Monday, March 30, 2015

Designing a campaign world - part 1

One of the most rewarding parts of TTRPGing is Worldbuilding. Designing a campaign world is truly one of the most unique things about the hobby. Its a chemistry not unlike love - when you meet that perfect person for you and the sparks fly... well you don't need me to tell you that the sum is often more than the whole of its parts.

The same thing is very true with original worlds. When allowed to grow and expand through the interaction of 2 or more like-minded individuals, you can get something with a life of its own. So how do you plant that first seed, so it can flourish and grow?

Back in the dawn of the hobby (for me at least, talking about the late 70's here), those seed/ideas came from the books I hungrily devoured. Often DAW "Yellow Spine" books which were so cheap and fascinating at my local used bookstore.

Nowadays, however, my continued voracious appetite for cheap, plentiful pulp fantasy is enabled by my Kindle and the "evil empire" of Amazon, and additional inspiration is available a click of a button away on the now-everpresent internet.

Having read a few desert themed pulps recently, and having binge watched a series of documentaries about ancient Assyria, the Hittites, and Babylon, I thought it would be fun to make my first 5E campaign setting, I named it "Atheon", with an ancient Eastern Mediterranean flavor, blended with magic and perhaps some Dying Earth-style Sci-fantasy. Flying ships hovering over ziggurats while assassins battle tech-warlocks on the steps? Yes please!

Here's some google images I saved for inspiration:

Characters are important too, of course:

Coming up in part 2, I'll discuss one of my favorite parts of campaign settings - Religion!


  1. Of the pics, number 6 has a Van Gogh feel to the clouds, and number 7 reminds me of Petra.

    Speaking of seed ideas coming from yellow-spine DAW books makes me wonder where most modern GMs are now getting their ideas from, most of the time? Think Tim Kask was interviewed on Dragonsfoot and he said that around 1990 he noticed a huge drop off in SF/F reading for pleasure and inspiration with the advent of computer games.

    Is it anyone's impression that most GMs are just going for a string of published adventure path modules to stand in for other sources of inspiration, or are they using computer games as an inspiration source? Or, maybe GMs read lots of SF/F and it's all a misperception?

  2. Nice inspiration photos! Your campaign could be very cool and you could enter it to win the Three Castle's Award that it is given out each year at NTRPGCon. The award is exceptional because this award is for true excellence in RPG design. The criteria for winning is very demanding. The judges can rule that no submission equals the rules standards and thus a year could have no winner.
    Submissions open October 1st and close December 31st.



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