Tag Archives: Worldbuilding

How I Ran A Multi-DM Campaign (And How You Can Too)

I totally stole this image from Hit On Crit. Click to check out their site.

I ended up editing this article for length. I didn’t want to go on too specifically about “what happened in my campaign.” However, if you want to know more, please leave questions in the comments, and I’ll be happy to expound.

We just finished a very short summer campaign. The group I DM for usually only meets twice a month in the library basement (even in public buildings, the D&D players are relegated to the basement), but over the summer, we decided to try and pack an entire mini campaign into 12 once-a-week sessions. Even though the story took a weird hop (that I’m not sure anyone noticed), I tried a few new things that all worked out very well. The biggest experiment was a multi-DM model where everyone took a turn as DM, but since some of the other things we did fed into that, I’ll recap those other things first. (If you want the shorter version of the article, skip to “And here is the part about the Multi DM Campaign.”) Continue reading

Subcontracting Your Villain Work

The following graphic (scroll down) has been making its rounds on the internet for about a year now.  It describes a situation in which a person was playing a one-on-one RPG game online, and was unwittingly actually playing the villain in the DMs live game. At the risk of offending Anonymous, I suspect its veracity is a bit dubious, but the point remains: handing over some of the creative work for your campaign can yield results above and beyond what you could have come up with on your own. Continue reading

Worldbuilding – A Planetary Perspective

Just a few months ago, scientists discovered a planet not too far from us (on an astronomical scale), that may be able to support life.  In reading some of the descriptions of this planet, I began to consider some assumptions that we make about the D&D worlds that we create.  One in particular was a little game changing for me, pardon the pun.  First, here are the two articles so you can see where I’m coming from. One Two

Here’s the key passage that really struck me, from the first article:

“This world is tidally locked to its red dwarf sun and doesn’t have days and nights.  Half of the planet is perpetually drenched in sunlight while the other side is draped in darkness.” 

Think about that for a minute.  Because, when we create a D&D world, we generally assume that the world rotates on its axis, creating day and night, and that it’s tilted on its axis, creating seasons, exactly like our earth.  In reality, however, there is quite a variety of planetary relationships in our universe.  Even in our solar system, we’ve got Uranus rotating on its side, and Saturn which has huge rings that are certainly visible in the day and night sky.  How would inhabitants of Uranus (keep the jokes to yourself) measure time or seasons? What would the inhabitants of Saturn think of the “stripes” across the sky?

These are important things to consider when building a world from scratch because, even if we don’t think about it, our planet’s position and behaviors affect our lives every day.  Were the earth to rotate differently, or be farther from the sun, life as we know it would not exist.

Certainly, science fiction is a much better resource to begin addressing these issues than fantasy fiction.  Science fiction authors have long pondered what alien worlds and alien life look like (news flash: it looks a lot like some of the things you find in the Monster Manuals).  And while some science fiction may seem more appropriate for a setting like Gamma World, we also need to consider things like planetary position and the number of moons (or suns!) a world has when designing a fantasy setting as well.

So, let’s try doing a very rough sketch of a fantasy setting based on this new planet Gleise.

For starters, the obvious: one side of the planet is perpetually day, and the other is perpetually night. As such, there would also have to be a band of “twilight.”  So right away, you have this built in area of physical darkness, and to reach it, adventurers would have to travel through the twilight that grows gradually darker the farther in they go.  Of course, the types of creatures that exist on the night side of the planet would be vastly different from the ones that dwell on the dayside, and they would be different from the ones that dwell in the (you knew this was coming) twilight zone.

Now think of some of the other implications to this type of planet.

First, how is time measured? We measure time in several ways.  We count nights and days.  We watch the phases of the moon.  We observe the seasons.  But a tidally locked planet could conceivably have none of these things.  The bloated red sun hangs suspended in the exact same place in the sky all the time, and without an axis tilt, there would be no seasons.  Even if there were seasons, they would be very short, considering a “year” on this planet only lasts 13 earth days!  Would a creature in such a place have the same perception of time that we do?  On the other hand, creatures living in perpetual night might have a well developed awareness of time, based upon their ability to observe the movement of stars and planets.

It is also likely that creatures living on the day side of the planet would have a strong fear of the night side, and vice versa.  Dayside creatures would have adapted to a life of perpetual light and warmth, so it stands to reason that such a creature would never venture much past the planet’s “early twilight.”  Night side creatures would not be able to deal with the constant light on the other side of the planet, and they may go a little bit crazy without a way to measure time. 

It’s probably safe to assume that day and night side inhabitants know little of one another. In the absence of information, superstitions and myths grow.  Of course, some of those myths could be true.  Dungeons & Dragons has a great list of monsters that are well-suited to the dark, and populating the planet with them would not be hard.

So there’s a quick sketch to get you thinking about how planetary position and movement can have a drastic effect on your game world.  It didn’t take me long to come up with those ideas, and certainly with a bit more thought, you could come up with more, or take things in an entirely different direction.  Explore some astronomy*, and begin to think about how you can drastically change up your game worlds, not just by changing the landscape (jungle, snow and ice, desert), but by changing the planet.  That’s my challenge.  Are you up for it?

*If you need a starting point, try Europa and a Water Genasi campaign