GM Help: World Building – Burst Work

Well well well. Here I am going on about world building, and I just can’t help but want to add more to it! In the third article of this series, I want to go over how much you can get done in a small amount of time, as well as the urge to change and fix.

Since the last post, only a few days ago, I’ve taken more notes, changed more, and overall expanded on the world. The first adventure idea was great to build off of, it’s no longer the same adventure at all anymore, but it gave me the focus I needed. I covered all the questions that I though the players would have right off the bat. It also helped me focus on the theme of the setting which is “bigger, primal, and ancient”. This helps me figure out better and more flavorful monster choices. On top of that, I had to figure the main city that the players would spend their time out, as well as the city beyond the gate.

Once I figured out all of that, something hit me… How does one travel throughout the world? I had this blur of ideas going through my head. Each one asking more and more questions. When this happens, it’s time to work in short bursts. Remember to jot as much as you can down, you can always use it later. Rather than give you the full blob of ideas that I wrote down, yes blob. I want show it in a more organized form so you can hopefully apply it to your world building.

Question: What do the players see when they enter Prime?

  • Someone mounted on the back of a giant dragonfly buzzes overhead, revealing tree mounted buildings and rope bridges sprawling overhead. On the ground a stone barrier has been constructed protecting the small city and the gate it surrounds. The struggle against nature is clear as growth fights to claim the territory back as it’s own through a part of the city being rebuilt from a stampeding Terrasque not but a year ago. There aren’t any streets, just areas of undergrowth that remain flattened and cut back by constant maintenance and traffic. Magic protects much of the area, and seems to offer an umbrella barrier as a canopy over the tree mounted buildings, which seem a separate city of its own.

Question: What is the theme of Prime?

  • Bigger. Daunting. Primal. I want the sense that this is the world from which life comes from. Beasts and nature rule the land. Living here as a civilized race should be a struggle. It needs to be a fight to maintain the perimeter around the gate. Travelling alone or without help means death. Travelling as a team should be a struggle. This should be the hardest environment to survive. It is where all the expeditioners, adventurers, entrepreneurs, and exploiters want to make it big. So, groups should be closely packed, trust is a rare thing to earn here. You can trust a beast to go wild. You cannot trust that new recruit to have your back.

Question: What is the gate city like?

  • The city on the ‘normal’ side of the gate is organized, bustling, and a melting pot of races. Elves, Humans, Dwarves, and Dragonborn each have a major district for their embassy, while the other races have smaller stakes and embassies. Trade thrives here, exotic goods, rare goods, and several schools all deliver promise and profit to the city, which in turn fuels the respective kingdoms and what not that purchase or work through the city. Guilds, houses, and unions all take root within the city; providing steady pay to adventurers, expeditioners, studiers, etc… Without a sponsorship, you’ll have a hard time dealing on your own. A sponsorship shows that you are legitimate, and authorized to sell what you’ve brought back from prime. In fact, it’s almost impossible to recover anything back into the ‘normal’ world without sponsorship or some similar writ of transport. The black market exists here, big time, but is fronted by legitimate businesses and the likes. While it’s easier to deal on Prime, it has to make it back somehow…

Question: With the theme of the campaign, what sort of monsters should they face?

  • Beasts that are far larger and smarter than their worldly counterparts. Magical beasts are normal here. What would be considered a legendary beast on the home world, is only uncommon here. Monsters affect the environment just as much as the environment affects them. They should feel like hunting monsters down is a fun and challenging mission, they are rewarded by bringing their hunt back to upgrade their weapons or craft new ones.

Question: How can I expect the players to travel?

  • As they will see upon entering Prime, the land is as exotic as the mounts. Large insects are often the best mode of travel, as they operate on more instinct than other creatures. They are easier to tame, hardy, and extremely reliable for getting out of trouble. Catching a large dragonfly is no easy task, but finding a stag beetle as a mount isn’t uncommon. Mounts from the home world simply cannot handle the terrain here. Thus, cheaper mounts for rent will be available as options until the players can get their own, or purchase one. The go to mount for rent is often a large roly-poly sort of bug, a very passive scavenger. It can hold two medium sized humanoids.

Question: Where is safe and not safe in Prime?

  • Inside the gates can be just as deadly as outside if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. This rough and tumble city is operated by goods, and money. Sponsorship is only protection if you’re part of a bigger guild or house. The city is and isn’t ruled by a government at the same time. They are open to bribery and will enforce whatever rules they see fit. It’s too hard for the home world to really provide any sort of enforcement on Prime when the enforcement they send only cares about money and power. Most adventurers prefer life outside the gates of the city on Prime. At least they can trust nature to always be out to get them. It’s them or whatever is trying to get at them. Life is more pure. If you live, you get your reward. If you die, nature claims its reward. There is no grey area of morality outside the walls, just you, or it.

Question: How will players get new information?

  • Depending on their background, and what they are like… They can pay, use the power of persuasion or intimidation, use libraries and the academy, use their own knowledge. There is always some place to go, or study. But, for some things, that place to go is the source. New discoveries are made every day on Prime. Scholars often die just as soon as, if not before they are able to take note. Their notes are often left behind for someone to get lucky. These journals and notes are worth just as much as the creatures that are detailed within. Knowledge sells for a very high price. For the brave and lucky graduate, or scholar, there is a lot of money to be made by simply studying monsters; if not more than bringing back the carcass of something new.

As I think more and more about the world, the more things begin to evolve in front of me. By working in short bursts I always come back with a fresh and new perspective. I come back with a new thought, or a revision on one I’ve already had. I have now re-worked the first adventure with more focus, and bigger, badder, monsters. Something that will challenge a level one, without outright instant death.

Revising all of it took only about fifteen minutes of my time, but now I’m really starting to picture things in my head. I’ve got ideas and maps coming about, I think I’m ready to start sketching things out. If you’re not comfortable sketching things out, then it’s time to browse the web with for art that matches keywords you used in your theme. In my case, primal, ancient, big beasts, monsters, giant forest, etc…

Till next time,


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