World-building: Welcome to Ximuria
So I’ve been enjoying reading through the new Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls game over the past few months, and running myself through a few solo adventures to get the feel of what the new edition can do. And I’m impressed: it’s lightweight, extremely flexible, and – quite amazingly, for a game that first saw the light of day in the mid-1970s – it scratches my narrative itch. So I’m thinking at some point I’ll maybe run a game for my group.
Now, I’m sure you’re familiar with the experience: as soon as I admitted that to myself, my mind went into overdrive working out just what I was going to run, and then where, and then before I knew it I was into the whole process of world-building. Yay! Well, like many of you out there, I love that stuff. 🙂
The adventure I’m writing – true to the nostalgia-fest the Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls release has unlocked within me – is a massive modernisation of the first ever dungeon adventure I wrote, wayyy back in 1980. At some point I’ll scan the first dungeon map the 12-year old me did, but, gentle reader, that day is not today. I’m placing it on the mountainous wilderness on the edge of one of my earliest campaign settings – Salama, the Lair of the Leopard Empresses.
Now I’m never averse to a bit of mapmaking, and my renegade brain started to scribble and scratch, to bring in ancient place names and peoples I hadn’t thought about for decades, then invent histories for them, and hook them up with brand new places names and peoples, and before you know it a whole continent was taking shape. This, incidentally, was yesterday and the day before. More precisely, those weird interstices when you should be sleeping but aren’t.
The new map started to take shape last night. Inspired by the Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls map of Trollworld, I thought – well, my campaign setting is “the Lair of the Leopard Empresses”, and Trollworld has all these continents named and even shaped after monstrous beasts… And you can guess the rest. “Ximuria” took shape, in the form of a lion rampant, and the concept bloomed that the Leopard Empresses were just one of the many polities of the “big cat peoples” which populated the continent to have risen to glory out of the pages of history. There are many others – whose histories are waiting to be told.
So here’s a quick teaser of my proto-type map. Obviously it desperately needs some colour – I’ll probably start doing that next, after the next iteration of the large-scale geographical features, once everything’s settled down and I’m sure everything’s where it wants to be. Right now the main areas are marked out, the coastline roughly inked, the mountain ranges, big lakes and river systems all identified. I have cultural areas, basic meteorology, and lots of areas of mystery and conflict. There are already histories of fallen empires running around in my head, clashing with the now-decadent Empire of Salama, which rules in hoary and somewhat somnolent splendour in the North. I’m looking forward to finding out what’s coming next.
I’ve even placed it notionally on Trollworld for my own campaign – to the west of the Dragon Continent, to the east of the Sea of Promise. I’m not sure yet how much contact there is between the lands, but my guess is that it’s all very legendary and mysterious, and only storm-blown adventurers rack up on its shores from the distant lands beyond.
I’m guessing what will happen next is that my mind will zoom in on the southern Salaman border – the Lake of Mists region, which I already know used to be part of the Empire but was lost in the last century, and is now a lawless and contested border region. That’s where my adventure is set. The region used to be called the Claw of Bayaal the Black – the Leopard Empire is divided into “Claws” – and the adventure probably has something to do with the doom of its last Tyrant fifty years ago.
We’ll see. World-building is such a semi-conscious thing, ideas bubbling and fermenting and occasionally popping on the surface. Who knows what’s coming next. But – welcome to Ximuria! I’m looking forward to exploring, I hope you are too…
Normandy, 25th October 2015