A Study in Collaborative World Building

Recently, our gaming group got together to start planning a new D&D (5e) campaign.

My gaming group is currently composed of a core set of players that have been with me since 1999: Math, Yan and Franky. Three or so years ago, my friend Chantal joined us. And last year, my son Nico (remember him?), now 14, has become a permanent player.

We made characters together and ended up with the following.

  • Yan: A cleric of the unnamable God of War, ex-child soldier, ex-gladiator
  • Math: A fighter and brother to the cleric. Also ex-child soldiers and ex-gladiator
  • Franky: A Witch Hunter hunting evil supernatural creatures (and selling their organs on the Black Market)
  • Chantal: A path-seeking motorcycle-riding “Steam” Monk
  • Nico: An outworldy Warlock, with a serious burden

The next session,  I went back into my world-building tools and applied methods I talked about in my Index Card Codex series (Part 1, Part 2).

The following represents what was written on five cards once I was done.

Campaign Themes

  • Urban Adventure
    • Event : The Great Carnival
  • Intrigue
    • Event: The Grand Peace Accord
      • Tension/skirmishes between Mount-Cities
  • Magic is Changing
    • Event: The Rise of Alchemy
      • (Industrial Age allegory)
    • Steam Monks
  • Crumbling Bloodlines
    • Event: Vampires have lost their surface empires
      • Flock to Mount-Cities
  • The Great Game
    • Event: The Peace Accord
      • Humans vs Supernatural
      • “Do not kill Magical Creatures”

City Locales

  • The Mad House
    • Both a tavern, Inn, AND an Asylum
    • NPC: The Director (a Devil)
      • “The Devil is in the details”
  • The Secret City
    • Demi-Plane
    • Gathering place for Wizards
    • NPCs: The Mage’s Club
      • Monopoly on magical portals
      • Hidden political power
  • The Fighter’s Pit
    • Gladiator Arena
    • NPC: Taskmaster Brutus
      • Lord of the Pit
  • Bits ‘N Pieces
    • Hidden store
    • Buys and sells body parts/organs harvested from magical creatures
    • NPC: The Hawke
      • Vampire (poses as human)
      • Consumes most of his wares to maintain his human appearance

Wilderness Locales

  • The Glass Railway
    • Suspended railway made from unbreakable glass
      • Like Elderglass
      • Links Mount-Cities together
      • Steam Monks
    • Legend: “The Surface is Deadly”
  • The Undercities
    • Subterranean cities
      • “Suburbs” of each Mount-Cities.
      • Provides food, labour and ressources
  • The Fields of Blood
    • Site of the last Great War.
    • Only spot on surface not covered by forest.
    • Rumours: Hunting ground of ex-soldiers who refused to retreat to cities.
      • Villain: Special Ops Veteran team seeking “Deserters”
        • The Purifiers
  • cardart_ORI_Acolyte-of-the-InfernoHidden Volcano Monastery
    • Occupies interior ring of semi-dormant volcano
    • NPCs: You’ll never guess, Steam Monks

Characters

  • The Fallen God
    • Role: Power’s the party’s Warlock
    • God of Light, Purification and War
      • Fighter and Cleric were followers during the Great War
  • The Green
    • Role: Antagonist
    • Venerated by lycantrophes
  • The Ring of Rumors
    • Role: Antagonist (Cursed Item)
    • Warlock owns it
    • Crossed world with him
  • The World Snakes
    • Role: Symbolic
    • Nature vs Civilization
    • The (Steam) Monk has amulet that represents them
      • So far Nature wins

Strange Phenomenon

  • Low level magic is extremely common
    • Impact: Healing potion variants as street drugs
  • High Magic is in decline
    • Impact: Elves are gone, Half-Elves try to survive by breeding
    • Impact: Mages live in semi-secrecy
  • Geolithes
    • Impact: Floating Glassrail waystations
      • Crewed by gnomes and… yup, Steam Monks.
  • Green Moon
    • Impacts:
      • When it comes out
        • Forest grow explosively
        • Rain falls
          • It doesn’t otherwise…

With these, I’ll start building campaign-specific index card decks, namely:

  • A City Deck for the campaign’s early adventures.
  • Event Decks for the city, based on themes players have asked for.

As the campaign progresses, I’ll build more decks and change cards as the actions of players shape the world.

I’m excited!

Steam monks!

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  1. […] couldn’t help but think how dropping 5-7th level PCs in a freshly created world didn’t feel quite right. It made for this strange narrative where established heroes, […]