It’s been a little quiet around here lately. My apologies for that. My time away was necessitated by a change in my employment. The transition from old to new office space ended up taking many more “spoons” then I had planned. Then, the following two months were pretty hectic and tiring in the new job as I had transitioned during the busiest and, some would say, worst time to do so. However, they say still waters run deep. Although things were quiet here they were NOT quiet inside my head and with my thoughts about my goals for what I wanted to have happen here.
The time away gave me chance to think and re-assess a few things. I managed to begin putting some creative pieces together and those pieces were part of a project which, at one point, had been planned for this space . I just thought they would be further “down the road.” Suddenly, I realized that “further down the road” was actually much more possible then I had, at first, realized. The universe, always conspiring to prove me wrong in my hesitations, saw fit to gift me with some much needed equipment to confirm things. This sealed the deal and made me more excited, adding fuel to my scheming.
Long story short? Yes, I’ve been pretty busy over the last few months but I’ll be having an announcement next week. The blog will be here and I have every intention in moving forward with the random map, the occasional advice/commentary post, etc. If anything, this space will be getting a nice level up.
I’m excited to introduce the next phase on Tuesday evening, July 16th. It will be here and on Twitter. Thanks for coming along with me this far and I’m hoping that you will continue to join me in the next leg of the journey!
Follow the link above if you’re not sure what I’m talking about here. The short version? I’m using Rory Story Cubes to create a fantasy map at random.
Here is a detailed write-up of the process I used to generate a map with 7 rolls. I used all three of my Story Cubes sets and simply grabbed the cubes randomly from the pile. The amount varied on each roll from 8 to 3 Cubes.
I started with a blank piece of watercolor paper. I use the thicker paper for mapping in case I want to lay some watercolors down on a later date. You should use whatever you like or have laying around. (My first test runs were on lined notebook paper!) For this run, I threw in two coastlines on the Eastern and Western sides of the map and then started rolling Cubes!
My first round was with 6 Cubes. After the roll, only 4 were still on the paper. I rolled, from left to right, a tower, a city or a temple, a set of scales and a pot of gold.
I’ve enjoyed using Rory’s Story Cubes for all kinds of inspiration for my RPG and storytelling games. Typically, I’ve used them to help me with adventure design and NPCs. I’ve also used them for my solo RPG projects as well. I currently own the Original set as well as Voyages and Actions and they are worth having in your GM toolbox.
I love coming up with ways to randomly generate adventures, NPC’s, locations, etc. This weekend I had the fun idea to use the Story Cubes to randomly generate a fantasy map. I ran a test run just to see if my idea was valid and was thrilled with the results. So, in order to better illustrate how to do this I decided to build a map entirely from scratch and show you how to do it.
First off, you will need to pick up a set of Rory’s Story Cubes. They can be found online and at department stores like Target and Walmart. They are a set of 9 dice with graphical images on them.
Next get a blank sheet of paper which will be your map, a pencil, a good eraser, and a notebook or scrap paper. You might also want some fabric like a towel or maybe do the rolls on a carpeted floor to keep the dice from bouncing too badly. I did the example below on a hardwood coffee table and, as you will see, everything worked out just fine!
Holidays help provide us with important breaks, excuses to party, to meet up with old friends and family as well as offering times of reflection and peace. More so, the mid-winter season is a special time since it’s the time of year where a host of different holidays combine to create a juggernaut of a holiday season. I enjoy diving down into the histories, traditions and folklore surrounding it. From the ancient party of Saturnalia, to the Irish horse skulls of Mari Lwyd to the more modern Kwanzaa, it’s always a fun ride.
This year, it got me thinking about fantasy worldbuilding and the importance of festivals and holidays in a game world for a gamemaster. In table top roleplaying, holidays can often be treated as throw-away events for a game, typically being used as a backdrop for a one-shot game. However, I think holidays and festivals can serve the campaign, and a game’s host, by providing more depth to the game world with not only the build up towards a holiday but the holiday itself.
If, as the game host, you already have a calendar for your world then your set. If you don’t have a calendar it’s not necessary but it does help to give the players a sense of time. In the game world, the cycle of annual holidays can help a community or society to understand the flow of the year. Holidays, festivals and feasts are like sign posts letting communities plan a planting season, a harvest season, special moments of import to be celebrated, etc.
Though I’m mainly going to talk about a fantasy setting this can serve just as well in science fiction as well. We are going to look at five components to review for inspiration in crafting a holiday for your game; Culture, Survival, Celestial Events, and Themes. At the end of the post, I’ll present a sample holiday made up with these components.
Like most D&D geeks from the early 80’s, my first campaign was set in the first world released for the game, Greyhawk. After a few campaigns here and there, imagination called to me. I was yearning for a new place to build adventures and my next love, Forgotten Realms, had yet to be published. I think it happens to most gamemasters in time. I wanted something to call my very own so I cast off from the shores of Greyhawk and did what any self-respecting, geek gamemaster would do – I started my own game world.
The concept from my adolescent brain? A large, sparsely populated island filled with more monsters then civilization. It was to be a savage place where life was cheap except for small pockets of civilization along the coast. With so much danger, why would anyone go there? This was easy enough. Legends of an ancient civilization buried within the mountainous crags, vast halls of undiscovered wealth, knowledge and magical secrets, of course.
I called the island Ballushiam, the Lost Island
I grabbed a ballpoint pen, some grid paper and got to work. I scribbled rivers and mountains. I designed where different factions were located with crayon and marker. I drew out different territories and gave them horrible names. I drew my first compass rose. I worked on the project for several weeks.
And, of course, this was as far as it got. Sadly, it never got played. I hung on to my maps and my notes because I kept telling myself, “One day, monster island… one day…”
Years passed and the island held true to it’s name. Games came and went until a few years ago I was purging through things, going through boxes of older game material. I was getting back to only the simple, basic things I wanted to keep. Amidst the crumpled character sheets, half-drawn maps, odd sketches, old GM notes and brittle graph paper I came across an old, green school folder. I recognized it from my high school days. Forgetting what was placed within I opened it carefully and found, to my joy, Ballushiam, the lost island! All that was left from the numerous notes and sketches were two gaudy maps with little information. Yet, looking at them brought back all the memories, all the ideas.
Once again the lost island had been found and I had a decision to make. I was cleaning things out. I’d not done anything with it for decades. Why keep it? Would I keep it or did it just need to go into the trash after taking a few pictures for keepsakes?
Of course, I kept it. What kind of gamer would I be if I tossed out the very first horribly drawn world maps I ever created?
So, it went back in the worn green folder and stored with other memorabilia like my first dungeon, my first monster, and some old character sheets. Once again, the island sank back down under the waves of attention.
But, all was not lost. Recently, as I went looking for the GenCon XVI booklets I photographed for my previous post, the lost island rose again. When I found it, I made an important decision.
If I didn’t use it immediately and do something with it then I would toss it and move on.
Which, of course, means…
It’s time to explore the lost island of Ballushiam!
One of the ideas I had for this blog was to produce, from the ground up, a fantasy game world that could be free and open for everyone. This is exactly what I want to do with Ballushiam. It has, sadly, been unattended for decades but I’m breathing life into it and will be sharing the island with you. I’ll be doing the heavy lifting, of course, but I’ll be listening to comments and thoughts that come up on future posts. As things grow, you, as reader, will have chances to effect how aspects change and grow on the island in various ways. I want it to be a living, breathing island.
First steps will be getting the map done or, at least, part of the map. I love doing write-ups and background history pieces as well so these will be posted here too. Most of the pieces will not be to any specific game system but I may give some hints and examples how they might, for instance, into Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, FATE core, etc. Everything will go under the tag of “Ballushiam” and, if it gets hefty enough, I will give it it’s own page and cross-link everything as needed.