I have been gradually building a larger world in my head for the boys. And yesterday I sat down and worked on a big picture map that will help explain a little of what they might run into. I used to really love making maps, but I moved away from it because it became a frustrating exercise. But if I pace myself this might be useful this time around.
Here’s the thing, in the past, before I began running the boys campaigns, I tended to start big on my campaigns. Create worlds, full of cultures, politics etc. Which was a lot of fun. But it ultimately became frustrating. I would run into a form of paralysis because I had all these big ideas, but no way to bring them back down to earth. I have a hard time thinking of all the games I started over the years with such an approach. And then when I would actually begin play I had no good way to communicate all of these cool big world building ideas I had. Players would look at me in confusion when I would mention some force that was supposed to be the big bad, but had not done the hard work for them to recognize it as such.
The other problem of course was the lack of players. For the longest time I was either just a player, or had no group to run things for. It is tough to start a long term game with a group that is used to another GM, who is really good. I’m not objecting to those years playing all those different games. I had a lot of fun. And I got to really explore some ideas for role playing. But, partly due the problem mentioned above, I never tried to develop a long term campaign with that group. And of course there were more than a few dry years, where the gaming was scarce to none, or the players too immature to be a part of a long term campaign (that includes me.)
But now things are coming together. I have a decent captive audience in the boys campaign. I am more experienced, and learning more all the time, developing my own DM style. And, most importantly, I did this one right.
I started small. The boys and their characters only know a small portion of the world. And that meant I only had to develop that to start. And as they broaden their horizons I can do the same in terms of crafting the world. Does that mean that the overall setting has changed some? Sure, but it is all in the background, things that only I am really aware of. None of it has had any effect on the players and their characters until now.
I think that unless you have really big world wide campaign planned this is the way to go. There is no real reason for Joe Bob the human 1st level fighter to really care about countries across an ocean. It would just be an abstraction and a distraction to introduce all those other concepts. Unless you are intentionally starting a big city campaign there is no reason to go big.
All of this has brought back the fun and freedom of map making for me. Because I can just work from the hex they live in for now. And create the next map when I feel like it. With no pressure, and that has eliminated most of the earlier frustrations I had.