When I started this blog, I dove in with content and haven’t let up, which is exactly how I want it. I’m not interested in my own rants or think-pieces, and I can’t imagine anyone else being interested in them, either. All the same, things are about to change, and I hope that the three people who read this will indulge me.
For the last two months, I’ve been posting twice a week to DungeonHacking, and just about every post has been 5th Edition content. I started this blog with the intention of supporting my Iron Gods campaign and helping some of the other bloggers out there convert the material to 5th Edition. That’s an ongoing project and one I’ll come back to, later. For now, though, my group has what they need, and I want to take this blog in a different direction.
A couple of things about me: In September, I’m starting a PhD program, and while think that will no doubt eat a lot of my time, I also think I’ll want a creative outlet. This has been my first experience with writing a blog of any kind, and I’m using this one to practice a bunch of things, including remembering to write creatively on a regular basis. I’ve also never done any game design or world building. (Eventually, I’d like to write regular blogs about teaching and parenting, but I think I have some kinks to work out in my blogging style, first.)
In an effort to flex all of those muscles, I want to turn this into a world-building blog, with a focus on converting material to 5th Edition. I don’t just want to build one world, though. I want to build a bunch of them in rapid succession, spending about three months (24-26 posts) on each world.
Limited Campaigns and World-building
This train of thought started with this piece on “limited campaigns.” Campbell writes “You want a good campaign, keep it limited. 7 races. 7 monsters. 7 significant NPC’s. 7 forces. Seven schools of wizards with seven spells per level. Seven fighting styles. Seven ancient lores. Seven great weapons.”
I love this idea, and not just because seven is my favorite number. If I’m trying to build a late-medieval fantasy world in the vein of Dungeons and Dragons and I want to include the entire back catalogue, I have two choices: I either have to build in every connection between every race and class and environment and predator, or I have to use familiar tropes and stereotypes as shorthand. If I don’t want to write detailed descriptions of how my elves are connected to my humans, my dwarves, my darfellan, my gnolls, my flying kobolds, and my dragons, and on through upwards of a dozen different monster manuals, I have to use the relationships that are already established.
If I use the established relationships, though, with humans as the dominant race, and elves and dwarves in conflict, and halflings being tightly community focused, then why am I building something new, at all? An alternative is to do something like Monte Cook’s Arcana Unearthed/ Evolved, and jettison most of the familiar races altogether. That’s interesting, but I think that people like to have a familiar hook, particularly humans, dwarves, and elves. The other traditional fantasy races might be optional, but my sense is that at least two of those three are important to include so that players have an anchor.
With all this in mind, my plan is to build a world with limits, each of which should make sense, and then use that structure to convert material to 5th Edition. I have a lot of ideas for worlds or settings: Spelljammer, pirates, Sigil, Sherwood forest, arctic and desert worlds; adaptations of Hindu or Japanese mythologies, translations of R.E. Howard’s Barsoom, and others. Every world would be built around seven major races, some familiar, some pulled from the D&D back catalogue (I want to see the synad, the adu’ja, and the darfellan as playable races!), and some pulled from legends or stories that haven’t been translated to D&D (like the Nawao of Hawai’i). It gives me the opportunity to convert seven creatures (or creature types) and connect them in a way that makes sense (if most of the opponents in this world are dragons, sahuagin, and owl-like bipeds, how do they relate to one another?). The numbers aren’t hard – a little poking around on the Internet gets me conversions of the mechanics of almost all of the playable D&D races. I want to do more than just move numbers around, though. I want to put the descriptions together and connect them to the world. Naturally, I’ll include some ideas about hacking the races and other options to fit into different settings.
Everything I write on DungeonHacking is a rough draft, and this will be no different. I’m going to do my best to test things out and make sure that they work in a balanced way, but it’s more important (to me) to keep creating things than to perfect them before I post them. Every couple of months, I expect to do some editing and post links back to the edited entries. I also expect to get back to Iron Gods, in between worlds.
In other words, I’m hacking DungeonHacking, trying to make it the most interesting blog (at least to me) that I can. In the process, I expect that I’ll learn a lot about game design, and graphic arts (since I want the things I write to be pretty, eventually, and WordPress, for all its good qualities, doesn’t always present content in a good-looking way). I hope that other people get some use out of that, too.
The topic for this month’s RPG Blog Carnival is “Summerland,” that seemed like a great place to start. My first post about it will be on Monday (as I move to a Monday/ Friday schedule), an overview of the world of Summerland and its inhabitants.
Next time: What is Summerland?