Category Archives: World Building

One World, Many Possibilities

So how may campaign worlds do you use? OK, sure for a specific game, setting, or genre you use something specific but as a go-to setting how many do you use?

Let me explain this a little better. My standard fantasy setting is the world of Zoong. So if I’m just getting the group together that’s the place I go to. And it doesn’t matter which system I use. I’ve ran adventures in this setting with 5E, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Swords & Wizardry, and Labyrinth Lord. And it’s been with mostly the same group of players.

They’ve always had fun. They are already used to the gods, the lay of the land, and some NPC’s. We’ve had the unwritten “rule” that players shouldn’t use player knowledge. Plus there’s no indication which chronological order these campaigns have. Not all of the campaigns have taken place in the same geographic region. Heck, these might be alternate universes. Plus I’ve made changes here and there based on what the players have done and any really interesting things that have happened like Cthulhu hating demi-humans.

It also makes things easier for me as a GM. I don’t have t reinvent the wheel each time. I’ve already got a base to start. And plenty of old notes that haven’t been used yet. I like keeping my notes generic and inspirational rather than detailed. First, I want to have easy ways of importing cool published adventures. Second, you never know when a random NPC catches the players’ attention and becomes important. And third, some times there are world changing events thanks to the PC’s or even a really crazy die roll. Keeping the options open.

Let The World Affect The Characters

I had a little extra time this week where all I could do is sit and think. Something came to mind. As GM’s, we often look at the big picture of our campaign worlds. But maybe there are times when we should focus more closely.

I know this isn’t always true but a lot of times a long and ancient history is added onto a setting. In published settings, there pages and pages dedicated to that but not so much about what has happened more recently. Sure much of the ancient does affect the ways that many things have turned out but like I said smaller and more recent things may be of more importance to the characters. Not only about what kinds of adventures or obstacles that may face but what about things that may have formed their pre-adventuring lives.

Maybe there was a plague that ravaged the area or a war with a neighboring kingdom. Maybe there was some sort religious upheaval or purge. Maybe there was a civil war, famine, or a natural disaster. Who knows maybe somebody usurped the throne? The possibilities are pretty much endless.

These major events that happen during a characters formative years could have a big impact when it’s time to adventuring. Heck, as a GM you could even assign some minor bonuses for the character.

Of course, as a GM, you don’t have to do all the leg work. Go ahead and the players come up with something interesting. Now, don’t let everybody be an exiled noble unless you want to but there’s no harm in letting the players contribute to what has happened in the world already. Heck, they might even come up with some better ideas than your own.

Part of this also comes when I’m thinking about settings and such. Forgotten Tales of Sword & Sorcery is in its final stages and there’s still a long list of projects that I want to mess with. One of which is revamping my own campaign world, Zoong.

The Cult of Mordiggian

Mordiggian is old and omnipotent as death. He was worshipped in former continents, before the lifting of Zothique from out the sea. Through him, we are saved from corruption and the worm. Even as the people of other places devote their dead to the consuming flame, so we of Zul-Bha-Sair deliver ours to the god. Awful is the fane, a place of terror and obscure shadow untrod by the sun, into which the dead are borne by his priests and are laid on a vast table of stone to await his coming from the nether vault in which he dwells. No living men, other than the priests, have ever beheld him; and the faces of the priests are hidden behind masks of silver, and even their hands are shrouded, that men may not gaze on them that have seen Mordiggian.-The Charnel God by Clark Ashton Smith

My own take on the Charnel God for my campaign world.

Mordiggian’s temples are scattered throughout Zoong. Some are tolerated like in Ularax whiles are hidden in shadow. Ghouls and other eaters of the dead view Mordiggian as the God of the Eternal Harvest. More civilized (and living folks) barely tolerate Mordiggian as a God of Funerary rites. He is not the God of the Dead nor does have anything to do with pass of the soul or spirit into the Afterlife but what happens to the mortal remains. In these areas, the Cult does have a mortal high priest who acts as the public face of the Cult.
Clerics of Mordiggian have a special rapport with low level undead. With a (D)estroy result on a Turn Undead attempt, the cleric may opt to change the attitude of undead to “Friendly”. How the GM determines what a “Friendly” reaction from a horde of zombies, well, that’s up to the GM.

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The Blighted Coast

Just because the current situation has put my game on hold, it doesn’t mean my imagination has been sitting idle. So when Frog God Games had a huge sale, I just had to take advantage of it and grabbed up a copy of Razor Coast. I’ve been running The Blight and I’ve always had an interest in Razor Coast and I thought why mix them together a bit and The Blighted Coast does sound kind of cool.

I’ve already written a lot about The Blight and it’s Gothic horror and weird fantasy influences. I didn’t touch on the nautical themes in the book. Parts of the Levee campaign adventures take place on the Unsea and the Between. There’s a large dock/merchant district in Castorhage. So yeah there’s some nautical stuff there. Now, Razor Coast is Pirates/Polynesian/Caribbean influenced setting. So it sounds like they may not have that much in common.
From a rules standpoint, Razor Coast has much more robust rules for swashbuckling (especially gear), black powder weapons, and ships than The Blight. While ships play only small role (depending on how you are playing it). Black powder is mentioned as option and I think it fits well. Moving the Blight setting technology more along the Age of Sail rather than Medieval. Which is a cool thing. I like switching between various campaign settings with various levels of technology and still being able to use the same rules. It’s easier on me as the GM and the players. The Blight setting book also has some bits about Castorhage’s attempts to become a world power (and even a power in the Between). Once again, this prime for adding in pirates.
Finally, if you’ve been hanging around the blog or the podcast, I’ve mentioned that I’ve had an itch to run a Pirates Vs Cthulhu type campaign. I’ve thought about using the original Chaosium system or hacking Delta Green but then maybe this might work too. And it would be fun.
And of course. Everything is better with pirates.

The Elves of Zoong

Yes, it’s been way too long between posts. It’s a culmination of a lot things but mostly lack of inspiration. But some finally popped into my head. I’ve talked about the races of my main campaign world, Zoong, before. Dwarves are basically red necks. Halflings run the Mod. But elves were just sort of there and I didn’t have that much in mind but things did come together in a way that I really liked. Look no further than some old memories.

That’s right Elric. There was old post (maybe on Dragon’s Foot but I’m not sure where) that originally the elves of D&D were more inspired by the Elric saga (Fighter/Magic-User) rather than Lord of the Rings. So why not run with it?
The Elves of Zoong are an ancient, long-lived race who once ruled most of the world and were the originators of serious arcane study. Decadence and shear boredom have caused not only their empire but also their cities and culture to crumble. Once shining cities are deteriorating into ruins. Immaculate gardens are over grown and untended. Any form of art is ignored or macabre and debased. Some elves just sit in their cities and play vicious political games with rivals or whatever group happens to capture their attention at the time. Just something to pass the time and get over the boredom of such along existence. Many go forth adventure but once again, it’s out of boredom.
Elves tend to have extremes of personality and/or morality. What most would normal or rational behavior, the Elves view as boring and uninteresting. Been there done that. Not it’s time for something new and interesting.
So there you a kernel of thought on some elves.