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General World/Campaign Creation Tips

Written by Krystal - Published on June 16, 2010

So, I was glancing around the web the other day, pondering what to write when I realized people write about world building constantly, campaign creation etc. So I thought, I’d go through a similar thing with my own spin; Creating a Module. Modules are good for many things, for one you can upload them here, at the Marketplace or you can keep it completely for yourself, distribute it among friends, and keep it handy just incase you need a quick fix for Gming but you want something original!

First off; THE TITLE IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. The title needn’t be worried about until later, unless it helps you, as the DM, come up with a theme. Everyone has dreams, let your world be that dream and don’t limit it to other peoples ideas of worlds or campaigns. This is truly your world now.

Okay, I’ve read so many “How to build my world” articles, why is yours special?

Don’t tell me you weren’t going to ask it, I asked myself that same question. Honestly the answer is I hope that I will open your mind to new possibilities, we are always stuck on what’s already existing and adding our own mixture to it, rather than coming up with something completely off the wall. The down side to this is that off the wall isn’t always lovable, so it’s really a process of trial and error and what people will enjoy. Sometimes, other people are so stuck in the same thing that something new will be confusing, frustrating, and people may even argue with you, remember some of the basic rules such as you are the DM, it’s your world, house rules are allowed etc. etc. So for now, let’s hope you find this article as appalling as your players will find your new world! ((Haha, yes I meant appalling.))

Atmosphere

The atmosphere is more than just the feel, I’m talking about the actual atmosphere. Is your world or campaign starting in normal air, like our world? Perhaps water? Creatures that live in an out space like atmosphere? Or create your own, possibly? I’m not an expert on these things, so this I’ll leave up to your imagination! Remember, feel free to add stuff in the comments.

Creatures.

Creatures are a big part of every world, they help give a feel for the type of environment the person is. For example, if you see a fish you can safely, in most worlds, assume you are underwater, as such seeing a bird in flight you are closer to the sky, and land creatures you can assume, well, land. The more detailed part of this is also that if you see certain types of animals you know you are in certain areas, tarantulas and scorpions are traditionally animals that are in a desert like area, as apposed to exotic birds being in a rain forest. Though your world can differ greatly, these are current modern day examples.

Making your own unique can do things such as putting fish in air, and horses as water creatures or create your own creatures entirely. Use hybrids of your favorite animals, or your least favorites. Take stats from similar creatures as your own, and pick and choose abilities and modify them. Just remember to keep them balanced, and don’t make creatures that will kill your players in one hit, take into account everyone else’s hit points and levels and such, this is ideal for any campaign! Though you can create higher level creatures for fun, try and keep them from fighting players unless your players start stuff first, or it’s necessary.

House Rules, differences.

All differences or house rules should be laid out ahead of time, otherwise there leaves room for fighting and that always slows a game down. A few things you can do is either create a chart, simply write them down, or remember them and discuss them beforehand. Simple concept, but a crucial one none the less.

Buildings

I know I’ve discussed buildings before, but lets go over them for redundancy sake, shall we? First off, remember the structure of the building tells a lot about a city. Spirals, flat, blocky, rounded, etc. Are they wooden, falling apart, built of glass or perhaps purely magic? Are there many, or sparse? Close together, or distanced with large yards, if any at all? Is it a farming town, what kind of farms? Animals? Plants? Other things? Perhaps a mining community, or the main attraction is a university. Stay diverse, not every town has to be a typical one man down.

Quests

Quests can sometimes be overlooked, as some Dungeon Masters like to have the group look for quests on their own and create them by their actions, other DM’s over use quests and never let the players just be regular adventurers drinking and backstabbing, working for their keep and purchasing things. So be careful where you put them, you can create your own quests, use modules, modify modules, or let the party create their own quests as they set forth on their own personal journeys.

Quests can be the things that drive a game, or cause players to dread a game. If they are in the middle of the quest, or even just beginning, no matter the point of the quest if the players choose to turn around and leave it, unless the gods, fate, and trap doors prevent them let them leave, perhaps other adventurers come and take the quests, or no one does and havoc is released on the area due to their indolence, what ever the case remember that the world lives, breathes, and goes on with or without the party.

Rewards.

Rewards are so very important for your party, since that’s half the reason we go on adventures, anyways! Rewards can vary from blessings from gods, milestones (for 4E), experience, weapons, equipment, magical items, power, extra attributes, new languages learned, knowledge, thrill. They can vary from many things, just remember to reward justly, and not to Monty too much, Montying is the act of giving out a ghost touched  +4 intelligent weapon of frost to a first level bard, avoid doing this as your players will lose respect for you and it will become difficult to DM that way!

NPCs.

NPCs vary from area to area, they can be Nordic, barbaric, gentle, calm, angry, testy, scrawny, jittery, etc. From appearances, to personality, to build, to certain hair styles or colors, the way the dress and so much more. Make them match the environment they are around, put logic into your NPCs, such as someone who lives in an artic area would be prepared with skins and furs to keep him warm in the cold weather as apposed to a man who lives in the desert. Perhaps your NPCs even mutated according to their area. Be Creative.

Brainstorm.

Not everything has to be meticulously thought out, try to brainstorm and scratch out things you aren’t too fond of, or expand on them, figure out why you aren’t fond of them and build upon that. When you find something isn’t working the way its suppose to then perhaps its something that can be fixed, don’t let creativity be stunted by anything.

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Written by Krystal

At a young age, my mother opened up her own gaming store. We had two game rooms, an office, and the front area which had a ton of miniatures and books. I helped manage that store for several years, my mother teaching me the ropes and treating me like an adult so I could learn. Even beyond that she played games at stores like Haster Hobbies and several other places. In fact, my parents met gaming! DnD kind of runs in my blood, as well as any other gaming you can think of. I’m simply a gamer at heart, an artist, and a jack of all trades. I love to write and that’s why I’m here at Dungeon Mastering! I’m going to be going to school for Video Game Design, and my bf is going to school so he can publish Core Rule Sets. In the short few years I’ve been with him I’ve learned all about how to create my own rule system and create a game from the ground up! But my expertise is not limited to DnD alone. I’ve ventured far into Call of Cthullu, and beyond to games like Shadowrun and some White Wolf games..though I’m not a big fan of dice pools. :)

Anyways! Gaming is my passion and my life. I game constantly, go to conventions, and so much more! Maybe I’ll see you there! Happy Gaming!

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 Comments

3 Responses to “General World/Campaign Creation Tips”
  1. Free Contest says:

    Campaign building is one of the most taxing things I do for gaming. Ah… the love…

    -Tourq

  2. kocho says:

    I’ve never understood why people have all this trouble with world building. After you get good at it, you can come up with 5 campaign concepts and 1 world to put it all in in about a minute. Really just depends on how much time you want to invest in 1) getting some worldbuilding skill and 2) actually building the worlds you want to use.

  3. Darren says:

    Ah, but Kocho, worldbuilding is deeper, particularly if you go all the way.

    I’m proud to say that for a world I created (no particular name as of yet) I had to make a whole system for the changes required.

    Magic completely transformed, to start with.

    And then a major factor was the lack of particular races, only nationalities, and the resemblances to our world.
    Out of a list of seven or eight, only two metals are the same (Ferrum and “Electrum”). Out of 14 creatures, only the Human is the same, and then we have a few twists on ostriches, birds, ants, scarab beetles, bears, hyenas, and rabbits.
    The “ostriches”, “bears” and “hyenas” consist of such a danger that the hunters in this world don’t train to sneak up on their prey… they need to learn to avoid their predators instead.
    And then out of the dozen plants, there’s a maple/yew tree plagiarised combination.

    If you want your creation to be truly original, it requires a bit of thinking, and some inspiration. Ideas in your mind when suddenly waking up at 3AM tend to be good ideas, as do dreams, so keep paper and pen near your bed and jot down any bizarre ideas, and see if it’s worth incorporating it into a world or campaign.

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