Friday, January 27, 2006

Building a Campaign World: Part One

An obvious first question about campaign building is where do you start? One way is with a top-down approach. Draw a map of your world and detail every aspect from the names of countries and mountain ranges down to how many men are in King Edmund’s personal guard. Of course, the time and effort involved in such an approach is pretty daunting. The opposite is a bottom-up approach. Draw a dungeon, drop in some monsters and turn the PCs loose. Details like the names of nearby towns or local deities can be made up as needed. A drawback of this ad hoc approach is that it usually results in a pretty ‘unrealistic’ world.

A traditional approach that compromises between top-down and bottom-up is to map out a hamlet or small village and a nearby dungeon. You fill in enough details to keep the PCs occupied for several sessions of play and then expand from there. You can read an overview of this approach starting on page 86 of the DMG. Classic ‘village and dungeon’ modules include T1: The Village of Hommlet and N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God. Both modules are available from RPGnow. Hommlet is also available as part of the larger module T1-4: Temple of Elemental Evil. Either could neatly serve as the basis for a homebrewed campaign.

An excellent source of campaign building information is Ray Winninger’s ‘Dungeoncraft’ series of articles from Dragon magazine. The first article appeared in issue #255 and continued for 30+ issues. Most of the back issues are still available from Paizo Publishing, but they are quite expensive. Fortunately, you can get the whole series as a zipped file HERE. I highly recommend snagging it. It’s a good read.

In our next installment, we will try and answer a few initial questions about your campaign world. After that we will get down to the nuts and bolts of drawing the maps for and populating our little village and dungeon.


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