|Igor, Mundo and Chum|
I make images to create my fantasy world. Sadly the use of images in RPGs is oft reduced to the color-matched mountain landscape over the proverbial plastic-wrapped couch. It seems the default method of RPG design is the written word. Text is generated as a primary source and then an artist is rustled up to embellish the words as an afterthought. As a visually creative person this is backwards thinking. Many concepts start as images and are developed further in the same format, much like an artist’s sketchbook.
Don't be afraid to use images as a primary source. Draw your own, appropriate them, or create them in your head like Stephenie Meyer. She dreamed about a vampire glistening in the sun like diamonds which became Twilight. Tomb of Horrors would be a verbose monstrosity without images. Maze of the Blue Medusa uses images as a primary source material. Think about Da Vinci's* sketch books.
|Grant Wood probably would have lived here.|
Let's talk about Doi. It’s just north of the Moot of Fooglie. I always imagined Doi as the world's most boring place. Much in my milieu is appropriated from our world. There was this girl I used to work who was not too bright and earned the moniker “The Duchess of Doi”. When I needed a name for this place of gently rolling fields, Doi immediately sprang to mind. Doi is not a great place to start an adventure, but to the north is Pewlon. Pewlon is home to everything magical, sparkly, rainbow colored, Zwinkies, grotto's and magic mushroom patches and so on. My players needed to get through Doi in order to reach Pewlon. So I sat down with pencil in hand and my sketchbook and started to think about this boring place. I started with a typical dwelling and imagined it to be a large communal homestead. It would be large enough for an extended family that worked the farm. I wanted the building to be a little bit more interesting, so I sketched it as a truncated mud silo with an angled roof and little triangular windows. This led to thoughts about harvesting machinery (which are common around here). What would be the equivalent in Doi? I try not to overthink it, so I sketched an enormous beast. This would become “the docile beasts of Doi”. I had created an non-player crypt opener from Doi called Hannah as an adventure hook. When it came time to write down the stuff on her equipment list one of the things she wore were traditional Doi clogs made out of hardened docile beast poop. This led to the idea of using excrement as a building material. So, yes everyone’s house is clad in stucco made from poop. The “docile beasts of Doi” became walking raw materials factories. Special millstones were implanted into one of their many stomachs. Raw grain in, specially processed grain out. Individual farmsteads would be grouped together into Noobs. Each Noob was responsible for sending processed grain into a wind powered network of pipelines to be tran-shipped to other countries (like the Moot of Fooglie). I made various drawings of different grain types. I created a number of unique professions linked to the docile beasts of Doi. I got all of this from a few rough sketches. Doi went from nothing to a very odd form of interesting. All this stuff becomes essential fodder to create the player narrative of the campaign. I intentionally leave things open for further embellishment. The drawing is easy for players to digest. And, because it’s a sketch, it’s not locked in. This is essential to further the narrative of the game.
|The Magic never sleeps...|
I knew right away after drawing the first sheet this would be a method to create the world. I made “Klogg Narr” and His companion “Gargo-Fu”, travelers of the Urth who publish a Traveler’s sketchbook. This could be given to the players one page at a time, getting them up to speed on Urth. Each sheet covers a specific region. As the Crypt Lord these become the starting point for the written part of each country’s mechanics, the encounter tables, culture, geographical features, and the intelligent denizens that live there. I do not treat it as a one-sided thing, as players react to these I incorporate things that they either do (in the game or out) into the design. This makes everything way more interesting and relatable to them. It also immediately makes them a part of the whole. Even if I am mocking them in the process.
of the Moot of Fooglie
*Yes, I am putting my work in the same slot as Meyer and Vinci.