Home brewing a setting : Where do you start ?

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Home brewing a setting : Where do you start ?

Post by shesheyan » Tue Jul 17, 2018 4:23 pm

Reading the Calidar books by Bruce Heard gave me the urge to start home brewing again, something I haven't done since 4E came out in 2008. I'm curious to know how you start your home brewing process. Do you start with a map, an illustration, an campaign concept, a song, a movie, or something else?
Last edited by shesheyan on Wed Nov 14, 2018 4:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Home brewing : Were do you start ?

Post by Havard » Tue Jul 17, 2018 5:03 pm

shesheyan wrote:
Tue Jul 17, 2018 4:23 pm
Reading the Calidar books by Bruce Heard gave me the urge to start home brewing again, something I haven't done since 4E came out in 2008. I'm curious to know how you start your home brewing process. Do you start with a map, an illustration, an campaign concept, a song, a movie, or something else?
There are probably tons of ways to start. I will often start with a conflict. Is this setting about the conflict between the Peaceful Civilization (Lawful) and the Hordes Beyond their Borders (Chaos) or something else?

I also like to have more than one conflict line.

If you have players ready to jump into your home brew it might be fun to build the world around their ideas for their characters.

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Re: Home brewing : Were do you start ?

Post by shesheyan » Tue Jul 17, 2018 5:26 pm

Havard wrote:
Tue Jul 17, 2018 5:03 pm
shesheyan wrote:
Tue Jul 17, 2018 4:23 pm
Reading the Calidar books by Bruce Heard gave me the urge to start home brewing again, something I haven't done since 4E came out in 2008. I'm curious to know how you start your home brewing process. Do you start with a map, an illustration, an campaign concept, a song, a movie, or something else?
There are probably tons of ways to start. I will often start with a conflict. Is this setting about the conflict between the Peaceful Civilization (Lawful) and the Hordes Beyond their Borders (Chaos) or something else?

I also like to have more than one conflict line.

If you have players ready to jump into your home brew it might be fun to build the world around their ideas for their characters.

-Havard
Conflict(s) is(are) always a good motor for a setting. I never create a setting in a vacuum without the input of the players but at the same time I don't want them to know more than their characters should know as per their classes, occupations and social ranks. Its a tight rope to walk.

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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by timemrick » Tue Jul 17, 2018 10:05 pm

With "Time of the Tarrasque," it all started with the titular monster's Advancement line in the 3E Monster Manual, and my realization that its (in)famous stat block was just a *baseline*. Then I had to build a world for it to gnaw on every so often...
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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by Coronoides » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:40 am

I have done many and always start with a strong central theme. This thread holds the setting together. it can be a conflict but does not have to be. Some examples of my campaigns:

Green Isles: Adventures are personal. There are no epic quests to save the world. Like the fairy tales adventures are about you and your family.

Warp: What would a interstellar civilisation built on our real theories for FTL and other current real science look like look like?

Krononauts; Historical what ifs as puzzles. the world changes can you figure out where history has been changed to put it back?

Hand-in-hand with that is what source material to draw on eg.
Green Isles: British (only) fairy tales real British Isles in 1300AD

Warp: Original physics papers, Stewart and Cohen (non-fiction) for the science of alien biology (and my own training), epic science fiction like Dune and Foundation.

Krononauts: Alternate history fiction, real history, palaeontology, cosmology.

Extrpolation is next. If you decide something is true what are the logical consequences of that?
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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by willpell » Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:30 pm

I start with a small campaign built around the characters my players make, and then gradually tie it in with other previous constructions of the same type.

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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by dulsi » Wed Jul 18, 2018 6:36 pm

When I read DragonMech, I was fascinated by all the loose ends left to explore. My goal with my New World setting for 4E was to leave as many threads as possible for the players to explore. It started as discovering America like world. The traditional D&D races were from the old world. The dragonborn and tieflings were from the new world. The tieflings ruled an Aztec like empire. Humans also lived in that empire and spoke the same language as the old world. No one knows why. Dragonborn ruins of great cities are around but the dragonborn don't know why they left them. There is a lake that is the site of many meteor strikes. The old world is overrun with undead and demons. No one knows what happened. One of the colonies has not been heard from in over a month.
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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by snorri » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:20 pm

I don't know if I still can qualify my Homebrew world as Homebrew, as it's has been partly published. But I started from the campaigns I GMed since more than 30 years.

I just decided retroactively that everything I GMd was in the same world. This was a way to explore the concept of campaign.

So it includes, under various disguises, bits of other worlds I played in, and a lot of my owns creations : towns, NPCs, plots..

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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by Big Mac » Thu Jul 19, 2018 12:46 pm

shesheyan wrote:
Tue Jul 17, 2018 4:23 pm
Reading the Calidar books by Bruce Heard gave me the urge to start home brewing again, something I haven't done since 4E came out in 2008. I'm curious to know how you start your home brewing process. Do you start with a map, an illustration, an campaign concept, a song, a movie, or something else?
I'm more into the idea of using established campaigns settings, than building my own...

...but I do like Spelljammer and that does suggest that people build homebrew crystal spheres.

One thing I like to do is examine Dragonlance, Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms (and their subsettings) to see what sort of customisation those settings (and subsettings) apply to Krynnspace, Greyspace and Realmspace.

I like the idea of using that as a baseline for building homebrew crystal spheres that have a similar number of unique selling points.

A few things I've seen so far include:
  • Overgods: Krynnspace and Realmspace have these, but Greyspace does not,
  • Moons of Magic: Krynnspace has this, but Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms do not,
  • The Weave: Realmspace has this, but Krynnspace and Greyspace do not mention this and
  • The Shadow Weave: This seems to be unique to Realmspace.
This tells me that I could give a homebrewed SJ crystal sphere it's own Overgod or skip having an Overgod for that sphere. It also tells me that I could employ various different rules for customising how arcane magic works...or stick to the D&D standard.

Divine magic obviously is up for a lot of customisation too, as you can create new pantheons.

I would also consider various "laws of nature" from D&D campaign settings, as they could change things.

I've been told it takes longer than normal to recover spells in Lankhmar. Dark Sun has defiling magic. IIRC there are some settings where gunpowder does not function. One or two of these house rules could make things work differently on a world...or in an entire crystal sphere.

I quite like the idea of (mostly) cutting D&D back to the core rulebooks and then looking to expansion books for ideas that might only work in specific Spelljammer crystal spheres. That would mean that the players might still have a lot of options, but those options would be unique to specific spheres.
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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by shesheyan » Thu Jul 19, 2018 1:02 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Thu Jul 19, 2018 12:46 pm
shesheyan wrote:
Tue Jul 17, 2018 4:23 pm
Reading the Calidar books by Bruce Heard gave me the urge to start home brewing again, something I haven't done since 4E came out in 2008. I'm curious to know how you start your home brewing process. Do you start with a map, an illustration, an campaign concept, a song, a movie, or something else?
I'm more into the idea of using established campaigns settings, than building my own...

...but I do like Spelljammer and that does suggest that people build homebrew crystal spheres.

One thing I like to do is examine Dragonlance, Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms (and their subsettings) to see what sort of customisation those settings (and subsettings) apply to Krynnspace, Greyspace and Realmspace.

I like the idea of using that as a baseline for building homebrew crystal spheres that have a similar number of unique selling points.

A few things I've seen so far include:
  • Overgods: Krynnspace and Realmspace have these, but Greyspace does not,
  • Moons of Magic: Krynnspace has this, but Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms do not,
  • The Weave: Realmspace has this, but Krynnspace and Greyspace do not mention this and
  • The Shadow Weave: This seems to be unique to Realmspace.
This tells me that I could give a homebrewed SJ crystal sphere it's own Overgod or skip having an Overgod for that sphere. It also tells me that I could employ various different rules for customising how arcane magic works...or stick to the D&D standard.

Divine magic obviously is up for a lot of customisation too, as you can create new pantheons.

I would also consider various "laws of nature" from D&D campaign settings, as they could change things.

I've been told it takes longer than normal to recover spells in Lankhmar. Dark Sun has defiling magic. IIRC there are some settings where gunpowder does not function. One or two of these house rules could make things work differently on a world...or in an entire crystal sphere.

I quite like the idea of (mostly) cutting D&D back to the core rulebooks and then looking to expansion books for ideas that might only work in specific Spelljammer crystal spheres. That would mean that the players might still have a lot of options, but those options would be unique to specific spheres.
This is similar to my approach since de 90s (in the 80s I didn't know what I was doing :D ). I bought and read many TSR products but selected ideas here and there to create my own worlds. They were not copy/pasted. I was inspired by them. Cutting back to the core rules is what I'm doin right now with 5E. Its very easy to do with that edition.

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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by shesheyan » Thu Jul 19, 2018 1:05 pm

snorri wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:20 pm
I don't know if I still can qualify my Homebrew world as Homebrew, as it's has been partly published. But I started from the campaigns I GMed since more than 30 years.

I just decided retroactively that everything I GMd was in the same world. This was a way to explore the concept of campaign.

So it includes, under various disguises, bits of other worlds I played in, and a lot of my owns creations : towns, NPCs, plots..
At the start of 3E I put all my various campaign designs into a single 2' x 3' cohesive world map. It was a fun project to do and it gave me a large sandbox to play with with lots of NPCs.

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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by shesheyan » Thu Jul 19, 2018 1:08 pm

dulsi wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 6:36 pm
When I read DragonMech, I was fascinated by all the loose ends left to explore. My goal with my New World setting for 4E was to leave as many threads as possible for the players to explore. It started as discovering America like world. The traditional D&D races were from the old world. The dragonborn and tieflings were from the new world. The tieflings ruled an Aztec like empire. Humans also lived in that empire and spoke the same language as the old world. No one knows why. Dragonborn ruins of great cities are around but the dragonborn don't know why they left them. There is a lake that is the site of many meteor strikes. The old world is overrun with undead and demons. No one knows what happened. One of the colonies has not been heard from in over a month.
Love this idea a lot!
At some point I did do a colony type campaign but it didn't last very long, maybe 2-3 game, the players grew bored and wanted to go back to a more classic fantasy campaign.

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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by Big Mac » Thu Jul 19, 2018 7:12 pm

shesheyan wrote:
Thu Jul 19, 2018 1:02 pm
Big Mac wrote:
Thu Jul 19, 2018 12:46 pm
I'm more into the idea of using established campaigns settings, than building my own...

...but I do like Spelljammer and that does suggest that people build homebrew crystal spheres.

One thing I like to do is examine Dragonlance, Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms (and their subsettings) to see what sort of customisation those settings (and subsettings) apply to Krynnspace, Greyspace and Realmspace.

I like the idea of using that as a baseline for building homebrew crystal spheres that have a similar number of unique selling points.

A few things I've seen so far include:
  • Overgods: Krynnspace and Realmspace have these, but Greyspace does not,
  • Moons of Magic: Krynnspace has this, but Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms do not,
  • The Weave: Realmspace has this, but Krynnspace and Greyspace do not mention this and
  • The Shadow Weave: This seems to be unique to Realmspace.
This tells me that I could give a homebrewed SJ crystal sphere it's own Overgod or skip having an Overgod for that sphere. It also tells me that I could employ various different rules for customising how arcane magic works...or stick to the D&D standard.

Divine magic obviously is up for a lot of customisation too, as you can create new pantheons.

I would also consider various "laws of nature" from D&D campaign settings, as they could change things.

I've been told it takes longer than normal to recover spells in Lankhmar. Dark Sun has defiling magic. IIRC there are some settings where gunpowder does not function. One or two of these house rules could make things work differently on a world...or in an entire crystal sphere.

I quite like the idea of (mostly) cutting D&D back to the core rulebooks and then looking to expansion books for ideas that might only work in specific Spelljammer crystal spheres. That would mean that the players might still have a lot of options, but those options would be unique to specific spheres.
This is similar to my approach since de 90s (in the 80s I didn't know what I was doing :D ). I bought and read many TSR products but selected ideas here and there to create my own worlds. They were not copy/pasted. I was inspired by them.
Sounds about right.

If you are going to tie something into world-detail, you often can't use the rules as written, as they don't quite fit the theme of the world.

There is a world called Chislev, in Krynnspace, and I want to go with something that is similar to the Wizards of High Sorcery from Dragonlance/Krynn, but with three orders of druids instead of three orders of arcane spellcasters. And with them being druids and not wizards, that means the effects of the Moons of Magic wouldn't have anything to do with them. I'll have to deal with a cascade of other changes that come from that one change in concept. And that's without intentional changes to the theme.
shesheyan wrote:
Thu Jul 19, 2018 1:02 pm
Cutting back to the core rules is what I'm doin right now with 5E. Its very easy to do with that edition.
I've heard that about 5e.

I do remember, back in the 2nd Edition Era having some of the PHBR books and being a bit disappointed that they didn't all have a common format and that great ideas from one book had no equivallent rule in the other books. I heard that 5e has been written to make it much easier to work out how any two random rules fit together.
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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by agathokles » Thu Jul 19, 2018 8:45 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Thu Jul 19, 2018 12:46 pm
shesheyan wrote:
Tue Jul 17, 2018 4:23 pm
Reading the Calidar books by Bruce Heard gave me the urge to start home brewing again, something I haven't done since 4E came out in 2008. I'm curious to know how you start your home brewing process. Do you start with a map, an illustration, an campaign concept, a song, a movie, or something else?
I'm more into the idea of using established campaigns settings, than building my own...
Same here. What I generally homebrew are not entire campaign settings, but expansions of the Mystara setting.
This imposes many more constraints, so the initial design phase is mostly about understanding what a specific region (which can, in some cases, be an entire planet) has that makes it stand out among the rest of the settings, and which are the givens: these can go from very sparse information (e.g., for Damocles about the only information available is that the planet Damocles formerly existed in Mystaraspace, it was a semi-sphere, and the some space pirates hide in the asteroid belt formed by the planet's remains) to very complex interactions or partial descriptions (e.g., Ochalea is a grand duchy within the Empire of Thyatis with a culture inspired by China, and a map and major settlements, as well as several races and NPCs are described in Mystaran canon).
Then, I typically identify one or more primary themes. For example, Damocles is characterised by internal warfare that will eventually lead to the planet's destruction, as well as by the connection to several alien lifeforms present on Mystara, which I wanted to connect to the planet, whereas Ochalea is primarily inspired by Wuxia literature such as The Smiling, Proud Wanderer.
After that, identification of factions and conflicts allows to define the primary motives that drive the (sub) setting's metaplot. For Damocles, this means identifying the reasons for the planet-wide conflict (I went for a case of massive hybris on the part of several quasi-immortal sorcerers), while for Ochalea the driver is political conflict between different, intertwining interests (religious sects, martial sects, political groups aiming for independence or greater integration with the Empire, trading companies, etc.).
Once the factions and their motives are identified, key NPCs can be defined, and the conflicts' background can be expressed as a timeline. At that point, it is time to draw a map and put the factions on the field.

GP

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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by shesheyan » Wed Nov 14, 2018 3:05 pm

The joys of home brewing. Now that the cold weather has arrived I started going over my old concepts and maps. A while back I did a collage of continents of my previous campaigns but its wasn't very satisfying. With this second attempt I'm doing a fusion of my best ideas since 1980 onto a single continent (approx. 3500 x 2000 miles). edit : In other words I want to do a tapestry instead of a quilt. I don't have a group of players. It is the first time I do a campaign just for me.

This time I'm using 11x18 sheets with a 1/8" square grid paper. Much better then 1/4" and not too small like metric graph paper. Scale is 16 miles per square on the continental map. I decided not to use the computer for this first step. I find it very zen to draw by hand again.

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Re: Home brewing a setting : Where do you start ?

Post by barrataria » Wed Nov 14, 2018 7:34 pm

This is a great thread.

Over the past decade or so I usually design top-down to accomodate a distinct ruleset. I think about the default races, creatures, etc., any particular modules I'd expect to use, and whatever other special conceits (weird astronomy, deities present on the world, types of situations I want to make game-able).

Then I use Fractal Terrains to randomly generate a world map from which I can work. I usually want multiple interesting continents not too close together, but it depends. I designed around a world with one big continent and an inland sea that went all the way across it (sort of like if the US Great Plains were flooded).

Once I have a world map, I open it in Campaign Cartographer and zoom in on various areas I expect to be important and/or suitable campaigns. It might be a sea of islands and the edge of two big continents, or a big river plain going up to mountains, or an interesting sea coast.

Then I doodle/brainstorm right on the zoomed-in map, and scribble notes on the back. As ideas firm up, I draw them in CC3, then (eventually) print out a new draft of the same thing and keep going. Ideas for other areas get scribbled on a print-out of the world map. If an area gets really interesting, I print out a zoom of that and work on it. Same for sub-areas on the campaign map, especially for a campaign start area, I print a zoom view of that and sketch on it.

I'm doodling a 5E world right now, and loving it even if I never run a 5E game. In this case I thought I'd use the Keep on the Borderlands recast as a conservatory for several bard groups at the edge of an Italian-ish city-state republic, near a village of cultists, a ruined monastery, and the Maws of Orcos, a monster-infested cave complex. The conservatory is nominally pledged to a distant city which is a tributary of a more powerful rival, which is in turn enemy of another nearby city-state.

That area map was a zoom-in of a continent map, which is now populated with a whole bunch of city-states, and in turn the world map is crisscrossed by their trade routes, with those leading to other lands I have thought up, or just blank spots for cities or trade posts I haven't come up with yet.

It's a ton of fun, but the downside is that nothing is ever "finished". I've learned through hard experience to do this for fun and consider actual game prep as a separate process. Related of course, but I work to stay focused on a gameable adventure when I need one, and scribble world ideas that come up on a sheet to stick in my worldbuilding notes for later work.

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Re: Home brewing a setting : Where do you start ?

Post by Angel Tarragon » Wed Nov 14, 2018 10:40 pm

I start with the concept of how I want the races to be and any modifications, if any, to make to the system. I then build out from the altered crunch and fluff out the rest.

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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by timemrick » Thu Nov 15, 2018 2:43 pm

timemrick wrote:
Tue Jul 17, 2018 10:05 pm
With "Time of the Tarrasque," it all started with the titular monster's Advancement line in the 3E Monster Manual, and my realization that its (in)famous stat block was just a *baseline*. Then I had to build a world for it to gnaw on every so often...
IIRC, the rest of the process went something like this:
  • I sketched out a world map (just two continents, really) and marked where I wanted certain races to live. (I recently posted that first map here.)
  • I created a pantheon of gods. The first version was deliberately on the small side, a single pantheon just big enough to cover the cleric domain list. My original idea there was that various races worshiped some of the same gods, but differently.
  • I worked out where some of the races came from (humans from a continent to the west, halflings from a continent to the south, elves and gnomes from Faerie, dwarves, goblinoids, orcs, and kobolds from the underdark), which gave me the initial skeleton of a historical timeline.
  • This was enough history and geography for me to devise a list of previous appearances by the Tarrasque, going back a millenium or so. (I rolled a LOT of dice to keep the numbers random for this.) I added more historical events, as the Tarrasque's cycle affected numerous races and kingdoms over the centuries.
  • I decided the single pantheon idea didn't work, so broke the list into a few different, smaller pantheons. Some were strongly associated with certain races or cultures, while others were popular with many species. Then I worked out more gods (and a few original archfiends) to fill gaps as I needed them.
  • Those changes suggested new details for the timeline, and vice versa.
  • Quirks of geography and history required some tweaks to the traits of the PC races. (For example, dwarves and orcs live on different continents, so dwarves lack the standard hatred trait. Some subraces replace it with another hated race; others substitute entirely different abilities. For some of the other races, all I did was change the bonus language list.) By this time, I had decided to run the campaign with Pathfinder rather than 3.5, so the Advanced Race Guide made this process MUCH easier.
  • Then I needed to figure out where the start the actual campaign, so came up with a few different options and pitched them to my players. One of the three (starting on the frontier of a desert where the Tarrasque had appeared multiple times in the past) was a clear favorite, so I spent some time working up more details for that region. (One of the other starting pitches was adopted as background for one PC, so will become a focus later in the campaign.)
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Re: Home brewing a setting : Were do you start ?

Post by barrataria » Thu Nov 15, 2018 6:12 pm

timemrick wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 2:43 pm
With "Time of the Tarrasque, [lots of interesting commentary]
[*]Those changes suggested new details for the timeline, and vice versa.
That's an interesting summary, and a good reminder to keep re-evaluating as you go. It's easy to get stuck on/fall in love with one idea, even when 100 later ideas make it unnecessary or not fit. And sometimes what seems like a hot idea that makes you re-think what you did proves unworkable and you have to go back to what you had. I always make sure the pencil I'm using has plenty of eraser left :)

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Re: Home brewing a setting : Where do you start ?

Post by Kythkyn » Thu Nov 15, 2018 7:20 pm

I have no idea where I start. A concept, maybe?

I can and I guess will better document it because after NaNo I am going to hopefully be doing a new homebrew with some friends
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Re: Home brewing a setting : Where do you start ?

Post by barrataria » Thu Nov 15, 2018 8:46 pm

Kythkyn wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 7:20 pm
I have no idea where I start. A concept, maybe?

I can and I guess will better document it because after NaNo I am going to hopefully be doing a new homebrew with some friends
Start small and build up? Sketch out your first adventure and maybe that will give you some rough lines to trace. Is the villain/BBEG part of a larger organization? Is it an ancient evil left over from some fallen empire? If they're guarding a caravan, what's the caravan hauling, where did they get what they're carrying, and why does the recipient want it?

Think about the PCs too, if your players already have indicated what they want to play. If you have elves, rangers, barbarians and druids, they probably want a wilderness campaign, and you can do a Keep on the Borderlands type setup with the "realm" off one side of the map. If they're bards, wizards, clerics of a temple of knowledge, that sounds like a city or palace campaign. The old Star Wars RPG rulebook used to suggest focusing on just one image. Maybe it's a picture of a real life ruin (Paestum?), an old picture of a squalid Victorian city, or a photo of a Central Asian horseman at a traditional games meet.

Just build what you need for your game and let it come as you go!

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Re: Home brewing a setting : Where do you start ?

Post by shesheyan » Fri Nov 16, 2018 12:44 am

I'm reading the entries with great interest. Thank you for these !

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Kythkyn
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Re: Home brewing a setting : Where do you start ?

Post by Kythkyn » Fri Nov 16, 2018 1:10 am

barrataria wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 8:46 pm
Kythkyn wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 7:20 pm
I have no idea where I start. A concept, maybe?

I can and I guess will better document it because after NaNo I am going to hopefully be doing a new homebrew with some friends
[good advice]
Hehe, no, I meant like I don't pay attention to myself when I do homebrew that I am unaware of the actual process I have. But I've come up with plenty of homebrews

Thank you, though!
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Boneguard
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Re: Home brewing a setting : Where do you start ?

Post by Boneguard » Fri Nov 16, 2018 2:23 am

I usually start with the starting nation, think about the geography, the main cities, it's government, races present and religion. Then I will usually draw a map of that nation, work out some history and the general relation between the cities, the races and neighboring country. Then I build from there, expending as needed: World/continent, nations, Religions, Languages, etc.

Here is an example. The maps are unscanned but do exist,
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Consolidated projet thread

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Re: Home brewing a setting : Where do you start ?

Post by Vlark » Fri Nov 16, 2018 9:50 pm

If you are really stuck, try this:

http://www.thechronodex.com/
Owlbears & Bugbears & Grues, oh my!

http://rendedpress.blogspot.com
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"By the Book" or "BtB" merely means that the game is being played within close physical proximity to one or more of the books containing the material which explains how to play the game. If the book is not within close proximity, one is playing "away from the book" or "across from the book" or "someplace where the book is not located".

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