Friday, November 21, 2014

Assembly Required: Outlining Step Three - Geography

Having a map for your campaign - even if it is not actually a cartograph - is important. Knowing where the PCs are and where they can go is so important to a campaign that I've rarely seen a game get off the ground without at least a sketch of what is in the surrounding area. And when I say a sketch I mean that as literally a doodle on a napkin or a few quick notes on what's near and about how far away it is. I've always felt this was the one real weakness a homebrew campaign has over established settings. In my experience it's also the hardest step. To put it bluntly - I can't draw worth a sh*t. I'm so bad my stick figures look like their neck threw up their face. Yes. I'm that bad. They're terrible. So what can you do? Well, cheat of course. My granddaddy used to say "If you ain't cheatin, boy, you just ain't tried hard enough." That was his way of saying "Work smarter - not harder." So before I get into the questions and sort of things you should be looking for when you start on the geography I'd like to point out Google's Map Engine Lite - if you're running a modern or contemporary campaign this thing is invaluable. Google Earth is also useful and I use it quite a lot for any modern campaign I run.

  • Where are the PCs starting out? Anything special about it?
  • What are the nearby places of civilization? How big are they? Anything they are noted for?
  • What interesting locations are nearby (dungeons, abandoned cities, hostels, etc.)? How famous are they? What is or was their purpose?
  • What landmass is nearest to the PCs? How big is it? Any others nearby?
  • What organizations are nearby? Any particular reason why?
If you have the talent or money to spare I always suggest creating a map for your setting you can reuse over and over again.

The Worked Example: Something, Something Kill Monsters Urban Fantasy Secret Magic aka "The Chronicles of Ceteri"
Since my campaign is taking place in modern day in a "wainscot" style setting I get to cheat and use modern day maps to build from. That doesn't stop me from sketching out where the local players are in the chosen city (Boston). So, briefly this is what I came up with:

The Blue Hills Reservation: The seat of the local Faerie Duke's power.
Langlee Island: The seat of the local alpha for the werewolves' longhouse.
Wompatuck State Park: Where the werewolves roam on nights of the full moon.
South slope, Beacon Hill: The various Great Houses of the sorcerers live in the same neighborhood as Boston's elite "Boston Brahmin."
Murphy Island (aka Long Island): The ancestral home of the Murphy clan - the arbiters of the Pax Trimountaine.

I'll add more as the campaign progresses and start to flesh out what I have. Eventually, if you keep at it long enough you're setting bible will look like a established setting - because you'll be the one to establish it with your players!

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