Creating a world for D&D or any other roleplaying game is relatively simple. I created my first world when I was six years old. For decades the world evolved. The most important lesson I learned was that a world is not created by the DM, it is created by the players, their actions, and their choices. In the following article I will explain how I created my latest world known as Aresia.
The Birth of a New World
My previous world became so complex that it spanned several ages. Players had played in every age, which was marked by major changes in the physical and magical laws. This was my way of explaining why the rules changed but the world remained the same. In other words, I played D&D, AD&D, D&D 3.5, even Pathfinder in the same world. When D&D 4th edition was released, it was no different. The physical and magical laws changed and thus the Fourth Age began.
I met my wife a few years before the release of 4th edition and she played in the 3rd Age of my world. This was her first experience playing Dungeons and Dragons, and she was overwhelmed by the amount of backstory present and felt left out when all the other players recognized things from past sessions. When I started planning the 4th Age of my world, she suggested that I created a new fresh world.
Instead of throwing away everything me and my players had ever created, I decided to create a sister world, a world where people escaped to in order to survive an elemental apocalypse caused by a time mage (most ages were explained by the Order of the Moon, an order consisting of time mages, chronomancers).
The first thing I did in order to create a new world was to find inspiration. You can find inspiration for campaigns, settings, and anything you want by simply taking the things you love the most. In my case I have always been fascinated by space, and by Mars. With Google Earth's Mars feature, I had access to a map of the planet, a map of my new world. All I had to do, was to choose a specific region and start terraforming the planet. Thus the Eridanian Region was born and the planet of Aresia (named after the god of war Ares) was created.
Evolving the World of Aresia
As I mentioned, a world is not created by the DM but by the players. I had a fresh world with people who's past came from the cradle of life, my largest world ever created. With a fresh world, I let my players roam. They went on adventures, played campaigns, built castles and cities, invaded countries and destroyed strongholds. To keep track of everything, I created a website. Through the stats that I logged I can now tell you that I hosted 10 different campaigns that ran 63 sessions over the course of 5 years. Throughout those years, the world evolved into what it has become today. With the release of 5th edition, the world of Aresia continued from the 4th Age into the 5th Age. Throughout the 63 games I hosted I formed a world by using 3 key aspects.
1 - what I created. I was the one who chose Mars as inspiration and the map I created was formed by my terraforming knowledge of a planet. I was the one who created many of the villages and cities along with a number of the adventures. I created the NPCs. I drew inspiration from previous ages, drawing deities, background history, factions, and many other similar things from my original world.
2 - what others created. I used the Points of Light from the 4th edition Dungeon Master's Guide to create the first adventure the players played. Throughout the edition I played Keep on the Shadowfell, Thunderspire Labyrinth, Shadowhaunt, Khyber's Harvest, Scales of War, and Tears of Ioun. All of the things that I used from those premade adventures and campaigns are things that were put into the template that I initially created.
3 - what my players created. With my template, and premade adventures, the only thing left, which was also the most important thing, was the players. Their choices and decisions would form the world. They decided where on Aresia they wanted to play, which factions had to evolve or be destroyed, what NPCs they wanted to follow and which ones they would leave behind. During the premade adventures, they made key decisions. After Keep on the Shadowfell, the players rebuilt the castle. Shadowhaunt was the basis for a cross-planar alliance that would build the Maetia, which eventually led to the changes in the physical and magical laws and thus created the 5th Age. The decisions the players made in the Scales of War has become the background to the Tyranny of Dragons, the greatest war the world has ever experienced.
The Next Age
What is the future of my world? How will it evolve? I have no idea. There are so many factors which is what makes tabletop roleplaying games so extraordinary. So far I've played through the Lost Mines of Phandelver, the Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and used Rise of Tiamat to evolve my world. At Extra Life we'll be running the Princes of the Apocalypse, and only time will show how my world evolves.
Next week (week 39 as they call it here in Denmark), I'll be writing about Sword Coast Legends, the new D&D 5th edition computer game. I'm spending this weekend playing the second Early Access, and the game itself will be released on September 29th. If you have
ideas on articles that we should
write about, let us know on our Facebook page, or leave a comment.