Back in one of my earliest Architect DM posts I said that structure was one of the most overlooked elements of dungeon design. These days most of the published dungeon maps that I see are not bad with regards to structure, but from what I’ve heard this is still something that a lot of people would like to learn about for their personal, hand drawn dungeon designs.
I’ve sat through more hours of architectural history classes than seems reasonable for a human being, everything from the crude Dolmen tombs of early Europe to weeks of studying the various gothic cathedrals that all look pretty much the same. I never got the chance to take an asian architecture course, but one of the most memorable asian structures that I learned about was the Ise Grand Shrine.
For those of you that don’t know, there hasn’t been an Architect DM post in several weeks because my wife and I welcomed our first child into our lives in early March and she’s been running things ever since! What this means is that I have a lot of small periods of free time on the internet at random points throughout my day. What I’d like to do in the meantime is help you, yes YOU, with anything you might need help with in your roleplaying games.
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.
Let me know if this situation sounds familiar to you: You’re the DM/GM for your gaming group and you’ve just wrapped up an adventure, and you have at least a whole week until the next one. You sit down the next day, or even that very night, and start the adventure planning process. Over the next few days you stay on track but before you know it the next adventure is looming and you feel like despite your best efforts the game is still not as ready as you feel it should be.
I believe that most DMs have only run a single campaign world, whether it was one big campaign that has been continued through various ages, or they’ve only managed to run one satisfactory campaign. The tendency for a DM seems to be to conserve the number of campaigns they run by reusing worlds or tying them together so that in the end the number of campaign worlds they run is as close to one as possible. I think our tendency as DMs is to keep things relatively stable within our game worlds unless they are split by something like a change in campaign.
It has been a few weeks since my last Architect DM post, but I’ve been brainstorming a handful of different posts and this one came to the forefront as something I want to discuss. My last post introduced some of my general thoughts about worldbuilding for modern and futuristic games, which is a genre that I plan on talking about more in the future. However, this week I’d like to discuss something I learned in architecture school that can be applied to your games and make your life as a DM/GM easier.
I’ve talked quite a lot about worldbuilding and running roleplaying games in fantasy settings, but I’ve been planning on addressing modern and futuristic RPGs for a long time as well. One of the big hurdles that I have to overcome when thinking and writing about modern/future settings is that they seem inherently more difficult to deal with than their fantasy counterparts. For a modern or even a historic RPG I believe the difficulties come from the game being based in a real world that brings with it a vast amount of expectations from the players. If you’re running a game in these settings and a player at your table knows more about history than you, it can become very intimidating to even try to plan or run the game. Science fiction and futuristic games are a little bit better, but you’re still dealing with a lot of heavy science and realistic elements that can lead to issues where they might not have arisen in your typical elves and magic infused setting.
For well over a year now I’ve kept an eye on the material that our friend Dennis has been producing over at his blog The Spirits of Eden for his RPG setting, the World of Adel. I’ve talked to him a few times about his worldbuilding and the setting that he’s created, and every time we talk I marvel more and more at what he is creating. Today he has started a series of posts he is calling a Worldbuilding Diary and I was instantly impressed and inspired by it.
If someone asked me for a single bit of advice to improve their roleplaying games, whether as a DM or a player, I would tell them to spend as much time as they can reading the great fantasy and sci-fi books that are out there. For the first several years that I was playing RPGs I was not an avid reader and had not even heard of many of the classics, including ones that everyone should have heard of like The Lord of the Rings. At the time I thought many of my friends were insanely creative or stricken by some miraculous form of otherworldly inspiration, but as I’ve read more and more of the books out there I began to realize that most good ideas in our RPGs have been inspired by or even directly ripped from other sources. For example, in one of the first D&D games that I ever DM’d a player showed up with a character named “Muadib” and I remember thinking that it was a very unique and interesting sounding name. A year or two later I started reading Dune and groaned when I realized he’d simply lifted the name straight out of that book.