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Monday, March 4, 2019

World-Building and Player Handouts, Part I: Cosmic and Continental

It seems like ages ago when I wrote about limiting info in handouts so that players – including yourself – don’t have to do tons of homework to play in the world. A couple people asked for a walk-through for the “factoid” approach I suggested, which means in general only describing each thing with about three short sentences and only filling in the details on the immediate locale. I’m going to break up the example over a series of posts.

Cosmic Scale Factoids
  • Isolated Fairy-tale Europe tiny kingdoms in a seemingly endless wilderness centuries after an apocalypse
  • Anything in European legend or Greek/Roman myth is common knowledge, even if few if any have seen these things
  • Humans are the norm, but there about a couple thousand elves, dwarves, and orcs in the world. Any other “race” is one of a kind or just a handful of individuals
  • Monsters don’t breed, they are created by magical accidents or lingering curses in regions.
  • There are no other “planes”, but there are ethereal and astral states. There is an invisible topography co-existing with the physical world.
  • The gods may or may not exist, but faith does exist, and lesser spirits can be commanded by those of strong faith.
The first three bold italic factoids would be in the player handout as something players would need to know to understand the campaign. The other three factoids are mostly for the GM, although players could learn these things in various ways. Long-time readers of my blog will have seen previous posts on all these factoids. Factoid #5 about the absence of planes is covered in the Infernal Neighbors posts and PDF, for example, and Factoid #6 is Clerics Without Spells.

Continent Factoids

Normally, factoids at this level would begin with the name of the starting continent, but because of the first factoid above, among other things, “continents” aren’t even necessarily common knowledge.
  • The Great Fettered Sea is like a supersized Mediterranean Sea turned 90 degrees clockwise, with the northern straits leading into the sea blocked by the Endless Ice
  • Middle regions on both sides of the sea are mostly forest and mountains, while the southern coast is more arid.
  • For improvising details of distant coastal kingdoms, use the equivalent Mediterranean country for the equivalent language and culture.
  • The further inland you travel, the weirder things become.
Again, only the first two factoids would be included in a player handout, perhaps with a crude map like the one below.

The third factoid merely means that, if a player asks a question about distant lands I haven’t mapped yet, I use medieval versions of existing reference points. You can see on the map that I have an elongated “clock” superimposed on the crude suggested coastline, and there are different coastal regions labeled based on what country they would be if this really were the Mediterranean rotated 90 degrees. Spain is roughly 2 o’clock, France at 3 o’clock, Italy at 3:30, and Greece at 4 o’clock.

But also, I match up the east coast of the sea with the west coast of North America, so each coastal region is a pseudo-medieval cross between a Mediterranean country and a modern day Pacific Coast urban area. France, in this case, is also the San Francisco Bay area, the dominant city being Sofaria. The starting locale in my campaign is upriver from the pseudo-French kingdoms, in Port Skar, which is on the edge of where things begin to get weird.

History and culture factoids will be covered in the second post of the series.

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  1. One page at ten-point font and no more. Something they can read in a few minutes.

    Yours looks great.