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Brave, New World

Chapter 1: World Building Hooks and Blatant Plug

by Charles Dunwoody
Oct 14,2004

 

Brave, New World

Chapter 1: World Building Hooks and Blatant Plug

By Charles Dunwoody

Unlike Aldous Huxley, I don't want to create a world where the main characters are controlled and dominated. Unless mind flayers show up.

Instead, I've created a network of around twenty gamers from whom I'll be getting ideas. One is my brother Tim, the DM who got me into D&D back in grade school. I'll use some of those ideas, along with any applicable feedback I get on this column, to create a new Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 world.

Even though this column is using D&D 3.5, I think the discussion and creation of a shared world will help other gamemasters whether they are using GURPs 4.0, D6 Fantasy, Fantasy Hero, HARP, or another system.

I have experience as both a game designer and as a Dungeon Master. I have been published in Dragon Magazine twice, "The Summoner's Circle" in Dragon #302 and "Class Acts: The Ranger Knight of Furyondy" in Dragon #317. I've been playing D&D for twenty years. I'm also used to online discussion. On roleplaying boards, I use the name Kravell, the name of my first D&D 3.0 world.

Basic guidelines for discussion:

1. We're creating a world usable by a small group of DMs and players. In other words, this world is not designed with a commercial sale in mind. Every rule in the SRD does not need to be used, and closed content can be used (Wizards of the Coast, of course, being the publisher holding all copyrights to this closed D&D content). I'd like the world to look like something a network of DMs gaming in their basements might build together (which is basically what we are even though Tim, my brother, doesn't have a basement).

2. We're using D&D 3.0 or 3.5 material created by Wizards of the Coast and Dragon and Dungeon Magazines only. If you play D&D you probably have some of the books or the magazines. We'll stick with those rules only to keep the price down for this columnist and to make it easier to follow along for the majority of readers.

Dragon's new format is perfect for world building with new races, twists on traditional classes, and more roleplaying orientated articles. And I'm not just saying that because I've been published in Dragon. However, if any of the editors are reading this column, I hope you'll consider publishing one or more the submissions I've recently sent you. Your magazine rocks. And congratulations on your October marriage, Matthew Sernett!

3. Every idea will be considered. I will only be able to pull together a handful of truly good ideas if I want to create a coherent world. Even the ideas not used, however, may help a DM out there working on his or her own creation.

Step One

I've already sent out an e-mail to several gamers I know to see if they are willing to help. Once I know I have some help, I'll start asking for ideas.

World building can start with many ideas. What rules to use, what type of terrain is most dominate, what is the feel of the world, etc. So, up first I'll ask for one sentence hooks that we can hang the creation of the rest of the world on. I'll post the best of them here, and then pick one with which to start building.

Here are the hooks I've received. Each gamer in the group is picking his or her top three. Each hook will then get a point value and the one with the most points will be our world.

The Hooks

A humid, hot and fierce yet wet and damp world of rainforests and jungles where the party is not only challenged by monsters and foes, but also by the environment requiring the use of survival skills, local resources, and creative thinking to survive.

The mountains and the world beneath the surface are unforgiving and only the strong survive; strong races like gnomes, dwarves, stonechildren, and goliaths live and struggle to build a life in a world of stone.

Here there are dragons: a world of draconic influence.

In a world of deep emerald forests, ivory towers, and alabaster castles, the heroes battle epic evil.

Medieval fantasy, with a touch of 'magic' technology.

Madness reigns and doomsayers are prevalent in a world where the pseudonatural plane is encroaching on the material plane causing all nations to work together to avert a disaster of the two merging.

A melting pot of a world, where ninja meets cavalier, wrestler meets boxer, mage meets psion, orc barbarian meets lizardman shaman, Muslim meets Buddhist, and they all form an elite force to defeat the evil forces that are massing against the good of their world.

A galaxy ruled by demons and ancient powers is filled with the ruins of a technologically advanced race, and the characters start on a strange alien world where they must choose whether to fight their way home or grab the mantle of destiny and fight to change their adopted home.

A world at the dawn of time where the characters must use might and magic to battle dinosaurs and an ancient and wicked race of reptilian beings for the future of the planet.

A world where the Dark Lord and his undead army have won the war, and the party is a band of rag tag rebels fighting the good fight.

A world where every creature has a permanent Fly spell cast on themselves and three dimensional movements are the norm.

A world at the end of time where apes have evolved into the dominant race, and the party must cooperate with orcs to overthrow their simian masters.

A world of lawful good orcs and chaotic evil elves and dwarves.

A world where the Dark Lord and his undead army have won the war with the aid of chaotic evil elves and dwarves, while the party of lawful good orcs and other good races is a band of rag tag rebels fighting the good fight, but the party knows that this is an alternative timeline, and a wrong one at that, so they escape backwards into time to fix whatever went wrong.

A world of law and chaos, not good and evil, where the characters choose one of two opposing sides fighting for dominance of a world: lawful humans, dwarves, hobgoblins, and aasimar working with devils and formians or chaotic humans, elves, orcs, and tieflings working with demons and slaad.

An ancient world where the empire never fell and knights serve the emperor, the characters are citizens of the empire, worship the Roman gods, and chivalry means serving the empire and defending her citizens.

The Heroic Plane of Ysgard is the home of two gods the characters can see every day, giants, dwarves, continual war and feasting, and unparalleled adventure as the heroes fight for glory and beer.

A new world, with almost no history, explored by races and classes not in the Player's Handbook and filled with creatures from sources other than the Monster Manual.

An ancient demon is corrupting the leaders of kingdoms and churches and society tries to crush all forms of individuality and creativity; the characters are outlaws fighting for freedom to think and choose their own destiny in a world of dragons, magic, and an ancient clash between good and evil.

Combined Hook Idea from Tim Dunwoody

We could combine some of these backgrounds: 2a. A melting pot of a world, where ninja meets cavalier, wrestler meets boxer, mage meets psion, orc barbarian meets lizardman shaman, Muslim meets Buddhist, and they all form an elite force to defeat the evil forces that are massing against the good of their world.

2b. Madness reigns and doomsayers are prevalent in a world where the pseudonatural plane is encroaching on the material plane causing all nations to work together to avert a disaster of the two merging.

I'm not quite sure how I would combine these. I keep thinking of Ravenloft, where people get sucked into the world via a fog. In this case the fog is actually a gate that physically moves part of the world. So Tokyo ends up next to New York City. Upstate New York ends up in Japan. The Himalayas end up at the bottom of the Atlantic, with the mountains peaks now forming islands. An inland sea exists where the mountains formerly were. The shifting geography could explain why ninjas and cavaliers are adventuring together.

The Winning Hook

Here there are dragons: a world of draconic influence. This hook was submitted by Ace Calhoon.

Our column will follow use this hook as a basis for building the world. However, all of these ideas were good. I hope other gamemasters out there can use some of these ideas in their campaigns. And if they have time post some of their experiences here.

Coming in Chapter 2, an e-mail debate about how to go about building our world.

May you always roll a 20 when you need it most,
Charlie

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