It’s been another long stretch, but I want to start getting back to writing about the small yet important things that people should pay attention to that make a dig difference in trying to take people to a different world. This time, I want to talk briefly on laws, punishment, crime, and the judicial system, because its a fascinating topic that I think can make a big difference in how players see breaking the law, and why their actions matter in a fantasy, middle ages world.
The first two sections in the series covered the basic tenants of building the foundation of a world, the building blocks upon which you will place the adventures, the nations, the villains and the heroes. That isn’t the last part of the foundation, though. There is a portion that is unique to fantasy worlds and raises interesting questions, playing with the basic concepts of the world as we know it: Magic. Lets take a realistic, fantastic look at magic!
A stand out features of many fantasy settings, and many alien-based sci-fi settings, are the huge creatures that dominate the landscape, mythology, and much of the attention of the heroes, people and villains of the world. These giant creatures, these megafauna, pose some problems for a setting creator. I want to take a look at, and tackle, a few of them here and try to make these impressive beasts fit into our worlds.
“While the horses of the Ammaran warriors are impressive, no doubt, the riders of the Kalmorath sit astride massive lizards stretching greater than ten feet! A single charge has been enough to break the most veteran lines. The combination of threshing blades, hideous claws, and maws large enough to bite a grown man in twain has been enough to break even the most veteran lines.”
-Uramik, Buramii General
Previous to this, most of the articles in the series have been focused on the natural world – land forms, oceans, currents, vegetation. Starting here, there is going to be an increased presence of the impact of the world on humans (used generally, but also include other intelligent species in the fantasy world). This time, I want to take a look at the potential beasts of burden, livestock, and mounts.
Piggybacking off of last week, I want to continue talking about the animal, or monstrous, inhabitants of the natural world that will be part of any solid fictional setting. This isn’t often a huge problem for many games, but every once in a while, it can really cause an extremely jarring return to reality. Lets take a look!
This first section was vitally important, though sometimes a little dry, because it allows a strong setup of the following sections and creates a strong foundation to build on.
Remember though, that you’re not bound by your prior choices, and can easily adapt what you have created to better suit the vision that you are creating. Often, when people see the detailed worlds and settings that I have created, often behind the scenes of games or stories that I am writing, they ask why any of it matters. And, to a fair point, they are correct in respect to a number of the topics, that is, until they become vital. mountains to traverse, a great drought in the savanna to lead raiders and bandits westward, a cold and bitter set of years pushing explorers South. Lumber, pastureland, livestock, natural resources. All these stem from the setup that was created in the early stages of the world, and have carried their weight into the story, lending credence and continualism. Lets take a look at the place I’ve been creating, and apply some of the concepts over the past few weeks.
I have often said that I wanted to write a bit more about DMing, and I think I’ve found a way. Now, at least every other Tuesday, I will be writing about my DMing style, my research, and about what I do in order to create the game that I play in. This will not be a series on actually DMing a session, but instead on how to set up world that breaks the suspension of disbelief the fewest times while also giving the greatest felling of setting, time period, and culture.
Come and let us delve deeply into designing a world.
My first introduction to RPG’s was the AD&D Monster Manual and its myriad of creatures from the mythological to the completely bizarre. I didn’t comprehend the codex at first, but I took it on myself to learn. Hit Dice and Attacks went from random numbers on a page to delineating the toughness and lethality of the entry. The leap from reading about the monsters to imagining stories about them was trivial, with but a small step between there and creating entire worlds and then running the game. I stuffed notebooks to the brim with stories and castles, places fantastic and wonderful. I wrote out the paths the player would take through the woods into the castle, through the castle into the dungeon, and through the dungeon into the clutches of the final boss monster controlling it all. I can honestly say that I believe that plan never came to fruition.
When running an RPG, you want everything to fit within the structure of the game you’re running. An encounter with the Crown Prince of Elflandia won’t make a whole lot of sense in a game where there aren’t any elves, and encountering a Priest of Osiris in a world not based around Egyptian themes can be confusing. Anything can be remedied with a good story, and often those stories need to be pre-planned in order to have full integration with the campaign as a whole. When applied to monsters, this has a compounding effect that makes throwing random monsters at players incredibly jolting. Often, this single point of incongruence will stick with players longer than many of the monsters that fit the form and feel of the campaign.