On Memorial Day of last year, I started a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign, the WAGER campaign.1 I lead a band of newbie players (and a couple of experienced ones) to the world of Treskri. Now you may ask what or where is Treskri? Treskri is a world created in my imagination that I intend on sharing with my friends and, for today, with you. World building is one of my favorite creative endeavors. I can imagine a world as close or as different from Earth as I want with no restrictions. However, I want a world with a certain amount of geological consistency – rivers should flow from mountains down into oceans and islands chains should flow away from a continent. To achieve this level of consistency, I feel it’s best to start from a macro level and zoom in.
My first step is to sketch out some basic themes and ideas for the world. I was planning to run a series of traditional fantasy campaigns. I wanted the world to be young in terms of civilizations and in particular, I wanted the human race to be nearly extinct. Also, the demi-human races2 should be in a unified, dominant civilization. The pantheon should consist of dragons, one representing each civilized race and an outsider deity for the humans. Using the draconic theme, the world is named Treskri3.
With the basic tenets outline the next step is to generate a world map. I do this by using a program called Fractal Terrains by ProFantasy4 which uses fractal algorithms to create realistic worlds. I look for a map that feels right and has a diverse amount of landforms. Mountains, valleys, forests, oceans, and islands can be turned into fantastic backdrops for stories. A world of endless plains will fade into the background too easily and stifle creativity.
To figure out where to start after mapping out the world, I had to know what kind of story I wanted to tell with my friends. A small town surrounded by unexplored wilderness seemed appropriate for a band of new adventurers taking their first steps into tabletop role-playing. I placed this town on a “small” continent. It wasn’t until I printed the map out that I realized the scale of the map and the distances between locations. These travel distances were nearly impossible to cover in the time I had allotted for hand-waved travel5. I had two options, adjust the times according to the distances or pick a new spot. I went with the second one and transplanted the town and adventure sites to a small island off the coast of the continent.
I needed a town to act as a home base for the adventurers. The world is primarily wilderness dotted with ruins of the human civilization that once ruled over the entire world. With a draconic theme, the town got the name Pabdos, which in WotC6 draconic means Water Wall. It’s a small town, the first habitable place outside of the direct gaze of the pantheon.
Finally, I placed a few adventure sites across the southern half of the island: an abandoned fortress, a wizard’s tower and a couple forest encampments. Each of these places were fully explorable and the players could select any of the adventure sites they wanted to visit at any time. We only managed to play about five sessions before we went on a fall semester hiatus.7 By the time we resumed in early December, the other D&D campaign8 was transitioning to the 4th Edition ruleset. I decided to follow suit but took the opportunity to move the timeline forward 5,000 years and kick the rest of the experienced players out of my campaign to make it more newbie friendly. With the advancement of years and inferred spread of civilization, I also moved the geographical focus of the campaign to another part of the world which I’ll explain in detail in my next post.
- The Western Aetheria Guild for Exploration and Recovery (WAGER) campaign was short lived. Basically it was a collection of one-off exploration adventures as a vehicle to introduce new players to Dungeons & Dragons and get them comfortable with the rules. ↩
- Demi-human races are elves, dwarves and the like. ↩
- Literally world. ↩
- ProFantasy also makes other map making products like Campaign Cartographer. I haven’t used many of them as much as I want but I’ve found every tool I purchased form them to be incredibly useful. ↩
- Hand-waving travel is where we skip the travel part and the adventurers are at their destination. A useful technique to advance the story without random encounters. ↩
- Wizards of the Coast, the current owners of Dungeons & Dragons. ↩
- I did manage to kill two characters, Thumper and Mal, prior to the break. ↩
- I get to play in this other campaign and it is one of my hopes that the newbies will one day get called up to the other campaign that has a couple long time vets and some players who started in early 2011. ↩