Creating a Game World Using Dawn of Worlds

I’ve always wanted to create my own world setting for pen-and-paper Role-Playing Games like Dungeons & Dragons.  Often times I’ll read about a world for a game and find myself drawn to that material more than making a character.  Examples of that have been Tolkien’s Arda, Lewis’ Narnia, the Forgotten Realms from D&D, Legend from Dragon Warriors, Asimov’s Foundation…  The list could go on for much longer.

During high school I was introduced to RPGs by a friend of mine, my only exposure to fantasy at that time being novels and a few NES video games like The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Warrior and Faxanadu.  When I was able to buy a few RPG books, I would pour over these games and try to extrapolate their setting.  Some were easier, like Robotech or Vampire: The Masquerade, but most showed their setting through names and placed without describing what those nouns actually meant.  This led to three failed attempts, one to create a generic fantasy setting, another to create a simple science-fiction RPG and a third to create a shared dystopian science-fiction setting.  It left me lacking the confidence to try again.

Despite this, I have documents going back to 2002 where I tried to create a fantasy setting with a much smaller scope.  It was named River Keep and based loosely on where I live.  The content primarily defined parallels to current culture and politics, with some idea of how characters would be involved in this setting, such as through guilds and militia.  At one time a few years ago I even ran a short campaign in this setting.  Its layout was mostly derived from the D&D third edition Forgotten Realms books, and eventually I felt the content and layout were too derivative and uninspiring.

A few years back I was working in a nearby city with an exceptional Friendly Local Game Store.  Through that store I was able to meet more mature gamers and we eventually started a home group and started playing campaigns together.  Although it didn’t initially spark my desire to make my own setting, the characters I created had this deep background and I accidentally became reacquainted with an interest in prose and how setting can both add to the game and enrich the player’s experiences when they interact with that setting.

While this desire started to awaken from my past failed projects and what led me to attempt them, I found out about Dawn of Worlds.  It was a free PDF document that detailed a collaborative system for creating a setting.  I approached several friends that had some experience with RPGs, to see if we could create a shared world for our games based on our own interests.  A brief pilot at that time led to an early failure, mostly due to one person’s attempt to inject humour and sabotage other player’s efforts.  When I approached my gaming groups last year I found general interest, but no commitment.

Last weekend I set distinctive roles and tried the system myself.  The roles were based on my interests in fantasy literature and were defined as

J.R.R. Tolkien.  The first fantasy author I read and still the one I feel most gratified in reading.  The feeling of history, geography and greater purpose is what I was hoping to get from this role.

C.S. Lewis.  These are some of my favourite stories and different from most fantasy.  This role was here to keep things light and focus on good, kindness and a bold sense of adventure.

Asian Fantasy.  I really enjoy the history of China and Japan, their wisdom and storytelling.  Samurai, oni, spirits and the trickery of nature were my goals in including this role.

High Fantasy.  Often times in RPG settings there is a sense of a grand, failed past.  Empires and kingdoms forgotten that once held great power.  With this role I am hoping to include a world where that sense of wonder exists now, while still being kept in check by the other roles.

Low Fantasy.  A friend introduced me to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser last year and the setting and focus on the characters was wonderful.  Through this role I’m hoping to keep the other roles from being too grand without showing consequences.

Through this initial attempt I completed the First Age over eleven rounds, representing five thousand years of time.  I still have to compile notes and fill in details, but as a teaser I will say I was surprised by the results and am very excited to share them through this blog.  I haven’t named the world, the nations or lakes, and I’m willing to wait until I have reason to name them.

With this post I take a step to creating my own game world and publishing it.

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