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This is my first post here. So here's the story: I've been playing… 
26th-Apr-2005 05:43 pm
This is my first post here. So here's the story: I've been playing D&D 3.5 for about a year now, which is exactly as long as I've been dungeon mastering (I was the guy who got picked for the job of dungeon mastering right from the founding of our group). I enjoy it very much, but I have some problems with the process of making up adventures and campaigns. I have not and do not want to use a published campaign setting as I feel that it might compromise my own creativity, but at the same time I'm not confident with my method of world building because I don't know any other dungeon masters, meaning that just about everything I do originates from my own head and the DM guide. So basically, I'm interested in: 1)Other peoples' takes on using campaign settings, and 2)some methods of world building from those who do make up their own worlds and adventures. I would go on the Dungeon Master's Guide, but I don't think it would give me as many perspectives as I could get from veteran players and dungeon masters.

Currently, my method goes as follows: 1)Design the area/s that the players will begin in, 2)let the players have fun with the various lures and adventures I've loosely laid out, 3) plan the next segment or piece of my world according to the players' actions. It's a fairly roleplay intensive style of play that I do as well.

Also, I've been trying to implement history into my world, as I think it creates an entirely new dimension to the world, which makes it more believable. Some takes on that would be interesting too.

Thanks folks.
27th-Apr-2005 01:14 am (UTC)
When I know that I am going to be the DM for a long campaign, I usually come up with some idea and then come up with a history to support that. For example, my last world started with the idea of psionics being the dominate force and magic being very weak. (kind of like dark sun, but not really) From that I created a little background story a war of the gods, the good god of magic was banished from the world and she took all of magic with her. The only magic now is a combination of divine and arcane which is given by the lesser gods. Psionics basically rule supreme, and they are fun. I recommend them. Anyways, after that I created an intro to the campaign. In my group I found out that during the course of a session we usually create a lot of the world in the process, usually by accident. An example was that by the end of the campaign I had create were-lobsters, nearly a dozen different cults, and a couple weapons. I originally had no intention to make were-lobsters but it happened that way.
So my advice to you would be to have a plot in the back of your head in mind, but let a lot of the world create itself. Unless your group doesn't work like that. I think that world creation is something everyone does their own way, just keep messing around until something works really well.
27th-Apr-2005 01:53 am (UTC)
I am not a veteran DM, but I've created a world or two (two, specifically) and I think you are on the right track. Physical layout + cool little lures are a great start, and giving the place a history makes for a richer, more realistic environment. Here are a few things I learned from my first real DMing experience:

If you have one main adventure hook in mind, make sure there is a real motivation to follow it. I made the mistake of just going "oooh, lookie! isn't that weird! don't you want to go figure out what's going on?" without giving an answer for why this is any of the characters' business in the first place. At a few points, I could tell the players were thinking, "Oh, this must be where Rebecca has planned the adventure, so let's do what she wants." That breaks the feel of the world and forces the players to metagame.

It sounds like the only thing you're missing is a long-term goal. Planting little hooks around and letting them explore the world is great, but planning one or more major running themes and adventures also provide a real sense of "why we are here." Pull ideas from anything you and you're players are interested in: an obscure story from Hindu mythology, using a character taken from your favorite book (though with a touch of that intriguing mental illness you heard about last week) can make for a great game plot. Especially if, as you said, you favor a high role-playing style of game.

A lot of people don't like it, but I would recommend the book Unearthed Arcana. Of course, I don't recommend any D&D book off the shelf. Get it used or from overstock.com . It's basically a whole bunch of variants and house rules tossed together and bound in book form. Even if you don't use the variants, they are useful for getting the creative juices flowing. Oh, and don't underestimate the value of rolling randomly for things. If you roll something that seems nonsensical in your world, trying to explain it and make it fit can give you new ideas and create an interesting, quirky new layer in your world.
27th-Apr-2005 04:15 am (UTC)
One thing I have found helpful is to decide what is happening whether the PC's directly interact with it or not.

Sometimes making a map helps. Then you can ask yourself questions like how did that get there? Why is this here? Where did this place get it's name. Places are organic. A town develops around SOMETHING, then that town has SOME type of relationship with the towns nearby which leads to other things.

I'm going to give you a link to the page I created for the game I'm running now. It is a small part of a world I've created. While you are welcomed to use it, it may be more useful to you to see how a world develops, and the amount of detail you need to run a campaign in a world (which is likely not as much as you think). Check it out, don't mind the under construction parts, then develop your own as you see fit.

Just click the "West End" Link at the bottom when you get there to go to that page. There is a link to running a game in West End which should tell you all you need to know. If you need more specific advice you can feel free to email me.
27th-Apr-2005 04:32 am (UTC)
I would recommend at least flipping through Forgotten Realms and maybe Dragonlance and Eberron, too, even if you don't choose to use them.

For the most part, the entire act of "world-building" goes to waste in typical, dungeon-crawling adventures, as everything is localized. I wouldn't get too stressed out over it.
27th-Apr-2005 05:16 am (UTC)
Ah, but you assume D&D is always a typical, dungeon-crawling adventure. Both the campaigns I've DMed and have played in aren't anywhere close to that description. Our last session, for example, was almost exclusively role-playing with just a few die rolls.

So, wondahboy: Are you me? o_O Because this is exactly my style of DMing, and while you've asked for (and gotten, IMHO) some valuable "takes" on the issue, I'm not sure where the problem is you say you have with adventure creation. Do your players not seem to enjoy your efforts?
27th-Apr-2005 05:37 am (UTC)
I'm assuming nothing, merely describing the typical adventure style.

Personally, I prefer the mostly role-play sessions, and, as far as adventures go, either urban settings or epic wars.
27th-Apr-2005 05:28 am (UTC)
I already check and double check the sources of all the important people and places the players deal with. I'm also trying to come up with where the heck kobolds and orcs and all the staple fantasy monsters came from, why they're evil, because it's just weird having players encounter these soulless XP dummies that they know nothing about, except for the fact that they don't like players and do bad things. These are the details that bother me.

Lately I've also been re-reading the LOTR trilogy, and Tolkien drops little bits and pieces of history all over the place that tantalize like nothing else. I'm hoping to reach something to that effect (though not nearly on that scale) that will keep the players wanting more.

I have also thumbed through Eberron, and I've bought Skull and Bones, and there are some interesting things in those books, especially the war forged in Eberron. Good for inspiration, but in the end I rather like creating things myself.

As far as dungeon crawls go, I don't focus on the combat aspect too much (but not too little either), and I try to have a reason in the back of my head for why most of the things in my "dungeons" are there. I'm pretty sure the players will probably never know half of the details in my head, but it irks me not to know what's going on.

Anyways, thanks yous guys and gals, I appreciate it a lot.
27th-Apr-2005 05:36 am (UTC)
To endeavor: My players are fairly satisfied, but I'm not satisfied with myself really, and like I said, not too confident either. I've never roleplayed in my life up until D&D save for a semester of high school theatre, so I'm still learning the ropes of mixing storytelling with rules that explain everything with making it fun for the players. As it stands, I guess you could say I'm in the dark in reference to the norm for game mastering, like someone who's done book learning all their life and isn't sure if what they're doing is right or wrong, as there's nothing to reference it to besides the book they're learning from. I hope you get what I'm saying.
27th-Apr-2005 10:28 am (UTC)
Your system/method is probably fine.

I've found it's helpful to build a wiki or shared type of environment that players can contribute to.

You may want to think about building a timeline and place historical events along the timeline so you can create a sense of history.

Define the gods and such ahead of time so that players know what they can choose from.

Sometimes it's helpful to consider technology. In my campaign, airships are used. This is useful, because it's also a mostly island-hopping campaign (the entire world is islands).
27th-Apr-2005 02:10 pm (UTC)
First off, let me say that nothing I've got to say here really matters. These are some ideas that work for me. In the end, your use will vary.

I've created a few campaign worlds, but my biggest home brew is my current D&D 3.5 campaign. I've run four games in this world over the course of the last eight years, so I've had plenty of time to add detail to it. For the curious, you can find it here.

As far as literature goes, the best campaign-creation book I've come across is an old book published by Iron Crown Enterprises called Campaign Law for Rolemaster. It appears the book isn't being published as a stand-alone in the current incarnation of Rolemaster, but it may be included in one of the other books they're publishing. Right now, I see a copy of a Character and Campaign Law (two books in one) for auction on ebay for eight bucks. It is extraordinarily useful for creating any campaign world from scratch (and has very little in the way of rules from Rolemaster involved...this is more of a "generic" supplement).

Another work that I've found useful is GURPS Relgion, published by Steve Jackson Games. Another book that is rules-light and idea-heavy, I've found it invaluable in farming for ideas for the religions in my world. Excellent, excellent stuff.

It sounds like you've got a solid plan for creating your campaign world which follows along with just about everything I've read on the subject...i.e. start small and expand outward as time and necessity permits. A rough timeline, a list of gods and their interests, maybe a far-off and ill-defined "other" nation to conflict with.

As far as explaining how the races work...that's definitely part of the fun for me. For example, I decided that orcish religion dictates that the purpose of sentinent creatures is to survive...in their Armageddon, there will be a war between all the races and that race most fit to fight it will be rewarded with everlasting peace once the other races are defeated. Thus, my orcs are fighting for peace, from a certain point of view. What most of the orcs don't realize is that their god, who is also a dragon (and not the typical dragons from D&D), perpetrated this particular world view as part of a celestial "bet" with his fellow dragons. Essentially, they argued one day over which race was the best. One dragon picked the orcs and plans to make sure he was right.

Anyways, do what feels right. I do tend to buy Forgotten Realms sourcebooks, mainly because my home-brew is fairly mainstream (though it tends to be lower magic than FR) and there're a ton of neat Prestige Classes, Spells and such that really help me fill in the options for my players. I change the names and backgrounds, of course, to fit my campaign world. But if you've got the time to create everything whole-cloth, by all means do so.

And if you're web-savvy, please throw some stuff up on the web for us to see.

Lucifer >:}
27th-Apr-2005 09:53 pm (UTC) - Don't be shy, just do it.
The only advice i'm going to give you is to keep notes. That is, when you come up with a name off the top of your head, write it down. Then, the day after the game, organize all of your notes. A custom mini-database in Access or Openoffice could work for this, as could just about anything else.

Keep the notes, keep building, feel free to add on something wholly into the notes with no game-basis, and go from there.

29th-Apr-2005 03:11 pm (UTC)
oh, and if you want the characters to know or learn something (especially about the history of a place), bards are a beautiful thing. Those silly little stories they tell or sing in taverns--they had to come from somewhere...
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