Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Locations in the Southern Reaches – Theory 2

This is a continuation of last week’s theory posting, explaining the background and my thinking on locations in my Southern Reaches campaign, and will wrap that up for a bit. At least until the PCs explore a lot further out.

The Ruins
The first PCs have arrived here and just scratched the surface before returning to the Iron Keep (see yesterday’s post). On the map, the location is simply labeled “Ruins”, which is technically accurate, but not really descriptive of what’s there. So the question is “Why?”

I decided that past adventurers made the table map, several decades ago. Realizing that the map was in a public place, the notations they made were more in the way of mnemonics rather than completely descriptive. They knew what the notations meant and that was good enough for them. This allowed me to map out the local area and list some intriguing points without spilling the beans.

As to the location, I have a name for the hills in my notes, the Ruined Hills, but I’d rather the PCs name locations for the map, so I haven’t handed it out. Same with the adventure site itself, but I’m listing that in the Adventure Log headings just so I can keep things straight myself. I’m also using the Bayeux Tapestry (link shows sample) as my example of what the murals on the walls look like in the tombs. This provides a bit of verisimilitude to the setting and will differentiate the cultures to the players.

The Cave
No one has made it here yet, although Tycho von Helmont found a reference to this location and has updated the map with a cryptic “need feathered key to enter”. I have a mid-level map from Sickly Purple Death Ray that I need to key and fill, but I also need to draw out the upper levels and populate them. I think I will be doing that late this weekend, at least getting the map sketched out. I have a good list of monsters that list “underground” as their habitat that I’m looking forward to using. I’ve toyed with the idea of having these caves somehow link up with Under Drop-Off Tower, but I probably won’t – too cheesy, I think.

Old Stones
I’m proud of the standing stones I drew on the map. They aren’t awesome art, but very representational and groovy for freehand work in Publisher. This location will likely point to locales further south, away from areas the PCs know about. It might provide protection against something otherworldly. It might be a gate or the receiving area for a gate.

I need to do some research on standing stones in Europe to get a good feel for likely layouts before I sketch this out. I also need to find a sample for the petroglyphs on the Illustrated Obelisk, an item Tycho von Helmont has a reference to in the spellbook he found. I want this to be culturally different from other things as the Old Stones are VERY old, representing a culture that was here long before the elves of the Edgewood or the human horse lords of the plains. I have some thoughts on that, but they are still percolating, so I’m not going to share them yet.

3 peaks
There is an adventuring locale here, but I have not made a lot of decisions about it yet, other than where it is. The name comes from me drawing three mountain peaks on the map, grouped tight, amongst the hills. Seemed a natural name.

This is the least developed of the major landmarks on the Table Map, something I will be rectifying this month. Once I have this detailed a bit, my starting area will be fully sketched out (note that I don’t say “complete”) and I’ll be ready to start working on the next tier out of locations. Then I can go back and provide hooks to these locations in the unexplored parts of the Local Area.

This is an important concept in world design: building in manageable chunks. I’ve done top-down design work (design the world, then the continents, then the countries, all the way down to the villages so the players can go anywhere and I’ll have something already done), but I seem to limit myself later to what I drew on the map at the beginning. This time I’m working bottom-up (meaning starting with the place the PCs start in and then designing areas outside that as the players get there), which should allow me to add cool things as I think of them. This let me get immediately started from almost nothing but a local wilderness map and some things I downloaded off the Internet and keyed up myself.

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