When running a new campaign I like to try something different. A system I’ve never tried. A new character building method. A weird magical system. An interesting genre mix mash. Just something new to keep the experience different so I learn what I enjoy and what players enjoy. This time around I started the campaign off with a group world building session.
The premise starts with all the group members offering ideas and themes for the campaign. We collectively pick our favorites. Then we all work together to flesh out those ideas to make a campaign world and the major themes.
I got my new group together and explained the idea. We used note cards to keep track of each idea. To start us off I offered up a few themes.
- “Magic is part of everyday life”
- “Under the rule of evil tyrants”
- “The gods are angry with mortals”
The group added a few of their own ideas.
- “The area’s city-states offer war among themselves”
- “Magic-users are seen as sub-human”
- “Demon and devil incursion are commonplace”
- “Government propaganda abound”
- “The journey is more important than the destination”
The group then voted on their five favorites: “Under the rule of evil tyrants”, “Demon and devil incursion are commonplace”,”Government propaganda abound”, “Magic-users are seen as sub-human”, and “The journey is more important than the destination.”
Then we had a series of discussions on how to flesh out each one. During our discussions, I offered suggestions on what the group could add to the campaign. If those suggestions sparked an ideas or new discussions, I encouraged it. When a suggested didn’t sparked anything, I dropped it. As the game master I would have plenty of time to add flavor and content to the campaign. This world building session was for the players to get their ideas out there.
“Under the rule of evil tyrants” was the first to get some attention. They decided that the tyrants are secretly magic users but seen to be benevolent dictators. The groups adds the tyrants may be related to demons.
They decided “Demon and devil incursion are commonplace” only started in the past 15 years and they don’t have a central home base. The demons are drawn to magic users and they are the governments enforcers.
Aside from using demons it seems “Government propaganda abound.” They use their propaganda is to vilify magic users. Blame them for the demon attacks. Also to smear the neighboring country, the Wild Wizards of the West.
With all this negativity it seem the general population sees “Magic-users are seen as sub-human” and fear them. This opinion started around the same time the demon started attacking. But the magic users themselves don’t feel like they are sub-human or sub-dwarf, or sub-elf.
“The journey is more important than the destination” wasn’t expanded because I felt it was pretty self explanatory. I kind of wish I had given the group the opportunity just to see what the players would had done with the idea.
And so the country of Welldrake was born. The basic themes and ideas of the campaign were laid out. Armed with the new knowledge the players built characters and I ran a quick introduction season where the characters are whisked away to the far reaches of the country and need to travel back the capital.
By the time the second session rolled around I had taken a little time to write up a little flavor text for the campaign.
Thirty years ago the kingdom of Welldrake was under attack from marauding demons. The kingdom’s military was unable to protect its people as towns were destroyed and thousands were killed. A small heroic band of adventurers were able to do the impossible and stop the demons. In the process, they uncovered clues to a conspiracy amongst the kingdom’s elite and leadership.
The heroes gained a new purpose and founded an organization, the Inquisition, to uncover how deep the conspiracy went. They found priests, nobles, generals, and even the king himself guilty of working with the demons. At the center of it all was the Wizard’s College and its members. They had started and lead the conspiracy against the people of Welldrake.
The next ten years was marked by a war between the Wizard’s College and the Inquisition. When the war ended the Inquisition had won and the Wizard’s College and all its members were destroyed. The Inquisition ended the monarchy’s rule, set up a new ruling council, and outlawed the study of magic.
The new nation of Welldrake had peace again for five years. Then the first reports of demon attacks spread. With the Wizard’s College gone suspicion ran amok and blame was put into any caster of spells, wizard or not. Priests and the naturally gifted were targeted with anger and fear. The people of Welldrake were scared demons were returning.
That was 15 years ago, the fear and suspicion has only gotten worse.
In one creative brainstorming session the group gave me the basic tools to make a campaign that they, collectively, would be interested in. We could have taken more time to dig deeper into the world, races, magic, and lore but we only focused on what interested the group. Any concepts left unexplored were for me to fill in later or not at all.
I like group world building idea. I think it has great potential. I would love to see what a different group does with it and how it shapes their campaign. If you have done something like this before, let me know how it did or did not work out for you.