Practicing the art and skill of building worlds.

Averald: A Fantasy Sandbox, part 2

The following was originally posted on my old blog on September 26, 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!

Last week, I talked about my general idea for a campaign setting. Today, I’ll talk about the next step — coming up with a brief history in order to give myself a better idea of the setting.

Step 1:
Write a brief history of the entire setting, and draw a small map to go with it. When you’re done, pick a smaller area to detail.

In a nutshell, this basically comprises steps 1-3 of Rob Conley’s “How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox” series of articles (which are an interesting read, if you’re into that sort of thing, which you probably are if you’re reading this.)

In addition to this little history (which has been revised a bit to make it read a little more nicely), I also drew a map as I wrote. (My original page of history, randomly-generated names, and hacked-together map is provided here for your amusement. And yes, I like to draw on graph paper. And yes, I changed all of those names in my final revision. They were awful. I still used ones from the same list of names I generated at the beginning, though!)

A Brief History of Averald

By the year 473 (350 years ago), the Sumradine Empire had conquered all of Averald and beyond. The people of Chauntyle were crushed to almost nothing, forced into the depths of the Glassmarsh. Chauntyle’s most powerful mages came together and, with the most powerful display of magic ever seen in Averald, threw up a chain of mountains between themselves and the bulk of the Sumradine Empire. Cut off from their reinforcements, the Sumradine army was suddenly outnumbered, and was forced to flee south into the ancient Lorthera Forest, where they survived in hiding.

In 648 (175 years later), the stranded Sumradine people rallied arouned a powerful leader, Tiaeroth, who conquered much of the southlands. Tiaeroth’s son, Honroth, was the first king of the new Sumradine kingdom of Lorthera – named for the forest that had sheltered them in their time of need.

The kingdoms of Chauntyle and Lorthera warred almost nonstop for the next 75 years, until the coming of the great sorceror Neghamos. Neghamos was a Chauntylian mage who – with ancient Sumradine magic he found in the Glassmarsh, it is rumored – conquered much of Lorthera. But just as Chauntyle was rejoicing at the defeat of its old enemy, Neghamos turned his magic on them. Soon, both kingdoms had fallen under his rule, and Neghamos made himself supreme emperor of Averald.

His reign was brief. In 727, only four years later, Neghamos was overthrown by an alliance of Chauntylian and Lortheran rebels. A year later, the Charter of Two Kingdoms was signed, creating official borders for the kingdoms of Chauntyle and Lorthera.

There was a brief peace until 752, when Lorthera was thrown into a civil war by political unrest. The Kintai rebellion – known to them as the Uprising of the Purebloods – was short-lived, being brutally crushed by the Lortheran King, but it inspired the Chauntylians to turn a series of keeps on their northern border into a curtain wall.

The year is now 823. In the wake of the peaceful times the two kingdoms have been enjoying, there has been an age of expansion for both of them. The Lortherans are slowly purging the monsters that make the land uninhabitable, and the Chauntylians are expanding into the northern sea and the islands there. Much talk has been heard of going east, past the Shield Mountains, to conquer Sumradine.

But unknown to the people of Averald, what was once a fertile, forested land is now a desert wasteland… and the surviving Sumradine are angry. Very angry….

Wait, that was ‘brief’?

Well, let’s just say it was.

Step 2:
Revise and redraw your map, if necessary, and then put it on some sort of grid so that it can be scaled up easily. Name important areas of your selected region.

So I redrew the map on another piece of paper, seen here. (I also picked a nice big chuck out of the middle to map more fully.) You can see I’ve gotten more randomly generated names, hehe! When I’m fitting the details of a setting to an idea I’ve decided on previously, I’ll come up with names myself or look for something appropriate. When I don’t have a solid idea, though, random names can spark interesting ideas. For example, one of these names was “Brightcliff”… what would make people name a town that, I wondered? Maybe the cliffs have a certain pale color, or shine in the light of the sun. Maybe it’s a certain type of rock, or maybe it has some shiny ore or mineral in it. Maybe there’s a mine nearby where that shiny something is being mined. What could be mined there? Silver is an easy answer, but maybe something else. I’ll keep thinking about it.

After I’d done all of this and pondered everything for a while, I decided to add a few more places to the map and make it into a hex map, to make mapping the smaller regions accurately easier. Here’s the finished hex map of Averald.

The eastern country, half desert, is of course Sumradine. The western ones are Chauntyle (northern main continent) and Lorthera. The island continents are a new addition: the western island is Saboro, and the northern group of islands is the southern end of Ildaunt, both of which are being colonized by explorers from Chauntyle.

What I am thinking right now is that this map needs some labeling and a nice map key up in that empty northeast area.

 Resources used so far:
Rob Conley’s “How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox”
The Welsh Piper’s Hex Map Templates
Samuel Stoddard’s Fantasy Name Generator
Serendipity Random Generators
Hexographer Hexmapping Software

And I can’t mention maps without a shout out to the Cartographers’ Guild, without whose accumulated map-making wisdom, I would doubtlessly be quite lost.


6 responses

  1. Seeing that hex grid made me want to play Wesnoth really badly again.

    One thing I personally prefer to do for making names is to take an existing place or word and corrupt it slightly. Which is kind of what Averald sounds like to me; a corruption of Emerald. I find names like these are particularly easy to remember compared to completely random words, as there’s at least something to link it to. I’m also a fan of cramming a portmanteau of sorts in there. Or just use a somewhat obscure English word and call it a day.

    I wish I could say something a little more helpful, but I guess it’s good to see that you’re still doing something. I didn’t really realize Dungeon Mastering (or whatever you’d like to call it) took quite so much time and effort. I’d probably just be like ‘bam, here’s a floor of doom, now go get yourself killed.’

    October 1, 2011 at 12:23 am

    • Oh man, I could totally remake my hex maps in Wesnoth. …No, I don’t know what purpose that would serve. Other than to look cool.

      Yeah, I’m slowly starting to try to get away from the completely random words for place names. They work for names of countries and big things, but for towns and such, descriptive names work much better. Now that you mention it, That might have been why I liked the name “Averald” in the first place — because it sounded like a word already. I guess names can work like that to suggest an idea to people who read it?

      Well, it depends entirely on what you’re running. If you’re running a short dungeon crawl in D&D, DMing isn’t quite as much of a hassle. Making a big sandbox campaign setting is like writing an RPG without knowing what the main character is going to do, heh. I really like coming up with big settings and doing worldbuilding and all that, though. 😀

      It’s always good to hear from you! I really ought to get back on TKZ sooner or later. Guh….

      October 2, 2011 at 3:53 am

  2. While I generally don’t do hex maps(I like to give more of a in-world feel than a, “hey, this is a boardgame feel), the style of that map gives me warm flashbacks to Greyhawk and the TSR Trail Maps.

    Looks like, with a bit of effort and some idea what you’re doing, hexographer can be pretty sweet.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:41 am

    • I usually feel the same way, and I loooove me a pretty map, but when it comes to functionality, you can’t beat a good hexmap. And while these ones aren’t particularly artsy, I do think they’ve got a certain appeal. I guess they appeal to my need for things to be precise and organized.Hehehe!

      October 18, 2011 at 4:31 am

  3. It’s always fascinating to see another person’s creative process. You’re working opposite the way I am at the moment. You’ve got your historical background, which is dictating to you what your map should look like. I work the other way round, building a map first, adding geographical features, creating cities and towns and countries, roads between them, and then figuring out why they’re like that and creating a history from that. I’ve got a very basic idea (human settlers on a previously human-free continent) and a few other items of interest (which I’ll be posting about in upcoming weeks), but really everything’s still vague until I do my map.

    May 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    • Actually, I did them both pretty much at the same time, tweaking each one as I went. I did a general outline of the map first (coastline, then mountains, then rivers, etc… I actually talk about map stuff in the next post, since I forgot to do it in this one, haha.) To be honest, I wrote the history almost entirely to figure out what to name things. I’m so awful with names.

      Maps are awesome starting points. Obligatory Holly Lisle link.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:15 pm

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