(TL;DR Summary: I’ve decided to use this year’s NaNoWriMo as a means to flesh out a campaign setting.)
This is part of my RPG series of entries here at SOB. See the inaugural entry in the series for more details.
As National Novel Writing Month looms ever nearer, I have been fighting with myself over what to do for the month of November this year. I made the mistake of telling a friend of mine about an idea for a novel a couple of years ago that involves a war on the surface of Mars, and he has been so interested in the idea that for the last two years he has been haranguing me to actually write it for NaNoWriMo. I haven’t been able to really capture the inspiration to do so yet, though, so it’s still sitting on the back burner.
I was thinking long and hard about tackling it this year but, as time runs out before the end of October, I realized that it just wasn’t coming together in my head. I have been hesitant to commit myself to participating directly in NaNoWriMo this year at all, in fact. I think, though, that I have decided I have an idea that I simply cannot allow to lie unexplored, so I’ll take a whack at writing 50,000+ words of a novel in 30 days one more time this year.
The thing that finally made up my mind (if my decision turns out to actually be final) is the fact that I’m working on the development of a Pathfinder RPG campaign setting I call the Eastern Kingdoms. It takes place in the northern half of the eastern reaches of the larger of two continents on an in-development map of a campaign world called Velesh. The Eastern Kingdoms is an area dominated by squabbling, humanocentric, petty kingdoms. It is a grim and gritty setting, where magic is rare, and dangerous, and viewed with fear and awe. Arcane magic is in fact condemned as witchcraft, and the closest thing to divine magic there is the power gained by trafficking with daemons — which have their own religions, where they are worshipped as gods.
Rather than turn this SOB entry into a rambling, disorganized description of the Eastern Kingdoms setting, I’ll get to the point:
I have something like two thirds of the territory of the Eastern Kingdoms generally divided up between five kingdoms and an area where smaller political divisions have defected from nearby kingdoms to form a loose confederation of mutually distrustful and fractious pockets of semi-order. I have some details of major religious influences, the recent histories of the various political divisions worked out in broad strokes, and the structure and politics (to varying degrees) of the several kingdoms described in my notes. This is all in preparation for a campaign I am planning that will begin with the PCs as members of a notorious mercenary company that profits from the strife and turmoil of perpetual conflict between the Eastern Kingdoms.
Of course, I still have a third of the territory on the Eastern Kingdoms map to fill in, and a fair bit more flavor and detail to impart to the areas I have already begun describing and defining, before I have things settled enough to provide real depth to PCs’ backgrounds. This is where NaNoWriMo comes in, because I plan to start writing a tale set in the Eastern Kingdoms, and use the driving need for 1667+ words per day, as a minimal average over 30 days, to fuel my inspiration as I work on fleshing out the Eastern Kingdoms. With luck, by the time November is over, I will have one of the most richly detailed and flavorful campaign settings I have ever created.