Recently I put up a review on a really fun narrative system called Fantaji and in that article I posted a link to the world I created there called The Far Away Planet. While I won’t go too far into the details I have decided to make The Far Away Planet a real in depth setting. My goal in making a game setting is to create a world that begs to have stories told in it and to do that I went to Joseph Campbell and his work on the hero’s journey that he outlines in a book called The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Joseph Campbell is easily the greatest mythologist in the twenty first century and he spent his life studying cultures and myths. This man could quote Native American mythology, the Christian Bible, and Celtic Lore all off the top of his head. His goal was to find the common themes of the human psyche to prove that we are not as different as we may have thought. He also made a fantastic system for the common journey that the great heroes of mythology took.
So I’ve been racking my brain over and over again to find a way to make The Far Away Planet a place for heroes. My check list was to make The Far Away Planet fun, enticing, and a place that naturally encourages the hero’s journey. I do not want to be misunderstood, my goal is not to try to railroad GMs Along this journey. The hero’s journey is not something I want to force a player on. Instead I want to make a world where this journey is possible. To do this I need two things. There must be an ordinary world, and an extraordinary world.
- The ordinary world: This has to be a place all over the world. The ordinary world is more of a mentality then a physical place. In a world of magic and adventure this is a place where players are in a status quo. So the status quo has to have a presence across the entire setting in a way. The status quo has to be a safe place for characters where their version of normal exists. This can be so many things in a campaign. In the small area I have already designed, The Far Reaches, my status quo is the Far Reach Keep. This is where the players can go and experience relative safety and normalcy. The players will start here and get a grasp on the world around them by this place. They’ll learn shortly about the horror of the Lich King and the Barons plight to save the innocent people. So we have everything we need. Safety, stability, and most importantly an obvious conflict for players. This conflict is important to give the players for a call to action. It is also so non specific that the call can be anything a GM wants it to be from a quest for treasure, all the way to a paladin style conquest over evil. No matter what, the setting begs the call.
- The extraordinary world: This is where players experience most of the hero’s journey and represents the extraordinary aspect of the world. In the Far Reaches this is represented by the swamp surrounding Far Reach Keep. Adventuring into the swamp itself is accepting the call in the hero’s journey and represents the challenging of the status quo. While in the swamp the players will become enthralled in story and adventure and in doing so will eventually be elevated to a higher level of consciousness then the NPCs that stay at the keep. Even if a GM does not use or grasp the idea of the hero’s journey it is my job as a world creator to make these two places and allow that journey. I have used The Far Reaches and Far Reach Keep to create an extraordinary and ordinary world that players can be shifted back and forth to in order to create a good campaign and stories that players and GMs can make.
There is one more thing that I as a world builder am responsible for making happen. That is an obvious way for GMs to change the status quo. My world must be alive and breathing. The reason for this is that at the end of the hero’s journey is the restoring order, reestablishing status quo and the hero’s new position in its natural environment. For instance if the players fight and kill the Lich King then there has to be a reaction in Far Reach Keep. It will be up to the GM to determine what this change is and how it works, but I need to characterize the NPCs and take care of as many details as possible. I must also allow the GM to fill in all of the details that they may want to. This is an interesting balance for me to work with but I think as this will be a mostly narrative game I just need to set up power structures, and main characters. My stance can change on this but the spirit of what I am doing stays the same. I have established an ordinary and extraordinary place for players to explore change and become heroes.
There is definitely more to world building then just establishing these two places, but this is just the first step to creating a good setting for an RPG. I will most likely be writing more on this later as I continue my personal journey of world making but for now this is a very good starting point.
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