... now with 35% more arrogance!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Geography of Wonders

Telecanter’s Receding Rules has been doing a series of posts about “wonders” in a fantasy sandbox: Wonders Part I and Wonders Part II. These aren’t the natural wonders or man-made wonders of the mundane world, but more like fantastic geography, similar to locations in mythology (the crashing rocks in Jason and the Argonauts, Charybdis in the Odyssey), folk tales (the mountain that stood on its head in the Paul Bunyan tales), children’s literature (the floating island in Doctor Dolittle, the forest where everything forgets its name in Alice Through the Looking-Glass,) and of course mainstream fantasy… although the latter, surprisingly, has become more and more mundane, much as fantasy RPG resources seem to be predominately mundane.

I’ve always chafed a bit at the banality of geography in RPG materials. It seems everyone is focusing almost entirely on defining locations in terms of what kind of creatures live there: so, the Shadow Woods is going to be an ordinary forest where shadows live, rather than an eerie forest made entirely of shadow-trees you can walk through. Sometimes, there isn’t even that much of an attempt at fantasy: The River of Knives will probably just be a river known for jagged ice right around the time of the spring thaw, rather than a river with actual knives flowing downstream. Just about the closest anyone comes to fantastic geography is Skull Mountain. Everyone has a Skull Mountain in their campaign. It’s a great iconic image from King Kong, but come on: try a little harder.

Anyways, this wasn’t meant to be a rant, but a post saying I like Telecanter’s ideas.

Written with StackEdit.


  1. That's a very good point. Ken H over at the Rusty Battle Axe seems to be heading in the same direction with the concept of Magical Geography.

  2. That's one of the great things about Glorantha. The geography is positively mythic. The River of Cradles is so named because giant cradles occasionally come floating downstream. The Block is a huge block of black mineral that pins the Devil underneath it. And so on.

  3. Skull Mountain: the actual skull of a Titan whose body was embedded in rock. The staircase down into the actual dungeon is, of course, carved out of his spinal column.