Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

Godsbarrow: Why not create a world map first?

Writing yesterday’s post about banked fires and leaving countries partially unmapped made me realize how much I’ve thought about this stuff over the past several months, and how non-obvious some of it might be to anyone outside my personal flesh-prison.

I’m sort of mapping Godsbarrow the least efficient way possible . . . but stitching together my big map is proof that, for me, the dumb way that creates extra work in the future is the key to my success.

Why not start by mapping the continents?

I see gorgeous continent-level maps all the time on r/Wonderdraft. And it makes sense: Look how many things in the map below I will need to fix in order to turn X regional maps (the “tiles”) into a unified pan-regional map that spans a large chunk of Godsbarrow, none of which I’d have to fix if I’d started with a larger canvas.

Future Martin is not going to thank Past Martin for the extra work required to correct every boundary on this map

Hell, even if I’d stayed at the regional scale (rather than continent scale) but started with a six-tile blank map in Wonderdraft, filled it with ocean texture, and then added landmasses one region at a time, I’d wind up with a finished map that had none of the technical issues present in the map I currently have. But I know me: That blank space would have overwhelmed me, made this feel like work, and probably torpedoed the whole venture.

Every boundary, every thing I develop, is a constraint. Starting with continents establishes a whole bunch of boundaries right off the bat. Starting without even thinking about continents leaves all that stuff where it belongs, for now: nonexistent or purely notional.

Why? Three reasons.

Because WWN says so

Worlds Without Number [paid link] advocates strongly for not building stuff you don’t need, and I agree. More than three decades of gaming, including several abortive attempts at creating campaign settings which began, full of excitement, with me creating world maps, has taught me that I virtually never need to know about continents at the gaming table.

Is it nice to know what the Forgotten Realms looks like at a world map level? Absolutely. And maybe in a published setting with the scope of the Realms, I’d expect that. (Here, as a WIP on a blog, I absolutely don’t expect that.)

But in actual play, have I ever needed to know what the continents look like, or what the whole of Faerûn looks like? Nope. Not even once.

Which flows into…

Conversation of time and creative energy

I’m one guy, doing this for fun, not getting paid for it, with a finite amount of free time and creative energy, and spending those resources worldbuilding means I have less time and energy to spend on other things — including the more gameable aspects of worldbuilding.

If I spend a bunch of time and creative energy on a world map of Godsbarrow that I don’t even need, I might burn out. Even if I don’t burn out, I will have spent those resources making something I don’t actually need and placing constraints on my future worldbuilding.

Which flows into…

Because whimsical, improvisational worldbuilding is more fun for me

I’m not here to police anyone’s “lonely fun.” I upvote those gorgeous continent maps on r/Wonderdraft, and I love that folks are making cool shit even — especially — if it’s not how I might have made it. As my wife often says, with genuine affection, “You do you, Boo-Boo.

But personally I find it much more freeing, and more fun, to develop a Godsbarrow region without any real idea what’s next door. When I step back for a minute, as I did when stitching together that large map above, I see a developing setting that I never would have come up with this way if I’d sketched out all the coastlines for the large map at once.

Toriyama Akira and the art of improvisational creation

This connects nicely to having just finished watching Dragon Ball and started Dragon Ball Z. I was curious how much of Z Toriyama Akira had planned when he was working on Dragon Ball, and apparently the answer is “none of it, or at least not much of it, especially early on.” He was just doing what interested him, following his heart and seeing where it led him, and the end product — Dragon Ball — is full of whimsy and surprises and strange turns it likely never would have been full of if he’d mapped it out from the beginning.

Circling back to Godsbarrow, if I’d written up the Unlucky Isles knowing that a slug-god-kaiju was crushing mountains to the west (in Kurthunar) and the region to the south was locked in perpetual winter and populated by, among others, courtly werewolves and mushroom pirates, I would have written it differently. For one thing, I’d have had to hold a lot more ideas in my head while writing it. For another, I’d have worried about conceptually mapping out all of the nations’ relationships with places further away, which likely would have made me lose interest.

If I synthesize all of my regional write-ups into a unified document, will I need to add and tweak some things? You bet. Just like my stitched-up map, what came later would necessarily prompt a gentle rearrangement of what came before.

But as a price to pay for capturing the original raw spirit of Godsbarrow, channeling that into the Unlucky Isles, stoking the fires of creation and diving in while they burned brightly, and creating something that I still want to continue developing eight months later, that is a vanishingly small price indeed.

TL;DR: Start small. Which is, like, the oldest RPG worldbuilding advice ever. This post explains why I started small, and why, eight months after starting work on Godsbarrow, I still love this approach despite the imperfections it introduces into the process and the WIP version of Godsbarrow.

See also: Yore

A lot of what I’ve said here also goes for Yore itself. This blog will be celebrating its 10th anniversary later this year, on August 28th.

I’ve been blogging since 2005, and Yore is my third RPG blog. I ran Treasure Tables (still archived on Gnome Stew) from 2005-2007, and ran and contributed to Gnome Stew from 2008-2016. I may have my math off a bit, but I believe I wrote 871 posts on TT and 453 on GS.

So not only does my post count here — 463 as of this one — exceed my count on the Stew, even prior to the actual 10th anniversary I’ve already posted on Yore for longer than either of my previous blogs. Yore is the one where I just do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it, whether or not that’s an efficient way to build an audience (it’s not), get pageviews (it’s not), create a brand (it’s not), make money (it’s not), or stay relevant in the RPG hobby as a whole (it’s not).

In other words, philosophically Yore is pretty similar to Godsbarrow. I loved writing on Treasure Tables and Gnome Stew, and look back fondly on those years. But part of the reason I’m still blogging here, nearly 10 years on (and well past the heyday of blogs’ relevance in the hobby), is because here is the place I just do my thing. Or don’t do it. Or shift gears and do new things.

I know folks out there have gotten good mileage out of stuff I’ve posted here, and that brings me joy. I hope it continues to be the case. In the meantime, I’ll just keep puttering away and doing my thing.

(This post is one of a series about worldbuilding with Worlds Without Number. I’m using the setting-creation approach detailed in Worlds Without Number [paid link], which is a fantastic resource.)

Miniatures Warhammer 40k

A strong contender for a third 40k army, Necrons, and a Yore milestone

Picking up a second-wave Indomitus box marks the first time since I got into 40k minis that I’ve bought models outside one of my chosen factions. I know I could Ebay the Necron half of my set and plow those funds into Orks or Blood Angels, but I’ve been looking ahead to 2021 (much of which seems like it’ll be a lot like 2020, isolation-wise) and thinking that a third army might be enjoyable to paint.

And it’s not just the convenience of already owning 36 Necron models: When I was choosing my second army, Necrons were a strong contender based on their sculpts and lore. While the notion of having one force from each umbrella faction — humanity, xenos, and chaos — is appealing, when I browse the chaos units (as I’ve got humans and xenos) I’m not blown away by some of the figures.

By contrast, virtually every current Necron model looks amazing. Based on the pre-refresh sculpts, I’d largely dismissed them; painting the same robot skeleton over and over sounded dull as dishwater. But these evil mofos look like a blast to paint — and they’d have a different aesthetic, vibe, and process to my Angels and Orks.

So while I’m not ready to commit to Necrons, nor give them a page of their own here, I do want to list what I have on hand for future noodling and/or Kill Team use:

  • Indomitus:
    • 1x Overlord
    • 1x Royal Warden
    • 1x Plasmancer
    • 1x Skorpekh Lord
    • 20x Necron Warriors
    • 2x Cryptothralls
    • 3x Skorpekh Destroyers
    • 1x Canoptek Plasmacyte
    • 1x Canoptek Reanimator
    • 6x Canoptek Scarab Swarms

If my pace holds steady with Orks, it’ll be 10-12 months until Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas are all painted up — plenty of time to ponder a potential army number three.

167 v. 166

Incidentally, this post represents the first past a tipping point on Yore: It’s my 167th post about miniatures, surpassing my 166 posts about RPGs. (As is traditional for Yore milestones, it’s just a plain ol’ post.)

I play/run RPGs twice a week, loving every minute, and if anything I’m more engaged with actual play than I was when I started blogging about RPGs way back in 2005. During those 15 years, I’ve written something like 1,500 blog posts about RPGs, mainly GMing topics.

I’ve found that some topics, especially perennial ones like fudging die rolls or player personality types, just don’t interest me anymore. I’m open to new ideas, but I know where I stand and why I stand there. I haven’t written a dedicated RPG advice blog since 2016, when I left Gnome Stew, and Yore’s occasional forays into advice tend to be one-offs written when some topic really grabbed me.

All of which is to say that I think the joke I made in February that got me back into blogging — about turning Yore into a miniatures blog — has borne fruit. I’ve kept Yore on the web even during its many fallow periods because this is the blog I come back to — the place where I write about whatever I want to write about, usually hobby stuff, and in the past that’s most often meant RPGs. These days, it’s minis.

Next month, or next year? Who knows! I sure don’t. But I hope you’ll stick around, and I appreciate your readership. Thanks for reading!

Tabletop RPGs

Prep is dead

One of the fun things about having blogged for a long time is that I sometimes remember writing something years ago and, when I do, I can just go read it again. And man has this article from my Treasure Tables days back in 2005 come full fucking circle 10 years later: I’d rather rake leaves than do prep.

I’ve reached the point with prep where I’m entirely unwilling to do more than a few minutes of it, if that. Games that require prep are basically off my radar as a GM. I’ll read a book, I’ll noodle about a couple of things, but that’s my limit.

Game prep, you’re pretty much dead to me.