…Mmm, smells like fresh mountain pine and the blood of conquered enemies being driven before me.
So, The Shade Isle Campaign ended pretty suddenly, the players more or less unanimously agreeing to epilogue all of their characters' story arcs and retire them right then and there. I think we were spurred along by the fact that two other players, curious about old-school D&D, were looking to join a game, and so there was little reason not to get a new one off the ground as soon as possible.
The new game is known as The Heathlands Campaign, and I think that instead of trying to "storytime" my game sessions, I'm instead going to attempt to chronicle the act of building a mostly empty and indistinctly formed world up around the game as it progresses. Since I didn't actually expect to be running the new campaign this week, I just busted out the starting adventure I had ready (Shadows of the Halfling Hall for C&C, if you're curious) and dropped the characters into it with the bare-minimum context—"You all belong to a snobbish gentleman's adventuring organization called the Manticore Club, and as part of your rookie hazing, they've sent you out to this backwater dwarf-village to find some valuable relics—now get to it! …Oh, and by the way, watch out—zombies!"
And from there, things will segue into The Endless Tunnels of Enlandin (module DF17) and then to a mega-dungeon of my own design, The Feondisch Temple of Ætherium, which will serve as the campaign's tentpole-dungeon. But these adventures do need some context, which means that behind the scenes I have to be writing a sensible history and inventing a geography into which the adventuring sites will be placed.
Two days ago, I finally got around to sketching a simple world-map for the planet Ordwyrd, and I'm now busy filling in a continent-scale map for Ælyewinn (Ordwyrd's north-of-Europe analogue). This basically has me stuck on the most difficult part of drawing a continent-scale map: brainstorming interesting stuff to put in each kingdom. It's really, really easy to go overboard in either of two directions (too mundane and realistic, or too over-the-top gonzo wahoo fantastical). Striking a balance that sets the tone I want (early modern Europe, but the fairy tales are true) is not easy.
Since the campaign is set in the Heathlands, the vast wilderness in the middle of the continent where the Great Kingdom only has partial jurisdiction (think of it as this campaign's equivalent of Eriador), that's what I need to prioritize mapping out first. So, next post I'll go into my process for brainstorming—how to map a fantasy country.