I have been putting in a lot of thought in recent weeks about taking my D&D game to another campaign setting. Specifically, I am looking at moving the game to the world of Zendikar. The card game Magic the Gathering has multiple planes where they base various sets. And recently Wizards of the Coast came out with an art book on one of these planes called Zendikar. And they followed up with a guide for converting that setting into D&D terms. This brought me to crafting a campaign setting for the boys.
I began this before I got the Art book, so I started this outline to jot down some ideas on the cloud. I want to discuss the ideas and pieces I am taking into my head for constructing this next piece. Because a lot goes into building/constructing a role playing campaign setting.
There are different options when it comes to starting a campaign. You can keep it simple, run a prepared module in a prepared campaign setting. There is nothing wrong with that, you can have lots of fun with this. And it is a good way for people to start their gaming.
Or you can create everything completely on your own. Start with your own world, you can build everything in it from scratch. That can be a lot of work. Some people really like to do things this way. And some create some absolutely fantastic settings. That is great, and the more of this you can do that the better.
In my current campaign, this is what I did. I started very small, with just a small village and the surrounding area. And only began digging deeper when I needed to. It has been pretty cool.
The drawback of this is that you have to find ways to teach other people about your world. It is incumbent upon the GM to describe everything. Which is not always easy. You have to find ways to share your vision. That is hard enough when working with adults, but when working with the boys it has been even harder. Almost too much work.
Despite all that work, it can be very rewarding. When the players get into the setting and really understand what is going on it becomes a lot of fun. Which is why we GM’s do the work. And so it is time to discuss how this works.
I decided to take the time to describe how I set about creating this new Setting for my D&D campaign. What are the necessary elements for building any setting? Where do I start? I have a few ideas on the subject.
In building a role playing world or campaign setting, the place where I start is a map. Pretty much any Game Master is an amateur cartographer at heart. And most players want to know where they are and where they are going. In constructing my current game I began with a simple map.
In this case, I will be building my campaign in a place where maps do not exist. But in reading through the book I do not need maps! It does not have any maps. But the information it contains is more than enough for me to build games without maps. Because there is a lot of information on every geographic location in the world. More than enough for my mind to use in crafting some adventures. And with a little searching I was able to find a rough map, enough to use:
More importantly, I have information that I can use when I want to share with the boys. With pictures and flavor text available at will for everyone. It will be really cool.
After Geography and maps, the next thing to look at in creating a setting is the races of the world. Thankfully the file provided by Wizards in a free release covers this for me. This is a mildly non-traditional fantasy world. There are Elves, although they are more ‘feral’ elves, not the graceful patrician elves of the worlds of Tolkien. And there are humans in different regions. But there are no Dwarfs, Gnomes, Dragonborn, or Halflings. Instead, there are Merfolk, and the Kor, Goblins and last, Vampires available for the players to use. That is more than enough for the boys to dig their teeth into if they create new characters. And gives me plenty of options for encounters as well.
Then there are monsters. The Plane Shift document gives me a real good start on this. The nice part is that a lot of the monsters in this setting can just be re-skinned from existing monsters. Which will save me time, especially using my app for adventure creation, when the time comes.
There are a lot of monster types and options for adventure in this setting. Because it is an almost deserted plane. Having gone through at least two near extinction type of events, destroying major civilizations. There are not a lot of settled areas where the monsters will have been cleared out. The entire world is pretty wild territory with a lot of ancient, abandoned ruins and weird terrain that monsters can use to hide in, or live in.
As far as adventure types, this setting has a lot of options. Because it is a wild setting there are any number of different wilderness settings with monster types. With all of the abandoned ruins, there are lots of places to explore. So there will be a lot of exploration. The reason to be here is to spend a lot of time exploring new lands, finding strange new creatures, kill them and loot whatever they stuff they find. Basically, there is plenty of justification to play as murder hoboes.
With most of the areas of ‘civilization’ being few and far between, and no large populations of anything but monsters. There will not be any cases of finding themselves in the middle of multiple warring kingdoms. Having to stop and think about if they should kill a creature. Basically, all of the things that the boys are not overly concerned with.
Now the real question is how to approach this change? I have a couple of ideas on how I want to do this. There are a couple of options. First, just force the characters in their existing types into the new setting. Second, just start over from scratch in the new setting with new characters. Third, mix those two up, let those who want to keep their characters, and then allow the others the option of changing up.
One idea that this brought to mind was the question of classes in the new setting. I have already discussed the races that are in the new setting. But the first question is what classes will I allow? And what backgrounds will be available? Because those are important considerations for people making characters. And important for me as a GM. Do I want to limit any of these things? In careful consideration of the Zendikar setting the only limitation I can think of is that there are no monks. This setting just does not have the opportunity or reason for any groups to have monasteries where people can do the kind of intense training that monks get.
Another class that I have been thinking of altering was the Sorcerer class. I wrote a post that went into more detail about the ideas I had for that class. But I am still not completely sold on those changes or even making that kind of change.
What sort of adventures do I want to do in this setting? That is one of the big reasons for making this change. Well, the thing about Zendikar is that it is a wild place. It is full of ruins to explore. And a lot of monsters.
That makes it ripe for adventures for the boys. I can build things around a ‘monster of the week’. Even better, I do not have to deal with things like worrying about large cities, or established settlements. And the best part is that I can go with a style where there are no magic shops or at least no one constructing magic items. There may be places where people are selling things that have been found in the ruins. But no one really has the time to sit around and construct elaborate enchanted items. Which means that there is a real incentive to adventure: that is how you get cool stuff.
I hope this post reads well. It has been very helpful to me in organizing my ideas for the game. And I have become very excited about the potential for the game and making the conversion for the boys.