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Thursday, August 16, 2018

What's Doing in My World?

The Goblin StompCast episode 6 is up!  In an attempt to keep things fresh and grow the listenership a bit, the podcast will now feature a weekly conversation, which is far more entertaining than listening to me monologue some information, advice, or even rant a bit.

My new podcasting partner is Deron Poisson, retired naval Chief Petty Officer, Elite RPG DM & Player, and a hell of a good friend!  If you'd like to know more about Deron just click below and listen or subscribe to the Goblin Stompcast on your favorite podcast app.

We publish through and if you download that app you can very easily send us a voice message, which is pretty darned neato!

But this is a blog post!  We need some stuff to read...

OK, you got it.

I want to expand a bit on my own campaign setting.  How I create and run my setting gives you a good idea about the things I think are important in a game world, and maybe even speaks to me as a consumer of Fantasy and Science Fiction, music, art and all of the things that make my life a richer tapestry.

Remember...I'm using this setting in an AD&D1e campaign, and before that it was a Castles & Crusades play space, so it's an homage to all of the OSR tropes I love so much.  I'm sure it could be used as the basis for a newer ruleset like 5e...just don't ask me to run or play in it.

My campaign setting, The World of Thayrun, is being built very organically.  As the players explore or are given options for play I add features to my map, and to the game world.  Very often I will initially utilize pre-fabricated mini encounters to buy time so that I have a week to prepare the more extensive locations or encounters that the party is likely to be drawn to.

Of course, you can't always know where the party is headed, but a good DM knows how to telegraph a bit based on prior party behavior.  This sort of intuitive Grokking should be something a new DM works on and adds to their toolbox.

Think of my game world as an amalgamation of my psyco-pop if a Yes song had sex with  Heavy Metal Magazine while attending a Salvador Dali art installation and made a campaign setting baby.

I have chosen a medieval European starting point for my campaign, but I've decided that the game world includes some Middle Eastern influences in the desert areas, as well as some Nordic influences to the north.  I like to keep the cultures that I introduce to the players somewhat familiar and minimally diverse.  That keep my time investments lower, as I still need to deal with demi-human races.

With regard to the Demi-humans, (and to magical influences in general) I prefer to keep my world both humanocentric and with magic being something of a rarity.  I've found that the impact of finding and using a +1 weapon goes a long way when no one gets one at first level.  I do try to make healing potions available and a bit more common.  A mage in the party is a BIG DEAL.  When and if the party manages to make it to level 2 or 3 and they investigate more interesting plot points in the game world, magic becomes an integral part of the playing field, but a chest full of wands or a closet full of magical garb isn't likely to appear.

The inclusion of an Elf, Dwarf, Halfling etc into the party is also a BIG DEAL.  These races are not well integrated into human society, but are not mythological.  The faire folk tend to be more than a bit reclusive, and often see humans as a threat or in some cases, a plague.  This creates nice tension and lots of opportunities for role-playing when the party enters a new town or city.

Since I tend not to run a heavy 'Story' game, and I work hard to keep railroading to a minimum, I like to create opportunities for role-playing that are simple, integral parts of the world.  The introduction of creatures from outside the normal D&D lexicon also makes for added mystery, magic, and again, Role-Playing.

The Gods of Thayrun are many, but most are imposters or at best, godlings.  Law and Chaos hold sway, and are the true powers that vie for control of all worlds.  Sensing a bit of Michael Moorcock here?  Yeah, there's more where that came from.

My game setting always includes a city that I have shamelessly ripped right from the pages of several of Moorcock's works, Tanelorn.  I love the idea of a city or even just a place that exists in all worlds, across realities.  It is not unusual for me to introduce this to the players very soon after play begins.  At first their will be hints and whispers, but soon enough those rumors become the reality of the players, and it is often from here that many of their adventures begin or even occur.  I've found that having a place that anchors and binds the party, the (loose)plot, and the world(s) together is a great way to insure that there is a continuity of structure.  It also means that in a low-magic setting I can introduce magical influence from beyond the more mundane setting and move between low and high fantasy if I desire.

If you are a steady reader of the Blog, you'll know that the city is Elbion.

I give my campaign setting (Thayrun, or any other I create) a thin history, sometimes only one or two short sentences that can be worked from to explore the setting for both myself, and the party.  For Thayrun I started with the following:

...A new power rises from below.

The dark elves have opened a gate to an unknown plane, a place forged from pure chaos.  Now they cannot control the space between worlds they have created, though they have managed to cap it somewhat, the leakage now minimal.

On Thayrun, the balance of power has tipped and the Lords of Chaos unleash a new terror with frightening frequency. The players may or may not realize this as play unfolds. It's a simple device, but it has worked well.

In the end, a homebrew game world can take many forms, none really right or wrong.  These settings are a reflection of the DM and his or her influences not just from Role-Playing, but from every facet of their lives that touches their game lives.  There are many ways to approach world-building and while new DM's often work endlessly at developing all aspects of the players environment, I think it's not unusual for them to ultimately grow out of this behavior and into a more organic and piecemeal approach later on.  I know I've spent countless hours on people, places, and things in a game world that the players never encounter, and sometimes that feels a bit disheartening.

I'd like to hear about your homebrew world.  Feel free to leave a comment below, post on the Goblin Stomper Facebook page, or tweet me with the name of your setting, and the one or two sentences that capture the essence of the place.  I'm always looking to steal a few more good ideas from my fellow gamers!

Build, Create, and Game on!


  1. Elite ia a MASSIVE stretch! I have a coffee mug that says World's Okayest DM. We have fun at the table, rules are reasonably adhered to, and I think everyone comes away pleased with the experience.

  2. this is a world I had been working on. It was low magic human centric, with aliens.

    1. Will give it a read...thanks for sharing Shane🖖🏻