It has occurred to me that I write about devising campaign settings more than any other topic. There are two probable reasons for campaign creation to be my favored writing material: 1) It is easier to write about than other parts of the game or 2) It is a part of D&D I enjoy more than other parts. I don’t know the answer, but I do recognize that in other games (video, tabletop rpgs, etc.), I am the builder personality. I like to create things that will last and, as a side note, Players in my games have noted that I often focus game play on Players that are working in builder mode when in Rylmoran. Thus, once again into the Breach of Creation, I go.
One of the great things about GMing for 30+ years is that I have lots of material for building settings. I have collected thousands of pages of published adventures, modules, campaign settings, and game systems. I have tens of thousands of hours of actually game play and in-game creation from which to draw. I am using both of these resources in crating Zentlan. Different continents on Rylmoran have different environmental effects and sometimes even different “magic levels” or arcane phenomena or prohibitions and beacuse of that I can make use of my resources and create very different spaces all on the same world. So, with this in mind, I now turn to Zentlan.
In the late 1980s, a group of PCs ended up in an unnamed city on an unnamed island had to deal with the Zentlar, the local population whose law enforcement used men with crystal wands that summoned acid rain and women who used crystal to track criminal offenders. I have no recollection or record of what the PCs were doing there or how they escaped, but I do know that that city and those people stayed in my mind and when Thom, Christina, and I decided to try a long distance Skype game, the Zentlar finally found a place to settle: Zentlan. The unnamed city became Dhavanarra AKA Zen Port and was placed on a small island just north of Zentland. Other Zentlar cities would be found on the mainland.
So, Thom drew out the continental outline and I began to fill it in. I had recently picked up the book Primal Power and in it was a section on “savage” regions of the world that could be homelands for primal characters (4E druids, shamans, wardens, etc.). I decided to place all of those areas in Zentlan. Zentlan was to be a “hotbed” elemental activity and origin site of the genasi, elemental humanoids.
We had a neat environment, but we needed it be populated. I had already placed the Zentlar on Zentland and I know villages and tribes of genasi lived in the elemental biomes, but I wanted more. Thus, I added the A’Thara. The A’Thara are an ethnic group of people of human and diavlin ancestry (See the Seven Races of Marn). The A’Thara fled Divlos during the Wars of the Sorcerer Monarchs and built a thriving empire on Zentlan. An empire that fell after repeated conflicts with the Zentlar; only loosely allied cities remain.
Now, it came time to place cities on the map. I had decided that the Zentlar are psionic based society that shapes the environment to fit their circular cites and that sounded like the Reidrans and Kalashtar from Ebberon to me, thus I began pilfering names from that section of the Ebberon Campaign Guide. The A’Thara cities would be less uniform names and I had a great resource to use for the campaign base, Punjar: The Tarnished Jewel. I picked up Punjar: The Tarnished Jewel at Free RPG day in 2008 and had never had a chance to use it. With that final addition the basic population centers were in place, though there are still unnamed cities marked on the map.
I had old cites, fallen empires, elemental biomes, and psionic societies, what else did I need or want. I needed a villain. I wanted something weird. I filled both desires with two Feyspires right out of Ebberon: Taer Syraen: the Winter Citadel and Taer Lian Doresh: the Fortress of Fading Dreams. Taer Syraen got dropped whole cloth from the Ebberon Campaign Guide to the center of the Frostfell, while Taer Lian Doresh got renamed Shae Lorlyndra and placed in the Wrathwood. I finished off my need for the weird by adding an even older fallen empire: the Olman from Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan to the mix and dropping one of the most intriguing features (at least to me) of the old Greyhawk Gazetteer, Nyr Dyv – Lake of Unknown Depths onto the Zentlan canvas.
All of this was done for the aborted Skype campaign, but I grabbed it all and decided to use it for Christina, Clint, and Spencer. They provided me with a half-elf druid, a dragonborn warlock, and a tiefling ranger. We developed some background for each of them and I dropped them in media res into the conflict with Lord Doresh. Thus is overly long explanation of how I crafted my campaign setting of Zentlan.
Until we meet again, Game On!