Tag Archives: worldbuilding

Book Review: The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding

Kobold-GuideToWorldbuilding-Cover_450px-199x300World building is one of the most fun and complicated parts of the job for the GM or author. God created the Earth in six days, but world designers don’t have the luxury of omnipotence and omniscience. Luckily, we have the essays written by game and fiction industry professionals collected in The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding.

I won my copy of the book in a contest on the Midgard Campaign Setting Facebook page, but I was planning on buying this one, anyway. The book isn’t lengthy, but that’s certainly not a strike against it. The essays flow together well, and for the most part, build on each other as you read through the book. It starts with the basics in the essay What is Setting Design by Wolfgang Baur. It has some helpful tips including (surprise!) keeping your PCs in the center of the action. Don’t get bogged down with stuff that doesn’t effect the story.

I don’t want to get too terribly gushy with my praise (Though, this tome is certainly worth gushily praising.), so I’ll just hit some of my personal favorite essays that helped me as both a GM and a writer.

Apocalypso: Gaming After the Fall
by Jeff Grubb

This essay helped me justify an accusation I often get from my players: that my campaigns often turn into a crapsack world. As Grubb is quick to point out, most RPG tropes are true, because the world was once a better place. In many campaign settings, the characters are looking backward to a better time that will never come again. (Heck, in most fantasy fiction, it’s the same way.) That’s why dungeons have awesome magical treasures and why monsters run rampant. Thanks, Jeff Grubb!

Here Be Dragons: On Mapmaking
by Jonathan Roberts

I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but the practical tips in Here Be Dragons really clicked with me. Roberts has drawn out lots of fantasy maps for properties like A Song of Ice and Fire and the Midgard campaign setting. If you want to draw awesome maps, his essay is a must-read.

Designing a Pantheon
by Wolfgang Baur

Baur makes some great points in this essay about how unrealistic religion tends to be in games. He suggests some alternate ways to design a pantheon and goes in-depth into the design of the pantheon of his Midgard Campaign setting. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you think that religion should be a major part of your game, this is worth perusing.

How to Write a World Bible
by Scott Hungerford

Hungerford has some really practical advice for organizing and building a bible, which is basically a collection of all the pertinent information about the world you have built. I’ve tried designing one in the past, but have never gotten very far, since I tend to be disorganized. His tips really encouraged me, and I can’t wait to start over again utilizing his advice.

KoboldI’ve been a fan of the kobolds at Kobold Press/Open Design since I first discovered the Kobold Quarterly publication last year (I’m disappointed in myself that  it took me so long to find that magazine. I’m sad that it’s gone.). Their commitment to excellence in what they publish really shows. The Midgard Campaign Setting they published is truly a work of art, so it was interesting to see a few essays by Baur outlining some of the design decisions that went into building Midgard.

I would highly recommend this book to any DM that wants to create a rich, vibrant world for his players to inhabit and muck about in. You can find The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding at DrivethruRPG, the Kobold’s website, and Amazon.

 

 

 

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My Current Campaign — Superheroes

I love superheroes.

The fascination began when I was but a wee lad watching Batman: The Animated Series at my babysitter’s house. Movies, video games, and comic books soon followed. Since I’m also a big fan of role-playing games, it didn’t take me too long to find a couple of superhero RPGs to play.

That brings us my current campaign, a custom world for Mutants and Masterminds, 3rd edition.

My buddy John approached me with a scenario and an idea for a character he had: a sidekick apprenticed to an ultraparanoid superhero is left alone after his mentor is murdered. I loved the idea and started worldbuilding right away.

It’s a combination of all the tropes I love about the superhero genre. In fact, my main goal was to take characters from all over the various comic book publishers and combine them in interesting ways. I’ve also given them some fun, goofy names that either elicit laughter or groans from the players. They’re superheroes, so you can’t take them too seriously.

Here are some of the characters:

Big Brother – He’s the superhero who was murdered. He’s basically a combination of Batman and Big Daddy from Kick-Ass. He was brutal in his dealings with criminals, and he owned the private prison and insane asylum, so he was able to continually torture them in terrible ways. He didn’t really trust anyone, and that includes his sidekick, Kid Impulse (played by John), whom he just barely seemed to tolerate.

Prometheus – The world’s foremost superhero, Prometheus is a combination of Superman and Thor. Unlike Superman, he doesn’t have a secret identity, and he doesn’t care to. Nor does he try to understand humanity. His motivations for protecting the Earth are unclear.

The Blue Beast – TBB is a combination of Hulk and Nightcrawler. Not much is known about him except that he will randomly teleport from place to place, rampaging and destroying wherever he goes. In our first session, our player characters had to fight him off long enough for Prometheus to arrive and take him to superjail.

The Hedge Knight – She’s a combination of the classic knight archetype and Poison Ivy. She’s a swordswoman who controls plant life.

That’s just a few of the (so far) 60 super characters I’ve made for the campaign. It’s a lot of fun, and I love that basically anything can happen.

The player characters are as follows:

Impulse – Formerly Kid Impulse, Impulse was kicked out of the mansion by Big Brother’s mysterious oldest son after the superhero’s death. Impulse is a superb hand-to-hand combatant and hacker. If you hadn’t guessed, he’s based on Robin/Nightwing.

Lightspeed -A superfast superhero, he’s another sidekick trying to prove himself. He and Impulse are used to hanging out in the same circles, so it was obvious that they should team up.

The War Witch – A magic wielding warrioress and a  fixture in the Justice Gang, she is the sponsor of the other heroes. It is intimated that she once had an affair with Big Brother.

Crackshot – He’s a rich, ruthless, cocaine-addicted assassin. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him; he just likes to kill. He’s more of an antihero (obviously) and tends to show up whenever something major is going down in the city (which inevitably leads to him begrudgingly teaming up with the other heroes).

My campaign isn’t exactly groundbreaking in any way, but it is a ton of fun to play.

What is your favorite campaign setting?

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