Whenever I get a chance I make a pointed effort to read about or look at a map of other DM’s and GM’s roleplaying game worlds. I find it fascinating to look at them both objectively and subjectively, to see things that I may never have come up with or elements that are similar to things in the worlds I’ve created. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a handful of elements that pop up in the majority of people’s fantasy game worlds and these elements have been some of the inspiration for earlier world building posts in my Architect DM posts.
I started playing and running 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons right as it was released. I started my current ongoing campaign back then with a party of 1st level characters and now three years later I’ve run over 50 adventures and the party is up to 24th level characters. The campaign has had its share of rough spots and tough times, but overall I’d say it has been an incredibly fun experience and something that I look forward to every other weekend. Dave was also running a campaign that was on the same track as mine only slightly ahead, but due to a myriad of reasons a few weeks ago we ran a day long, jointed finale that closed his game out in style and unrestrained awesomeness. What I’m discovering more and more over the last few weeks is that running epic level 4th Edition is some of the most fun I’ve ever had running or playing in any D&D game.
In most dictionaries, the definition of “geek” is way behind the times. It’s still classified a pejorative term that implies negative qualities or insular, intellectual behavior. Synonyms include dork, freak, nerd, and weirdo—basically a social misfit. The reason I say this sort of definition, and the people who still use it, are behind the times is because geek has been moving toward chic since Revenge of the Nerds (1984) was in theaters. As the dorks of the 80s grew up and became business leaders, computer specialists, game designers, scientists, writers, and other sorts of accomplished professionals, “geek” has become synonymous with success and disposable income.
Charrette is a word that most likely means nothing to you, unless of course you studied Architecture or Design in school then it is a word that can mean quite a lot and the emotions it brings up vary widely from person to person. Charrette is a word used among architecture students to describe a design crunch/cramming session that derives from the French word for “cart”. The term became popular because schools in Paris would have carts pushed around to collect student’s drawings and it was not uncommon for students to continue working on their drawings for as long as possible by riding in the cart. For better or worse, the term has stuck through to this day and architecture students are still as bad as ever at finishing their projects before rigid deadlines.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the iconic “Dungeon” concept that many of us think of when we think of it in the context of Dungeons & Dragons. Also because only a month or two ago Dave wrapped up his 4E run through the Temple of Elemental Evil with custom mechanics to add to the “large dungeon crawl” feel of the adventures. Now I find my own campaign on the verge of the epic tier (the characters are currently level 19/20), and I am beginning to brainstorm a series of elemental dungeons that they will have to go through as a form of the Temple of Elemental Evil now fractured and embodied in five separate temples. Yes, I loved The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and I plan on stealing liberally from it.
Were 4e’s changes to magic items a success or a failure? Are they streamlined and lean, or boring and plain? Logan Bonner delineates where they went right and where they went wrong in revamping the classic treasures of D&D.
So far the Architect DM series has focused primarily on locations and building design, but today and over the next few weeks I’m going to take a look at the larger scale idea of world building and some factors that play into designing a realistic and believable world to play your games in. As with many of the design aspects I’ve talked about previously, designing a realistic world can feel like one of the most intimidating and daunting tasks to undertake but in reality if you apply principles correctly it can make your efforts easier and better at the same time.
If you’re a 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons player then the two Essentials books that you most want to look at are Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms. Each book is presented in a similar style to a stand alone Player’s Handbook with Heroes of the Fallen Lands introducing new builds for the classic D&D classes (Clerics, Fighters, Rogues, and Wizards) while Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms introduces new builds for Druids, Paladins, Rangers, and Warlocks. Each of these books stands on its own perfectly well and you don’t need to buy both if you’re only interested in the classes presented in one of them.
Today I’m going to focus on what could be considered the biggest and most important architectural element that anyone could use. As things go, this element may also be one of the most overlooked when it comes to dungeon design for home games or even in published adventures. I’m talking about structure, and not the kind that makes sure your adventure has a beginning, middle, and end (though it can help with that with surprising ways) but the kind that if it were simplified to its most common element: you could just call it columns and walls.
Welcome to the second installment of my series about applying real world design concepts to your own personal D&D or tabletop RPG world. Last week’s post was a relatively broad overview of the basic aspects to consider while designing a location. Today I would like to look at a different approach to designing locations, which involves thinking more about how the game will actually play out and how your players (and you as the DM/GM) will use and interact with the environment you’re creating.