32 thoughts on “Draw maps… leave blanks. A totally random world comes together at the table!”

  1. I believe those are Maezar’s reformatted moves and character sheet’s for Freebooters on the Frontier.

    And if I had to hazard a guess, the Fate dice are for “die of destiny” stuff, like “what’s the weather like today.” I seem to recall a conversation about that…

  2. Hi all. I’ll answer your questions happily. I use fractals or web sites to generate random continent outlines. This particular one came from http://topps.diku.dk/torbenm/maps.msp

    I position it into a map graticule in photoshop and/or Illustrator. I generally start a session with at least three projections on hand: orthographic (a globe view), some kind of mercator (as shown here) and some kind of conic.

    I have a few different graphic styles for blank maps. This one simulates a pencil sketch and allows pencil drawings on the map to fit right in.

    Staples has a drafting printer to run off 36″ prints for about $3

    I generate a list of random place names of the same flavor using “Langmaker” (running in an old WinXP image under Parallels). Lang maker lets you seed the flavor of the names by entering patterns and letters or phonemes. Sometimes I use http://www.rinkworks.com/namegen/ or other web sites for random name generation.

    The players and I then take turns choosing items on the list and penciling in their names. Anyone can decide whether the name they’ve chosen represents a continent, region, body of water, geophysical feature, city, race, culture, or anything else they choose. I tend to read the names aloud during this phase. “Where do we find “Jovorūn”?

    The fate dice are used for creative purposes. For example, I remember using them recently for “Tropical, Temperate, Arctic” and “low, medium, high” areas of elevation. Players may also lobby to include them in significant 2d6 rolls on the condition that if they result in a change from one move results category to another this is described during gameplay. For example, on a roll of “5”, “4”, and “+1”: “It seemed inevitable that Umrion the Strong would be lacerated by the terrible claws of the Varque as he brought his hammer down upon it, but a flash of sunlight blinded his foe and thus it rended only the fabric of his cloak.” Finally, we also use a fate die placed over the character portrait to keep track of +1/-1 Forward.

    The best part: moving on to a new list of random names, we quickly generate a dozen or more random characters (Class, alignment, appearance, traits) placed at random using a latitude and longitude grid. These suggest the basic outlines of situations, story arcs, motives, gods, cultures, and more.

    We then collectively decide which of these we’d like to explore first, adding characters as needed and beginning play in our totally new world.

    I take everything home, dress it up in Illustrator and re-print it for the next session with all of our newly established elements.

    The Character Sheets and Moves are beta versions of my redressing of the wonderful “Freebooters on the Frontier,” available from http://mysticworks.com/freebooters

  3. I should mention that the spirit of these sessions is guided by the principle of Funnel World, “Savor the kindness and cruelty of fate.”

  4. Ahhhh…. one more thing! When I begin with a group of players, we also name our world, and thereby our game: “Tales of ____“. The game is based on the premise that everything which unfolds is happening within the words of a storyteller INSIDE our game world. (“Know, O Prince…”) I hand each player a token at the beginning of each session which allows them to re-tell, deem a lie, contradict, skip forward, or otherwise change some part of the story. (You might also compare the interruptions in “The Princess Bride”) When this happens, the storyteller’s audience speaks, or the storyteller makes a redaction, finds some text unreadable, conveys contradictory tellings, etc. and then thinks or speaks: “But others hold that Yera of Ysthelin cannot have perished in the fire at Dranakightu and indeed she appears again in the next scroll of our telling…”

    Fate dice add a lovely twist to this!

  5. I Love mechanics like this. The Flashback mechanic in Blades in the Dark works very similarly.

    Its almost worth writing as a move:

    ‘When you speak on behalf of the Storyteller, spend one token and:

    Retell the Scene – Start afresh as the scene begins.

    Contradict a known fact in the setting – Establish one character / location / object that was ‘wrong’. What is it instead?

    Flash Forward – Fade to black and Set a scene in the future that relates to the present. (This may require a moves snowball of its own)

    Flash Back – Establish something in the past that effects the present scene. (This may require a moves snowball all its own)

  6. And here is a short segment based on notes from last Friday’s session (the 3rd in “Tales of Atanu” based on the map I posted above) – Here is the prelude to what would prove a Perilous Journey indeed — “The Tale of Seyusu of Wyru.”

    As her second name would suggest, Seyusu of Weyru was not always an ascetic living far off from the cities of men. She left the splendid shores of the Sahova to live a harsh life in the west amongst the Kro-el—nomads and traders who ride across the Krolan wastes on their great bipedal “Yashu”. No words tell how Seyusu came to live amongst them in the desert, nor how she left them: going off to live alone in her small hut. But we are told that the Kro-el continued to trade with her, bringing food and other goods in exchange for the strange potions she could craft them, and perhaps moreso the healing magic she could work on their ailing beasts or kinfolk… And so it may have gone on, if not for the woeful day when she dared challenge one of the caravan masters as he cruelly flogged a sagging beast. Viciously he turned the whip and club on her, striking her down and leaving her to die in the gulch of seven bones. The tale of Seyusu would go no further if the heart of that caravan master’s own mercenary guardsman had not compelled him — at the peril of his own life — to steal away from his master and return by night to the broken witch, finding her there under the stars of the silver tree and reviving her with water and the succulent leaf of Durmal. Nyasekelma was his name, and our tale follows these two once again out of the Krolan waste, north towards the sea, and Oruz…

  7. Love it! Inspiring technique that I may need to emulate. Maezar, do you follow a given tale to its logical endpoint and then move on to a new tale? Do players play specific characters, or are you all co-authors of the entire cast?  I love the idea of jumping around to different points in the same world, picking up threads across a variety of cultures.

    I’ve been using “story tokens” too lately, and thinking about better ways to codify their use. Thanks for the move, Nathan Roberts!

  8. Jason Lutes Suffice it to say that with different groups of players, there have been different approaches. “Tales of Atanu” is very jumpy, like a multi-threaded TV show with mostly synchronous but overlapping chapters. Two or three players create the stories of different individuals and groups (with some identifying more strongly with certain stories than others).

    Tales of Ceresta-Umatha” will be four long stories all converging on a single world-city. All four players play all four characters (and then some).

    “Tales of Quar” travels forward and backward in time as individual players with individual characters try to piece together a prophecy of the total apocalypse that destroyed the city of Quar during what was actually the first funnel session!

  9. I should also mention my only “rule” — all pre-existing fantasy tropes (especially “races” and species) are to be avoided. Everything must be created from the imagination. If based on some “classic” concept, a new one must be re-envisioned, and especially, renamed. Aside from that, I leave it to the group to determine how wildly they want to imagine their world.

  10. Fascinating. I really love this idea of weaving the legends/history of a world through different storylines.

    I use the same “no tropes” rule in our Freebooters games. Stock fantasy has its place, but things feel so much more alive and exciting when everyone has to imagine and wrap their heads around unfamiliar stuff.

  11. Maezar how far have you strayed from DW proper, then? It sounds like a lot of your important changes (story tokens, troupe play) make the game not the same game. Have you considered using World of Dungeons or something lighter?

  12. Aaron Griffin It isn’t strictly Dungeon World… it’s Freebooters on the Frontier/The Perilous Wild by our own Jason Lutes 🙂

  13. That planetary generator is the most amazing piece of mathematical genies I have ever witnessed. I didn’t think such beauty could be just generated! The work that must have went into that…

  14. Taylor Main if you like that, I’ll post more links to other fractal-based landmass generators. There are some incredible ones out there. I’m ambitiously hoping to work on one that also overlays voronoi diagrams.

  15. +david limeys That’s simply my color map converted to appropriate values of grayscale. It helps that I used a hand-drawn tile for the water areas, and that the fonts are roughly hand-like.

Comments are closed.