With all the creative input I've been receiving the past few weeks, I've been starting to formulate my next Dungeons & Dragons adventure in my head.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has begun to break my mind out of the rut of "hobbits in huts" with surprising locations such as a city comprised of organic shell-looking buildings, rocky stretches of land plagued by blinding red dust storms, and a sort of quarantined area blocked off by towering walls of ghostly energy.
I've been getting ideas for villains from the likes of Fullmetal Alchemist and Bunraku--villains who are formidable in their own right, but downright devastating when working as a team. Tangled reminded me of how much I enjoy creating memorable side characters and injecting a measure of humor into my adventures.
Nearly everything I've been watching, playing, or reading recently has triggered some thought or another about what to throw at my adventurers the next time I run a campaign. Now I just need to figure out where to start.
Literally, where to start.
My first campaign world was the one I inherited from my first Dungeon Master, who decided he'd like to take a break from running the world to play in it instead. I took on the mantle of DM and carried on the quest from where he left off, making his world my own. This world was the setting of every quest I ran in college, its history deepening and its borders expanding on a weekly basis. I made it a point to keep detailed maps and thorough records of world lore for the sake of preserving continuity, but I found that I had written myself into more than a few corners. There were ways out of these corners, to be sure, but I already had enough inspiration for a brand-new campaign setting to be able to let my first world rest comfortably after graduation.
Unlike the old world, the new world was to be planned out farther in advance than a full course schedule would allow, with the players' actions significantly shaping the direction of the world. Virtually every encounter was to be a first contact scenario--the quests were to be set early enough in the world's history that most races had never heard of one another. Magic and other planes had yet to be discovered. Everything the characters did would have an impact somewhere down the line, and there would be forces at work from the very beginning that wouldn't reveal themselves until someone reached Epic-level status and could take them on.
I got sloppy with the record-keeping. I rushed a few adventures out the door and completely blew the opportunity to set things up as I wanted. My world map was a mess. I was so focused on the big picture that I overlooked so many of the smaller details that framed the big picture.
Now I'm here, thinking about where to hold this new quest I've got in mind.
There's the first world, well-established and rich in history. There's the second world, still young enough to be reshaped to better fit my original purpose for it. Any quest I could come up with would easily have a home in one of these worlds, yet the more I mull it over, the more I want to take a crack at a third world.
If this were anything other than a tabletop roleplaying game, I'd be getting annoyed at myself right now for threatening to reboot my franchise again. Yet this isn't a matter of profit, creative poverty, or desire to breathe new life into a dying series. I want to take the lessons I've learned from both worlds and apply them in the creation of something that draws on the best elements of each: a malleable game world with a bit of history behind it, a bit of subtle hinting toward future quests, and plenty to explore in the here and now.
Besides, I never really abandoned the first world, even after creating the second one. The two were always linked, though you didn't hear that from me. How they were linked was a secret I planned to reveal to my players toward the end of their adventures in the second world, and nothing says there's not room for yet another world to be linked somehow. A fresh start doesn't have to mean I'm giving up on the past; all it means is that I've got new stories to tell.
I think it's time to start putting some ideas down on paper.