Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cartography? Stellar!

Man, I loves me some campaign maps. I love to make them, to draw them, to do all kinds of nifty art techniques and to plop cultures down on some imaginary real estate and determine borders, climates, terrain, and so on.

In other words, I do lots of prep work for a game I never run.


I'm pretty sure there's an old adage, as well as a Rule of Dungeoncraft (the first one, in fact), that goes like this:

"Never force yourself to create more than you must."

It is very sound advice, and as such, it naturally went in my one ear and out the other. Oh, no, I've paid attention to it. I've thought, "Hey, I can just sketch out a map of the adventure area, maybe the town nearby, and another feature or two for improv later on." But I've never actually done it that way, instead defaulting to my old habit of obsessively drawing coastlines and ridges and nifty-looking little icons that represent castles and towns.

A few weeks ago I started an Iron Gauntlets scenario with my wife and Kyle (whom I've mentioned before). I didn't have a campaign setting in mind; just a kind of bog-standard pseudo-medieval FRPG setting. (Incidentally, the scenario itself is one I ran in high school, when I didn't worry about this crap.) I decided I needed a setting.

Out of all the ones I've created, that my wife has created, that I've bought or that I could appropriate, I couldn't think of a one that made me feel free to do whatever I wanted to. In other words, I couldn't relax and just pick one and stick with it. I'll look at a map and say, "Okay, my scenario is set here, but the the geography requires that I do this and this, and the politics are such that blah, and the climate doesn't match what I envision and so it doesn't make sense and I don't want to shoehorn myself into..." Etcetera. Jeff Rients has been talking about this, too; I'm worse.

To the point of self-paralysis.

So here's my decision. This Iron Gauntlets game I'm doing now will be set in a new setting, entirely. I will steal inspiration from other settings (most notably Amherth), but I will make things up as I go along. I won't plan anything I don't have to, and I won't paint myself into a corner with anything.

And as I need maps, maps I shall make. Small ones. Just the stuff that I need, and a feature or two if I'm inspired to add such -- but only in general terms. Like, "This is the river Basiltry. It smells funny."

I will, however, give the place a name, which I thought of this morning in the shower: Caldeasmore, because my favorite FRPG art is the stuff by Clyde Caldwell, Jeff Easley and Larry Elmore. Plus, if Larry Elmore can name a setting "Loerem" (and a man who paints such nice boobs cannot be denied), I can mix his name in with some other dudes'.

I like Parkinson, Otus and Willigham, too. But "Parkotuham" sounds kinda stupid.

Wait -- "kinda"...?