Part of the appeal of playing Dungeons and Dragons, especially during my younger creative years, was building your own world from scratch. You could make a world and place anything you wanted to on it. Because I had a collectors mentality (insanity?), I would try and pick up everything TSR Inc. put out related to D&D. Because I had almost everything, I wanted to include everything on my world. No use letting those resources go to waste, right?
I named my first world Orb. It was simple name, kind of described the planet’s shape, and was ambiguous enough that I could do anything with it. I started by drawing the map of the world. There is something freeing about making land masses and continents that don’t conform to our planet Earth. You can basically close your eyes and scribble to your heart’s content.
The map is just dressing though, until you fill it in. Next I divvied out the land masses among the standard D&D races of the time (2nd edition AD&D). Humans, Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings dominated the world, but there was plenty of room for all kinds of other races and variant sub-races. I focused the campaign on the human majority lands of the People’s Confederation, in which the people, ironically, had little to no choice as to their rulers. It was actually an alliance of about twenty small city state kingdoms that had banded together in mutual defense from the continual raids of horse nomads from the vast plains to the east.
Those horse nomads were based upon Robert Adam’s The Horseclans novels and I used a Gurps Role-playing game supplement for reference. The reference was for society and culture only as I adapted the human variants and creature variants to the D&D rules. They were cool because the rules included telepathy between some of the nomads and their unique horses as well as the occasional saber-toothed cat. I also developed my own pantheon of gods.
All this isn’t unusual for the budding Dungeon Master. But then, I had to take it a step further. In my effort to include every race and class I had in all the material I owned, I preceded to make random tables for character and non-player character origins. Every single kingdom or region was laid out in a statistical table that could be randomly rolled for with percentage dice. (Two ten-sided dice that generate a random number between one and one hundred.) Then, based upon geographical region, I broke down the percentage chances one could be born a particular race in that region. For instance; if you rolled your origin as the Kingdom of Keren, your racial possibilities would break down like so:
85-89 Half Elf
90-91 High Elf
92-93 Hill Dwarf
94 Human variant (roll on variant table)
95-97 Halfling (tallfellow)
98 Halfling (stout)
99-100 Other (see “other” chart)
That’s just the tiniest sample of what I put together. Go ahead and try it. Let me know what you get.
Yeah, I got a little crazy with the tables. There was something about the idea of controlled randomness that really tickled my fancy. I think Gary Gygax (one of the creators of D&D and author of the Dungeon Master’s Guide) felt the same. The original DM’s Guide is filled with tons of charts and graphs that I just soaked up as an aspiring god-like creator.
What I didn’t realize, and probably didn’t really care about as a young, head strong DM, was these tables took away choice from the players. Just like in real life, they had no choice where they were born and what they were born as. In real life, you are forced to make the best of your circumstances. In a game, having choices is sometimes part of the fun. But that’s a topic for another time.