Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Building a Sandbox Campaign, Part 7: The Map

Thus far I've been posting a log of my world-building activities, closely following the template set by Rich Burlew over at Giant in the Playground. Burlew's collection of articles concentrate on creating a viable campaign world for publication, but my mission from the outset was to create a world for a sandbox campaign. It's time to say goodbye to Burlew (for now) and to have a look at some of the other sandboxing advice available on the internet.

Bat in the Attic is a great online blog by a seasoned RPG fanatic, very much of the old school. His (I'm assuming the author is the same Robert S. Conley of Bat in the Attic Games) advice is incredibly thorough. I shan't be posting each step of the process here, as I hold out the hope that I'll be able to get an actual campaign out of this one day with real players, and so I want to keep a little back.

Conley advises beginning with a continental or world map, sketching out a bit of background and then zooming in to "sandbox scale"- a regional map approximately 100 by 200 miles. I'm going to more or less skip the first part: I want to keep the general background vague. We've established that the action is to take place on the hinterland between the Fells and the Valley Kingdoms, and that across the sea to the west lies the civilised realm of the western continent. The above map shows the region of the Fells and the Valleys, and what follows is half a page background on the campaign world.

The region shows The Valley Kingdoms and the Fells, situated on the Isle of Brythar. Recorded history began roughly four hundred years ago, when traders from the mainland established the town now known as Mytholm. According to them, the local inhabitants were an uncivilised and barbaric bunch, but were incredibly talented potters and weavers, and the wool of their sheep was highly prized. The broad river plains were also extremely fertile, and the lands were coveted: waves of invaders attempted to establish permanent settlements, but the “painted men” (as then they were called, for their habit of tattooing) proved resistant to raiders. The Kintu, as they called themselves, were tenacious warriors, and were dispatched with waves of would-be conquerors. They did allow small groups of traders to remain, and these pioneers gradually brought their continental ways. valuing stability, the settlers covertly engineered the succession of a native overlord and, 150 years ago, Drustan I was crowned the first High King of the Valleys.

Oral tradition tells a slightly more interesting story. According to legend, the Kintu ("the first") all dwelt in the fells, having been made in the image of their masters, the cruel giants. It was an age of monsters and magic, and the giants ruled all the many creatures of the Fells with an iron fist. Legends tell of a great hero who untied the Ao-Sithe and the Kintu, leading them into the valleys. For a short time the fey-folk and the first men lived in peace, but the giants returned, with an army of foul creatures, led by great dragons.

Many humans fled across the sea in boats, become ancestors of the westerners. Today the terms “western”, “coward” and “foreign” are synonymous (conversely, east means “strange”, “evil” and “terrifying”), for the men who fled to the west left their brothers and sisters to die at the giants' hands. But the Ao Sithe and the first men fought bravely together, and with powerful magic defeated the monstrous hordes, driving them deep into the Fells. The fair-folk made a pact with the men: they would keep the monsters of the Fells at bay, if men promised to forsake magic.

For most of the people of the valley, these tales are nothing but that- tales. But in the town of Mutshud, they know differently: they know that the monsters are real, and the dalliances of men with magic or drawing them out of The Fells

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