World Building - Need some advice/direction

12 posts / 0 new
Last post
I'm starting a new campaign and wanted to introduce my homebrewed world to the players that I'm sure they will enjoy. However, I'm hitting into a wall when I try to get into designing the map for continent that they will be playing on so I've knicked one of the free Wizard's archived maps (labeled: blank world map) and decided I'd just populate the map with my places, kingdoms, and landmarks of interest.

Something I'm having trouble with is deciding how many kingdoms/empires/nations are too many, and how many wouldn't be enough to occupy a large continent. I want to include Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling & Gnome nations. However, after placing 11 nations onto the continent I started wondering if it was too cluttered to have that many empires all living on the same mass of land.

I've included a link to the image which features the continent (which I'm still deciding on what to name) and the nations which will occupy the land. I've left the southern eastern corner of the continent pretty barren as I wanted an area that was "wild" and possibly rampant with orc/hobgoblin activity.

Those that take the time to pay the link a visit, I would appreciate it if you could give me some insight on how I could decide how large the nation's boundaries should be, and some insight if you think I should cut down or ramp up the number of nations on the map.

As I have it right now, I have:

Human Kingdoms: Handar, Correl, Creland, Jevan
Elven Empires: Avendale, Silverthreen
Halfling Nations: Triston, Torlen
Dwarven Kingdoms: Hammerfell, Kadrith
Gnome Nation: Glittershard

I wanted there to be more human nations than the rest, and I intentionally squashed the halfling nations in between other kingdoms as I imagine their empire wouldn't be that large as they don't normally strive to hold power or "own" land.

The Gnomes I wanted to keep a bit isolated so one nation for them is fine.

The link to the concept map:

http://i45.photobucket.com/albums/f63/FilteredNoise/Dungeons%20and%20Dragons/labeledmap.jpg
The question of 'how many is too many' depends on the scale of your map. How big is your continent and the kingdoms you've drawn up?
Having a map of the entire continent is rarely useful. Seriously. If your players are globetrotting that much it means that they're not putting down roots and getting to see the effects of their heroism.

You're better off with a rough map of a single (small) kingdom, with notations on the borders to show the names of adjoining territories.

Building a continent map may be inherently fun for you as DM (I know I enjoy it!), but trust me that it's not significantly enriching your game, and if you keep drawing your players' attention to it, it can actively harm the experience.

If you're worrying about "where players come from", don't. Let your players describe their homeland, and handwave it as being vaguely in a general direction. (We have a running joke that Dragonborn come from "the east and the north".) If you genuinely end up with your campaign needing to go there, it'll end up being a better place for having been designed after many sessions of play rather than at the start.
That question brings up another wall. I'm not quite sure? I'm no historian and while I have spent a lot of time drawing up the culture, religions, and history of the land the players will be on... I'm dreading the questions of "how long will it take for us to travel from Creland to Torlen?" as I don't have a measurement scale to go off of.

I plan to hand wave the measurements and describe the Kingdoms as being large or small as opposed to "3000 square acres". In general, all of the nations I have listed will be relatively large except for the Halflings which as I described earlier only need enough land for a few villages/towns for their farming and general living.

If anyone has a good idea of a scale to put on the map such as one inch equals 100 miles or whatever I'd appreciate it as I'm sure it would come up as a conversation once the group got to traveling.
Having a map of the entire continent is rarely useful. Seriously. If your players are globetrotting that much it means that they're not putting down roots and getting to see the effects of their heroism.

You're better off with a rough map of a single (small) kingdom, with notations on the borders to show the names of adjoining territories.

Building a continent map may be inherently fun for you as DM (I know I enjoy it!), but trust me that it's not significantly enriching your game, and if you keep drawing your players' attention to it, it can actively harm the experience.

If you're worrying about "where players come from", don't. Let your players describe their homeland, and handwave it as being vaguely in a general direction. (We have a running joke that Dragonborn come from "the east and the north".) If you genuinely end up with your campaign needing to go there, it'll end up being a better place for having been designed after many sessions of play rather than at the start.

Aye I see what you're saying and I've toyed with the idea instead of laying out the entire map for the players to instead blow up a portion of the continent and start them off in one of the smaller kingdoms and then drawing more of the continent if/when they travel out. I don't plan on the players traveling all over the continent but for the Campaign I'm gearing towards, it'd be helpful if the players knew where the Dwarven Kingdoms were and just how far east the Gnomes live from where they are.

Instead of detailing an entire continent though, I may head in the direction you speak of and start them out small to let their choices affect how big their world becomes.
Instead of detailing an entire continent though, I may head in the direction you speak of and start them out small to let their choices affect how big their world becomes.

Sounds like a great plan. Don't throw out your world map now that you've made it - just don't refer your players to it unless anyone asks. Keep them focused on where they are now rather than where they could be. Good luck with your game.
1) The adventuring section of the PHB has travel times by foot/horse/wagon. Plan how long you want it to take to get from nation to nation and figure out a scale based on that (page 261)
OR
Pick a real-world landmass and assign a continental scale based on that. For a small continent that the PCs might realistically cross and see all of go for an Australian or European-sized continent. For a larger world where magic is a must for travelling far distances go for Asia or North America.

Keep in mind that travel by car has shrunk distances. It would take an average D&D party 10 days to ride between, say, San Fransisco and San Diego while it's doable in a long day by car.

2) Number of nations. Europe was divided into hundreds of nations after the fall of Rome. And just look at all the current nations.
But I'd advise against dividing-up the entire world into civilized nations. You need some evil nations, uncivilized wilds, nations of monsters, etc.

Draw-up some borders with some nations touching others, and big unclaimed spaces between others.
Here's a map of Europe in the 14th century:
IMAGE(http://z.about.com/d/historymedren/1/0/W/9/ms1346eura.gif)

So you're fine with the number of nations you have. Definitely not too many, as long as they're all different in some way.

5 Minute WorkdayMy Webcomic Updated Tue & Thur

The compilation of my Worldbuilding blog series is now available: 

Jester David's How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding.

There are two extremes to a continent broken up into kingdoms and such. One extreme is that the continent has pretty much been tamed. The other is that the lines on the map are political only - that they are the borders decided by the kingdoms who claim to rule over the continent, even though other empires and such exist on the continant owing no allegiance to these kingdoms.

You can also say different kingdoms are at different points in their histories. One could be just starting out, but growing quickly. Another could be in it's twilight, or having lost a major war is being picked apart by the victors. So what is too many if the whole thing is fluid or dynamic?

As for distances. As others have suggested, I usually figure how long it takes for a regular person (I think adventurers are considered to travel more hours a day) on foot and on horse takes to get places. If you want another kingdom to be 12 days on foot wide, then figure out how many miles that would be. I often refer to distance as time it takes to travel, 30 minute drive, 5 minute walk, etc. I think your players will respond to their characters sitting in a saddle for a week rather than X,000 miles.

Cool map, btw. And I like the kindoms you came up with.
keep in mind, that most of the world building you do would go to waste on a single party anyway.

just take a large map like yours, make some minor note to each kingdom, and clarify only for a single kingdom. moving from realm to realm would be something you don't do on a regular basis, so just stick to detailling out where they currently are. your map is the most i would do for the whole contintent, add in some flavor descriptions to distinguish the realms, and you'd be set. rest of prep work can be used for something actually used in your game.
Here be dragons: IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cydyvkj/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/c54g6ac/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/csw6fhj/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cbxbgmp/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cz7v5bd/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/ccg9eld/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/c8szhnn/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cp68b5u/.gif)
56767308 wrote:
Sadly, I don't think this has anything to do with wanting Next to be a great game. It has to do with wanting Next to determine who won the Edition War. [...] For those of us who just want D&D Next to be a good game, this is getting to be a real drag.
57870548 wrote:
I think I figured it out. This program is a character builder, not a character builder. It teaches patience, empathy, and tolerance. All most excellent character traits.
Thanks everyone for your input. I actually added more nations to the map and included some areas where there was "unclaimed" land as well as most of the southern part of the continent to be barren due to the Great War wiping out much of the kingdoms that were originally there.

The reason for more nations to be added was that during the Great War and shortly thereafter, Kingdoms split apart and fractured to be ruled under new Barons & Kings and some Kingdoms even vanished entirely to be replaced by others.

Many of you are right, I have no intention of running my players all over the continent and most of the the land they probably will never see so I'm only going to write up the necessary city stats for the areas they are directly near. I'm Starting them off in a kingdom that is relatively considered friendly to the rest of the kingdoms and the game will begin with an annual tournament which invites all the other kingdoms to come and compete (which gives reasons why would the PCs would know of these far away nations).

The advice on the time to travel vs the distance was helpful and I have a working method of measuring how long it will take PCs to move from city to city if need be.
I suggest you do the 'World Map' for the DM's eyes only. The PCs are lucky to even know the way to the capital...

"The road to the Capital winds off west from our village so the capital must be in the west. Lets shortcut overland and go straight there." - Bob the Paladin

10 minutes later at the guild town of Loen...

"The Capital? Thats off in the East along the King's Road, dont mind the way the road turns south - thats just to go around the bottom of the Daggerfall Mountains." - Franco the Guild Merchant.
The Citadel Megadungeon: http://yellowdingosappendix.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/the-citadel-mega-dungeon-now-with-room.html
Sign In to post comments