Making a game world one small step at a time

My home game is this website, it is far from perfect, but it is how I have been creating and communicating with my players for over ten years now. I know from experience that, it is totally fun to go and buy a pre-made world for game systems mainly, because it is actually the best way to get players to your table; they always feel more familiar with the material and freely partake in all the cool marketing that the big guys have to go out and purchase stuff for themselves. I did this all through the eighties and nineties, then I thought, hey, I can do this; not because I wanted to prove something, it was just I did’t have a lot of money and the rules had just changed for my favorite game system back then, Dungeons & Dragons, so I was forced to change. I jumped the off the purchase and play boat and didn’t ook back, much.

As opportunity would have it, I also had more free time then, having just moved away from my loyal players to make it on my own in Biology as a lab slave. I found out right off, small steps worked best; doodle a map, add a town or two, then some creepy dungeon and you’re done. I did not have to create the world all at once, nor did I have to have all the answers all written up in advance; I just had to keep notes on decisions and names created in while “in game” and keep things constant. If a player met a Duke named Bob, okay, Roger; a Duke named Roger, that Duke would be part of play until the game campaign ended of the Duke died. The next game I played, if the same players were involved, and they had more questions about the Duke, or something else, I could add more information from the older game’s notes or (this is a cool trick) listen to the players ideas as they talked about the Duke, because players do talk, sometimes too much, but sometimes just enough to get creative gears working, so if a cool hook came up that was not too crazy like maybe there were werewolves in the family, I would key in, and now the Duke of Noordoon was a werebear. Just like that, new story added.

Except now I have “Nordoon” the land the Duke owns or manages for a king, oh crap a king, what King… And the world grows…

I thought I had figured out a cool way to have just one city by putting my cities on wandering tortoises, but the players moved off and away from the cities in games. Almost right off someone asked is there another city; Elwonna was the first, then Ingersol; Cork came in as a mystery town full of savage orcs, and that really made for some fun games. Jelling came out in honor of a game I played once called Harn, which had an English feel, so I invented stories that took place in Jelling, which is where Surma was developed, and the story of Jelling continued to grow from 2000 to 2003. Making my own game world really took off in 2001 when a group had a couple players that “knew” all about elves, and at the time, my games still relied heavily on the old AD&D Forgotten Realms stuff, As a GM if you have it in the house, it’s fair game, and I had quite a bit of the AD&D stuff, but we were playing 3.0 with these folks, and these two players started dissing my idea of elves. (dude it is just a game) Arguments ensued, and finally I cancelled the game and started with a fresh group of players and my own elves… Silly how that goes, but back then I had a waiting list of players, something I miss now that I have moved around so much.

I changed maps I started with this jumble:

Gradually over seven years ended up with this:

I enjoyed adding new parts to my world, lately, I added Kingleaf after signing up to judge my home game at a local convention in Illinois called Winter War.

I made this image using google maps and a pen tablet:

Yeah, it takes hours to make your own stuff, but all the players who sat at my table since 2000 really liked the newness of an unknown game world and most said they enjoyed the sandbox style of play I provided; I never said to anyone well “it is not in the module so I don’t know.” Having my own game gave me the freedom to make shit up on the spot just as long as I kept it consistent and didn’t get too grandiose with my GM machinations people usually had fun.

I love making Alidor, and I do all of this in little steps and most the time the players don’t care about this detail or that, sometimes to my chagrin, but in the end we have fun with the rules at hand which as of this writing is Pathfinder. (Pathfinder Rocks!)

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About shent_lodge

Shent_lodge, AKA Jon, started this website, in 2000, initially as a player's guide to his home game. He has run through, and run for, hundreds of players of the Dungeons and Dragons game since 1980. These days he plays, or runs games using the Pathfinder RPG rules set. He is also active with the Pathfinder Society.