Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kingdoms

Ok, another late and short post.

World building is a hobby of mine, I'm sure many DMs would agree it is one of the highlights of our job.  I have over the years built a pretty stable campaign world  that I feel like I would be comfortable DMing games in for along time to come, one of the best parts is that it is constantly growing and expanding. There are sizeable kingdoms with well defined borders- most landmasses are least partially explored. This is the world I have been playing in for several years now, my current Pathfinder games are set there, and overall it is just a pretty cool place.

Once you get that specific, and the world is that detailed something is lost though.  I can't simply have the characters roll through an area of wilderness and roll up a random castle, I just can't. It wouldn't make sense; who built the castle and why?- something like a castle can't be random. And thus my world has alot less room for me to improvise and let the chips fall.

As I work on my B/X thinginy I have been thinking alot about the setting and the world I plan for it to be played in.

I'm picturing a vast wilderness, like points of light taken to a level I have never used before. There are all these tiny pocket kingdoms or civilizations lost among a sea of wilderness. The kingdoms have little to no knowledge of, or contact with, the neighboring kingdoms. Each kingdom is maybe a small city,a town or two and a few outlying villages, and totally self sufficient.  isolated pockets of civilization and culture.  There could be virtually anything anywhere out in the wilderness.  Once they pass the last village and start off roading I can random table stuff as much as I want until I decide they get to another pocket kingdom.  The pocket kingdoms themselves could have any makeup or type of culture I want.

I got the idea for this type of approach from fantasy adventure tv shows like Xena Warrior Princess, Herclues the Legendary Journeys, and my favourite animated show Conan the Adventuerer.  In these shows the heroes travel pretty much randomly across the land and in every episode come across a new kingdom where there is trouble afoot.  Sometimes they make allies, sometimes the kingdom is in ruins by the time they leave. I'm working towards making a world where adventure of the week type gaming and long term deep story gaming are both equally valid ways to play.



  1. I don't think that broadly defining areas necessarilt makes it hard to place random castles and what not. I mean, they wouldn't actually be random within the world, but they can seem random to players.

    I think a good example is Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur. There seems to knights and castles all over the place, but the action is always in Britain, where the king and a lot of sub-kings are well known and can be mapped. But maybe your talking about a higher level of world definition than that?

    I do think the type of world your talking about probably resembles what we see in Mallory, though.

  2. Thanks Trey, I'm not familiar with that series, sounds cool.

    What I'm talking about is feeling like I have the liberty to just go nuts and just do anything, like say over that ridge of hills there is a lost tropical valley in an otherwise temperate land. I want the land beyond the borders of the pocket kingdoms to be really wild and unknown. That's a kind of freedom I just don't have with my Pathfinder setting.