Tag Archives: Worldbuilding

Ancient Empires of Enderra

Enderra has a long history, during which many empires rose and fell.

Ruins of the Old Ones

The Old Ones: This ancient civilization of lizard-men is largely a mystery. Ruins of their cities, temples, and castles can be found throughout Enderra.

The Ancient Elven Kingdom: The Elves once controlled much of Enderra. Elves still remember this era of benevolent rule; of enlightenment, arts and magic, and harbor resentment against those who destroyed the most advanced civilization in Enderran history.

The Archaean Empire: When the Humans first arrived on Enderra, they quickly expanded their territory. Within a short time, they had displaced the Elves as the dominant species on Enderra. Much blood was spilled by the Archeaens, and most of it was Elven. After a long reign, the Archaean Empire slowly fragmented, until plagues caused it to collapse entirely.

The Grand Alliance: Enderra remained fragmented into various smaller kingdoms and city-states until the Demon War. In response to the invasion, the Grand Alliance was founded. It was a military coalition, and not a true empire, but it aligned its members politically as well. Many forts and other defensive structures were built during the war, some of which are still in use today.

The Reign of the Unliving: The Grand Alliance succeeded in driving back the demons, but only at great cost. Armies were depleted, cities and nations decimated. A coven of vile necromancers took advantage of the situation. Raising the fallen from the war to serve as their army, they conquered much of Enderra.

The Kingdom (and later Empire) of Menoria: Also known as the “Last Empire”. After the fall of the Unliving, Menoria became the dominant economic and military power of Enderra. The Menorian kings, direct descendants of a line of Archaean emperors, claimed all of Enderra and used diplomacy, strategic marriages, threats, and where necessary, armed force to expand its territory. When the royal families of Menoria and Thayne were unified in marriage, the King proclaimed the “restoration of the Empire”.

In truth, however, Menorian rule was all but absolute, as many smaller kingdoms remained independent. The Menorian Empire ruled for centuries in relative peace, until a sudden civil war erupted. Neighboring kingdoms saw an opportunity for invasion and took it. Menoria never recovered; it fragmented into countless petty kingdoms. Cities were razed or abandoned. Population declined, trade ceased, and monsters began to roam once civilized lands.

Weird West Points of Light

The other genre that Points of Light fits really well – besides Post Apocalypse – is The American Frontier. Wild West, in other words. The basic idea is nothing new – Weird West has been around for a long time.

Weird West combines our own world’s Wild West with supernatural elements and themes. Sometimes to a lesser, sometimes to a greater extent. But it’s still – mainly – a Wild West story.

The (probably) more accurate term, Fantasy Western (cf “Space Western”) isn’t widely used – probably because there are few examples of the subgenre, but also because there is so much overlap with other types of Weird Western. Fantasy and the Wild West are good matches for each other, really. The cowboys have much in common with knights or paladins. Put Conan on a horse (actually, he does use horses) and give him a revolver and he’d feel right at home in Monument Valley. And Elves have been used as a Native American stand-in before.

A Kenku Cowboy. Made with HeroForge.

I think the iconography is the strongest element of this. Elves with rifles. Orcs with sixshooters. Cowboy Kenku. Hell yes.

Elven woman with rifle and bullwhip. Made with HeroForge.

There are some issues, too. If you want to create an actual Western, you gotta have much higher technology than your normal D&D fantasy setting. Guns – you could substitute magic wands but at least for me that just doesn’t work – as well as railroads, and perhaps telegraphs and riverboats. Not in itself impossible, but once you add technology to a magical setting, you can’t avoid the question of how magic and technology combine. You end up with steam- or magipunk, and again, at least for me, that doesn’t quite work.

RPG Blog Carnival – Unusual Dungeons – Wrap-Up

May comes to an end, and so does the Unusual Dungeons RPG Blog Carnival.

After a somewhat slow start, we’ve had a number of submissions:

James Introcaso was the most prolific contributor this month, supplying us with a series about a prison for dragons:

And from myself:

Phil, from Tales of a GM, is taking over for June – with the appropriate subject “Summerland” (Summer in RPGs). Take it away, Phil!

(And of course, if you’d like to read up on past carnivals or check on future subjects, head on over to the RPGBA Carnival archive page.)

Enderra 2015

E2015: The Moons of Enderra

Back when I first designed Enderra, I decided that it had three moons and a (thin) ring system. I did this mostly for the imagery, not really thinking about the consequences much. Multiple large moons can have severe effects on the planetary environment. Universe Today has a summary of some of the effects of adding a second, Moon-sized, moon to Earth.

twomoons2
White Moon, Meet Red Moon

The scenario they describe is extreme, and I am not quite sure where they get some of their numbers (tides “thousands of feet” in height seem off) but I am sure they know more about this stuff than I do. Anyway, even with lessened effects, I have come to think of three moons as excessive.

At the same time, I do like the “exotic” visuals. Let’s ditch one moon and the ring system.

Enderran Moons . Size Comparison
Enderran Moons . Size Comparison

I’ve done some math to make sure the moons don’t cause huge problems. I mostly used GURPS Space for this, since I couldn’t find formulas easily, and ran the numbers for the Moon (of Earth) through the same process – for verification. Even when the two moons align, their effect on tides should be at most twice that of Earth’s Moon. The actual tidal levels, though, depend a lot on geography and local conditions. Yes, we will have some tides that are more extreme than on Earth, but it won’t mess with the fundamental state of affairs. Nights will be a bit brighter, and there will be a little bit more volcanism on Enderra than on Earth.

Both moons are tidally locked to Enderra – that is, they always show the same face to Enderra. The White Moon’s synodic month is 30.33 days, the Red Moon’s is 43.22.

What’s in a Name?

The two moons are simply named “the Red Moon” and “the White Moon”, similar to how Earth’s moon is just called “the Moon”. I might give them name later (the three original moons had names) but I think I like the simplicity of “Red Moon” and “White Moon”.

RPG Blog Carnival: A New Year, A New World Roundup

RPGBlogCarnivalLogoSmallJanuary came and went and it’s time to close our “New Year, New World” Blog Carnival. With a slow start, we still got a number of really cool – and in some cases very long – entries. Posts were, in chronological order:

Thank you all for participating! Be sure to check out February’s carnival, over at Leicester’s Ramble, on the topic of How/Where You Write/Prep.

If you’ve got any late articles, please post below or on the original post and I’ll add you to the list. I’ll also continue building my small colonial setting over the next months.

RPG Blog Carnival: A New Year, A New World

RPGBlogCarnivalLogoSmallThe start of a new year is traditionally a time that motivate people to change. For some people this means an attempt to lose a bad habit, but true adventurers are in the last stage of preparation for their spring departure – to go over the next hill, across the ocean, down into the depths of subterranean realms, or into deep space, to explore the strange new lands that lie beyond.

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival is about new worlds, about their discovery and about the women, men, and other sentient humanoids who explore and colonize them. Do you run an exploration-centric campaign? Maybe a hexcrawl in a fantasy world, or about setting up a colony on an alien planet? Share your methods – what aspects do you emphasize, and how do you handle them? How do you create a sense of wonder, and maintain it? What strange lands are your characters exploring? What equipment are they using? What vehicles or other means of transportation – a wagon train, flotilla of barques, or slower-than-light Sleeper Ship? Who are your explorers, what motivates them, and who are their patrons and followers? What equipment helps them? What obstacles lie in their paths?

Share your new lands with us, if you can do so without spoiling them for your party. Show off your maps and designs. How do you approach setting up your worlds? Share your favorite world-building tips!

The RPGBA Blog Carnival

The Blog Carnival provides a monthly topic to inspire RPG bloggers to post about. December’s topic was “With A Twist”, check out the round-up post; and a full archive of topics is available if you’d like to see what was done in the past.

To participate, you simply post about the topic in any shape, way or form and post a link to your article as a comment to this introduction post. At the end of the month I’ll post a round-up with links to every post so readers have one central place to look up everything.

Enjoy… and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Update, February 1st: The Roundup has been posted.

The Making of Colonial Space: Drawing the Map

I am currently building a Traveller sector. I am using the Mongoose Traveller rules as a basis, though I have modified them somewhat. First of, a word of warning: If you want to create a Traveller setting, do not be deceived by the simplicity of the statistics for each world. A sector can easily contain 400 or more worlds, and this results in a lot of work if you want to have some sort of consistent result.

First step: The Region

As you know, Traveller subsectors are arranged in a 4×4 grid within a sector.

As my first step, I decided how common stars should be in each subsector. I decided that my “core” subsectors should have a higher number of stars and that the periphery of Colonial Space should include some rift-like regions. I settled on this:

665-65-6
65-64-65-6
65-64-65-6
5-65-65-65-6

To give myself a better idea what the region of space looked like, I then drew the following small map of a 3×3 sector grid:

adjacentsectors3

Second Step: Star Placement

Next, I rolled whether each hex had a star system in it or not. And, yes, at this point I was still rolling dice. To make things faster, I rolled a bunch of d6 at one time and checked hexes off top to bottom. Needless to say this was a ridiculous approach; I should have just written a small script to roll up the sector. More on this later. At this point I had a hexmap with a lot of circles.

Third Step: System data

I quickly discovered that rolling actual system data took way too long to even contemplate doing it manually – there were too many dice modifiers involved, especially since I wanted to use the “realistic” optional rules in the hope that it would reduce the silly results I would get.

This is the point where I whipped together a simple awk script. It had no awareness of the actual layout of the sector, and it could not draw maps, so I spent another insane amount of time to center all those star system circles, colored them according to water/no water, and added spaceport classes.

I also added “trade routes” – basically just solid lines connecting A class ports that were in proximity of each other, and dashed lines connecting B ports to A ports and other B ports in their proximity. (Disregarding the Traveller 3rd Imperium jump limitations, as my FTL will work differently.)

Finally I used the result to sketch a rough border for my primary polity, an Empire (again, more on that later). At this point my map looked like this:

sector-maponlyI did have to refine my script multiple times during this process, to eliminate bugs as well as some glaring problems in the Traveller world creation system.

Step Four: Name That Star

After I had gathered data, the next step was to assign a name to every system. I had a bit of an easy start, because I had already gathered a list of 600+ potential names for colony worlds. Many of them were based on Earth locations, people etc which are not suitable for this setting. I did decide to leave in many of the mythology based names – out of necessity as much as anything else. So there’s no “New California”, for example, but a “Morrigan” and an “Uller”. Picking names, coming up with more names, and placing everything on the map took several days. I also began to draw additional borders for minor polities.

This is a snapshot of the work in progress.

sector03-maponlyAs an aside, I keep the world profiles and other related data in a LibreOffice spreadsheet for easier maintenance.

Step Five: Consistency and Detailing

After I had named all star systems, I began an interative process – this is where I am currently at. Basically, I am transcribing every system from the spreadsheet to a text document. At the same time I add Amber/red zones on the map, check for problems, and try to make sense of the results.

  • Why are the values as they are? – For example, if a world is a colony or captive government, who captured or colonized it, and why?
  • Are there values that make no sense? – Such as a vacuum world with a TL of 2 and 33 inhabitants. These results get fixed as I spot them.
  • Are there obvious implications, such as an Agricultural world next to a world with massive population?

One side effect of this process is that a number of smaller states have appeared on the map, for example the Atsinanana Star Empire – one clearly powerful world was sitting right next to two captive worlds.

As I type this, I have 8 out of 16 subsectors to go, but I picked the subsectors with fewer systems to start with – call it 40% done.

Lessons Learned So Far

Creating Traveller star maps is surprisingly much work. If I were to do it again, I’d do a few things differently:

  • Let the random generator handle more of the work; look into drawing maps automatically. If the script could produce a basic SVG, that would save days of work.
  • Change the world generation order. Traveller does some things right and some wrong. In my opinion, I should generate all the physical stats first, then decide a sort of habitability index, and then generate population and stats depending on population based on that. It could even easily be an iterative process, where all the nice worlds get colonized first, and then people spread out to less desireable worlds or to nice worlds that are further away. This could even result in a basic timeline.
  • Include stellar data and a few more odds and ends in the design sequence.

Current map WIP

sector12-maponlyMore on this setting will surely follow…

Thanks to Adam for pointing out that the downloads of Shakespeare & Dragons episodes 10 and 13 were broken. I think it happened when Google updated Docs to become Drive. Anyway, I have fixed them, now hosting them on my own server.

As a VERY SPECIAL BONUS… I noticed that I actually have a 16th episode, “The Missing Ingredient”, which I never uploaded because for some reason it also does not show up in my iTunes. It’s now been added – enjoy!

Links:

  • Episode 10 – Plot Part Three, Structuring Plot from Character Desires and Forces of Antagonism
  • Episode 13 – Setting Part Two, Creating Cultural Attributes
  • Episode 16 – The Missing Ingredient

 

Four Additional Insignia/Symbols for SF Setting

Here are a few more designs for national emblems:

minor_nations3b

You are a serious geek if you know where I got the design for “A” from. “B” is a petroglyph of an eagle. “C” is Sleipnir, and “D” is a snowflake.

I am not sure which ones of these I will use; but probably C and D. At any rate I now have enough to cover the major nations of the setting.