Lets Build a World: Part Twelve: Continents and Geography

We’ve finished with Chapter Two of the World Builder’s Guidebook, covering Worlds and Planetology. Now we are moving on to Chapter Three: Continents and Geography. This is probably the stage of world building that most are familiar with as a lot of fantasy is set at this level, with a continent or continent-sized region. Middle-Earth. The Hyborian Kingdoms. The Wheel of Time. A Song of Fire and Ice. Earthsea. The Belgariad. Faerun. The list goes on. It is a large area of multiple kingdoms and nations and plenty of scope to travel.

This is also a very good starting point for worldbuilding with the guidebook and possibly the most common too. The book covers how to do that, by rolling the hydrography of the world, ranging from a region of archipelagos all the way to a region with little to no water, draw up a rough map of the region, followed by rolling for the landforms of the regions, its mountains and hills, its plains and gorges and more and placing them on it.

We aren’t doing that though. We have a world map to work from and so we are going to select a region from that. For that you select one of the twenty regions on the world map, or an equivalent area, and roughly sketch them on a new map. As the book points out this is a vast area. If working from an Earth-sized world, one of the twenty regions is equivalent to about to twice the size as the continental USA.

As I mentioned previously, I had an idea of where I wanted to work with, as indicated on the map below.

Why that region in particular? I thought it looked an interesting spot, with the volcanic activity and the layout of it. As can be seen, it isn’t centred on any one region but is about the size of one region.

The next step was to roughly map it out on a new map, and adding to it the wind and current movement, the presence of the plates and the mountains, to produce the following map.

Each of those hexes is about 100 miles across, so that larger island is about the size of France. As can be seen, in the southeast corner, we have low mountains running along the islands there with extinct volcanoes, while to the north and west we have medium mountains, with active volcanoes present. A deep ocean trench lies to the northwest and we have wind and current patterns.

All right, so what is next? Well, now we start adding details. We will take the rough map and give it proper coastlines, followed by expanding on the mountains and hills and then moving on to the climate and terrain.

Lets Build a World: Part Eleven: Climate

Last time we worked on starting to map the world, which included working out tectonics. This time we look at the last part of the entire planet build, and that is its climate.

In a typical Earth like world, there are five climate bands; arctic, sub-arctic, temperate, sub-tropical and tropical. That isn’t necessarily the case in all worlds, and each band can have variance based on a number of factors, such as altitude, weather patterns or even more extreme things like the presence of a deity. Adding a second sun could also change things up substantially as well.

Our first step to determine the climate is to work out the mean planetary temperature. Is it similar to Earth, or is it hotter or colder? The hotter it is, the further north people have to live as the equatorial regions become to hot to live in, at least for humans and others like them, whereas the colder it is, the further south people need to live as it may resemble an ice age.

On a 1d100, we roll a 43, which results in a normal temperature, similar to Earth. Not super hot or super cold. Which means we can find people all across the globe.

The next step is seasonal variance. Seasonal variance is produced on Earth by its axial tilt. The more a world tilts, the more extreme seasonal variance is. Of course, axial tilt doesn’t have to apply to fantasy world. There could be other explanation for seasonal variance, ranging from the sun waxing and waning in strength or an eternal war between the gods. A Song of Ice and Fire is an example of a world with extreme seasonal variance.

Rather the roll on the seasonal variation, I instead choose, going with mild. This results in a world with less variation than on Earth, resulting in the arctic circles being pushed back further north, and the ice sheets being smaller. Seasons are present but reduced in strength, with the tropics and sub-tropics seeing no seasonal variation, while temperate and sub-arctic bands have warmer winters and cooler summers.

This could explain why, at least from a scientific view, the world has more oceans. The warmer temperatures in the the artic regions caused the ice sheets to melt and raise the sea levels.

Now we know what the temperatures are like, we have to work out the prevailing winds and ocean currents which drive the weather. For both, north of the equator, they move in a clockwise direction, while south of it they move counter-clockwise.

For currents, take a look at the major bodies of water and draw a circle in the appropriate direction depending on what hemisphere they are in. They will follow along the edges of land masses, which in the case of my map will be the undersea mountains and island chains. In the map below, the currents are marked in blue.

For prevailing winds, they are generated by oceans and large land masses, the latter of which we are lacking. Unlike ocean currents, they aren’t impeded by shorelines, but mountain ranges, especially large ones, will hamper them. For my world, the wind currents are shown in orange.

And that is it for the planetology stage of the world building. Next time we will choose one of the regions on the map and drill down into it, starting the Continents and Geography chapter of the book. And looking at the map, I have a fair idea where I am going to choose.

Lets Build a World: Part Ten: World Mapping and Tectonics

After a long break we are back to the world building process with The World Builder’s Guidebook (AD&D 2ed). We have come to the slowest part of the process – maps.

The book came with a pad of blank maps to use, as this was in the days before mapping software was really an option. The expectation was that it would all be done by hand. For the world map, they provided a polyhedral map, as seen below. The world was split into 20 sections, as we previously rolled for, and you assigned the various sections based on the continents you had rolled up.

While it does make for a more realistic global map, not all worlds are necessary global, and if you are using other means to map, such as mapping software, they may not always have the option to be polyhedral.

So for this I am going with a more standard looking map. We place the two continents we rolled in squares 4 and 7 and then assign the rest of the options were we want. The end result looks like this.

That is, of course, the easy bit. Now we have to sketch out the shape of the world based on what we have. Half land/half water is what is says, while major islands have around 25% land and 75% water. Minor islands have a scattering of land, maybe 5%, while water is pretty much just water, with maybe a small island here or there. On a piece of paper I map out a rough design of the world, as show here.

With an idea of how the world works, we come to the next stage, the seismology and tectonics of the world. This, of course, is based on the concept that your world is similar to Earth. You may not need to worry about this step if you are going for something wild and unusual, but for this example we are going to keep following the book.

A Earth-sized world has 4d4 plates, each of 1d6 regions. Our roll is 11 plates, so we start to roll to see how many regions each has. We start rolling with 6, 2, 2 and 5. That brings us up to 15 regions already, leaving just 5 left. As we have rolled more plates than that, we just add 5 more of 1 region each and drop the last 2. It may be that you end up with not enough regions, in which case you can just add the left over region to the last plate.

Now we have the plates we need to add them to the map. Generally along the boundary between land and sea, or along island chains is a good place to put then, though they don’t necessarily have to follow that; looking at Earth’s plates you can see one running right down the middle of the Atlantic. One to three plates per ocean basin or continent is recommended. The red lines on the map below are how I allocated them.

So what are the rest of the markings on the map about? Well, where plates meet is a good place to find mountains and rifts as well as volcanic and seismic activity. Plates meet each other in one of three ways; away from each other, towards each other or alongside each other. Starting with one plate, you roll on the plate movement table to see in which way they are moving (and from that you know what the other side is doing), and see what it causes. Plates moving towards each other tend to make the largest mountains, while those moving alongside each other will result in seismic activity.

The red arrows on the map indicate the movement of the plates. As can be seen I didn’t fill them all in; you can if you want, but it isn’t required. The blue lines mark deep ocean trenches, forming where one plate is sliding underneath its neighbor. The brown lines mark mountain chains; 1 line for low mountains, 2 lines for medium mountains and 3 lines for high mountains. In this case the ‘mountains’ are submarine ridges that the peaks of form island chains.

World size can play a part in adjusting the size of mountains, if you wish for that. World’s smaller than average adjust mountain ranges up in size, while larger world’s than Earth adjust it down.

Volcanic chains are also marked on the map. The solid orange triangles active volcanoes, the solid yellow triangles are dormant volcanoes and the hollow orange triangles are extinct. Given that one of the most important deities in the pantheon of the world is the Lord of Volcanoes, these are liable to be important places.

I haven’t marked down anything about earthquakes, but will keep an eye on any regions that might experience them as we further explore the world.

Of course, if you are going with a fantastical world and don’t want tectonic plates, you can roll on a sperate chart to place mountains per region, ranging from normal mountains to fantastical ones, like ones that are gates to elemental plains.

Next time we move on to the climatology of the planet.

Lets Build: A Pantheon with the World Builder’s Guidebook (AD&D 2E)

For a project I am working on, I am going back to The World Builder’s Guidebook (AD&D 2E) to work out some details. First up will be the creation of a pantheon using the guidebook. I have some ideas which I want to explore but need to get a proper feel for the place before I get started. So lets get rolling.

Firstly is to work out what type of pantheon it is; the dice roll a 53, resulting in one pantheon per major culture, with overlapping deities. In effect this means that there is one deity per portfolio (war, love, sun etc), but that they are known by different names to different cultures. A prime example of that are the gods and goddesses of the Roman and Greek pantheons – many of the Roman ones were rebranded Greek ones, similar in a lot of ways but with different names.

Int his case, I am thinking that there would be one fairly large pantheon and that each culture uses elements of it. Some deities, the main ones, may be fairly universal while others may be more specific to only a few cultures. The relative importance of them will vary from culture to culture, so a deity of agriculture may not have much meaning to nomadic herders, while a deity of rain would likewise not be followed in a desert dwelling culture. The deity of war would be of far grater importance to a militaristic, expansionist culture than a more civilised, peaceful one.

Next we move onto the pantheon size. In this case it is the size of the pantheon for the culture we are working with, and not the size of the overall pantheon. A roll of 23 results in a Small pantheon. Given the culture involved it a relatively minor one that can work well. Rolling for the number of deities, we get 1 Greater, 2 Intermediate, 2 Lesser and 2 Demi, a total of 7 all told. We will work out who they are later.

With the size worked out we work out what the organisation of the pantheon is, or at least this portion of it. The larger pantheon will be a mixed one, with various elements as the pantheon evolved. This portion rolls a 63, a Natural pantheon. Basically, they represent various elements of nature; animals, plants, seasons, weather etc.

Lastly we work out the involvement of the pantheon in the affairs of mortals. A roll of 37 results in Aloof; the deities don’t get involved much, if at all, and only in times of great need. The Valar of The Silmarillion are an example of that, at least later on.

Now to work on the specifics of the Pantheon.

Greater Deity; We roll 3 on 1d3 for the number of portfolios they have. The first roll is a 19; Oceans. That fits in very well with the Natural theme of the pantheon and indicates that the culture we are working on has deep connections to the ocean. The second roll is 06; Animals. In this case it wouldn’t be all animals, but oceanic animals. Our last roll is a 36; Sun. That one doesn’t seem to fit as well, so I re-roll and come up with 51; Fate. Given the nature of the sea, that one fits in well.

There are no actual rules for determining gender or actual alignment of the deities, beyond a range of them. Animals, oceans and fate could be of any alignment. My house rule is to just flip a coin for gender and use the alignment chart for cultures to figure out the alignment of a deity, re-rolling for any non-allowed ones.

Rolling gives a male god who is neutral-good, completing the picture of him. The God of the Ocean is seen by this culture as a benign ruler, concerned for the well being of his people over the rules of law and individual liberty. He preaches acceptance of the fate that comes on all, whether raging storm or unexpected wealth, and the creatures of the sea are his, the bounty of them provided to his followers. The sea drakes that explore the depths of the ocean are his sacred creatures.

Intermediate Deity #1; We roll 2 on 1d3 for the number of portfolios they have. The first roll is 73; Music and the second is 54; Fire. They are also female and of a neutral-good alignment as well. At first glance it seems a bit of an odd combination but I can see how it works.

The Lady of the Flame, at least in this culture, welcomes all to her warmth and represents all that is good about fire; the provider of heat and of cooking. Moreso, hers is a place where people gather around to share, to sing and make music. She represents the good aspects of fire and most likely was one of the early deities worshiped by early people, simple hunter-gatherers at their campfires.

Intermediate Deity #2; We roll 2 on 1d3 for the number of portfolios they have. The first roll is 10; Earth and the second is 80; Trade. I like this combo and will keep it for the overall pantheon but I think I will set it aside for this pantheon and roll again as it doesn’t quite fit the picture I am building up in my head for them. Instead we roll 27; Seasons and 37; Sun. They are a male neutral deity.

The Lord of the Seasons is even more indifferent to the fates of mortals than most, caring simply for the rise and fall of the seasons, from summer to winter and back, and with it the waxing and waning of the strength of the sun.

Lesser Deity #1; We roll a 1 on 1d2 for the number of portfolios. The roll is 52; Fertility. They are a chaotic good female deity.

The Lady of Birth and Growth cares little for the rule of laws, instead being about the growth of all things, the blossoming of new life, the birth of new creatures. Given her inclusion in the pantheon and the more chaotic nature of her personality, the culture in question might have looser laws on such matters as marriage, and less stigma on those born out of wedlock.

Lesser Deity #2; We roll a 2 on 1d2 for the number of portfolios. The rolls are 100; Time and 31; Sky. The deity is a lawful good female.

The Lady of Time is closely connected to The Lord of Seasons. Perhaps related, perhaps married. Perhaps both, depending on the culture and mythology involved. They mark the orderly passage of time, displaying it in the heavens with the wheel of the stars and the moon, and like the Lord of Seasons, being indifferent to all else, but in a far more orderly manner than the passage of seasons.

Demi-power #1; They have a single portfolio, rolling a 78; Thunder. They turn out to be a neutral-evil female deity. An unusual one, but given the oceanic theme of the culture, one that could fit in. The Lady of Storms is a selfish deity who rages at will, caring little for the deaths she brings to those caught up in her displays. For such reasons mortals fear her but also respect her, seeking to appease her nature with offerings in return for their safety, but they don’t exactly love her.

Demi-power #2; They have a single portfolio, rolling 48; Death. They turn out to be a Lawful-neutral female deity.

Death comes to all. It is part of nature, unavoidable. While her sister, The Lady of Birth and Growth ushers you into the world, it is The Lady of Death who ushers your soul on. She is not a cruel or uncaring deity, merely one carrying out the natural order of things, regardless of the standing of the victim. All in the end come to her, and hers is a place where suffering and pain are no more.

That is the pantheon of the culture that we are working on, an interesting mix. The details of the pantheon can now be fleshed out as the culture is built up on but as it currently stands we have a few points of interest to look at. But as you can see, you can get some interesting mixes and from that try and build a story around them, to see what ideas it sparks. You don’t have to stick exactly with what the rolls give you, though they can certainly help get the creativity flowing.

Lets Create: Fading Suns Merchant Character – Crosswire

Previously we have created Lady Ysabel, a Hazat Noble, and Brother Octavian, a Brother Battle Priest, so now we move on to Those Who Trade – the merchants.

Merchants is an inadequate description rally, as they cover a wide variety of professions. The guilds are the remnants of the corporations of the Second Republic (and dream of the Third), but have an important role in the Empire. Snubbed by nobles, seen as sinners by priests, nonetheless, the services they provide are ones that neither priest or noble can do without.

There are five main guilds, as well as many smaller ones, and even independents, freelancers beholden to none, though that leaves them without support should things go wrong. For freelancers, it is beast to make them through custom creation, but as usual, we are sticking with the main Guilds.

The Charioteers control the spacelanes. They hold a monopoly on the jumpcodes that operate the jumpgates, and are master pilots and master traders, travelling from world to world with cargo both legal and illegal. Since they can pack up and move so easily, often it is a case of buyer beware.

The Engineers (or Supreme Order of Engineers) maintain tech, recreate lost tech and discover their own innovations as well. Between that, and their habit of installing cybernetics in their bodies, they tend not to be on the best of terms with the Church. Regardless, when it comes to technology, they are the masters. Even if they have a few too many mad scientists in their ranks.

The Scravers started out as salvagers and reclaimers of old tech, often in ruins from the Second Republic, but have moved on beyond that. If you can’t find what you are looking for, legally, the Scravers can find it for you. At a price. They get involved with a lot of shady operations, and with the best enforcers to protect it. There is a lot of the mafia about them.

The Muster (or Chainers) specialise in the trade of people. They are a cross between a trade union, and intermediary job agency and a private military contractor, hiring out skilled workers like technicians, engineers, construction workers and mercenaries. However, it is their trade in slaves that most people associate them with.

The Reeves (or Grey Faces) are quiet, behind the scenes types who are reputed to be the richest guild around. They are a guild of lawyers and bankers, and as a result they have hooks in pretty much everyone. When they call in favours, few can refuse.

We’ve got Lady Ysabel to handle the talking and Brother Octavian to handle fighting, so what I’m looking for is someone to handle the tech. In other games I’ve played characters who were combat engineers named Crosswire, so we are going to continue that here. While Engineers, Scravers or Chainers could all work, we are going to go with the Engineers.

First off we need to find out where Crosswire came from in his Upbringing. There are two parts to that, the Environment and the Class. For the Environment, they could come from a City, a Town or the Country. For Crosswire, we are going with City which gives Wits +2, Perception +2, Observe +1, Inquiry 1 and Streetwise 1. The second part is Class, either Wealthy, Average or Poor. Crosswire started with nothing so for him it is Poor. That gives Faith or Ego +1, Knavery 1 and Streetwise or Survival 1. For Crosswire, he had to learn to survive on his own, so Ego and Streetwise are the choices we go with.

At some point Crosswire began his Apprenticeship, either in an Academy of the best and brightest, a Guildhall, or on the Streets, where they have to learn the hard way. The last, The Streets, fits Crosswire’s background. It gives him Dexterity +2, Wits +1, Tech +2, Shoot +1, Inquiry 1, Read Urthtech, Tech Redemption (choose speciality) 2, Science (choose speciality) 2, Streetwise 1 and Think Machine 1. It also has the blessing of Innovative (+2 Tech when trying to invent something new and the curse of Unnerving (-2 extrovert when dealing with serfs.) For his Tech Redemption he goes with Mech, allowing him to fix, upgrade or jury-rig al kinds of mechanical devices, from a simple as scissors to as complex as generators. His Science disciple is Engineering, relating to the design and construction of buildings, vehicles, etc. Or in his case, the destruction of them.

With his Apprenticeship done, Crosswire moves onto his early career, being commissioned into his guild and getting his first jobs. He can pick Starship Duty (Pilot, Engineer or Gunner), Mercenary (Soldier or Combat Engineer), Scholar, Scientist Or Seedy/Illegal (Thief or Spy). That choice is easy having already decided what type of character Crosswire is – Combat Engineer. That nets him Strength +1, Dexterity +2, Endurance +2, Wits +1, Perception +1, Tech +2, Passion or Calm +1, Combat Skill (Fight or Melee) +1, Observe +1, Shoot +2, Drive (choose speciality) 2, Remedy 1, Tech Redemption (choose Primary) 3, Tech Redemption (choose secondary) 2, Science (Engineering) 1, Warfare (Artillery) 1, Warfare (Demolitions) 1 and a Benefice – Rank (Associate).

For his choices, Crosswire picks Calm over Passion – having a steady hand when dealing with explosives is kind of important. Combat Skill goes with Fight, Drive is Aircraft, his primary Tech Redemption is Mech and the secondary is High-Tech, allowing him to work on things like Think Machines (ie Computers) and Starship Drives.

Looking at his Extra Stages, Crosswire also goes down the Imperial Tours, taking the Cohort Tour of Duty as Brother Octavian did, with the 2 Attribute points, 11 skill points and the Worldly Benefit. For his second he goes with something a little different – Cybernetics. That allows him to install 20 pts of Cybernetic Devices. The Church may not like it, but as he is a member of the Engineers guild and a Imperial Cohort they are just going to have to live with it.

For his Cohort Tour of Duty, Crosswire puts 1 point in both Dexterity and Perception for his attributes, and 2 points in Shoot, Focus, Science (Cybernetics), Search and Read (Urthish) and 1 in Think Machines. For his Worldy Benefit, he selects Rich Rewards, giving him 2000 firebirds in money.

Now onto the Cybernetics. They are a really interesting system in Fading Suns as you basically build your own. You start out by working out its function (what it does) and then add in things like how it was implanted, how obvious it is, what it is made of, how well it was made, how it is powered and more. From there you can work out how many points it takes to build, and how incompatible it is.

There is only so much cybernetics that a person can install, and that is governed by incompatibility. Your Ego determines how much incompatibility you can have between all your cybernetics. In Crosswire’s case, he has 4 Ego, which gives him 14 incomparability points.

There are some already designed in the book to use, or to use as examples, which is what we are doing. An Engineer’s Eye is designed to make people see better, and looks a bit like a monocle, but one that can easily be removed. Crosswire’s is a mostly the same, except his is an actual eye implant.

So lets start with its function. It provides +1 Perception, but only when using sight. Cybernetics is the only way to boost stats above the starting value. Normally increased attributes cost 2 points per boost, but it only functions some of the time, it is 1 per boost. In this case 1 pts total. In addition it costs 1 incompatibility per boost.

In addition it has magnifier/telescope in built, for 1 point and 1 incompatibility, and ultraviolet vision, allowing him to see at night, for 2 points and 2 incompatibility. Total so far is 4 points and 4 incompatibility.

Next we work out how it is attached. In this case it is organic – wired into the body, connected to nerves and the like. It can’t be safely removed or repaired without surgery, and damaging it hurts Crosswire. The device gets 2 points back because of that, reducing the cost to 2 points but still 4 incompatibility.

Lastly is considering its power source. In this case it is self-powered, at 1 point and 1 incompatibility. We aren’t considering other options, like hiding its nature, making it of advanced materials or improving its design. The final product costs us 3 points and 5 incompatibility, leaving 17 points and 9 incompatibility left.

For the second piece, we are going with something much better and something that would make priests foam at the mouth should they ever find out – proscribed Second Republic technology. In this case it was some old, but functioning, nanotech from the Second Republic era that Crosswire discovered called Gemini Body Conversion and that he injected into himself, devices that totally rewrote his muscular and nervous system.

Lets start with its function, boosting Strength, Agility and Endurance by 2. That costs 4 points and 2 incompatibility each. It is self-powered at 1 and 1. It is also nano-tech which costs 3 points and 2 incompatibility. Nano-tech devices are counted as hidden, so it is not obvious to onlookers. All of that so far adds up to 16 points and 9 incompatibility. That is rather expensive, so he reduces the cost by 2 by making it organic and 2 more by also making it proscribed. The more fanatical members (ie Inquisitors) are liable to burn first and ask questions later. The final cost is 12 points and 9 incompatibility.

Crosswire has now used up all his incompatibility, but only 15 of his 20 points. So what happens to the rest? Well, he can increase related stats by +1 for 3 points and skills by +1 for 2 points. Crosswire decided to put 1 point in Tech and 1 point in Science (Cybernetics).

Now comes time to spend his 2000 firebirds. First off he spends 500 on a standard energy shield. The basic ones only work with light clothing so he spends 300 on Snythsilk, the best that can be bought, rare second Republic technology. The energy has a rating of 5/10, meaning it activates when 5 damage is received and soaks up all damage up to 10 taken. Any more or less than that has to be stopped by his armour.

In addition he purchases a knife (3 fb), a set of mech tools (5 fb) and a squawker (50) before getting to the good stuff – weapons and explosives.

First is a Demolition rig for 200 firebirds, a set of explosives and detonators he can configure in a variety of sizes and power. It comes with 100 dice of explosives, meaning he can make a very big bang if he wants. In addition he purchases 2 regular grenades (50 fb each) and 2 more powerful plasma grenades (100 fb each).

For a firearm he takes an Imperial rifle (200 fb) with 60 extra rounds (20fb) and backs that up with a short range Flame gun (150 fb) with 5 extra canisters of fuel (25fb). On a 1 on a dice roll, the damage can leak through both shields and armour. it also does ongoing damage until put out.

All up that costs 1753 firebirds, leaving him 247 in reserve.

Crosswire’s final character looks like;

Attributes: Body 4(6), Dexterity 6(8), Endurance 5(7), Wits 7, Perception 7(9 with sight), Tech 8, Passion 1/Calm 4, Introvert 1/Extrovert 3, Faith 1/Ego 4, Wyrd 3, Vitality 12.

Natural Skills: Impress 3, Melee 3, Charm 3, Observe 5, Shoot 8, Dodge 3, Sneak 3, Vigor 3, Fight 4.

Learned Skills: Inquiry 2, Streetwise 3, Knavery 1, Tech Redemption (Mech) 5, Tech Redemption (High Tech) 2, Science (Engineering) 4, Science (Cybernetics) 3, Think Machine 2, Drive (Aircraft) 2, Remedy 1, Warfare (Artillery) 1, Warfare (Demolition) 1, Search 2, Focus 2, Speak Urthish, Read Urthish, Urthtech.

Blessing: Innovative (+2 Tech when inventing something new)

Curses: Unnerving (-2 Extrovert around superstitious people)

Benefices: Cohort Charter, Rank (3pts, Apprentice)

Equipment: Standard Energy Shield, Synthsilk, Mech Tools, Knife, Squawker, Demolition Rig, Flamegun with 5 canisters, Imperial Rifle with 60 rounds, 2 Grenades, 2 Plasma Grenades, 247 Firebirds