaign setting

This has the advantage that a lot of the work is done for you, but you’ll still have to read all of the campaign book and tweak it to fit your specific group. There’s also the potential issue of one of your players knowing the established setting better than you do.

  • Frankenstein approach

In much the same way as Doctor Frankenstein created his monster from the stitched together body parts of different people, I suggest doing the same when creating your campaign. Don’t restrict yourself to just using a single campaign, take bits and pieces from different pre-published campaigns, adventure modules, etc, stitch them together and then fill in any cracks with your own creations. Using this method will create a campaign world that still feels like your campaign, but will save you having to create absolutely everything from scratch.

Example of the Frankenstein Approach

This approach is one that I’ve been moving towards since becoming more interested in OSR gaming, since a lot of those systems are broadly compatible it makes sense to beg, steal and borrow maps, pictures and text from the many and various different sources. Currently I’m using this approach for my Rose of Westhaven LOTFP campaign. When I began the campaign I started with the naïve assumption that I’d have enough time to detail every last little thing, health issues and other real-life factors quickly disabused be of this notion.

  • Here’s what I did

I definitely didn’t want to wrap up the game, because I was–and still am–having great fun running it and my players seem to really be enjoying it, but I also didn’t want to short-change them by presenting a wishy-washy, sketchy campaign world just because I didn’t have the time to develop it fully. In addition to the hand-drawn maps I’d created I had already started taking different maps from the internet to save me time.

For example: Porthcrawl Village, Salazaar’s Tower and the Church of Peaceful Repose in my campaign are all maps that I found online and then imported into Roll20, Google Image Search is your friend when it comes to finding maps. Even if you can’t find something 100% right for your game, locate something that is pretty near to what you want and then alter it, it’ll still save you a bucket-load of time.

A little while ago I backed a Kickstarter for the Midderlands OSR setting and bestiary, set in a fantasy version of Britain and Ireland, recently I started to notice how well this campaign setting dovetailed with the information that I’d already established for our campaign. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a 100% match, but it was near enough that I could see how I could get a lot of material from the Midderlands and import it into my campaign without having to make too many alterations.

For example: Midderlands comes with a map containing a fantasy version of the Midlands in the UK, since this is on a larger scale than the map I’m currently using, it won’t be difficult–when we zoom out from our current campaign map–to incorporate it into the larger Midderlands world map. An expanded version of the map that shows the Midderlands version of Britain and Ireland is about to drop onto Kickstarter soon as part of a second book in the series, I’m planning to back that and use the maps from it for my campaign.

The book also contains a lot of folkloric information that has been adapted from real-world folklore and information, since it uses the same sources as my campaign setting it will be easy to incorporate, especially since our campaign takes place in a different time period to the default Midderlands campaign.

Advice for Using the Frankenstein Approach

There are a few things that are normally easy to incorporate into your campaign setting:

  • Maps: There are loads of different maps and images available on the internet via Google Image Search, these are incredibly easy to drop into a game, just find a map that looks like a tower, town or whatever and then write your own key and details to go with it.
  • Adventure Modules: Depending on your choice of genre and games the ease of using adventure modules may vary, however, there are plenty of generic adventure modules out there that could be re-skinned to use in your campaign, even modules that have specific game stats can be altered to work with your own campaign. Make some notes on the book and look up equivalent stats for your system of choice and then run with it.
  • Pictures: A picture paints a thousand words, having an image of an NPC or an item found by your heroes can really help to provide visual impact for your game, again here Google Image Search is your friend, but you can also find suitable images in magazines and RPG products, even if they’re not perfect, as long as they give your players an idea then it’s a useful shortcut.
  • Campaign details: It’s often harder to convert elements from a published campaign to incorporate into your own, depending on how much flexibility your existing ideas give you to add new stuff in or alter old details, this is why I prefer to paint the broad-strokes of a campaign world and only drill down to the detail as necessary, it gives me more wiggle-room when it comes to incorporating material from other sources.

Joseph Teller mentioned the important point that it is very possible when using this method to create a monstrosity whose flaws only become visible further down the line, I think this is a good point and certainly something to keep in mind when you’re stitching extra material into your campaign. Joseph says that–in his opinion this method only really works for shorter lived games–I think it’s certainly easier to pull off and requires less forethought with shorter games, but as long as you’re careful it shouldn’t be too much of a problem for a longer game IMO.

Dungeon World Map Making

For those of you who aren’t aware I’m currently running a Dungeon World campaign for my Sunday group, charting the progress of a group of heroes who have discovered a strange sickness or blight that seems to be plaguing the land. I wanted to try out the Perilous Wildrules supplement for this campaign, which deals with hazardous journeys and provides some additional stuff for followers and advice on running your campaign.

Continue reading “Dungeon World Map Making”

Storm & Sails: Reference Document

Okay, so I’ve started the planning for my forthcoming Storm & Sails campaign, I’m currently working on a gazetteer style Google Doc that will contain setting information and character creation for the campaign so that my players can peruse it. Although it is not complete the document can be viewed here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rKn4veeiiylh69GJUmuL8Q_516A6ZEpVj04CngiUto8/edit?usp=sharing

I’ll be updating the document over the next couple of weeks, once it’s complete I’ll be turning it over to my players to get some feedback before we start getting into the serious business of making characters.

New Campaign: Storm & Sail

As you may have read in my previous GM Tips: Campaign Fatigue post, I’m taking a break from running my 3Brothers D&D 5E campaign for a short while; during that break I’m going to be running a finite fantasy mini-campaign (probably about 10 sessions in length). To give me something different to get my teeth into whilst I’m having a break from my 3Brothers game I decided that this game should be more high-fantasy, and having always had a soft-spot for pirate stories and the like decided to make a nautically based campaign.

I plan to be posting updates over the next few weeks as the campaign ideas are fleshed out and then make as much of the setting as possible available as a PDF on this blog, so if you like Fate fantasy or the idea of swashing a buckle on the high seas stay tuned 🙂

In the meantime I’m adding images that are inspiring me for this campaign to my Pinterest account, you can check that out by clicking on the link below:

https://uk.pinterest.com/largejo/pirateage-of-sail-imagery/