I found a link to a great set of blog posts by Charles A, about a personal challenge to follow the instructions for building a campaign setting laid out by Gary Gygax in 1975.
The article itself is well worth reading, as are the blog posts at Dragons Never Forget.
Over on Itchio, another gamer has made a booklet from the article that is much easier to read, and I’ll be working off that, in this notebook:
(The notebook I found on Amazzon, it looked cool and the description was well-written. It has only one flaw, it is just a collection of blank forms. No instructions or design philosophy notes or anything…)
That is not really a problem, now that I have the five-week guided tour, by Ray Otus, of how to do this crazy thing!
Ray lays out the steps on his blog, the Viridian Scroll: Gygax Challenge
The Five Steps
- Establish a setting concept. “Step 1 is something you do in your head.” Embrace as many sources of inspiration as you like, but keep your sources hidden to preserve the mystery. Setting some limits on the scope can be very interesting as long as the players’ imaginations still have a relatively free-reign.
- Develop the surrounding area. Gygax suggests a large sheet of paper with a scale of 1 mile/hex. Include some interesting terrain, locations, and places to explore, camp, adventure, and set up a base or even a stronghold.
- Create 1-3 levels of a dungeon. Choose a distinctive theme and/or key feature for each level. Map it, noting transition points to lower levels. Plan where key monsters and treasures will be found.
- Detail a sizable, nearby town. “Here your players will find lodging, buy equipment, hire mercenaries, seek magical and clerical aid, drink, gamble, and wench.” (Hmm.) Add strange towers, a thieve’s quarter, temples to horrible deities, etc. for flavor.
- Build the larger cosmos (concurrent with play). Gygax says this step will likely come after play begins. “Most referees work on their campaigns continuously:” adding, changing, and expanding.
I’m looking forward to digging in to this, as I’ve been building my own campaign setting for months, without any real, disciplined structure. The concepts have been all over the map and I am just bouncing from one topic to another. I believe I am ready for a playtest campaign, to shake out the Character Classes…and I’d love to get started ASAP!
There is another Gygax 75 Challenge blog series here: Beyond the Gates of Cygnus
All of my posts on this will be under the tag Gygax 75.