by Mike Shea on 23 June 2014
The Lazy Dungeon Master discusses a different way to articulate your campaign world to your PCs. Instead of inundating them with hundreds of pages of background, you can focus your campaign down to a small number of the important "facts" that define the campaign. Each of these facts focuses on a core idea that defines the world and the PCs' place in it. Each fact has a clear title such as "dragons rule the world" and only have a couple of hundred words to describe the details. Instead of burying players in a Robert Jordan's worth of backstory, you're telling them exactly what is important and how it matters to them.
The D&D 4th Edition Dark Sun, Eberron, and Neverwinter sourcebooks all have great examples of this. Each of these books, right up front, tells the DM and the players what is important about the world. Defining these facts are a great way to dive right into the elements of most interest and most importance to the players.
Focusing on these core facts forces constraint. Instead of having a vast world for you to fill out, you clearly identify the specific elements that makes your campaign unique among other campaigns. It makes you and your players really understand the important components that make this world unique. These facts also force you to fully encapsulate a campaign in a small number of ideas. Perhaps most importantly, a small skeleton like this leaves lots of blanks to fill in as your game occurs at the table instead of beforehand.
What follows are five facts for a specific 13th Age campaign set in Moonwreck, a wasteland in the north west of the Dragon Empire. These elements set it apart from the rest of the world and give players enough material to build interesting PCs within the world. Use these facts as examples for building your own campaign facts or steal from them directly if you happen to like the ideas.
The Legend of Moonwreck
In ancient elven lore, legends whisper of a fantastic and horrific battle between the former archmage of the moon elf city of Sapphire and the White, one of the five dragon kings that now form The Three. It is said that, during this battle, the archmage pulled down the moon itself upon the White, scraping the land and destroying the entire city of Sapphire in its wake. Whatever truth there is to the legend, the scarred land now hosts chasms and caverns filled with twisted magic and dark secrets. Today Moonwreck is a massive wasteland of upturned rock and icy tundra 400 miles long and 150 miles wide sitting between two massive and ragged mountain ranges.
The Former Battleground of Five Armies
Five former armies waged war along the now-scarred land of Moonwreck. These armies included the drow elves of Darkspire, the draconic armies of the White, the frost giant tribes united under the Frost King, the undead shadows of the Dark, and the moonelf armies of Sapphire. Remnants of each of these factions still exist and fight for power over Moonwreck. The great and terrible magics of these former mighty armies lay uncovered in the ruins of the land.
A Land of Twisted Magic
The unleashed magic of the wars and the land's magical devastation has twisted the weave of magic in the area. In some areas, magic has no effect at all. In others the use of magic has untold and often very powerful reactions, both beneficial and consequential. Iconic forces seek to tap these chaotic magics to use their vast power to further their plans.
A Land of Ruins, Riches, and Ancient Dangers
The destruction Sapphire scattered the artifacts and unique magic of the moon elves across the land. Cracks in the earth reveal ancient secrets held under the ground. Upended passages now lead to the forgotten ruins of the Dark and broken city of Graymist. In the deepest canyon of Moonwreck lies a wound in the earth known as Everburn that leads into the very depths of hell itself.
A Contested Focus of Tension
Many of the icons seek to further their plans and agendas in the Moonwreck. Though forever devastated, the uncovered and untapped powers within Moonwreck draw the attention of the High Druid, the Priestess, the Elf Queen, the Great Gold Wyrm, the Three, and the Lich King. Their agents conduct and organize missions, explorations, and quests leading into Moonwreck. Ashara, the Bronze City, now floats over the south-western edge of Moonwreck sent by the citys secret council. Rumors persist that the Lich King has sent his own floating citadel of Bonespire to the region while spies of the Elf Queen spotted a Dragonflight of the Three on the northern edges of the canyons of Moonwreck.
Great conflicts have scarred the lands of Moonwreck forever yet further conflicts and discoveries remain. The events in the coming months in this blasted land will become the tales of legend for all time.
So there you have it, five facts that help build the framework for the campaign to come.