Practicing the art and skill of building worlds.

Averald: A Fantasy Sandbox, part 1

The following was originally posted on my old blog on September 19, 2011. I have since commandeered that blog for private use, and have decided to move my campaign development ramblings over here. They are presented here in their entirety, though they may be reformatted to be easier to see on this blog’s color scheme. Thanks for reading!

So, what I think I want to do is make a sandbox campaign setting. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. What I mean to say is that I’ve been in the process of making a sandbox campaign setting for a little while now, and now I’m going to share it, and my process, with you from the beginning.[1] Also, I like to read a lot of “how-to” sorts of things, and so I might mention one here or there, and give my opinion on it.

But I digress.

So, a campaign setting! I think it might help me, first of all, to state what exactly it is that I’d like to get accomplished here. I want to make a campaign setting that is relatively[2] small (because I’m a flake and if it looks too big, I’ll procrastinate and never get it done), has room for expansion (because I like big campaigns, despite being a flake), and is system-neutral (because I like a lot of systems, and I never know what system I’m going to use for a campaign.[3])

I also do want a little fluff (because fluff is good reading, after all!) but in general, I want to be pretty practical — hex maps showing travel distance, random encounter tables, etc. A lot of random tables, because I like random tables a lot.

So I think what I’ll start with is a list of what I’ll need.

  • An idea.
  • A brief history of the setting, to give myself some inspiration.
  • An overview map of the entire setting.
  • 1-2 regional maps (to start with; others can be added on?)
  • Details of settlements and dungeons, with maps if necessary.
  • Details of important characters, monsters, and items, with stats if I decide on a system.
  • A list of adventures.
  • Some random tables.
  • Some pictures if I can get these commissions I’ve been working on finished.
  • Fluff.
  • Randomly generated names. [4]

…Yep. That should do it. Some of this is, obviously, optional; and some of it is more involved than others, and so on and so forth.

I always like to start a checklist with something I’ve already managed to get finished — it makes me feel like I’m making progress. Usually this is just “Make a Checklist,” although in this case, it is the idea.

First off, I have to say that I’m a fantasy fan, and any setting I’m inclined to waffle about will probably be fantasy. I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, though it has its place. I haven’t worked on anything truly high fantasy for a long time — my last two settings have been a huge sort of steam-punkish sci-fantasy and a quite small, darker, low fantasy with horror elements… maybe I’ll talk about those later — so I think that’s what I’ll go for.

Another thing is that I’ve been making maps a lot lately, and one of the things I’ve been really into is learning how geographical features affect weather. So I want to somehow feature some unintended consequences when powerful magic is used to dramatically alter the landscape.

There are a couple of other things I’m still mulling over, but in general, that’s it. ‘Till next time!

[1] Because if you don’t mind, I’d like to pretend that I have someone to bounce ideas off of, even though I don’t. You see, it helps me to talk things out, and justify some design elements. That’s where you come in.

[2] Relative to what? I’m not sure. To my old GMs, perhaps, whose campaign settings spanned like whole worlds or something? I don’t know. Maybe my setting is actually relatively big. But now I’m being philosophical.

[3] Until OVA Revised Edition comes out. I love OVA, but I want those revised rules something fierce, and I don’t want to change over mid-campaign, so I’m holding out. I know what setting I want to use for my next OVA game, and one day maybe I’ll actually get some work done on it. (90% of what I have now is fluff, which is okay I guess, but not terribly practical.)

[4] I am really awful at coming up with names quickly, so I’ll get a random name generator to do the work for me. When I get to the stage where I’ll need it, I’ll link to the sites I use for it.

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4 responses

  1. In my experience, it’s nice to get some kind of response from the people you are bouncing ideas off of [1], even if the response is nothing more than, “Mmm hmm.” So here’s my, “Mmm hmm,” for want of anything constructive to say :).

    I know all about the whole flake thing. Thus the state of my blog. And my back yard… And…

    September 21, 2011 at 9:51 am

    • Why thank you, good sir. Always nice to be noticed!

      I’ve had a look at your blog. Love the worldbuilding stuff, of course! It’s interesting to notice how sci-fi writers always take the worldbuilding to that next level, where a lot of fantasy writers are afraid (or maybe don’t feel the need) to go. (Probably because we have the benefit of just saying, “A wizard did it!” whenever we get things wrong. Sci-fi conworlders are hardcore….)

      September 24, 2011 at 1:11 am

  2. Hmm. Maybe I should make a checklist…

    May 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    • Checklists are so helpful. I’m so absent-minded; without a checklist I’ll just sort of wander around and do whatever I feel like in whatever order I want.

      The first thing on my checklists is always “make a checklist.” It makes me feel like I’ve completed something right from the start.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm

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