Sunday, November 10, 2019

Delving Deeper Setting: Step 5 - The World

"The world is the world is"
This is the final of five parts in The Gygax '75 Challenge in which I create a Delving Deeper campaign setting using the process set forth by Dungeon & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax. Gary first presented this process in the April 1975 issue of Europa fanzine.

The final week of this challenge is here! It feels like it's been a long time coming, but how sweet it is to finally be here. Let's wrap this up.

All the World's a Stage

When it comes to Step 5 - detailing the rest of the game world - Gary advises it is "something that you won't immediately have to worry about; but it is a good idea to have a general plan in mind immediately." With that in mind and Ray Otus' excellent workbook in hand, I set out to paint in the broad strokes of the world of Caress of Steel.

First I explore what lands may be found beyond the starting area. Going back to my inspirational material, I expand beyond the two core albums by Rush I chose for this exercise - Fly by Night & Caress of Steel - and explore the rest of the band's discography. It makes sense to me to work chronologically through the albums and map the 'lands' from nearest to furthest beyond the starting area.

2112 - this 1976 breakthrough album has one side devoted to the tale of world (and star system) under the rule of a totalitarian caste of priests who control all aspects of life because they know what's best for the citizens of the Solar Federation.

Hemispheres - from 1978, another album-side epic; this time we are treated to a world where the gods Apollo and Dionysus are at war over the fate of humans.

Clockwork Angels - from 2012, the band's final studio album deals with a steampunk world in which the Watchmaker works to keep the lands working with clockwork precision.

While each of these albums treat their stories as happening in different worlds - in fact, Clockwork Angels confirms that its story takes place in "this one of many possible worlds" - I like the idea of these settings all being in the same world. They can be separated by great distances or seemingly impassible barriers. This allows for some bleed between the lands. For example, near the edge of the realms of Caress of Steel, characters may encounters some Priests of Syrinx on a pilgrimage. This also allows players other options when creating their characters.

While these three albums are by far the most iconic at describing lands suitable for this world, there are other songs that can describe aspects of the world at large. Throughout their intervening albums there are numerous songs with references to locations: the Range of Light, the Wounded City, the Western Shore, the White Sands, the Canyonlands, and the Barren Lands, to name a few.

Different Stages

In addition to the many lands to which the characters may travel are the strange planes they may find themselves in. Travel here may be the result of a quest, a curse, or some combination of the two. 

Hades - the dark realm of the netherworld which Prince By-Tor, Centurion of Evil, calls home.

Olympus - the City of Immortals where Apollo and Dionysus scheme and plan.

Nocturne - the realm of dreams and its dangerous, monster-filled city, La Villa Strangiato.

Xanadu - the timeless land of the Pleasure Dome.

Ceiling Unlimited

While Gary tells us the five steps we've completed will "probably taking a week or so", Ray and I have spend five weeks completing these tasks. Having made it through this exercise,  I feel I've learned and grown as a result. The biggest take-away for me is that Gary's 5 steps to building a campaign works as intended. I also owe a big thanks to Ray Otus for traveling this road with me; I don't think I could have done it alone. Having a sounding board and someone to hold me accountable certainly is a key to my success.

Another thing I learned is that using the albums and songs of Rush hold a wealth of material for inspiring an old school fantasy RPG world. I was concerned at the start of this exercise that there would only be a few key elements to draw from while developing this campaign. What I found was that with 20 studio albums, virtually every album had songs from which material would make its way into the world.

With the exercise done, this begs the question, what's next?


Ray Otus' The Viridian Scroll

The Gygax 75 Challenge: Week 5

Ray Otus' Plundergrounds Podcast

Gygax 1975 Challenge Week 5

Illustration Credits

Wikimedia Commons - The World, a major arcana card in Visconti Sforza tarot deck by artist Bonifacio Bembo

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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