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Video Game-Inspired Campaign Setting

posted Jul 2, 2013, 9:11 PM by Christopher Ellison

The other night, an idea hit me for a campaign world modeled on the concept (explicit in most video game RPGs) that different areas are of different level.  Now, when the idea hit me, I knew three things right away:

  1. This is not an original idea by any means;

  2. I am definitely stealing from about 10 things I can think of just right off the bat; and

  3. This seems like it might be fun to play anyway.

With those things in mind, I started making some notes about the campaign world.  I plan to flesh this out and play with it to see if it actually will be fun, but I thought other people might want to play with the core idea as well.  I play with a lot of systems, but I tend to often come home to D&D (particularly D&D 3.5/Pathfinder), so I plan to try this setting out using roughly those rules.

The basic conceit of this campaign world is that there is a something (I’m currently calling it “The Corruption” - pretty generic, but at least less plagarize-y than calling it “The Nothing”...) that prevents most people from entering it safely and causes the creation from whole cloth of the monsters that terrorize the world.  The Corruption grows stronger as one travels to the east of the known continents until the traveller hits the “end of the world”, which is where the Corruption is strong enough to physically manifest (among other things, this is somewhat reminiscent of the Shadowlands).  The Corruption pushes into the Known Lands; the sapient species of the Known Lands have to fight back to keep it from overwhelming their home.

In true video game style, I’m currently thinking that the monsters are created primarily at certain nexi (“spawn points”) that are semi-stable and increasingly common as one moves east.  These spawn points may stay in one place for a few years or a few centuries, but they occasionally jump anywhere from a few to a few dozen miles (meaning that securely walling off a spawn point is at best a temporary solution).  Large cities have salvaged artifacts that protect the immediate environs from all or most of the ravages of the monsters, but at great expense; smaller villages must be constantly alert and ready to defend themselves or even relocate at a moment’s notice.  Stronger monsters are spawned the further east you move; the westernmost reaches of the Known Lands are relatively safe (1st-level) areas, while the easternmost could span into Epic territory if desired.

This is intended to be a low- to moderate-magic campaign world, with the obvious exception of the overarching influence of the Corruption.  Wizards are intended to be relatively rare and clerics even more so.  The sapient species of the Known World have lost much of their apparent prior magical knowledge in their long battle with the Corruption, providing a possible campaign theme.

One final tweak I wanted to make for this campaign world:  elimination of the always chaotic evil stereotype for some of the more playable (but traditionally “monster”) races.  I plan to come up with societal roles and different stereotypes for orcs, kobolds, and possibly some of the other Monster Manual races normally found in predominantly-human territories in a normal campaign setting.  I’m currently thinking that the orcs are probably well-respected and somewhat-feared barbarian warriors.  They’re looked upon as a crucial part of the defence of the Known Lands, but their boisterousness and lack of manners leaves them at least slightly unwelcome inside the carefully-protected cities.  I haven’t decided what role kobolds should play in this society yet.  I’m also considering changing the relative roles of the various standard races, purely to add a bit of personal flavor to this campaign world.

For those with any remaining interest, I’ll be jotting down ideas for this campaign world on my wiki.  Though it’s hardly an original idea in any respect, I feel like it has the potential to be a good setting for players to explore new roles in the context of what is still a pretty standard sword-and-sorcery fantasy world.