Now we need to build a world of adventure. This is where the game will take place. The campaign will take place entirely on this world. I’m calling it Ultimate Earth, because that sounds cool, and it’s easy to remember.
The number one rule I work from, when creating worlds, is consistency. In our society we run on logic. The players operate on logic, and they have a lot of trouble dealing with things that are totally illogical and arbitrary. That seems obvious, but it’s important to say. I need a game Universe that adheres to some form of logic. Most RPGs deal with game worlds that defy the laws of physics, wither through magic or super-science or metaphysics. But even these worlds have logic behind them. This is particularly important to remember, because I have decided that this will be a mixed genre campaign. super-science, Magic and historical he-man-action will all be slugging it out and solving mysteries together.
So, the premise will tell us how I’m bringing all these disparate elements together in a logical fashion.
The premise of the game is that tens of thousands of years ago, an advanced race of humanoids developed the ability to travel between potential realities. They created a race of advanced synthetic servant creatures. Those creatures were infected by an intelligence that made them evil, and caused them to attack every living thing on as many of the alternate worlds they could get to. The Humanoids, Termellern, found ways to fight back against their creations-turned-evil, the Mellor. But the Mellor were vast, and very capable of violence, so they developed weapons on the worlds they found. They sought ways to train other humanoids to fight against the Mellor.
The game Fringeworthy is about modern day explorers traveling abandoned pathways to alternate earths and occasionally fighting the sci-fi horror villains, the Mellor.
So it’s a world of good versus evil – or more to the point, one side’s vicious bio weapons versus the other sides vicious bio weapons. Ultimately, the winner is to be unleashed on every reality.
The Mellor and the Termellern should never actually take a direct hand in the conflict. It’s all done through surrogates that they either manufacture, or bring from alternate realities. This gives the overall game a coherent arc, while giving the players goals that make sense.
My world is situated in a small pocket universe. I want the whole thing to be about 6 billion miles from side to side. It will be the size of a solar system. The planet will be in the center. 300,000 miles away are two moons, orbiting opposite each other, so one is always on the other side of the planet. Then, about 100 million miles out is the sun. Beyond that is the edge of the Universe. On the edge, what appear to be stars, are actually gateways to other Universes. The gateways are glowing with energy.
A very simple Universe. We don’t need much else. There’s room to add another planet later. It’s always a good idea to leave room for other elements. The game will certainly change as it goes on.
The Planet is more complex. I want the players to be able to find other civilizations, and have characters come from vastly different cultures on the world. I event want some fairly modern civilizations, that have no idea that these other places exist on the world. I’m also looking for vastness. The first thing the players will learn, is that this “Earth” is actually the size of Jupiter. That will create a lot of mystery.
Mystery is really important in a roleplaying game. There need to be immediate problems to solve, and then mysteries whose solutions are less pressing, but still important. A huge world provides a lot of that. I could have, as easily made the wold a giant flat plane that ends in mountains or an infinite chasm, but a giant round world is just odd enough, and makes it impossible to navigate the entire thing in a lifetime. There are also immediate questions the players will have, like how a planet that dense and that big could have 1G gravity, rather than 7 to 10G gravity. I have decided that there are vast pockets of dark matter and dark energy, creating a gravitational balance at 1G.
Since I know I’m going to have a lot of modern and sci-fi characters in the game, I don’t want to make it too easy for them. After all, the major powers of the world are testing them. The atmosphere dampens radio waves. Radios have a very limited range, and even then the reception will be difficult at best. Vast stretches of ocean between land masses will make travel between continents difficult but not impossible. Also there will be monsters that patrol the skies, dragons and that sort of thing. And I’ll even have a few creatures that attack and eat technology. But more on those later. For now we are just concentrating on the world.
And that leads to the laws of physics. Even in a magical world, or a world that is entirely artificial, the players need consistency. In our world we rely on stable laws of physics for every physical thing we deal with. In a roleplaying game, the players will quickly become frustrated if the worlds laws of physics don’t make sense, or randomly change. In this type of game, resourceful problem solving is a major factor. So the laws of physics we are all used to are in play, and then magic and super science happen on top of that.
More subtle laws of physics are more of what we are currently calling tropes. Adventure has it’s own laws that go along with everything else. You know that in a story, when someone says, “it’s clear sailing from here on,” then something disastrous is going to happen. These can be codified just like the laws of gravity or electromagnetism. Just like with all the other physical laws, make sure they are consistent.
Here’s a good example of some story laws of physics:
One of the other important laws of physics here, is that characters from other worlds bring their physics with them. Super heroes will still have their powers, and mad scientists will still be able to turn a flashlight and a ruby into a laser.
As to the area this campaign will be set in, I’ll be using my favorite old standby. I’ll be using a modified version of the Outdoor Survival game board, from Avalon Hill. This was the map used in the original Dungeons and Dragons games, and is prominently mentioned as a must have in the first printings of the game. I started using the map about 25 years ago, and have been using it ever since. While I’ve made lots of maps over the years, this one has always been my favorite. It has a good mix of terrain, and is easily adaptable to whatever campaign I’m running. In this campaign, the edges of the map have been modified as shoreline, so the whole thing is an island. At 10 miles per hex, it’s an island more than twice as big as Great Britain. Plenty of room for adventure. Oh yes, there is a large mysterious desert in the middle of the map. That can be a handy thing. I’ll be putting an important castle in the middle of that.
Most of the campaign should take place in a small area of the map. I think it’s important to have a general outline of the rest of the world, and in this case, the Universe. These ideas will find there way into adventures, even though the PCs may never directly visit them.
Outdoor Survival is out of print, but here is a PDF download.
And then, here is the map I’ll be using.
Our map was originally created using software called Hexographer:
made a few changes using Photoshop.
This world will be populated by people and creatures who, for the most part, have no idea they are in an artificial Universe. To them it’s just the world that has always been this way.
Next, we’ll look at the local area that will be the campaign’s starting point.