Literal Setting Building

Stattick

Electronic Thing
Validated User
Not sure why, but in reading the above, it suddenly made me think of Keep on the Borderlands. The Caves of Chaos... make the caves a mine. An opal mine. Opals could easily be found over a wide area, like the caves, and considering some of the strange myths associated with opals, I could see them being associated with chaos, in-setting.
 

PenguinZero

Wark!
RPGnet Member
Validated User
The idea reminds me a little of the old JRPG Legend of Mana. In that game, you started out with just your home base on a largely empty world map, with only the basic shape of the continent and seas available. You could find certain treasures, and then place them on the map, and they would transform into a new region thematically connected to what the treasure was -- an anchor might turn into a port town, a golden seed would become an orchard, and a wheel transformed into a highway. Placing certain ones adjacent to each other could cause them to affect each other, and cause certain changes to each. The difference from your idea, though, is that the places were created retroactively -- once the port town was there, it would always have been there, filled with residents living their lives, with relationships and backstories even though from one point of view they just came into existence yesterday.

I think the basic idea of finding or creating symbolic treasures that expand the land is a good one, though -- a nice hook that's easy for players to wrap their heads around. And if farmers are created along with the fields when you add the Golden Wheat to the magical map, or a town of dwarves exists under the mountains that rise up when you use the Weathered Pickaxe, you can pick how they interpret this (do they feel they were just created, or do they have memories and histories?), how their society is set up (are they all blank slates, or do they naturally start doing the jobs they feel they have?), and how they'll react to the PCs coming to interact with them.
 

JoeNotCharles

Registered User
Validated User
I'm still not quite picturing how this would work, but Sine Nominee's An Echo Resounding has random tables for domain-level features that might help. There are lots of random sandbox generation tools but that's one of the few I know that approaches it from a ruling-and-controlling-territory perspective.

There's also the D&D Companion Set rules (retrocloned in Dark Dungeons) that are more abstract and might work better for an untamed wilderness without preexisting civilization.
 

Nelzie

Registered User
Validated User
Seems to be a difficult thing to convey and setup, while having it make sense.

Maybe the world has just been disordered and the PCs need to go around and create order? But... there's others out there making order too.

I generally heavily involve the party in creating NPCs and populating an existing village, town or city.
 

ESkemp

Registered User
Validated User
One thing to consider is that this setup makes the process of NPC recruitment super easy, but it also -- for certain types of players -- might make it less satisfying. NPCs ex nihilo obviously are less "people" than a resource: they don't have old childhood scars, there aren't old grandparents with lore drops, there are no old feuds that you can resolve to get the foresters from the next town over cooperating with the carpenters in your settlement. There's not a lot of reason to care about the NPCs other than what use they are to you.

This may be an advantage, depending on your group. But it could also be a disadvantage, also depending. I could totally see my players referring to the NPCs as "meeples" once they found out that the locals don't really have the kind of memories they expect from real people. (Or exploring an existential crisis when they realize that if the creator-god can implant memories and functionality into ex nihilo people, what's to say that the PCs' memories are real? "Oh no... what if we're meeples, too?")
 

Knarf

Registered User
Validated User
The idea reminds me a little of the old JRPG Legend of Mana. In that game, you started out with just your home base on a largely empty world map, with only the basic shape of the continent and seas available. You could find certain treasures, and then place them on the map, and they would transform into a new region thematically connected to what the treasure was -- an anchor might turn into a port town, a golden seed would become an orchard, and a wheel transformed into a highway. Placing certain ones adjacent to each other could cause them to affect each other, and cause certain changes to each. The difference from your idea, though, is that the places were created retroactively -- once the port town was there, it would always have been there, filled with residents living their lives, with relationships and backstories even though from one point of view they just came into existence yesterday.

I think the basic idea of finding or creating symbolic treasures that expand the land is a good one, though -- a nice hook that's easy for players to wrap their heads around. And if farmers are created along with the fields when you add the Golden Wheat to the magical map, or a town of dwarves exists under the mountains that rise up when you use the Weathered Pickaxe, you can pick how they interpret this (do they feel they were just created, or do they have memories and histories?), how their society is set up (are they all blank slates, or do they naturally start doing the jobs they feel they have?), and how they'll react to the PCs coming to interact with them.
Back in the day, I knew a couple of grognards who claimed that they had been running the same campaign for the last 10-20 years. But they weren't talking about keeping the same group at the same table every week for that long. They had the same trials and troubles that every gamer has. Their claim to continuity is that they kept their game notes from all that time and turned it into the canon of their table.

So there's no big rush for my first party to build up everything. Part of my plan is to keep this campaign running the same way. There may come a time when a party explores ruins that were created by the first party.

I'm still not quite picturing how this would work, but Sine Nominee's An Echo Resounding has random tables for domain-level features that might help. There are lots of random sandbox generation tools but that's one of the few I know that approaches it from a ruling-and-controlling-territory perspective.

There's also the D&D Companion Set rules (retrocloned in Dark Dungeons) that are more abstract and might work better for an untamed wilderness without preexisting civilization.
Sine Nomine's work is on my list for managing the higher level stuff. One of the harder things to find is foraging, exploration and crafting rules that would make the early game more interesting.

One thing to consider is that this setup makes the process of NPC recruitment super easy, but it also -- for certain types of players -- might make it less satisfying. NPCs ex nihilo obviously are less "people" than a resource: they don't have old childhood scars, there aren't old grandparents with lore drops, there are no old feuds that you can resolve to get the foresters from the next town over cooperating with the carpenters in your settlement. There's not a lot of reason to care about the NPCs other than what use they are to you.

This may be an advantage, depending on your group. But it could also be a disadvantage, also depending. I could totally see my players referring to the NPCs as "meeples" once they found out that the locals don't really have the kind of memories they expect from real people. (Or exploring an existential crisis when they realize that if the creator-god can implant memories and functionality into ex nihilo people, what's to say that the PCs' memories are real? "Oh no... what if we're meeples, too?")
They might not have a deep history, but there's nothing that says that they're not real people (as real as an NPC can get anyway).

My thought for the PCs was that they would be transported from some other world where they did have history. That would justify them being leveled characters in a world full of 0-level NPCs. I would make clear that the focus is on the setting that we're building, not whatever their backstory is. They can have getting back to their world as a motivation, but I'm not going to dangle dimensional portals in front of them and if they do get clever enough to succeed, that means that the character is retired. (I'm not such a jerk that I would kill the character, but they would definitely become retired.)
 
Top Bottom