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D&D 3E
three questions about campaign settings 
31st-Dec-2007 01:12 am
Grinning Revi!  ^_^
This is kind of three questions in one. First off, do we have any Greyhawk fans around here? If we do, do you have any recommendations for resources, books to read, supplements, etc.? I spent the first half the last few years largely unaware of Greyhawk's existence, and the latter half thinking that it was a poorly supported generic world of little to no importance created back in the 70s. I have recently begun revising this opinion. While Greyhawk is apparently something of a generic world (and always has been, by some accounts), I have recently been noticing that there is rather more to it than just that. Anyone have any good Greyhawk memories, or advice on where to find Greyhawk lore?

Second, what campaign settings/worlds do you guys use?

Third, for those who do homebrew worlds a lot, do you have a method for creating it, or is it just a hodgepodge free for all of whatever comes to your mind and whatever works for the campaign? I have been dabbling in world creation lately -- in the words of a DM I know, it's a delusion every DM convinces himself that he's capable of sooner or later, and I've convinced myself of it sooner -- and I guess I'd like to hear some of what other people have done.
Comments 
31st-Dec-2007 10:32 am (UTC)
I can only answer the third question, as I know little to nothing about Greyhawk.

I usually just start off with an idea of what the world is about. Then I build people and other things around that. Lately though, I've started with maps since discovering how fun cartography is. I find it easier to have a base and just place groups of people and mysterious places on it. Basically: you have to have a general idea of what you're going to do, and then think up things around that.
31st-Dec-2007 08:48 pm (UTC)
Maps seem a good place to start with, especially for me. I like looking at them, though curiously, in all my attempts at world creation, I have great difficulty drawing them.

This seems to be the general tone: start out with a general idea, and then just start dropping stuff on a map with hooks and history. And don't feel bad about changing things that don't work.
31st-Dec-2007 11:21 am (UTC)
1) uhm... never done greyhawk myself, but not for lack of want.. lack of people! but I can't answer this question for lack of experience.

2) Eberron, and homebrew worlds with a heavy forgotten realms flavor.

3) I've done it both ways, and both can work but it depends on the DM.
a) For running on the fly, the DM needs to be quick witted and fast thinking. And able to fudge dice rolls like mad. That is, roll a die, and not necessarily even the right die, or even a die.. as long as players think its a die. And holler out a result.
b) For building everything first, the DM must not have ADD. I hate it when I make 3 right turns and end up not where I began. And I hate it when a world explains the lack of artifacts with "dawn of time" and then I stumble into ruins ... anyways, DM has to be consistent.

Consistency isn't usually a problem with the on-the-fly style. Somehow, these people tend to have an ability to accidentally memorize entire encyclopedia sets by glancing at the pages through the window of the book store on their way by ... and they don't usually go back to anywhere they have been before either. It's worth noting that almost always, these campaigns are short lived, but they're (for me) the funnest too.


31st-Dec-2007 12:31 pm (UTC)
Not really a Greyhawk fan here.

I've made good use out of Ravenloft and Midnight a few times. I also had a short, but fun game take place entirely in the city and surroundings detailed in the Ghostwalk book.

For homebrew I usually work around the theme and mood elements first, deciding what the setting should feel like and then I work on how to accomplish that.

Then is usually just a bunch of brainstorming to fill in the details. Is it war-torn by conflict? Are the gods heavy-handed and involved in the everyday lives of the people? Does the common man have hope or are they broken by some evil overlord?
31st-Dec-2007 12:34 pm (UTC)
I'll answer 2) and 3) then...

Mostly for me it's been Planescape and Spelljammer. Now I've got Eberron and Iron Kingdoms, and I love both so much that I want to run games based on them both.

Homebrew, I work on the races first, which means figuring out where they live, who they worship, that sort of thing. From there, I build outward.
31st-Dec-2007 02:32 pm (UTC)
I'm currently playing in a Greyhawk campaign in Chendl, near the border between Furyondy and the lands of Iuz the Evil. I also ran a Living Greyhawk campaign for a while in straight 3e days.

For sources, I would recommend the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. It gives a good overview of the lands, people, and gods. With that in hand, Dragon Magazine had an outstanding series of articles, titled "Core Beliefs", that expanded on the churches of the PHB, mostly as they applied to Greyhawk. Finally, Dungeon Magazine's final adventure path, "The Savage Tide", started out in a little-used corner of Greyhawk near the Amedio Jungle.

As far as worldbuilding, I've just set out on building a new campaign world with my son (The family that slays nations together and all that...). We started by taking a map of Europe, flipping it over (so that the UK is now on the east coast) and we're taking sections and writing them up with culture and history. Then we'll go into the game library and look at classes and alternative rules. As we see possible match-ups, that will inform what sort of PCs and NPCs come from those areas.

A lot of world-building depends on what you plan to use it for and how long you have. If you're thinking of running a game soon, the "inside-out" approach works best: make a town, put your PCs in it, and work outward from there, adding pieces as they encounter them or as you need them to have an effect on your plot. For folks just doing it as an exercise (like me and the boy), you can start on the outside and work inward, building region to nation to city. This tends to create a more organic world, but it's a lot longer before you have anything usable.
31st-Dec-2007 03:13 pm (UTC)
There's also a website called Canonfire that is touted as one of the largest repositories of Greyhawk history and lore. I've used it once or twice myself for some RP details.
31st-Dec-2007 07:36 pm (UTC)
I think I'll check that book out sometime. I think there may be a sight more to Greyhawk than I had previously given it credit for and that book would help show some of what had been missing.

Your campaign concept sounds interesting, and it's cool that you're doing it together with your son! Fun stuff.

I won't be running a game soon, in all likelihood... I just started DMing this summer (in Forgotten Realms) and I don't think I'm ready/will have the time for anything else for a while. Mostly, at this point, it's an exercise.
31st-Dec-2007 03:14 pm (UTC)
I've been a fan of Greyhawk for years. Unfortunately, while it's been the supposed "default" world for 3.X, WotC has done very little to support it. Instead they've made tons of Forgotten Realms material and little in the way of modules. < /soapbox >

A year or so ago I ended a campaign there featuring the "Against the Giants" series of modules. Well, put on hiatus -- I'm adapting "Return to the Tomb of Horrors" for epic play (the party in question finished at 20th level). The best memory comes from around the 18th level mark, when they were looking for this hidden Vale (and beat a party of Drow to it) in the Sea of Dust. After fighting off a Purple Worm, the Ranger's "Find the Path" spell indicated they go down into the tunnel where the worm came from. They fly down and start discussing various plans, when the Cleric stops. He just stopped talking as he looked at me (the DM) with a sudden revelation, before turning to the groups Wizard.

Clr: "I think I need to remind you of a very important detail."
Wiz: *looks confused* "What?"
Clr: "We are underground!"
Wiz: *dawning horror creeps across the PLAYER'S face* "F************k!!!"
*defensive spells light up*

Of course, this phobia comes from a much earlier moment where the Fighter of the group (13th level at the time) charged a 10th level Drow Cleric. In desparation at the on-coming wall of meat and steel, she tried a "Slay Living" and got the touch. The Fighter rolled a natural "1" on the save. Things went insane from there.

So you could say I have some good memories... :D

I wanted to move into more low-magic, more RP campaigns, and I was going to do my own realm design. Back in the 2E days, TSR had this really great resource called "The World Builder's Guide." I still have my copy.

However, because I don't like running a game with a half-built world (I have detailitis as far as that goes), I tend to get impatient with world design. Then I said, "Hey, Kalamar fits the low magic bill, and I have all these nifty details in this here sourcebook. I can actually focus on the game!"

If you're new to world design, my advice (for what it's worth) is to start small. Low level games should have small stakes (save the village) and you don't need to provide too much detail of the world outside that. That said, between games you should be sketching out the rest of the world and filling in the miniscule details as you need them. For instance, if I know the party is going to a certain city to look for a weaponsmith of significant skill during the next session, I roll some dice/choose if such an individual is available. At the same time I establish the class/level population of the city iin case they decide to look for anyone else.

If you make decisions on the fly during your game regarding the setting, take notes. You might have a recurring NPC/adversary without realizing it at first. Make notes on the people your PCs meet with and jot down names and basic notes on occupation and personailty. After a rough adventure, it does feel comforting when the PCs come back to a familiar location and are, say, greeted by an innkeeper who remembers them and makes sure that food and drink are ready for them. Plus you can pull the PCs into something by using said NPCs in a subtle manner ("Hey, where was the old man that used to run this place? I liked that guy." or "You hurt the old man's granddaughter -- now it's personal.")

Also use events in the world at large that don't involve the players (or don't have to involve them). For instance, while my PCs for my Kalamar game are off foiling a plot from a Tokis commander (and potential official villain), the armies of Pekal and Tokis are marching off to war. The PCs won't be actively recruited into the fighting, so they can stay out of it and find trouble on their own.
31st-Dec-2007 07:43 pm (UTC)
Did someone ever print conversion notes for making "Against the Giants" 3.5 compatible? Because it sounds like a classic, and it'd be fun to use at some point, just sneak it into the adventure schedule and not tell the players what it was. "Fighting giants, fighting giants, all we ever do is fight rampaging giants... wait... WHAT?!~ STRIPPER DARK ELF NINJA CLERICS?! WTF?!"

Heh, I never minded the FR books... though I thought it was very strange that the supposed core setting received so little attention. I have no problem with something being core, but if it is, you want to publish stuff for it.

It's a pity that "The World Builder's Guide" is probably long out of print. Good advice about taking notes. And I think I will be investigating Kalamar, at least a bit.

What was the "theme" of Greyhawk? I've heard people say sword and sorcery, but I wasn't sure... also, the level of magic, compared with FR, Kalamar, etc.
2nd-Jan-2008 03:06 pm (UTC)
I've not seen any such notes on the web. I scratched my own conversion by hand, using classes and advancement scales where appropriate. Believe me, when the Frost Giant Bard started singing the PCs started taking things a little more seriously.

FR has always been a more marketable realm than Greyhawk, if past history is any indication. Making it the default setting for 4e may prove to be one of the few smart moves on WotC's part.

As for Greyhawk, the theme was similar to FR -- classic S&S. As far as magic, it's comparable to FR, perhaps a little lower due to history, while Kalamar is much more of a "low-magic" setting from the get go.
5th-Jan-2008 02:06 am (UTC)
Is FR actually the core setting for 4e? I thought they were keeping it deliberately world neutral, or going back to the drawing board to redesign the "generic S&S/D&D world." Then again, they have said that FR will be the first one to be converted, so... who knows.

I just noticed something in your original reply... that in your world, the PCs are not the center of the universe, and that in fact, there are substantial important things happening outside of the PCs actions, some of which will affect them but did not originate even remotely with them. I like this. It makes it seem more realistic. It's more work, sure, but it seems like it'd be worth it. Good times.

So you would recommend at least learning more about Greyhawk (i.e., seems like something worth the time)?
31st-Dec-2007 05:20 pm (UTC)
1) Haven't had very much experience in Greyhawk, although I've no problems with the setting.

2) I frequently find myself in homebrews, either by my own design or the designs of my friends. Other than that, Eberron & Forgotten Realms seem to be favorites (although I'm pushing for a Dark Sun game :] )

3) I create homebrew worlds all the time. My approach may be different, based on the fact that writing is to be my chosen profession (:P) but my friends all seem to enjoy 'em.
-first I come up with a general area that the game is going to (initially) take place in, be it one continent, a section of one continent, etc.
-next, I come up with a brief synopsis of history for that area (for my most recent [complete] homebrew, this history was brief snippets from over 1000 years)
-thirdly, I work out the basics of the world in regards to creamy game nuggat (can't have a game without the nuggat). ie; i figure out the level of magic (generally standard), whether or not to allow new forms of power (psionics, incarnum, etc), what books to allow, etc

By then, I'm usually done with the overall world, and anything that needs to be filled in is filled in by the players as the game progresses. Major NPC's create themselves in the process of writing the world's history, and others can be made easily to suit your own needs as the need arises. Obviously you'll need an adventure direction, but since you should already know the history of your world better than anybody (even the parts that are secret and weren't told to your players right off the bat), you should have that already. :]

I'll say that it's time consuming, but it can be extremely rewarding (IME).
31st-Dec-2007 08:46 pm (UTC)
Cool stuff. Looking at campaign settings, I find that one of the things I like most is the history parts. Thanks for the advice!

Dark Sun always seemed interesting... dangerous to be in, but interesting. Agreed in liking Forgotten Realms and Eberron.
31st-Dec-2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
No greyhawk here either

I'll answer your other two questions together. There is a guy named Rich Burlew, who's name you will see on a lot of DND3E books you own already. He has a site: http://www.giantitp.com/Form.html

I designed my latest homebrew campaign influenced heavily by his ideas (they're pretty good, he was a contributor to both cityscape and dungeonscape). His ideas help make a campaign world not only fresh and original, but unique. In the forum section, his fans actually used his theories to create a really unique campaign world that I would love to play in.

Basically, you have a mission statement of what you want to do, and you create a world based upon certain ideas. I made mine based around themes such as the unknown, a frontier feeling, rugged survival. I took those ideas, changed some things I like, added some things it needed, and create some concepts. Then I drew a map, put things where they would naturally be, and went from there. It's a solid way to create a world. On our personal gaming forums, we used the method to create another unique campaign world using these theories. It is a lot of fun.
31st-Dec-2007 08:00 pm (UTC) - Heh
Hmm... I think I know who Rich Burlew is... does he write a COMIC, perhaps? XD

Serisouly though, he is a good resource. I'd be interested to see the world he made for the world design contest that eventually produced Eberron, since he got to be a finalist in that one.

Thanks for the advice. The general tone seems to be "you can do it however you like, but some ways will make it easier, and for pity's sake start from first principles."
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