This is the first part in a series, where we'll be talking about a concept for generating an entire campaign on-the-fly for your favorite fantasy role-playing game. In the future, it might have a tighter focus on either D&D or Pathfinder, but for now, let's consider this material more-or-less generic.
We have a couple of goals here for the Dynamic Campaign System (DCS) that are worth relating.
First off, this is a guide for the potential GM looking to create their own original campaign setting. It runs them through a series of steps and dice rolls, as well as some decisions based on personal preferences. When it's all finished, it should produce something unique and tailored to the sort of campaign setting the GM and players are looking for. Mostly it's a series of lists and tables. You can run through it all and make decisions as you go, or you can roll a die here and there (or everywhere!) and let fate decide how this world will look.
Secondly, it shouldn't take very long, start to finish. Creating an original campaign setting can be laborious and time consuming. Part of the purpose of this project is to speed that process up, and to make it less-painful, over all. Granted, creating a world can be lots of fun; imagining the structure of things, the societies, the history the races and all the major players. These can be incredibly exciting! DCS does NOT replace that process. Instead, it's meant to help you in it, because, let's face it: sometimes campaign construction can be a drag. Sometimes you're short on time, or the real world intrudes (Boo! Hiss!), and leaves you short on mental and creative resources for a time.
Thirdly, different parts of the world-build experience appeal to different people. Maybe you like creating your own gods and legendary heroes; you love conjuring up all their stories and myths, and plugging these in to your world in the form of religions, ancient temples, and dangerous relics from the past. Maybe these things are your meat and drink, while the layout of a world's land masses, seas, and climatic regions is hideously boring to you. If so, you can skip right over the DCS section on Cosmology, and jump right in to the section on World Construction. Is all THAT stuff fun, but you hate thinking about the politics of the world? Does the idea of laying out the structure and leadership of nations seem dull or intimidating? Then create all the gods, and all the lands and seas of your world, then turn to the DCS section on Nations and their Governments.
Fourth an finally, the goal of DCS is to inspire, not constrain. The tables and lists of this project are intended to spark your creativity when you need it the most. Maybe nothing in a particular section seems especially interesting to you; it might spark an idea, though. In the end, that may be the best way to use random tables for you: not to be slavish to the whims of dice, but rather, to wander across a series of ideas, laid out in an easy-to-read format, that might well get those creative juices flowing.
So without more preamble, let's look at the first entry in this series...Cosmology!
NOTE: Listed below are four tables that possess many elements, some of which describe other elements that as yet need fleshing out. The intention here is to create hooks that can inspire your own creativity, as well as ours. We intend to describe many of these elements in future tables, so if you find yourself frustrated by any incompleteness here, well, that's because it's incomplete.
NOTE: All the usual polyhedron dice are used for DCS, though today, we'll only be using 1d12.
01.01: What came before?
What existed before this world? Was it another world, filled with heroes? An endless plane of energy or thought? Or maybe there was nothing at all?
NOTE: All the usual polyhedron dice are used for DCS, though today, we'll only be using 1d20 and 1d12.
Roll on the following table, then consult the subtables below.
- Another world, like the one you are about to create.
- Another world filled with gods and demons, but no mortals.
- Another world, filled with light.
- Another world, filled with twilight.
- Another world, filled with darkness.
- The Elemental Planes only.
- A world of ice and snow.
- A solitary god.
- A pantheon of gods.
- Pure ugliness.
- Perfect beauty.
- A cosmic animal.
- A cosmic horror.
- The unformed spirits of those who were yet to come.
- The sublime dreams of gods. The gods may or may not have even existed yet.
- The tormented nightmares of gods. The gods may or may not have even existed yet.
- Echoes of the future; moments captured in time, through time.
- Absolute potential.
- Absolute dissolution.
Another world like the one you are about to create.
- It was exactly like this one. Existence is nothing but repetition.
- It was entirely different than this one, with a different sort of reality.
- It was a world similar to this one, but the fine details were all different.
- It was a world exactly like this one, but with only one or two important differences.
- It was a world so different, so utterly unlike this one, it would be impossible to comprehend; trying to uncover its secrets might well lead to madness.
- It was our world: Earth, as we know it now.
- Completely lost in time, no one knows anything about it, except that it existed.
- Lost in time, only mad prophets catch glimpses of it in dreams.
- Lost in time, but well-known legends persist. Some very rare physical clues, like ruins or artifacts, still exist.
- Ruins from this world abound, and artifacts exist.
- Hidden portals back to that time exist.
- It was another world, like this one, and secret cults are trying to bring it back. If they succeed, it will destroy this world, and resurrect the old one in its place.
Another world filled with gods and demons, but no mortals.
- That world was a paradise, and it faded away.
- That world was a burning hell, but it ended as a cold cinder.
- That world ended through godly warfare.
- That world ended through godly decree.
- No one knows how it ended, except that it was through treachery.
- That world didn't end, rather, it evolved into this one.
- That world ended in chaos, but some of those gods survived.
- That world ended in chaos, but pieces of t still survive as islands.
- That world ended in chaos, but pieces of it still survive as pockets dimensions.
- That world was not destroyed, but hurtled through time; sometimes it touches this world through temporal doors.
- That world was drowned by floods created by an aquatic god, who lived through it all.
- That world ended in storms, and only whispers of it remain on edge of lonely winds.
Another world, filled with light.
- Light without heat.
- Light, with heat like the sun.
- Light without heat, but it was solid like stone.
- Light without heat, but it was fluid, like water.
- Light without heat, but it was flowing, like wind.
- Light, but with pockets of shadow.
- Nothing, not a single thing existed in the light.
- There was another world, much like this one, but draped in eternal brightness.
- This world was showered in light, and filled with music.
- The light was solid, like stone or metal, and veins of it can still be found in meteors that fall to earth.
- Light without form or thought.
- Light without form, but with the thoughts and dreams of gods.
Another world, filled with twilight (The Twilit World)
- Law and chaos existed in in equal portions.
- Good and evil existed in equal portions.
- Law, chaos, good, and evil all existed in equal portions.
No law, chaos, good, or evil existed.
- There were pockets of pure light in the twilight.
- There were pockets of pure darkness in the twilight.
- There were some pockets of light, and some pockets of darkness in the twilight.
- Some of the people of this world knew it would end, and were prepared for it.
- Echoes of this world can be heard in places where pure indifference reigns.
- Horrible beasts roamed this world, and some of them survive to this day.
- Nothing roamed this world; it was a wasteland.
- The twilight had thought.
Another world, filled with darkness.
To be continued...
- All was chaos and evil.
- All was chaos, but not evil.
- All was evil, but not chaos.
- There were pockets of pure light in the darkness.
- There were pockets of twilight in the darkness.
- Nothing, not a single thing existed in the darkness.
- There was another world, much like this one, but draped in eternal darkness.
- This world was draped in darkness, but filled with music.
- The darkness was solid, like stone or metal, and veins of it can still be found deep under the earth.
- There were races adapted to this darkness, and some of them have survived.
- All was chaos and evil; nightmares are really memories of this world.
- The darkness had thought.