Monday, February 15, 2016

Worldbuilding = Soulsaving

Dear readers,
Sunday nights are my favorite night of the week. Why? You ask.  Because it's Game Night; the night when me and a bunch of friends get together at the local game store and play Dungeons & Dragons. I got back into D&D a little over a year ago and it's been a lot of fun.  I'm with a good group that does the unexpected in campaigns, much to the chagrin of our DM.
A couple of weeks ago, our current DM announced she would be unavailable until May.  I was asked if I would like to DM a game.  It's been years since I did so, but I said 'Sure.'
This led me to consider settings.
If I'd been lazy, I would have just set the adventure in the typical medieval fantasy world that most of you are familiar with. Instead, I decided to shake things up a bit and gave the players some options for settings.  One was the typical fantasy setting, one was a sort of modern setting and the other was a swords & sandals setting.  I also decided to mod some of the races.
The players seemed intrigued and after some discussion they agreed to play in the swords & sandals setting. For those of you unfamiliar with the genre, think Conan the Barbarian and Clash of the Titans.  It's a mostly Bronze Age setting.
With that decided, I sat down and got to work doing some worldbuilding.
The world would be young and mostly uninhabited. Civilization would have arisen around the seas. There would be cities, but they would be spread far apart, separated by vast swathes of wilderness. There would be no roads connecting them. Travel and trade would occur via water. 
I limited the races to the four core D&D races: Dwarves, Elves, Halflings and Humans. Then I modified them.  Dwarves in this world are monument builders. Elves need sleep and have no connection to the Fey.  Halflings lost their Luck and Bravery but became stealthy. Humans sacrificed some ability scores but gained extra languages and proficiency with some type of tool, etc.
I wanted to have a closed setting so rather than import the usual D&D pantheons, I created a pantheon for this world; twenty-two gods, covering most of the classes and divine domains, as well as a couple of extras. 
Once the foundations of the world were laid, I got down to designing an adventure. I spent a week statting out NPCs (NonPlayer Characters), coming up with some divergent threads the players could follow if they wanted, a general overview of the city they would start in and then, I said enough was enough and put it all down.
This past Sunday, the group got together.  I sat at the head of the table, notes laid out around me, and began the story.  The players went around and introduced their characters: Human Rogue, Human Cleric, Elf Sorcerer and Human Druid.  
The story began in the most cliched of settings: a tavern. A tavern on a dark and stormy night.
The session lasted about two hours and things went pretty well. There were some hiccups with initiative order, but nothing major, and I was liberal handing out Inspiration this session. Also, from a world building stance, I realized I hadn't considered how money would function in this setting. Overall though, I think things went well. The players seemed engaged; the main plot hook was swallowed and everyone had a good time. 
To me, that's what's important. 
I'm looking forward to next week's game, when the players meet some new people and, hopefully, begin their quest in earnest.
But the thing that really makes me happy is the fact that I've managed to find a creative outlet. I can't seem to write stories these days, but putting together this adventure was incredibly satisfying. So, even if I don't have another book in me, it's nice to know I can still create something engaging and interesting.
And that's good enough for me. 

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