ÆTHERCOIL Worldbuiding Blog #001

David Foxfire’s Worldbuilding Thread

A Foxfire Studios open blog


(Referenced Pic:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Willem_Troost-_fantasy_Rhine_landscape_with_castle_town.jpg)

EDIT:  Brand Name for this campaign world decided on.  The campaign world will be called ÆTHERCOIL . Logo is in the world as we speak.

Part 1

I want to make some good content for this new Social Media, Minds.com, and I thought that I’d start with something I was going to do eventually: Create my own campaign world. I’m having this discussion open to everyone who plays Tabletop RPGs, especially the games that I’m in either as a player or a DM. I hope that I’ll have a discussion on what works and what doesn’t as I go along. If you want to put your two bits in, just sign up with Minds.com and join in with a comment. Unlike most Social Media sites, Minds.com respects your privacy, promotes your input as you work on it, and whatever or not it’s a plus for you, I don’t know, but infamous hacker group Anonymous supports this site.

I’m in the process of transferring from Google Plus to Minds as for my Social Media of choice, and this topic is as good as any for me to work on that. Also, when you create some input, and especially send me a map or a name, a person, a weapon, a business, or any other IP, you agree to let me us it with the Creative Commons “Attribution-Share Alike” License, which lets you keep ownership of the IP; you are just giving me permission to use it and give you a proper credit on what’s being used. (NOTE: Minds.com is still in alpha and way too buggy at this time, so instead of switching to Minds I’ll just stay with Google Plus for the discussion part. There’s a lot more people in there—and a lot less assholes—so I can have a decent group discussion, and I’ll get some feedback that I can actually use.)

Reference link: http://www.starwalkerstudios.com/gamemastersjourney/2015/5/18/game-masters-journey-e28-worldbuilding-1-brainstorming-big-picture-ideas

My goal here is to have a good starting point in the campaign world, preferably a module with a home base town, at least. I hope to have some grander scope of the world therein, with a global map and some countries, but for now, I want to start like how the Gamemaster’s Journy did, and give out some big picture ideas to hash out:

At this point, I might piss off some people by using Tropes. I’m doing it mostly to get my ideas across and we can always refine it in more detailed, and more original, as we go. I might also use some pre-created IP (Such as Blizzard’s Pandaren race) at first, and we will, at a later time, find an original alternative to what is being used, similar to TSR replacing ‘Hobbit’ with ‘Halfling’ after a couple editions of original D&D. This is as part of the worldbuilding as designing villages, creating NPCs and setting up a pantheon.

I’ll default on 5th Edition as far as systems go (and possibly incorporate their kid version of the game Monster Slayers); I have the three main books with me right now. But I hope to make the setting System Agnostic, where you can use your own system of choice with this setting.

Oh, and last but not least, you’re going to see a lot of Mind maps in this blog. It’ll be how I put all the ideas and notes I get into some resemblance of organization. For those who don’t know what a mind map is, they’re sort of the Outline’s twisted sister. You start with a central idea on a [preferably] large sheet of paper and you branch out any related thoughts in all 360 degrees around it. It has no set format or structure, and you don’t even have to use all text, you can add color, drawings, side notes, links and whatever else you need to put in there.

2015-07-15 02_22_46-SimpleMind Desktop

I’ll try not to make things too complicated as I go to the Big Idea list:

Item 1: Classic Fantasy meets the Age of Invention

In my customized version of the Forgotten Realms, the version I usually put in to spice my Encounter game up a bit, I included some of the earliest inventions of the modern world. This Faerun has their version of Tesla, Edison, Graham Bell, and all the other original inventors and invented their world’s version of radio, the printing press, telegraph wires, phonographs, and even started a couple steam-powered railroad system. There might even be the first official airplanes to go with the returning airships.

I have a perfect explanation to this: The Spellplague: When the normal use of magic went all to shit in the 4th Edition, people scrambled to find a way to recreate any needed effects. Thus, some wizards turned to artifice to replace some needed magic’s effects. Add the reality of some portals to other D&D worlds, such as Eberron, and the people of Toril find themselves at the start of their Steampunk era.

Once the Sundering happened, magic returned, but it couldn’t replace the inventions that appeared during its absence. Now you have a world that, while not Eberron, has some of its feel. It is still the Forgotten Realms in theme, but now it is experiencing the start of an age of high invention.

The biggest hurdle will have to be a readily available power source for all this electricity. You can expect Wood, Oil, and Coal to be a starter, and even though its use isn’t anywhere near the levels the real world achieved. (I say achieved because I believe that, in spite of Global Climate Change and the occasional catastrophe, the environment is actually improving in some parts of the world.) One campaign in this world would be the discovery and introduction of a form of Dragonshard as an alternative form of energy. Like something I thought up the other day, the Thorium Crystal: A semi-opaque quartz crystal with a glowing flame inside, cool to the touch in the open air, and can be transported safely in a dry condition, but put it in water and it heats up and boils the water, creating steam. Classic Phlebotinum, I know, but it does work.

Item 2: Post-Apocalyptic World Half Full

It is at least 200 years after a global collapse of the previous civilization. Nobody knows what might’ve triggered this Shit-Hits-The-Fan scenario, in truth it would be multiple origins—but the collapse happened within the matter of weeks. It had a clear start and an end, so much so that they’ll number their calendars from it.

I’ve written a real world example of this kind of scenario as, “Not just one thing, but a combination of doomsday scenarios: The Samson Option, populations plummeting by the lack of procreating couples, extremist-driven pogroms, environmental disasters, intercultural strife, economic collapse, SJWs on Twitter and Tumblr running out of people to burn the stake, the inability of people to see others from different walks of life as another human person, and the Cubs winning the World Series.

I’m only serious on the Cubs winning the World Series. For the lack of a better definition, for timeline purposes, I’ll call the calendar the Wrigley Reckoning. WR for short.

By the second century WR, the previous civilization has all but forgotten, the world falling into a new Dark Age. Cities fall into ruin, warlords and tribes rule the land; Huxley, Orwell, Atwood and all the other writers of dystopias have their fears realized in one form or another, and the knowledge and advancements of this current civilization have become lost.

However, it didn’t stay in this nadir setting. People start rebelling from these tyrannies. The effects of what caused the downfall opened up the world to fey-like beings, Anthro races, and monsters capable of laying cities to waste reappeared. This includes races long since extinct, like Dinosaurs. This also includes dragons, of course. The Earth had its own Sundering as Magic and Nature returned (for the first time) and transformed into a heroic fantasy setting. Global climate change, karmatic upheaval, and a nuke or two made connections to both the Feywild and the Shadowfell of this world. A group of benevolent kingdoms, run by a collection of princesses (see the next item) takes their stand to bring back civilization and dignity into the recovering world. Finally, people are exploring the lost cities to rediscover and reclaim the lost technology from the previous world, bringing back the first inventions with their own generation of the great inventors.

It is at this point, which I’ll set at 300 WR, as the starting point of this campaign world.

The world is overrun by evil, and darkness still covers most of the land, but there are those who believe that humanity (which is now a multi-racial term) has a more noble heart and soul, and while one person can only do so much, combined together they can rescue a world from mysticism and tyranny and usher in a future brighter than anything we can imagine.

Delios would love this setting. Even though it’s less Swords and Sandals and more Magic and Exploration.

As adventurers in this campaign, while they might be of different backgrounds, groups, nations, and callings, they are united by a single purpose, to make the world better than the day before, to be when they leave this world, it would be better than when they were born into it. They might become lords with their own kingdom, a wealthy champion of a rediscovered invention, the subject of tales and poems of valor and honor, or a humble and contented farmer destined to die in a bed with a belly full of wine and a wife and children holding his hand, but in any way they wish to make a mark that they’ll be proud of.

The main question here would be whatever or not to base this campaign world on the real world, with the current major cities lying in ruin and the new environment over the old one. I’ll leave that up for discussion—why I’m opening this post up in Google Plus in the first place. It would create an interesting spin in the real world reverting to a Middle Earth like place where the populace figuring out just what went pear shaped and how to keep a repeat from happening. That, and it’ll make some of the maps easier to make.

Item 3: Disneyian Princesses of the Round

In a game I designed called Revolver Princess, I created a fantasy world where a group of countries is governed by princesses who have grouped together in a coalition. They meet regularly as equals to further progress civilization for the betterment of every kingdom, not just their own. They kept the title of Princesses much like the Knights of Camelot use a round table: to designate themselves as equal members of a sisterhood. That’s an idea I’m porting to this campaign world.

Before I continue, let’s talk about how I define a Disney-style Princess. It’s different from what you’d might think of, especially if you have a jaded view of what they are. I basically take the idea of a beautiful, smart, powerful, and strong female ideal that these ladies are and crank them up to eleven. These ladies who are neither whiny spoiled brats or those who have little agency outside of waiting for her Prince to come. No no no, they might be wishing for a prince, but they’ll also be taking charge of a household, sneaking out on dances with an elaborate costume, exploring wildernesses, battling major foes a la Daenerys Targaryen—with requisite dragon! And while they would still appreciate being rescued, they hope that the rescuers don’t mind meeting them on the way out the door themselves, so they can turn around and team up with them to take out the big bad.

If this point is well received, I’ll make a list of these Princesses, who’ll start in the European region (or the equivalent thereof) and spread out to the other continents, including the Americas.

This will no doubt bring younger players into the campaign world and even learn how to play Tabletop Role Playing games with it. Many girls dream of being a princess, in here they can actually build their own kingdom. From scratch. (And they can even incorporate armor into a dress to boot.) Boys thirsting for an adventure that can fit their age bracket can find a great home world for their campaigns here, and it doesn’t even have to be all violence.

And since we’re definitely having a Noblebright theme going on…

Item 4: Experience gained by other means than violence

I’m not a big fan of the Milepost method of leveling up, mainly because I want to have the party see a running ‘score’ on how they’re doing. Also, I encourage the players to get out of the “Open Door, Kill Monster, Grab Treasure, Repeat” mentality. I want them to think outside of the box and reward them for doing other things than quests and combat.

I started this thinking with the “Nonviolent Resolution:” In an encounter, if a party deals with the situation without resorting to violence, that is, a single attack, they receive double the XP awarded.

In this campaign world, I expand on that thought. Any action that can be an improvement in the world around you, even if it’s not a completely altruistic action, even if it doesn’t go unpunished, will earn you a little bit of XP. Help someone on the side of the road? XP. Calm a frightened child during a traumatic event? XP. Help the research of another wizard, even if it’s sharing a note? XP. Feeding refugees by buying a whole cart of food? XP. We can go on throughout a multitude of things you might think of doing in real life but are unable to. You might not have the chance, or the ability, to change the world or at least a little part of it, in the real world. In here, not only can you do it, you can reach Level 20 doing it.

Item 5: Exploration is king, at least at the start

The campaign world has just begun, and although there are several city-states and small kingdoms already in the world, about 95% of the map is still yet to be discovered, or rediscovered when it comes to a fallen major metropolis. While there is still room for the inner city intrigue or mystery to solve, the basis of this first Era of the campaign world will be to explore the world. The discovery of ancient, or not-so-ancient, civilizations and technology; the discovery of allies and villains; the fleshing out of the landscape, politically and geographically, in what is currently a wilderness; finding out about fantastic beings and strange and new mysteries.

That will be the basis behind the first several campaigns set in this world. Most of it is exploring, the setting of the bad guys, establishing the major threats to the brightness of this new fledgling civilization, the occasional Dark Princess or Evil Queen (or at least, a Princess who wasn’t saved in time), whatever it takes to make things interesting.

A couple of these campaigns can be easily ported from other published campaigns: Two from 5th Edition, Lost Mine of Phandelver and Princes of the Apocalypse, can be easily ported into this campaign world, especially when you’re using the same system in the campaign world. (The Default ruleset is 5ed; and there should be ways to adapt other rulesets into it, right?) A third from Pathfinder that I wanted to try, Kingmaker, can be tweaked to tell a tale of a Princess who came to her own kingdom, after exploring a patch of wilderness and establishing her own homestead therein. I’m working on a variation of Kingmaker in a Play by Post format with 5ed Rules. I’ll keep you posted on that campaign’s progress.

I’ll also keep you posted on any suggestions that you made that helps me with this brainstorming process. I appreciate any and all input you can give me on this topic, and I’ll keep the discussion open in the Google Plus forums. I look forward to hearing from you.

Especially with a good brand name for this campaign world. Something Tesla themed.

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