Saturday, May 15, 2010

Discovering the Realm

As I mentioned in my inaugural post, I have been running games in Quindia since 1980. I was introduced to role playing games a few years earlier by my cousin, Robert, who is four or five years older than me. I was already reading books by Burroughs, Tolkien, and Moorcock. I wish I could remember exactly how the first games went, but all I know is the first games were with Robert as the DM. This was serious entry level stuff. My brother, Dennis, and I explored lost dungeons, fought goblins and trolls, and found chests of gold and magic swords. We didn't have the rule books or proper dice. We were both fighters and the only stats we had were hit points. We rolled a d6 in combat, 1-3 is a miss and 4-6 is a hit. If you hit, you rolled a d6 for damage. Rules were made up on the fly (some monsters, like kobolds, needed to roll 5-6 to hit,  big monsters rolled 2d6 for damage, etc). That was it. We literally spent every day that first summer playing games this way. Often as not the game would end in a total party wipe, but it didn't seem to matter.

My brother and I continued to play and some of my friends joined in, usually with me as the DM. At some point in 1980, Robert gave me all of RPG stuff which consisted of the three core AD&D books, a dozen Dragon magazines including the Best of the Dragon vol I, a few character sheets, a pile of fantasy miniatures from Heritage, Elan Merch, and Grenadier, and a map drawn in colored pencil and magic marker...


That is how it started. For the first decade, the only thing that mattered was geography and cities. I had knowledge of a few adventures of one PC, Zorono the Pirate, who came from a small hamlet known as Lendow's Berkshire. I knew Scarshend was an infamous city of wizards and thieves. I knew there was a mega-dungeon known as the Red Castle. I knew the continent was called Quindia. An adventure would start in some nameless village near the town of such-and-such and the adventurers would toddle off into the wild at the behest of a wizard to acquire some arcane widget that has been lost for a century. Everything else was left to be detailed as I needed it.

In the early nineties, I was on my way to becoming a professional illustrator. I was also starting to get more into world building - developing histories, cultures, and the like. I built half a dozen campaign worlds, but I always kept coming back to Quindia. I decided what I needed to really focus on my old world was a new map! I used Tolkien's original map of Middle Earth as the basis for the style and the result served me for the rest of the century!


I started to map out migrations of various tribes that made up the people of the realm, write a rough timeline of events, better define the states, assign political systems, set up trade routes, and detail the religions. Zorono the Pirate had risen to rule an empire that encompassed most of Quindia. However, he disappeared while exploring the Red Castle. My campaign during this time took place 90 years after his disappearance. The empire was reduced to several vassal states (Westmarch, the Iron League, and Modria) that payed tribute to the city state of Gornath. A steward rules in the missing emperor's name, but a senate controlled the real power of the waning empire. They constantly tried to expand their territory to the east, but faced war with fierce nomadic horsemen known as the Midga. The south was divided into small independent nations. The wizards of Scarshend had nearly been wiped out in a war with Zorono, but their power was slowly returning. The king of Bronet died without an heir, plunging the country into civil war. Skorhean raiders came from the west and built a base in the southern tundra to launch viking raids on the coastal settlements of Quindia...

I ran a long campaign during these years that ranks as one of my best. The PC's Strom Coldsteel (Dennis Harrison), Ghul D'Khat (Jim McDaries), and Carmon Diablo (Tom Grimsley) rank as the Bigby and Elmister of Quindia. The players still talk about the campaign and as recently as last week were discussing what their characters might be up to now. Strom Coldsteel founded an adventurers' guild and seeks to recover more of the fabled Rings of Quindia (he has two in his possession). Ghul D'Khat works to become a Champion of Chaos and is seeking the twin to a powerful enchanted sword he carries (both of which may bring him into conflict with his old friends). Carmon Diablo built a temple to his goddess Tyche and rules the small town of Fortune that sprang up around it. He also has one of the largest spy networks on the continent. All of these characters may be found wandering Quindia (or even other continents of the planet), meddling in the affairs of PC's, in my new campaigns.

In 2000 I decided it was time to make a new map to reflect changes that had taken place in the game world. Drawing inspiration from the Forgotten Realms, I decided to make a map in the style of those from the newest set at the time.


Now things were really coming together! Full color graphics! Past adventure sites were marked on the map! Things were destined for greatness! Except I don't think I ever ran a campaign with this map... When third edition came out, I was in world building mode again. I ran a long campaign in a new world, heavily influenced by Middle Earth, called Gwyndion. It faltered when I ran a near total party wipe. Then we went on to another new campaign in a small state called the Gran Duchy of Hatchea. I was tired of world building and wanted to concentrate on an isolated nation and create individual towns and villages in more detail. As it turns out, Hatchea is part of another continent across the ocean from Quindia...


The Hatchea campaign was actually great and after the story ran it's course, the characters went on to journey south on a quest to slay a dragon in the Empire of the Storm King. Ghul D'Khat and Carmon Diablo actually made an appearance in latter stages of the campaign. Anyway, I developed the world map to gain a better idea of where Quindia fit and where my next campaign might be.

Along came 4th edition D&D. I loved the 'points of light' concept. I had always viewed Quindia in that same way, but my current map seemed too... cheerful. It was also a little too organized. I need very little excuse to start on a new map, and it seemed like it was time for 4th edition Quindia. I still wanted a 1st edition feel so I decided to go back a step and look at the Tolkien map again. Again I wanted to change the map to reflect events in the world. I also wanted to get back to my 1st edition focus. I decided I didn't need to know every import and export of every city on the map. I didn't need to know the name of every governor, duke, or prelate. I turned back to my old Greyhawk folio for inspiration and I'm currently in the process of paring down the volumes of notebooks I have on Quindia to a single paragraph or two for each nation, geographical feature, etc. which is actually harder than I thought it would be!


As a final irony, I am currently running a campaign in which the characters will be traveling back and forth between Quindia and Skorhea. I'll be posting more details of Quindia as the blog continues. One thing is certain - I will never run out of things to write about!

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