Example of Worldbuilding: Amar
There’s been a lot of discussion in the past about the merits of collaborative worldbuilding so I thought I would show an example of what can be done. This is a setting me and my group have just put together for a new campaign of Other Worlds, this time based around the idea of doing a really epic fantasy saga (that’s eventually going to turn into a global conflict a la the War of the Ring). It’s a fair bit more detailed than is usually needed, and we ended up fleshing out the player characters afterwards via email, but most of this was done in one session. I would love to see other people post similar examples of their own!
The World of Amar
An epic fantasy quest with many different factions, like in LotR or Babylon 5.
Politics, economics, and tensions between different factions should be a factor. A war is brewing.
The game starts in a neutral place between the races like Babylon 5 or the UN. A treaty city.
The characters are all representatives/champions of their races like the Fellowship of the Ring.
Some kind of common enemy has emerged that threatens all the free peoples
The characters are put together on a mission to stop it
Everyone has a special reason to be on the mission – some quality or power that will be needed
Characters may also be pushed/manipulated by their own faction who may have a separate agenda?
Threat could be a new land mass emerging from the sea – a relic of ancient times? ‘The Tenth Kingdom’. A returned god? Some strange and powerful items might have been salvaged from this place already.
Or a new evil religion – led by an Osama Bin Thulsa Doom type figure. A false prophet. The rise of this cult could be what is causing the war (religious vs secular?). He could be an avatar or have some special item.
Or demons, planar invasion, dragons (allied to the forces on the island maybe?), gnomes, etc
More serious than comic (where possible). Magic is low key. Gritty. Characters can get hurt, even killed
Legends of the creation of the world
The Age of Darkness – lasted 3,000 years
Now = The Age of Twilight
Once a year the unseelie come back on winter solstice – longest night of the year
The unseelie have their sport – consume life, keep races down
Next = age of the sun? or age of darkness? – could go either way
New landmass emerges – its a prophecy or just discovered by ogres
Vision, ancient scroll
Lights of the world are getting dim
The dwarves have discovered something?
Ogres want to cross the great ocean
Huge staircase going down
remnants of old civilisations
giant statue of unknown origin
city on stilts in marshland
incan temple in the firests (tie to beastmen?)
treaty city – mos eisley-like lawless ankh moorpork
valley of the dead
floating rock cities in the sky
Indiana Jones-style dungeon/temple
A tunnel between two races (like the channel tunnel) as the surface is very dangerous
other continents are held at bay by some sort of magic barrier – invisible mist which sweeps ships away like bermuda triangle myths;
lots of dangerous/strange animals
six legged riding cats – ridden by beastmen, minotaurs – fox guys, bull guys
Silly animal hybrids – rhinoroo, paul the dogtopus, duck-billed badgerpuss
Unusual species abound – normal stuff like cats and dogs simply don’t exist
Primitve tech – swords and shields and bows. Not a lot of armour. Chariots. Catapults.
Night steel/cold iron – dwarves invented after industrialisation – found the secret of reliably creating it.
Conan, Runequest, bronze age feel
Strange riding beasts as transports
Lizardmen – Star Wars lizard (from Revenge of the Sith).
Ogres – ships, dolphins, walk on land. Sea lubbers – prefer sea to land. Flying stingrays.
Dwarves – giant worms – tunnel underground. ride them like in Dune.
Faeries – giant dragonflies, lots of giant insects in their home forests. Unseelie ride horses in hunt.
Celtic style magic – leylines, faerie toadstool rings, dolmens and stone circles, potions/cauldrons, pagan nature worship, rituals, poisons, scrying the future, subtle magic rather than obvious fireballs, runes, weather influence, influencing natural world, speak to animals, cause fear, curses.
rituals, grimoires, sacrifices
morgoth/sauron-like – drain energy from self
leyline at midsummer’s eve
faerie glamour – appear as other things
Different races draw energy in different ways
Dwarves draw energy from ley lines, which tap into the spirit world, stone circles and chasms – leaks up to the surface from the Earth’s core
Ogres – where it’s stormiest (ley lines). Small rocky island where the sages live – Isle of the Sorcerers.
Some live on boats – The Waterbound
Lizardmen = magic from smoke – rituals, capturing it. firestones. Look into the smoke = see into the other realm
Faeries: faerie gateways, wardstones – portals into the other realm
Failure = drains own energy/lifespan? attracts unseelie?
Unseelie give magical energy when destroyed
Dead spots where magic has been drained away
There are 4 races on Amar, representing the 4 elements.
Richard’s race: The Ohmryn
Ogre-like in appearance. 7-8 feet tall, strong and tough like Conan. Skin shade varies by region.
Embody the element of Water.
Warriors, barbarians, traders, explorers.
Surprisingly cool and laid back. They invented surfing. Philosophical. But they can be stormy.
Honourable reputation – so know can talk in good faith
Spread out across the world.
Ben’s race: The Basites
Earth elemental/dwarf types. Made of rock. Sandstone yellow in colour.
Embody the element of Earth.
Solitary, religious, stubborn.
Can talk to stone.
Don’t breathe air. No eyes – magical senses.
Live underground. Industrial mining – uranium? They pollute the atmosphere.
Worship stone effigies? An obelisk/stonehenge
Steve’s race: The Phae-touched
Insect-like/plant-like. 3ft tall. Skin made of wood, golden brown in colour. Butterfly wings
Embody the element of Air
Fickle and curious. Good at climbing. Lot of bards.
Live in the forest realm. Hive-like society. Share a collective subconscious.
Trees have personality
They are a good faction of faeries – most other faeries are evil
Dwarves mine the night steel – cold iron – that hurts them. Source of conflict.
Paul’s race: The Kasheeta
Githzerai-like. Scaly grey-green lizardy-Cardassian colours
Embody the element of Fire.
Regenerate. Infra red vision. Ritualistic daggers
Peaceful society. Mountain monasteries.
Caste system. Workers – no lives. Warrior caste – angry, expansive. Religious caste – mystics.
Breathing in the mist from the sacred volcano
custodians of the flame. tempered the volcanos
lived in the world when it was dark – before there was a sun. Created the sun?
Seelie/Unseelie – good and bad faeries.
Enemy = Unseelie: trolls, redcaps, pixies, fomorians.
Cruel and capricious, sadistic. Treat the humans as animals.
Balorians – one eyed giants with eye blast from their single evil eye
Undead – wraiths. realm of the dead. spirits.
Afterlife – no one knows what’s beyond death
Curse of the unseelie – they are collecting souls for some ritual
Demons – but could be superstition
Dragons – or not?
Jason and the Argonauts skeletons, harpies, medusa
Giant scorpions, hydra, kraken
Tensions between the races, particularly Fire vs Water and Earth vs Air
Earth vs Air = the Basites pollute the atmosphere with their mining, forge weapons of cold iron, and chop down the forests to fuel their machines/expand their territory (thus destroying the Faetouched’s habitat). The Faetouched are very unhappy about all of these things.
Fire vs Water = clash over the seas between their lands. The Kasheeta call it the Strait of Muldrasa, while the Ohmryn call it the Alamin Channel. The Ohmryn have spirit bonds with many sea creatures that live in these waters, from sharks and whales to dolphins and octopuses. But the Kasheeta hunt them for food and also for food (a lot like the Japanese and whaling). This is a big source of conflict.
One ‘movie length’ adventure – about 12 sessions.
We said that we’ve done games at the lower power level so we should try something a bit more epic and fantastical. So we intend to try a power level of 40 and 2 trademarks. This puts the characters somewhere round the Aragorn/Legolas level in terms of both power and world-significance.
Campaign = LotR style trek across the world.
• Consult with a great sage or dragon – he releases great energy when killed
• Government has the group’s souls – thus the PCs must serve the state?
• The PCs are drafted into being heroes? Like the dalai llama?
• There could be specific set pieces – events that are prophecied to happen but the characters may be able to manipulate or prevent them and thus change the future?
• Need to deliver a princess for sacrifice?
• Need to persuade a high level character to assist the group?
• Must travel through a barbarian land?
• Maybe stop some foe from gaining magic item we later hear about, that might control the source of elemental powers/races – a gem that controls fire, water, wind and earth?
• A wagon or chariot chase, or rooftop pursuit
• Is there some horror emerging in new town that was built over site of horrific battle, but for 50 years had seemed fine? Maybe to investigate?
• Maybe there are still lots of starving, homeless refugees around, after catastrophe destroyed their nation – and we need to help them, as no one else will?
• Maybe we need to fight off attacks by separatists or ultra-nationalists who see our fame, and the new international unity, as threatening their way of life?
• Do we carry out assassination?
• Are we just used as celeb-like figureheads to make displays of new peace and progress, even though horribly assassinations/poverty/arms deals/deadly research/experimentation on underclass/slavery is still going on, and we just have to do interviews for local media, or make speeches about how life has improved? Or are we used to break strikes and protests, or defeat guerilla freedom fighters, or other ethically dubious things?
• Is one of the character’s family held hostage to ensure loyalty?
• Negotiate with huge dragon would-be ally, once we have delivered sacrifice?
• Do we have to rescue hostages? Or do we rescue people after natural disaster-type cataclysm?
• Great sea journey
• Does an ocean run with blood?
• Demons possess all the children of village and attack their parents?
• Do we lead forces in huge battle, including maybe one of us fighting against our own kinsmen? Maybe a great siege?
• Face the Unseelie Wild Hunt
• Do we enter underground complex, and have to escape in a tunnel that turns out to be the belly of a great demon worm?
• Demonic doppelgangers posing as refugees?
• Do we face fetches (when Unseelie steal children to take back to phae court as slaves or converts, they leave artificial children in their place, made of glamour, magic, sticks and blood and leaves and leeches – homunculi)
• Do we have to infiltrate the Unseelie court itself? Or ally with them against greater threat? Or are we sent to them to negotiate peace, which our superiors believe will fail, and we were just sent as decoys whilst our governments prepare military strike?
• Is an entire civilian city or region quarantined off and left for dead by its government?
• Do we have to enter the dream sea, or climb the endless stair? Or delve into one of our nations’ worst military secrets?
• Visit a strange, maddening city, with its towers and architecture all jutting in impossible directions, and inside-out buildings
• Monsters that draw water from foes’ bodies, or manifest from air or water inside people’s bodies and kill bunch of NPCs before we get magic protection set up
• Visit/consult with the great elusive desert caliph, who is a spirit of sand and manifests from the dunes itself, surrounded by fellow djinn nomads, made of sandstone, burnt wood and blue firestones
• Do we have to tame riding beasts, from flock of giant eagles, or pteranadon-types?
• Encounters with talking animal people – maybe all the beasts in Unseelie infected area are possessed by spirits, or all the villagers have been shapechanged into beasts, and their personalities begin to change to reflect their new forms?
• Do we have to navigate great underground twisting tunnels of water ways? Or visit hell to bring someone back? Magic-infected area where walls and floor and sculpture is infused with graspings arms and hands and teeth, and blinking eyes, and moaning voices, begging for release?
• Do we have to do subterfuge work whilst great parade or musical carnival is ongoing
• A race that only communicates in song, or through braille or sign language – or borrow others voices, or speak through musical instruments?
• A being that constantly dies and is reborn every 6 hours
• Deal with maze-like catacombs criss-crossed with deadly traps
• Or are we possessed and forced to do horrible things, or do we have to hunt down doppelgangers and clear our names?
• Does someone have to fight a duel, atop 30′ high pillars, or leaping from platforms made of raised crossed swords, by a tribe of swordsmasters? Maybe the swordmasters gather once each year, mass bouts and competitions, and allcomers must join the sport and try to not get knocked out of competition – but also try not to win and defeat the royal champion (who everyone else allows to win, otherwise face repercussions and execution), but just put up a challenging fight, to get in his/her good graces
• Race of medusa children, sort of like tieflings, in that they are distrusted and reviled, but most aren’t evil, and are trying to make up for their ancestors’ demon pacts
• Bear or walrus-people ice nomad cannibals
• A merchant people who don’t trade in money, but in dreams or secrets or hope or emotion, or years of people’s life
• A religious people who consider it the greatest honour to be sacrificed to a blood thirsty deity, or ruler, who stays young and ever-beautiful, through bathing daily in blood
• Rescue dragon or beast’s lost children?
Start in fellowship of the ring/council of elrond style meeting – all the races, deciding what to do
Place = like green zone in iraq, a safe-ish fortress surrounded by hostiles
It’s a giant standing stone /ley line nexus/ancient meeting place – forbidden
Beastmen patrol it / it’s under siege?
Get given the mission and sent off on their way