Yesterday we looked at general pointers on crafting our “Starting Zone“. Today, we are diving into a specific example of creating a campaign’s first major location. Honestly, I would rather know my players and the general concepts they wanted to play but sometimes that simply isn’t realistic and you need to be able to be ready to roll as soon as you can finally wrangle all the cats. So I will keep my ideal class mechanics and supplemental class choices in mind and refer to my list of objectives when creating a campaign “starting zone”:
* Support the Party
* Introduce Conflict
* Introduce Plot & Themes
* Establish Style
Keeping these in mind I dive in to each point specifically.
Support the Party – Well crap. I don’t have my party yet, but I have decided to go with my ideal class mechanics from my worldseed and work out to supplemental classes from there. Two major changes I made to the fantasy core classes assumed in most settings is the substitution of oracles for a dominant divine class and mosaic mages for a dominant arcane class. Oracles as a major feature are going to be fairly easy to support, they are individualized wells of divine power empowered by the Shards Above. They get what they “need” from the heavens and I have decided that they don’t need trainers. Mosaic mages on the other hand require their prisms (we will call them shardprisms in the setting) and we have decided that these are tied to impact sights during other worldbuilding exercises. Thinking about it, I really want to drive home that healing (good healing!) is available to an arcane caster. So I decide to start the game in the source of the red mosaic mage’s shardprisms, which due to the presence of the shard is called Crimson. As that the powers of the Shard here are thematically similar to red mages and command powers of fire, life, and passion it occurs to me that it is a natural source of psions (egoists and pyrokinetics), sorcerers (with fire bloodlines), and to provide another healing option, vitalists. Fighters (warshades) and occultists don’t deal with location based power as much but a presitgious school where ample healing is available sounds likely. Our core is definitely supported.
Introduce Conflict – Well, Crimson is a major source of life and power for the “Children of the Gods”, so of course the Stonewrath druids want to destroy it. It occurs to me they HAVE destroyed other shards before (I file this for later). I still want to support barbarian, ranger and other similar “wild options” so it looks like Crimson should be bordered by a barbarian land that (narrowly) stands between it and the strongest druid land nearby. This also probably means that there is an importance to the neutrality of this barbarian tribe in maintaining Crimson’s safety. That there is some awesome story potential. I also want basilisks to be a thing so I am thinking of a basilisk breeding ground nearby that makes the idea of travel in that direction scary. I also know that despite the idea of petrification, their blood is the cure so it is fun mechanic that doesn’t mean long term downtime for a character that fails (assuming that a few of his friends survive). I also make a note to look for some other challenges that would be immune to the basilisks (blindsight) and still diversify the monsters in the area. Oozes and aberrations both jump to mind and make sense for the “vitality” aura of Crimson’s shard elevating and twisting local creatures, say in interaction with a second Shard.
Introduce Plot & Themes – Well, looking at what we know, our heroes are probably going to need to help maintain peace with the barbarian tribes, fend off incursions by the Stonewrath and manage a swelling basilisk population. I think if we add a member of the Innocent trying to encourage new members by a series of grisly murders and a secret cabal of the Nerax and the plot starts to gel a little. I want to individualize stories and add subplots that are specific to characters but I have a pretty strong “starting zone” in terms of story potential. For a crown jewel I plan to mention that wine seems to be turning to vinegar faster than it should. I have a pretty good idea why too, but I don’t plan on explaining it right away, but people sure do look nervously up at the dark void in the night sky after tossing out a barrel of the Southland’s finest.
Establish Style – Well I have a murder mystery that verges on the mature, a couple of “body-count” scale villain groups, and a few secrets to build intrigue. So I am probably gritty and dark in places but I want the idea of the world itself to be vibrant and dangerous and I love a high magic game. I decide that Crimson is built in the impact crater of the red mosaic shard. I think it would be cool if the Shard partially cracked and melted riddling the city with softly radiant red crystal features. It also will have geo-thermal activities more in line with natural springs and geysers. It should be a pretty dramatic to live there. I make a note to search up Yellowstone and other real world geothermal spots for some inspiration. I decide that like Yellowstone, Crimson is in the middle of a mountainous region. So despite its magical significance it is somewhat difficult to get to. So it probably has a pass that leads down to the barbarian tribes to west, a pass to the basilisk territories in the east, and a southern trading pass that connects it to civilization.
Reprise – Crimson is feeling pretty robust. I think it may even be a major location in the game through its end. While travel to other nearby lands is likely, Crimson will definitely be a home base for quite a time to come. If a player chooses to be a red mosaic mage or trained in the Voidchapel (a sort of dojo for warshades and occultists) they will be returning for training and supplies as well. Nature-based characters will likely have reason to return as well.
Crimson’s broad strokes are laid out and Endamon has its first “Starting Zone”…. I have left myself a lot of room to grow and THAT is quite deliberate….