Category Archives: Dungeoncraft

Dungeoncraft: The World of Asecia

Last time I showed you the original map that started it all. Today I want to explain you what I’ve changed and why I have made that changes. And you’ll get more details on the campaign itself.

“The world is not enough”
Shortly after I’ve restarted my “gaslight fantasy campaign” project anew I realized that my initial map was not big enough. There were three ways to remedy that problem:

  • Create a whole new map
  • Change the scale of the map
  • Keep the scale of the map and add more lands around it

In the end I decided to go with option 3, although technically I will have to recreate the whole map either way. Since I lost the original map files, I will have to recreate the whole map in CC 3.0, allowing me to add more lands and make some changes. The major landmass of the original map will become a group of islands similiar to the British Isles and I will add some more islands and a bigger continent to the east.

“Rise of Nations”
In my first episode I wrote about the tribal origins of humanity and the rise of magic. But this was millennia before the actual campaign is meant to start. Over the years nations have formed, collapsed, where rebuilt, conquered, united and broken apart. Over almost a millenium the major political power on the eastern continent was the Empire of Cerynia. Cerynia started as a magocracy with the leaders of the three sorceror houses forming the ruling council, the Troika of Cerynia. Over time the lesser houses and the unmarked populace demanded more rights and after a long struggle that almost broke the empire apart, the Empire of Cerynia became a republic. 300 years ago the Republic of Cerynia lost a lot of their provinces because the once free territories wanted independence. During that time, the Principality of St. Michael, the Kingdoms of Tovenar and Rivenar were formed.

“Republic of Cerynia”
Cerynia is my version of Rome. During their golden age the Cerynians not only invented democracy but they also were the ones who formalized magic, created the first magic academies and made huge advances in the mundane sciences. But their nation grew to fast and so it started to fall apart, just like Rome did. But I didn’t want Cerynia to become a footnote in history, so decided that although it lost most of it territories, the Republic of Cerynia still continued to hold its core lands until now.

“Principality of St. Michael”
Another major power is the Princpality of St. Michael. Once it was part of the Cerynian Empire but the island nation has been granted independence during the most troubled era of Cerynian’s history. The empire was fighting on too many fronts at that time and so they decided to grant the Principality independence and keep it as an ally instead of getting another enemy. The first prince of the new founded nation was Michael d’Arellien, who is now worshipped by the Church of St. Michael. The principality is a constitutional monarchy with the prince as the head of state. The parliament consist of the Industrial Council, the Council of Mages and the House of Commons. The Industrial Council consists of 20 of the most influential industrialists, the council of mages consits of the highest members of the sorceror houses and the House of Commons is elected by all citizens of the Prinicpality in equal vote. The Principality is also the spearhead of the industrial revolution that still changes the face of Asecia.

The Principality was strongly influenced by the United Kingdom of our world. The Principality is much like a Victorian England with magic and weird inventions thrown in. The Principality is highly industrialized and the industrialists are trying to get even more influence. Mages have lost a lot of their former glory but they are still a power to be reckoned with. There is also a rather new breed of mages in the Principality that tried to combine the advances of technology with the traditions of magic, calling themselves Technomages.

“Kingdom of Tovenar”
Tovenar is the last remaining pure magocracy today. The majority of the people of Tovenar are farmers that owe fealty to their mage lords. The land is controlled by a lot of minor nobles that only report to their sorceror-king Kharad II. Kharad II has studied at universities all over the continent and is trying to turn his kingdom slowly into an industrialized nation much to the chargrin of a lot of backwater nobles who fear the change of the status quo. Recently Kharad II has moved his capital to the new city of Kharagrad which he planned himself and invited scholars from all over Asecia to teach and research at the Royal University of Tovenar.
I will write about Rivenar and the rest of the world later.

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. – Karl Marx”
Borrowing from real history has its advantages. Although it’s not as original as creating everything from scratch it’s much easier to get things feel natural. My world of Asecia is much like Europe during the Victorian times. Then take the noble houses of that time and replace them with mages and you’re almost there. Spice it with some weird science and steampunk and you get an unique mix. I am currently at a point where I think that this campaign could really work. My main problem with creating whole campaign settings has always been that I want to put it all in. I have thousands of ideas and I don’t want to let something out, so the result is a mess. Blogging about my ideas and reading your comments helps me to focus on the project andkeeps me from jumping from cool idea to idea.

“Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book”
The big question remains: Should I try to write all my ideas down at the end so that it could be published as a book? Not that I intended to sell it in the first place, but I could make it available as PDF for free on the site, if there are enough people interested. What do you think? And do you think I should keep the format of the articles?

Dungeoncraft: The map

I am still working on my next episode of “Dungeoncraft” but I wanted to give you a small gift that should make waiting easier: the original map! It’s a photo I made with my iPhone, so don’t expect to many details. You get a bigger version of the map by clicking onto the thumbnail below.

Some of the names are probably a bit strange and you may notice a lot of dwarven clans in the north. When I started this project years ago I was still planning to include several races like elves and dwarves into the campaign. And actually after thinking about it for a while elves and dwarves could actually make a comeback. But I don’t think they should be playable as characters races. But more on that later…

By the way, does anyone recognize the program that map was done with? I only have faint memories and I remember that it was pretty easy to use but I just don’t have any idea how the mapping tool was called. Can anyone give me a hint?

Dungeoncraft: “It all started with a map”

This article is the first part of an series of articles in which I want to talk about the development of a campaign setting. For quite some time I was thinking about what kind of world I would like to create and finally I decided to give it a try and start with some serious work. The series will be called “Dungeoncraft” as an hommage to the classic series by Ray Winninger. Today I want to talk about how the project started and about my basic design decisions.

“Hey, don’t steal our thunder!”
When I finished “Arcanum – Of Steamworks and Magicks Obscura” for the first time, I thought the world Arcanum would make an awesome campaign setting for a pen & paper game. I even contacted the developer Troika Games for their blessing and the publisher Sierra for their green light. The guys from Troika Games loved the idea, but Sierra couldn’t allow the creation of a pen & paper RPG based on their intellectual property even when it was meant to be free.

“It all started with a map”
So I decided to create my own version of Arcanum that didn’t use any intellectual property owned by Sierra. I started with a map of the continent where the majority of the action should take place. I created the map using some computer software and printed it out on 6 DIN A4 sheets of paper in color. Then I obviously stopped working on that project and the map ended up in some drawer. Years later, when I was rearranging some furniture, I started cleaning out some of my old stuff. And that’s when I stumbled upon the map. I had some faint memories of the project but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what software I used to create the map. But I decided to keep the map for future project. So now, I am going to use the map as a basis for my latest project. Having a map of the world makes things much easier to visualize. I probably will have to recreate the map in some point of the future, but it is sufficient for now. For this purpose I already bought Campaign Cartographer 3 some time ago. Although the software has a steep learning curve, you can create some impressive maps.

“Welcome to the lands of <please enter a great name here>”
Since the map is pretty big and the original file is nowhere to be found, I can’t give you an image of that map here. Hmm, perhaps later I can use my digital camera for making a photo. The yet unnamed continent/island has roughly the same shape as the British Isles and is probably of the same size, perhaps a bit larger. I plan to add a bigger continent later but for starters a place of that size should be big enough for my purposes. The climate is mostly temperate but there’s one large desert area that probably was created by unnatural means. The island is also dotted with several cities, some fortresses, towns, ruins and even some other features. I will talk about them in a later article.

“Let’s get down to the basics…”
Now I want to focus on the basic ideas of the campaign. Like in Arcanum I want to confront the players with a world where magic and technology collide. But instead of Arcanum I don’t want to have the whole magic vs. technology dichotomy. Having magic and technology interfere like it has in the computer game needs a solid set of rules that are probably easy to realize in a computer game enviroment but much harder to get to work in a p&p game. The other point is that mixing technology and magic could lead to some interesting results like enchanted guns, airships driven by magic and more wonderous contraptions.

“We don’t serve your kind here”
Arcanum uses a tolkienesque world as a premise and then introduces an industrial revolution. “Tolkienesque” means that you have a world with several intelligent races that are similar to those seen in the “Lord of the Rings” or perhaps D&D. Although my world will have several trappings that are reminiscent of a tolkinsque world, I have decided against other intelligent species than humans. Magical creatures like dragons will exists but they will be simple beasts instead of highly-intelligent beings they are in other settings.

“History 101”

Let’s talk about some history. Millenia before the campaign starts humankind was still organized in small tribes, sometimes even clans that had a more or less nomadic lifestyle. It was during these times that the first children where born that carried the “mark”. The mark looks like an elaborate tribal tatoo and normally is invisible to the naked eye. When these children were in stress or in great fear the mark starts to glow and they were able to do impossible things like hurling fireballs, creating things from thin air, heal wounds or teleport themselves. Each time they used their abilities the mark glowed in an eery blue-white light. Sometimes these children were feared and even killed, sometimes they were revered. In time they learned to control their abilities and they called it “Magic” or the “Art”. Often the “marked” grew to become great leaders of their people and so the first sorceror-kings were born. Normally the children of sorcerors inherit their parent’s abilities but it is not unheard of “normal” people bearing a “marked” child. But this was becoming less and less common.

For several millenia the most common ruling system was magocracy. But this was about to change with the advent of the first industrial revolution.
This concludes the first part of the series. I will talk about the fall of magocracy and the industrial revolution in a later episode.

UPDATE: Following an advice from The Chatty DM and the Questing GM I tried to break the article into paragraphs to make the text easier to “swallow”. Since I hadn’t thought of readabilty when I wrote down the article, it’s still very much a “wall of text” but I hope it’s a bit easier to read now. I will try to work on that in the future. And thanks to all of you for the helpful advice!