11:56 Thu 01 Apr 2010
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At the beginning of March I kicked off a roleplaying campaign, the first I’ve run since early 1995. The setting is essentially the one I laid out last year in my fantasy world sketch, which now as the name “Q’Rith”.

Technically the first game set there was the one-shot I ran in December, but in certain ways it could have been set anywhere. The campaign is more tied into the politics and history of the game world.

I’ve been really enjoying running the campaign, and also the two times I’ve run that same one-shot. Thanks to all the people who have played or are playing!

Running the campaign is significantly more challenging than the one-shot. There’s a lot of preparation involved, and the improvisation required is trickier because player actions are more tightly connected to the setting (and plot). The one-shot is almost a wilderness adventure, while currently the players in the campaign are in a rather large city, and are dealing with a variety of people there, each interaction potentially setting off chains of events that I need to track in my head. That’s a huge part of the fun for me, trying to make the world an intricate one that reacts realistically to actions the players take while also having the world roll along without regard to player action just as the “real world” pays little heed to much of what we do in it.

I think that this setting, and this plot, are both the most detailed I’ve ever run. I put plenty of time and effort into campaigns when I was younger, but I think a lot more of that was spent on rules issues. Now I’m more focused on the less technical aspects—that, and the tools available to me for creating the world are far more advanced (as is my ability to use them). Back then I was using computers for as much of it as I could, but still spent plenty of time with pencil and paper. Now my key tools are Vim, TiddlyWiki, and Inkscape (not to mention reStructuredText, my web server, my Subversion repository, and my laptop, all of which are critical), and they really make the whole process far smoother.

For example, I’ve made maps for this campaign. That isn’t new. What is new is that these maps are simply far better than they ever were in the past (largely because I can’t draw, but can get around that limitation now). Not only are they better, however, but their digital nature makes it really easy to alter them as needed, so incremental progress is a lot easier to do. In addition, dealing with scale is far easier, and with Inkscape I get access to vector rather than bitmap graphics, and that makes adapting content far less hassle.

The city the players are in is Anaq’rest, and my map for that is quite large in its source form: 20,000 pixels high and 20,000 pixels wide. The scale is one pixel to one meter. I can go from street-level detail to district-level detail in the same file, a luxury I’m very happy to have. In the 1990s I might have conceived of a 400-square-kilometer city map, but I very much doubt I would have done anything but gotten discouraged by my attempts to make it. Now I have one I’m happy with, that I can develop incrementally, and that also serves as a street-level map when I need it.

Both creating and having a map are extremely helpful creatively when dealing with a city setting, too. I’m certain that this applies to any kind of creative endeavor, not just roleplaying. It makes it feel like a lot of things are already “there”, waiting to be discovered rather than made up, and in addition the creation of the map brought with it ideas about the city’s history and nature that simply wouldn’t have occurred to me otherwise.

The current state of the map, looking at the whole thing (20km x 20km):

The players are currently based in the district of Dockside, and this is a zoomed-in (5.5km x 5.5km) view of Dockside:

All of its streets are on the map, although I haven’t filled in all their names yet. Only specific buildings are there so far, too, as marking out every single building on the map seemed like a bit much. But eventually it might get close to that.

When it’s a little more polished/detailed, I’ll release it under a Creative Commons license, as I suspect that plenty of games might have a use for a map like this (particularly with its source files, which I would release also).

2 Responses to “Anaq’rest”

  1. garret Says:

    Stick the players in Dun laoghaire shopping centre with a plus 2 golden discs voucher and Prince August butt plug. Introduce an NPC with webbed feet from wicklow and make all the numbers on a twenty sided dice a 1. This is true roleplaying.


  2. Tadhg Says:

    You’ve started LARPing again, haven’t you, Garret?

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