Rebooting a Campaign World

I am a creature of sudden enthusiasms, and unlike many of my friends, I never quite let them go. I can go from not having thought about something to being evangelistic about it in hours, sometimes minutes. Epic Metal, WWI-era Jazz, sonnets, the Fate system, even back to mailing lists, I've latched onto pretty damn quickly. However, I don't think I've ever seized on an idea with quite such vim as the suggestion by Nina that I reboot my main campaign world.

I've been running games in Davon for about 15 years now. It is, in the straight-up old-fashioned sense, a kitchen-sink setting. Every idea I had for a campaign world when I started working on it got fired in there, from massive underdark empires to cat people living in deserts to canal networks to Victorian design elements and engineering, and so on and on. And in a number of years of running games in it, it has accumulated more. More recently, I've recognised that this is not necessarily a good thing; that SOME limits might be useful. I've written about some aspects of this before, so I won't rehash them here.

I've been running a slow-moving campaign in the modern era of the world for some time. It's a sort of concept album of campaigns; drawing themes and general approaches from a VNV Nation album called Judgement and working them into elements of the campaign world's history for two of the original characters who are still doing stuff. It hasn't been working well. It's great when we get to play, but the weight of continuity and the difficulty of putting useful plot in place for characters who effectively have sizable day jobs which are arguably more important than almost anything which could be put in their way make it very hard to write. I end up putting in more than 12 hours of writing and poking at notes and digging for old references for every three hours of play. I'm a note-and-research-heavy GM at the best of times, but that's getting silly, and it's not easing off as the campaign proceeds.

So yesterday, Nina suggested that I reboot the campaign world, taking only the bits I can remember clearly and that are important, and hopping a few decades into the future so as to make the difference clear. Reboots are well-known concepts from television and cinema, but I've not heard of it being applied to stories or to game worlds. I don't care, it's BRILLIANT. The level of enthusiasm and interest it has kicked off inside my head is enormous, and I keep thinking of things I didn't like the effect of in the world, going "I could drop that!" and feeling a jolt of energy.

The Underdark will be chucked out - my players never much like it anyway. The drow will change from the evil black-skinned matriarchal race that I yoinked wholesale from the Forgotten Realms, and have since become deeply uncomfortable with, into... something else. I haven't decided what yet, but the evil bit is getting dropped for certain. The interventionist gods won't go, because I think that they're an essential part of the setting, but I'll be altering the way in which priesthoods work in society and tinkering with a few of the gods actual interests and influences while I'm at it. Gnomes will disappear, civilised goblins will re-appear (they were in a historical period). Halflings will be explicitly described in the setting as background, and used to point stories about social class and servants. Race-based kingdoms will disappear, and every species will have at least three cultures of their own, as well as a good few mixes and meltingpots. The map will be covered in states of SOME kind, with few or no blank bits unless they're in some way by agreement. And there will be explicit, non-simple conflicts built in from the new starting point, which have some history behind them and can't be solved by someone making a miraculous diplomacy roll. And so on, and on. SO MANY THINGS I CAN CHANGE.

Posted by Drew Shiel at December 28, 2013 1:44 PM

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