Strolen\s Citadel content. 
Grand Staff of the Black Dragon Magi
Items  (Wand/Staff/ Arcane)   (Sentient)
Pieh's comment on 2012-04-16 08:47 AM

I agree with Valadaar. But certainly a nice little bit of history.

Go to Comment
Grand Staff of the Black Dragon Magi
Items  (Wand/Staff/ Arcane)   (Sentient)
Cheka Man's comment on 2005-11-06 07:19 PM
OK,but very Lord of the Ringsish. Go to Comment
Grand Staff of the Black Dragon Magi
Items  (Wand/Staff/ Arcane)   (Sentient)
valadaar's comment on 2007-01-19 04:03 PM
Strikes me as a specific 'instance' of the standard AD&D Staff of the magii, a bit up-gunned and given a good backstory. Go to Comment
Grand Staff of the Black Dragon Magi
Items  (Wand/Staff/ Arcane)   (Sentient)
Kassy's comment on 2012-04-16 01:38 PM

A neat item, nothing too out of the ordinary.

i do find it slightly overpowered but that would in the end be up to the individual GM to decide.

Go to Comment
Minor Races and Race Ideas
Lifeforms  (Intelligent Species)   (Any)
manfred's comment on 2007-01-29 09:28 AM
I think the word is 'Scrolldex', but as there are no scrolls here, it does not really apply. :)

Started to fix vote absence. Go to Comment
Minor Races and Race Ideas
Lifeforms  (Intelligent Species)   (Any)
MoonHunter's comment on 2006-12-20 03:49 PM
This is a shameless bump. If people see this again, they might actually "add to it". Gasp. Go to Comment
Minor Races and Race Ideas
Lifeforms  (Intelligent Species)   (Any)
MoonHunter's comment on 2007-01-29 02:38 PM
Now if we could just get more submissions to the codex too... Go to Comment
Minor Races and Race Ideas
Lifeforms  (Intelligent Species)   (Any)
MoonHunter's comment on 2007-05-25 02:05 PM

Living amongst the branches and brambles of the Grand Trees are the Keeet. While balancing on the Grand Trees, the perfected a balance Traditional (hunter/gatherer/eco tied) and Industrial (technical and artificial) cultures and lifestyles. They weave smaller branches and reinforce them with artificial means to create buildings in the branches. From there they have developed a sophisticated chemical, plastics, and biochemical industry. The Grand Trees provide for them, and they assist the Grand Trees with support and healthcare.

It is only in the last two centuries that they have colonized the flatlands of their planet. (The local flatlanding creatures are quite aggressive and powerful.) At contact, they had reached orbit flight.

The Keeet are protovulpids avatari by classic definition.
They are 2 feet (.6 meter tall) foxlike creatures. (Yes think of standing cartoon foxes, with cute tails). They are full grasping being, with dexterous thumbs. Their hand claws are usually trimmed back by males, painted and shaped by the females, foot claws are shaped by both sexes.) They are spry and friendly, having adapted from low bramble life to everywhere on the Grand Trees through organization and technical expertise. Their squeeky voices can manage Standard Tongue quiet elequently. The Pop sensation Jayaliii is a Keet.

Note: Their size, low G origins, and technical expertise, make Keeet first class spacers. Go to Comment
Minor Races and Race Ideas
Lifeforms  (Intelligent Species)   (Any)
MoonHunter's comment on 2007-09-24 12:35 PM
The Genligra

From the submission of Verden and Otraverden comes a species with two homeplanets.

Verden is the point of origin. The Genligra are standard chemistry and proportion humanoids with slightly longer legs and shorter arms than normal. Their avataristic ancestors were avian-saurian mixes. They descended from larger fliers that opted to run and walk to avoid the megaflyiers and survive a meteor strike that descimated the early life population.

If one is aware of such things, one can see their ancestory in them. They are light stepping digigrade (toe walking) feet. They are alert and graceful in their motions. They have a crest (where head hair is) of downey soft psuedofeathers of a creme range coloration. (Think a mass of cremey brown fluffy flyway hair that both genders keep quite long.) This crest runs along their shoulders as well, leading to a lot of off the shoulder draping clothing for them. There plain skin is a variety of darker browns (lighter if they are from Otraverden stock). They are quite striking to most species' asthetic.

Their face is dominated by their two main features. The first is there large and wide eyes. The are quite dark in coloration, but quite expresive. The second is there large but narrow nose that runs from just above their eyes to just above their narrow lips. They have no beak like protofeature.

Yes, they are human's in bird suits. Take a human, put them in lifts, and give them cool costumes, prosthetic hair, and large narrow latex noses. Blame my upbringing on Dr. Who and Star Trek Origina series.

The Genligra hold the record for fastest advance from protocivilization to spaceflight. The secret of their success is obvious to those who know their homesystem; they have another planet that is close enough to see details of with the naked eye most of the year. This other land or sky land inspired them to reach for it. While they bypassed certain technologies along the way, they shifted from rock chippers to civilization, achieved airflight (and were quite adept at it) and spaceflight, in a mere 5000 cycles. They had explored their entire system by the time starflight contact was made.

As a species they are not any more technically capable than any other, they simply have more motivation than most. Their specialties tend towards vehicles, construction, and song, as do most proto-avians. They tend to be gregarious and adapt well to aliens. Go to Comment
Minor Races and Race Ideas
Lifeforms  (Intelligent Species)   (Any)
MoonHunter's comment on 2007-10-23 12:21 PM
It became a Scrolldex a few months ago, but I forgot to comment on it. Go to Comment
Minor Races and Race Ideas
Lifeforms  (Intelligent Species)   (Any)
MoonHunter's comment on 2012-04-25 04:11 PM

Small Folk

These slender folk are roughly 4 to 5 spans tall (4 feet and some).  While they have large child like eyes and faces (to Human eyes), they have slender, athletic bodies.  There ears are large, oddly shaped, but not pointed (despite some old tapestries depicting them that way).  They are inhumanly fast and agile (i.e. faster and more agile than humans).  They can climb and leap in ways that a Human would be hard to match. They also have an aptitude for magic charms and such.  Many of their basic skills include small magics as intrical parts.  They are a touch insular, more comfortable with their own type than the Giants (Nords and other Humans) to the South. 

The Small Folk live in the North Woodlands. They are masters of woodcraft and woodcrafting.  They make their way and living through the Woods: Hunting, Trapping, Harvesting, Crafting, and Managing the Great Green Living Sea (as they call it as it is bounded by the Great Blue Sea i(Artos Sea) to the north and west and the Great White Sea (the North Sea) to the North).  The Northern Territories are nortoriously poor in metals (copper only) and the local stones are either insanely soft or too hard for anything but the most refined iron tools to use.  They make their world from the Woods of the North Woodlands. Their family lodges are mostly wood and a bit of stone.  They are intricately carved with incredible detail and put together with such care that without a nail or plaster they are fully tight and sealed.  Many tools that Nords or other Humans would have made of metal are made of wood or hardened bone or carefully crafted stone. 

They are careful harvesters of their lands, often pulling trees to their camps over very long distances.  Each of the nine clans has several lodges that they move between through the year, following the resources and game. 

Go to Comment
Minor Races and Race Ideas
Lifeforms  (Intelligent Species)   (Any)
Mourngrymn's comment on 2005-11-09 10:12 AM
This is a great idea to have everything all in one place. I wil lendeavor to place some of mine up here as well Moon. Go to Comment
Minor Races and Race Ideas
Lifeforms  (Intelligent Species)   (Any)
valadaar's comment on 2007-01-29 08:55 AM
Nice scroll/codex! (Scrodex?, Coroll?)

Faaar to few votes on it though. Go to Comment
Minor Races and Race Ideas
Lifeforms  (Intelligent Species)   (Any)
Kassy's comment on 2014-05-08 11:29 AM

A useful sub to refer to, with enough variation in the links, not so much in the actual ideas though. Will give a HoH bump tomorrow. Go to Comment
World Building 102: Environment building the MoonHunter way
Articles  (Setting Building)   (Game Mastering)
Strolen's comment on 2005-10-30 12:51 PM
Only voted Go to Comment
World Building 102: Environment building the MoonHunter way
Articles  (Setting Building)   (Game Mastering)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2005-10-26 01:32 AM
This is a nice article MoonHunter. Many experiences gathered and put to text.

If there is one thing I feel missing in the article, it is about the inclusion of player activity in the world building process. You did touch the subject twice (character weave and no gm is an island) (yes, this article could easily be 60 pages long. )

This may be a basic truth but as such it may deserve mention in your article; always let the pc's actions (no matter how small) have some effect on the setting.

Include the PC's. Don't let death and retirement be the end of things. Much later the pc's could read about the loved wizard in a dusty fairy tale book, visit the restaurant of the retired half-orc chef or meet the grand children of that master thief played such a long time ago.

Then with the twists and turns of time details about their pc's could be distorted, roles reversed and facts made false. This could annoy the pc's as the names of their pc's with time get a rediculous pronounciation, etc...

If their characters were epic the entire setting would probably be affected. Nations and provinces, royal lines, etc... The players could leave their marks on every aspect of the setting. Go to Comment
World Building 102: Environment building the MoonHunter way
Articles  (Setting Building)   (Game Mastering)
CaptainPenguin's comment on 2005-10-26 01:42 AM
Gonna' try my own hand at a little semisetting using Moon's worksheet.

7Cs: Consistancy, Connection, Chrome, Cycle, Conflict, Control, Continuity

(__) Conception
(__) Bits
(__) Sift and sort
(__) Top down process (__)(__)(__)
(__) Bottom up (__)(__)(__)
(__) Polish

This world was inspired by a long time of playing Phantasy Star Online. The language I'm using is an actual language, Etruscan, to which I have a small lexicon in a history book on them that I recently got.
I have no intention of fleshing this out, so if anybody wants to take this and make it their own, fine by me.

Themes and Images:
There are two super-advanced cultures in this world, and all the other people are basically late Stone Age to middle Bronze Age. The two cultures are the Spurethi and Tmial; they are the declining, hedonistic descendants of a human colony-ship that crashed on Tyrrhen thousands of years ago. The barbarians around Spurethi (from the Etruscan word "spur" meaning "city") and Tmial (from the Etruscan word "tmia", meaning "temple") are also human, but they are not from the colony-ship. They were present at the crash.
The Universe this takes place in is not ours, but it is certainly not a total fantasy. There are gods, the Ausar, extradimensional psychic beings who the Spurethi and Tmial worship; the leader of these gods is Tin, the Lord of the Arch of Heaven, and his husband/wife is Ausel, the Sun. The barbarians worship members of a shapeshifting alien race called the Thersu. Various Thersu factions war over the control of the barbarians, hence, the different barbarian pantheons and cultures. I do not assert that the Traveling People's ship was necessarily a "star"ship as we would know it. Their universe may be different altogether from ours.
The barbarians utilize "magic" (psychic abilities that the Thersu have infused in them); the Traveling People (the Spurethi and Tmial) utilize their light-based photon technology. They can freeze energy and light to build things out of. They recieved much of their technology from the Ausar before the Crash.

Worlds Specs:
Semi-Earth. It has been somewhat terraformed by the Traveling People to match their own planet, so in the regions of their empires it is a planet of lush purplish-jungle similar to Earth. But in the nonterraformed areas, it is vast forests of neon-glowing fungus. The oceans are the same, though the sealife is more protoplasmic and jellyfish-like. The Traveling People jungles are populated by Earth-like animals (though not exactly Earth's); the alien zones of the barbarians are populated by massive armored slugs, masses of tentacles, land-jellyfish, and other strange alien animals.

There are two huge continents (now called Spurethi and Tmial), connected by a chain of islands and a narrow bridge of land called the Path of War (due to the many battles fought between Spurethi and Tmial on it). There are two or three additional smaller continents. The interior areas of Spurethi and Tmial are Traveler-jungle (Purple jungle, Earth-like animals), but all other regions are indigenous fungus-forests. There are two major deserts on the Tmial continent and one of its satellite landmasses. Much of the land is threaded with rivers. The world is a very volcanically-active one.

In Traveler jungles- Plants much like those of Earth's tropical rainforests, though it is purple rather than green, and grows to much larger sizes than we would be used to. Much of the jungle contains the ruins of old Traveler settlements, such as power gates, energy walls, old outposts, and ancient light-trams.
Animals are Earth-like but subtly different- there are saber-toothed cats with red fur and black stripes, green-furred monkeys that howl, brilliantly-colored birds, very large insects (mostly the centipede and caterpillar-like bugs), deer with huge curving horns instead of antlers.

In the indigenous fungus-forest- Bizarre forests of fungus. The trees are huge pillars of fungus, bridged by giant ruffled fans of the stuff; there is fungus in every form imaginable here. The underbrush is smaller fungus.
Animals are bizarre. There are huge, silicon-armored slugs, land-based jellyfish-like "slurpers", and six-legged animals of all sorts; most of the animals have armor of one sort or another.
-Clickers: These are the indigenous version of wolves. They have six legs in a splayed shape around them, all connecting to a central, anvil-shaped pod/head/body.
-Screechers: Six-legged furry animals who eat by osmosis. They are large and fat, and some barbarians use them like cattle.

Earth-like metals. Lots and lots of iron and lots and lots of silver, but very little gold.
In Traveler forests- Earth-like standard.
In fungus-forests- lots of fungus can be used as food, or is poisonous. When a certain species of fungus dies, it crystallizes and crumbles into a metallic sand.

Races and Peoples:
There are two basic races of humans on this world:
The Traveler People- These are the descendants of the humans who crashed here with their colony-ship in the ancient past. They speak the Traveler Tongue (If I were fleshing this out, I would use Etruscan). There are two Traveler ethnicities- the Spurethi and the Tmial. The Traveler People are superadvanced, and use technology based on solid light and frozen energy. They worship the Ausar (extradimensional psychic beings with near-limitless psychic power).
The Barbarians are a variety of ethnicities and cultures, ranging from Stone Age to Bronze Age technology. They did not arrive with the Traveler People, they were on Tyrrhen before; it is one of the great mysteries of the world. There are as many different Barbarian cultures as the GM may wish. They worship the Thersu, shapeshifters who pretend to be their gods.

There is one non-human race on Tyrrhen (though the Ausar are technically everywhere at once, but we won't go into that), and that race is the Thersu (Thersu is the Traveler Peoples' name for them; Thersu is Etruscan for "mask" or "masked person"). The Thersu are a shapeshifting alien race, who, like the Traveler People, are not aboriginal to Tyrrhen. They claim to have come thousands of years previously through something they call the Great Door. Thersu are colony organisms made up of thousands of tiny bubbles of fluid substance. They can rearrange themselves in practically any shape imaginable, and they can change their color and texture, et cetera. They can give themselves the appearance of greater or lesser mass, by swelling their bubbles outward or discarding some.

Cultural Overview:
The Spurethi and the Tmial are individual semi-republics. There are no real laws in Traveler culture, only suggestions, and even these are losing their power. Their cultures are falling into decadence and hedonism as they lose their drive. This is the last stage of losing hope- most Traveler People now believe that the rescue ship that their ancestors watched for will never come.
The Barbarians dwell in hundreds of different ways, but most are monarchies or tribes.

There are 325 days in a Tyrrhenian year. There are no months as we see them in the Traveler calendar. Instead, each week of five days is marked with the name of one of the original 65 Traveler families. All Traveler People know these weeks by heart.

Spurethi and Tmial nations, and the Barbarian lands.

Thersu Factions-
The Red Phylum- these Thersu advocate the extermination of humans.
The Blue Phylum- these Thersu advocate ignoring humans.
The Phylum of Humans- this small group advocates helping humans.
There are hundreds of thousands of Thersu factions, this is just a sample.

The Ausar Priesthood- The Ausar temples in Traveler cities are not staffed by human priests. Instead, the Ausar utilize Snenath (Etruscan "maidservant, female companion"), energy beings from the Ausar dimension who take the form of beautiful women. The Ausar manipulate the politics of the Travelers, war against the Thersu, and basically influence our dimension through the Snenath.

The Warrior-Travelers- The Warrior-Travelers are those of the Traveler People who have turned their backs on the hedonistic, fatalistic Travelers and gone out into the wilderness. Some seek to help barbarians gain technology. Others attempt to destroy the Traveler nations. Others look for lost Traveler or Ausar technology so that they can signal a rescue ship.

Laws and Morals:
Pretty much like our laws, but they are not actively policed anymore in Traveler cities. Crime is high, and the motivation to stop it is very low- the Travelers have pretty much lost hope of doing anything and fallen into a hedonistic swoon. The only people doing anything about policing or good deeds are the Warrior Travelers.

Traveler families don't exist. The children are raised by the Parent Machines, and are turned loose at the age of 14.
Barbarians have all different sorts of family types.

Social classes:
The Travelers have a supposedly democratic society, but in actuality, most keep barbarian slaves.
The leaders of the Travelers are the Politicians and the Directors (presidents). These form a pseudo-aristocracy. Below them are everybody else, except for slaves. There are various sub-classes based on economic status.

Political Power:
In the Traveler nations, political power is in the hands of the Directors and the Politicians. The Ausar Priesthood also has considerable power.
In Barbarian lands, who knows where?

(Don't know what to say)

Religion: The Travelers worship the Ausar (Etruscan for "gods"), extradimensional psychic beings. Travelers strike a strange balance between science and technology- most scientists are also devout worshippers. Temples are usually at the bases of the supercomputers that administrate cities.
The Ausar are-
Tin- Lord of the Arch of Heaven, Master of the Stars, Creator of the Sky
Uni- The Queen of Heaven, Mother of the Universe
Menerva- Creatrix of Civilization, Weaver, the Artist
Sethlans- The Ausar of the Forge, Toolmaker, the Innovator
Turms- The Quick One, Lord of Speech and Thought, Carrier of Messages
Turan- The Lady, the Lady of Beauty, the Lover
Maris- The Bloody-Handed One, The Lord of War, the Firer of Beams

A sample of Thersu "gods" worshipped by barbarians (Note, most names are Thersu names corrupted by barbarian renderings)-
YaarBaalaag (original Thersu name)- the Leech God, the Firebreather, the Invincible One
Gilyish- the Lord of Thunder, the Lightning Thrower
Micz-Fahtagh- the Lady of Passion, the Giver of Ecstasy
HaacsPaar (original Thersu name)- the Brilliant, the Giver of Gifts
Gul'tac'gun'tal- The Roarer, the Defeater, the Night Strangler
Vaax (original Thersu name)- The Darkness in the House

Technology and Common Power:
Travelers are advanced in all respects, save communications, wherein they are strangely defficient. They use inefficient, power-sucking photon transfers for messaging. Their weapons use frozen energy for melee weapons and Masers for projectile weapons.
The Barbarians are Stone-to-Bronze Age level technology.

Probably special days for every Ausar.

Mysteriously, almost all of the old Traveler light-rails and air-cars ceased to function several hundred years ago. Therefore, most travel is done by walking. Some light-rails still function, and a few of the transfer-gates that teleport, but for the most part, Travelers must make due with walking or carts. They have experimented with ground cars, but such cars require roads, and most Travelers are too lazy to put that much effort into traveling. Some don't even travel at all.

Arts/ Literature:
Traveler art is mostly light-sculptures and light-patterns. Their literature is a lot of gloomy poems and Bacchanal songs.

There are always the Thersu lurking about, plotting and such. In addition, there are the Eiser, second group of "gods" similar to the Ausar, who have thus far proved hostile to humanity.
The Traveler society is crumbling. There is a ton of crime.

Many barbarians have psychic powers which they call "magic", given to them by Thersu manipulation.

Nothing we would deem supernatural, per se, though in the case of the Ausar, this is debatable.

History Brief:
(Distant distant past) Thersu arrive on Tyrrhen.
(Distant past) Traveler Peoples' planet/world/plane/whatever is destroyed. Colony ships are sent out.
Traveler People crash on Tyrrhen.
Argument between the families on the ship. Half go east, half go west.
East goers form Spurethi. West goers form Tmial. Barbarians first encountered.
War between Traveler nations.
(many years pass)
Most travel technology ceases to function.

Players can be barbarians or Warrior-Travelers.
Traveler Tech breaks down over time, and breaks down faster the farther one goes from the Traveler cities. Go to Comment
World Building 102: Environment building the MoonHunter way
Articles  (Setting Building)   (Game Mastering)
MoonHunter's comment on 2005-10-26 12:28 AM
World Building 102b: Environment building the MoonHunter way
Build the Environment -Process

1) Review the 7Cs. This is where you will be using them. A lot.

2) Environment Conception: Like a character, any game environment will have a conception. An environment's conception is best described by the key bits- the themes, images, and ideas the GM chooses to build the environment around. The conception defines the major controlling ideas, visual images to be incorporated, determining key important ideas, and bits of chrome to be added. Make sure that most of the key bits you have received from your players are incorporated into the conception. Once you have a conception firmly in mind AND feel comfortable with it, proceed.

3) Generate initial bits: This is a brainstorming process. Simple think about the setting and jot down any idea you have about the environment. Sometimes source books and historical/ technical resources are useful at this stage. If the flow of ideas needs some help, ask yourself these questions "What do I need?", "What do I want?", "What is cool?". Jot down the ideas on a pad, 3x5 cards, or a text file, what ever is comfortable for you.

4) Sift and sort: After you have a good comfortable number, stop and look at them. Select the ideas you like AND are in line with the key bits and conception, discard the rest. Using the Creation Checklist (which will be presented below), organize the bits you generated and key bits. This will show where you might still need work.

5) Top down process: This process is summarized as "Big Ideas to small ideas, new ideas branching out". Start with your most important ideas, then branch out from there by determining the impact of your important (big) ideas upon the setting. Do not forget the impact of the important ideas upon other important ideas. The Seven Cs are used on this step to help you generate new ideas (small) that fit with what you have. Look at an idea, and see how each of the seven Cs apply to it. Work with the new/small ideas the same way until there seems no where new to go.

6) Bottom up: This process is summarized as "Foundation ideas building upon a skeleton". Start this step by sorting the Important/Big and new/ small ideas again, as you did in step 4, using the checklist. Using these ideas and the checklist as a foundation, build upon them by following them to their logical conclusions. You can check each idea or important element against the seven Cs to see what is applicable.

The bottom up process allows you to close up gaps and add the details and connections to make the world more real. The bottom up process includes determining rationales/ reasons behind "the way things are". Again, the seven Cs are your friends in making the foundation work strong.

7) Sort and Polish: Check all the ideas and world elements/bits you have. Make sure they are complete and well formed in your mind. It is easiest to sort them by the checklist, as it will make referencing the materials easier. Remember all things added to the game environment must match the controlling ideas/ themes/ images. They must not be added no matter how cool they are.

If after your sort and polish, the environment does not seem complete, repeat steps 4 through 7. Go to step 3, if you are highly dissatisfied with the results. Two or three times through the process is quite normal.

Author's note: My personal record is five times, so do not feel dejected if you are not satisfied with it all after the first run through.

8) Formal Write up of your notes: Organize and clean up all your notes. Put them in a useful order. I recommend typing them up on a computer, so you can manipulate and reprint them when you need them. I then put the formal write ups in my GM campaign binder, so they will be at hand when I need them.

The checklist is here to increase your verisimilitude, by reminding you what to cover. As you remember, your job as the builder of a game environment is to give the environment the illusion of completeness. You do not need everything, complete and whole; you need "just enough" for you and your group. In the aspects of the environment that the players will interact with, you will need a great deal of detail. Conversely, in aspects the players don't care about, you need very little... just one or two vague ideas will suffice. The checklist is here to make sure you cover every aspect of the environment.

In addition to explaining what each checklist item, I have included what you might want to consider in that area.

Themes and Images: Major controlling ideas, visual images to be incorporated, small important ideas, key bits, the most important world themes.
Worlds Specs: Planetological lists... if needed.
Terrain: Major terrain features, environment, climate, appearances. Remember that cities and even buildings have terrain.
Flora/Fauna: All things alive (or independent ambulatory) be they domestic, wild, predators, or just important to people.
Resources: Things both renewable and non-renewable.
Races and Peoples: Descriptions, coloring, profiles, and modifications to any rule mechanics. This includes ethnic/ subtypes of peoples as well.
Cultural Overview: This is the culture in broad simple strokes. Major themes of the culture. Languages/ Morals/ Common Beliefs/ the Unknown/ Needs
Calendar/Standards: Weights, Distances, Measures.
Institutions-Major: Areas of control and Power. These should be the important groups for both the setting AND the adventuring characters.
Laws and Morals: Legal rules/ responses/ punishments/ and manners. Social and moral rules are often more strictly enforced than laws.
Family: Types/ Sizes/ Values
Social classes: Formal and Informal/ Birth and Earned.
Political Power: Institutions and groups of political/social power, control, and who enforces the control. The power structure of the area.
Economics: Money/ trade/ value/ subsistence/ working/ monopolies
Religion: Beliefs/ Organizations/ Groups
Technology and Common Power: (Using Clarke's law and that power is just a technology in many environments)

Military Weapons and Tactics
Industrial/ Production
Math and Science: Math Engineering, Algebra. These things are the foundation required for other cooler sciences and building projects. Many "primitive peoples" had more complicated math abilities than we have today.
Information: Writing/ Printing/ Processing. How does it get moved?
Other Knowledge:
Holidays: Historical, Cultural, Religious, Political
Transportation: Land/ Sea/ Air(?) and other
Arts/ Literature: Forms/ Usage/ Needs/ Ideals
Shadow: Criminals/ Assassins/ Deceit/ and those on the margins of society.
Power: Magic per type, Psionics, Other. Notes on users, attitudes towards it and practioners, and prejudices.
Paranormal: Weird beasties, supernatural entities, spirits, demons, Gods, the Unknown.
History Brief: Every world has two histories, the actual one and the one that people believe is true.
Rules: Special modifications in game system needed to accommodate the world. This could be a power system, special skills and races, and items.

Build the Environment -Things to consider

Big and small text: This is an idea borrowed from technical writers. It is a tool for making sure the project gets done. Big text is the important, large, and visible aspects of a subject. Small text is all the details that are not as important, that simply fills out or illustrate a big text idea. Focus on the big text initially for all checklist areas. Only work on small text of the most important areas AFTER everything else is done. If it is not an area that will impact the character's lives, avoid doing the small text for it.

Paintbrush tool: The paintbrush tool is a trick borrowed from computer uses. Find a time/ place, fictional or real, that is similar to your game environment. It does not have to be a perfect match, just close. This is your "paint". You can then describe things with the phrase, "It is like X, with these differences Y". Using the paintbrush technique, you can describe things in one line that would of taken a paragraph.

Note: This is mostly for your own use. If you are going to describe things this way to the players, make sure they know the time/ place/ piece of fiction you are painting from. If they don't you are going to have to give the complete explanation.

You can even have multiple "paints" if your game environment is complex or diverse enough.

Once you have your "paint", you can use it multiple times. If there is an area you have not worked out, dip into this other place and paint it into your own world, copying much of it whole cloth from this other time/ place.

Originality vs. Accessibility: Remember to balance originality and accessibility when creating a game environment. New and original environments seem more exciting and novel. If follows for some people that adding more and more new and unique elements will make them more exciting. If the environment is too exotic or unique (or just plain weird), the troupe may not have a frame of reference to understand it. This could make for too steep of a learning curve required for players to play. If the curve is too steep for "just a hobby", they will either lose interest in or become frustrated by the scenario or campaign. Either does not bode well for the campaign. You do not need to be Tolkein or MA Barker and create your own alien world from scratch.

One issue that can come up when creating a unique game environment, especially a more exotic one, is that you can leave your players "out of the loop" because they do not know all the myriad little things about it. The GM will think the game is whizzing along, but the players begin to look at the GM blankly because they don't know why things are happening or why people are doing what they are doing. This can be corrected by making sure the players and the GM are "on the same page" about the setting, by checking along the way that they have "absorbed"/ understood the setting information the GM has provided.

DaS vs. DiP (Development at Start versus Development in Play):
There are two basic methods of environment development. They are two extremes, DaS (development at start) and DiP (development in play). The extreme DaS would be to make up EVERYTHING about the setting before ever playing that setting; the extreme DiP would be to start playing without even having a basic idea about the environment, and just make it all up as you go along. While there are those who champion the extreme positions, most gamers favor a mixture of the two. This gives you a strong foundation (DaS) to build upon as the game progresses (DiP); at the minimum starting with some strong ideas about the environment and leaving the minor details to be filled in later as needed. Find a comfortable balance for yourself and stick to it.

Knowledge is Power: While there are no special fields of study required to create a game setting or environment, ignorance will not help. A little bit of knowledge will go a long way in making your game environment more interesting and complete. Learn a little bit about what you want in your setting, so you can make the best choices for your setting.

How to acquire said power of knowledge? Consult the Tomes of All Knowledge. This is also called the GM's reference section. This is where you should go to get all the information you really need on a subject.

Children's Books: That's right. They are quick, simple, easy to read, and have lots of pictures you can show your gamers. Unless you are building an epic masterpiece, they will probably fill your needs.
Almanac: Tons of facts in one handy book. The highlights include a summary of history, conversions, distances, maps, and lot of weird details you can use.
Encyclopedias: They have half to two page explanations on a variety of subjects applicable to settings.
TV: With the hundreds of channels available in most areas, some of them will have educational programming. Sit down and watch a program about history, or how a city works, or how police do their jobs. A little information goes a long way to create verisimilitude.
The Internet: Somebody has probably done all this work before and has posted it up on a site.
Fiction books with similar settings: The author has done all that research before you and applied it to their story. Go to Comment
World Building 102: Environment building the MoonHunter way
Articles  (Setting Building)   (Game Mastering)
MoonHunter's comment on 2005-10-26 01:22 AM
World Building 102c: Environment building the MoonHunter way
Presenting the Environment

Following the steps presented before, you have created an environment. However, if you can't explain the environment to your players, it is as if you never created anything. Presenting the world to the players is crucial part of the game, as you are building it in the minds of your players.

The single most powerful comment on this subject I can make, is also one of the simplest: Be confident in your presentation. If you come across that you are well versed in the environment and you believe that everything you are saying is true, the players will be less inclined to ignore your words and will believe what you say about the setting is true. Never EVER, stammer, go "umm, ahhh, or rrrrr", or look distracted or nervous when presenting parts of your setting (or GMing in general). It lessens the impact of what you have to say. Again, let me repeat, the most important thing to remember when presenting the environment is:

Be confident in your presentation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Campaign Packet/ Bible/ Encyclopedia
If the environment you are creating is a world, major country, space station, or the primary place where your game's action will occur (so it could be a village even), your primary tool for presenting the environment is a game packet. The Game packet, also called the game bible or game encyclopedia, is a formal write up for the campaign that players (and the GM) can refer to for information on the game and is environment. This packet should range from three pages to a twenty-five pages of environment material depending on the environment and your needs (the more unique the world, the more information is needed). If you have been using the checklist the main environment and any smaller areas (cities, villages, moons), you already have short answers that can be easily expanded and made more accessible by some punctuation and spacing. This process places your setting into a more concrete and defined format, useful to set things in the mind of the GM and the players. Note: The rest of the game packet will include rules and requirements for characters, any house rules in work, and campaigning guidelines/ ideals. Give each player a copy of the packet, and make a few extras for references and new players.

Keep the Big and little text rules in mind when creating said write up. Players will care less about your carefully crafted history, than the concrete things that effect their character's day to day existence (people's names, food, clothing, sleeping, and social structures) and general life (Birth, Death, Family/ marriage, Work/ leisure, and Religion as it impacts daily life.)

Note: As the GM, your game packet might have material that is different than the player's world pack. That is because your packet has what is true, while their packet has was is publicly known. Your packet may or may not be as neat and as organized as the players, but it will be crucial to your game.

Character Weave:
IN good stories, every aspect of the characters and the world are woven together creating the tapestry of the story. Good games are the same. Character need to be woven into the setting of the campaign. Players and the GM should talk about elements in the game environment that the character can have a connection to: recent history, NPCs, organizations, other characters, or some random aspect of the world. Adding this connection to the setting makes the character tied to the setting, it helps define characters better in the minds of the players, gives the player some options in play, and the GM ways to motivate character in adventures.

It is always best to make a character part of the game world.

Character Lines:
One process that helps players learn the world is a character line session. The GM determines all the important elements in the world and the organization associated with it. One session when the players are creating their characters, the GM presents each of them. The players must then decide on their character's opinion and reaction to this important element of the world, and the rational behind it. If the player wants to hate the local religion, they should give a reason why. This series of character lines help build up the character and educates the players in various parts of the world.

Educate your players
The players will need to learn more and more about the world as the campaign advances. Often times they will need to know information before they need it in the game. The GM should foresee what they might need to understand what is going on and give them that information before hand.
Game Packet: Did you skip the above section? Shame on you, go back and read it.
Introductory moments: Before play really begins, as people are settling in, give them a quick blurb about some aspect of the setting. This would be a slightly expanded version of what is in the game pack. Once you are done and have finished with any questions, ring the bell (or what ever signifies play has begun) and start your game.
Introduce it in the story:If you want more of the "show, don't tell" approach, trying introducing characters that are involved with the information you want to convey. Want the players to know there are Elves in your world, have them meet one or meet someone who knows them well. Want your players to know of another country, let them meet someone from that country. Historical markers, local festivals, ceremonies, religious observances, can occur in the game and will illuminate small aspects of the world.
Bards: In short, have an NPC in the game tell them what you want them to know. Bard's telling stories, people they overhear at the bar, the local paper, or a weeping widow, will convey information quite nicely, if the players are in the mood to hear.

Pyramid of Support:
This is a tool borrowed from our writer friends. If you want someone to believe something, you have to slowly build up that something. The more powerful something is, the more a GM needs to explain and foreshadow its coming. The thing could be a monster, or an organization, or an army. The players will need to encounter the results of the thing's existence, maybe brush against a minion or lesser part of the thing, or could run into a survivor. The more evidence and support you make for a claim, the more willing people are to believe it. The more evidence a player sees of something's power or influence, the more they will believe it. If you want your characters to respect and fear a "powerful force" show them how powerful it is. Otherwise, they will yawn, attempt to fight it, and then bitch about their characters being dead or enslaved.

Related to this, don't expand your campaign faster than the players can absorb the complete picture of what you are presenting. The story tellers say that players/ audience must hear something three separate times before they really know it. Taking that advice to heart, judge your player's understanding of what is going on. On average, you will find it takes three sessions to imprint something, then move on to a new level of material.

Maintaining the Environment

If you are running a campaign, environment building never ends. In short DiP happens. You will be adding smaller environment as your storylines and campaign continues. You will be expanding the world, major country, starship, or what ever the primary place where your game's action occurs is, as new ideas come to you and old ones are refined. In short, as long as your game is successful, you will be expanding the game environments and the people in them.

The March:
When people build game environments, they know all the details (hows, whys, when). This allows them to build up a detailed history. Then the campaign starts and this detailed history tends to stop cold. Unless it revolves around the characters, in most games, nothing else happens. Just a reminder, Change is the only constant. The rest of the world is "in play" as well as the characters. History and changes continue. Note: The player character may or may not have an impact on the march of history. If they want to, GM's should let them.

Smaller environments inside the environment:
As the campaign continues, you will need to expand and detail smaller areas of the main campaign environment. The key bits for these places must be consistent with the larger environment they are in. If one country is a post-medieval England, it would not have a city that appears to be Pacific Islander in lifestyle. Once you have the place's key bits in place, simply go through the process as before, keeping in mind the scale of the place you are creating. Also make sure to make connections between the larger environment and the one you are making.

Note: Johnny Appleseed/ Clairmont approach: Plan ahead for future story arcs, even if the plans are only half formed. That way you can insert the elements you need for the story arc into the appropriate environment ahead of time and even foreshadow the storyarc.

In the vein of Johnny Appleseed or Chris Clairmont, litter the campaign as it goes on, with plot points that are unresolved or things which might become dramatic events later. If the players show any interest at all about that part of the environment (or NPCs), you can work on the additional bits and details needed, inserting them into the setting. The players are then amazed at your ability to foreshadow important events, not knowing that you only put out the hook and filled things in as they took said bait. Remember the Pyramid of support.

Maintaining Process:
Talk to the troupe: Every now and again, get more "bits" from the players. Once they have gotten into the game, they will have a better idea of what it needs in their opinions. It is best to collect bits towards the end of any storyarc.
Collate info: Collect up all your notes and add any new details them into your original checklist categories. This expands your initial listing. Also put together all the smaller environments you have done over the course of the campaign in.
Comb and Refine: Take your expanded listing and go through the environment building process. The environment will get deeper and richer, with more verisimilitude.
Expand your game pack to a game encyclopedia: Add more entries to your world pack. Eventually, your pack will give a complete explanation of the world.

No GM is an island:
Some people would say that this is just too much work for one person to do. Who says one person has to do it. If your troupe has players with some expertise, have them write certain sections of the setting environment. Not only does someone who knows something about it writes ups the section, you don't have to AND you will not be surprised by the player's knowledge at the gaming table.

If a person wants a character from "far away" or some area you have not detailed out, have them write up that location. The GM will of course have to approve the submission, but someone else will have done all that work. This will also allow the player to really know their home.

Game environments are not built with a ruler and some tape, they are built with imagination and an understanding of what is needed to make the game environment. That is the purpose of this article, to give you what you need to build a solid game environment. While there is more that I could cover (this article could be 60 more pages long), this sums up the key elements you need to consider when making an environment.

Remember, your job as an environment designer is to create a sense of verisimilitude and to meet your troupe's needs for the game. As long as an environment builder focuses on the Big Type needs and understands there time to create is actually limited, they can stay focused on doing just as much as you need to do. That way a world can be properly fleshed out without taking too much time and effort, no matter how much creativity you need to invest into the world.

Every idea you have for the world does not have to be "unique", "original", "never before seen". In fact, it is probably better it is merely a fresh take on an accepted idea. This creates a more accessible setting for your players. As a designer, do not be afraid to lift an idea from history or other sources. As the Wiseman Bob once said, "Good Gamemasters borrow, Great Gamemasters steal shamelessly." Take it. Use it. Make it your own. As long as you are not reselling it, everything should be fine. Remember the plot of Romeo and Juliet had been floating around for centuries, but Shakespeare took it and made it his own. He did an okay job, don't you think? So will you.

Every part of the environment should be appropriately thought out, be consistent and connected, fit the other Cs, and presented well so your players believe in the environment. This creates the magic of verisimilitude, the illusion of completeness. Remembering that the environment is there for you to tell stories (and play out action) with your friends, will make your work be that much more useful.

So now that you have the understanding, apply some imagination and time and create a game environment of your own.

Tis is the reply to click to respond to this article ->->->->->->->->->-> Go to Comment
World Building 102: Environment building the MoonHunter way
Articles  (Setting Building)   (Game Mastering)
MoonHunter's comment on 2005-10-26 01:35 AM
Kinslayer, do you know how many years it has taken me to collate this article? It is the collected bits of wisdom over decades of world building. It took me nearly four months to get the proper phrasing together to create the first prototype article/ convention seminar. That has been expanded, and expanded again, to reach this current state.

So there we are. I wish I could pop it back in time and support the gaming community. Anyone have the number to Temporal Express, when it absolutely, positively has to be there yesterday? Go to Comment
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