Adventures in Dungeon Mastery

I started playing Dungeons and Dragons years ago, with friends from seminary who would come together every other Sunday night (with alarming irregularity) and play via Skype. I was a complete neophyte, but I’d play in person with Colin, who would walk me through the basics on mute as the rest of the group deliberated whatever challenge was being thrown at us.

I started bookbinding in 2018 (which, I know, I get cooler and cooler as this post goes on), and my instructor, Laura, turned me on to Critical Role. From there, I was invited to a game they were starting (and that continues on with unsurprising regularity. Thank you, Mark.) And at some point, I thought I wanted to run a game.

So I did with the online group, and that game is ongoing. (Yes, I’m part of three games right now; no, it’s not a problem.) In a week, I’ll be taking a foray into DMing in person for the first time, with at least three beginners, though it may be closer to five, the whole group.

This post, I’ll be talking about worldbuilding and mapmaking, as I try to figure it out, and acquire art skills I do not have.

As this is a homebrewed game (that is, not taking place in the officially created/sanctioned/licensed/prepared worlds provided by Wizards of the Coast), I have to develop a world in which the game takes place. I know that the world is called Kheserath, I know that the city the adventure begins in is the Septapolis, and I have some ideas for other nations characters may have heard of. But that’s it.

So how do we build a world?

Step one: grab a bunch of dice, decide what each type means, and prepare to throw them on a big sheet of paper.

d20s are cities (it’s a big world); d12s and d10s are boundaries; d8s are geographical features; d6s are settlements; d4 are islands if in water, and lakes if on land. Also pictured: the enormous jar of dice I have for some reason.

Shake them around, and get ready for step two: throwing them onto a sheet of paper that will become a map.

Imgur user LaserDaserPhaserRazor gave a tutorial that I’m adapting; you can find it here if you wish. I know I want my world to have three continents, so I’m doing this three times. (I’ve changed the number of dice each time.)

First up: the western continent.

The dice land, and an outline forms. I decided to mark d20s with an x, d8s with an o, and d4s with a dash.

The coastlines aren’t set, and it can look rather blobby. Next, the north/eastern continent.

Forgive the blurriness, I’ll work on that in the future. When there was overlap with the western continent and I liked it, I kept it. When there wasn’t, I didn’t. There aren’t any hard and fast rules to this, except what you decide is worthy of being done.

Finally, I filled out the map some; the south had just a few little ticks and tocks on it.

All in all, it lead to this:

And it’s nowhere near done, obviously–looking at you, blobby Australia down at the bottom of the map. I’ll get the rotation settings right on the next post–but for now, I’ll be sharpening pencils as I prepare to sharpen lines, build coasts, and set up routes and boundaries. Stay tuned!

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