Monday, May 20, 2013

Setting Idea: A Primal World

One of the most enjoyable things about being a Game Master is creating new settings for your games. While I generally use published settings because it saves me some time and allows me to focus more on the adventure and the players' characters, I still like to brainstorm new ideas and concepts for settings that I can possibly flesh out for a future campaign.

Recently, I've started writing down some of these setting ideas in a spiral notebook I had laying around just so I won't forget them. I thought it would be fun to take some of those concepts and explore them a little further. So, I thought I'd start with the first concept I wrote down in the notebook: A Primal World. 

The idea is rather simple actually. The world is a new one, the deities having just created it. There is only one, Pangaea-like continent covered by thick forests and jungles. The small number of sentient races that inhabit this landmass have just started to form numerous tribes for protection and to make survival easier. 

I have always found the idea of a fantasy campaign set in a primal world to be rather interesting. The majority of fantasy settings are set after the "Golden Ages" where all of these legends and world-shaping events have happened. Setting a game in a world where those things have yet to happen would allow the players to actually do those things themselves. There characters could be those legendary heroes that inspire generations to come. They could be the characters who establish the first great empire and could be there to witness the great cataclysm that creates the different continents. 

Another interesting element of a primal world is that some of the tropes and elements common in most fantasy settings might not exist yet. For example, most of the weapons and armor being used are probably made from bones, hide, leather, and stones instead of iron and steel. Magic might be more wild and chaotic, making it a lot more dangerous and less-reliable than normal fantasy settings. Also, the number of deities would be smaller as well. The gods would be incredibly powerful with broader portfolios. The more specific gods would come over time and some of the player characters might become deities themselves. If you're using a game system that has classes, the number of classes might be limited. Paladins, monks, magi, and other such classes might have not been developed yet in the setting. However, you could introduce them overtime, letting the players become the first of those classes. 

I could see most of the adventures and campaigns would be about exploration and survival. There really wouldn't be any "traditional" dungeons yet since the civilizations that will leave them have just started to develop. The players' characters could be exploring to help their tribe's villages to further expand or to track down a threat to their tribes and take it out. You can also have them working to bring different tribes together under one banner to make them stronger and defend them better. This could allow some interesting intrigue and culture-clashes to show up as well. 

What do you guys think about setting a campaign in a primal world? Would you ever do it? If so, how would you do it? I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas.