Saturday, January 28, 2012

Scraping Away Some GM Rust

For a while now I've been toying with the idea trying run my own fantasy RPG, something I haven't done in many years. I've started playing around drawing maps and such (yes, yes, instead of painting minis...), and my point of departure is an excellent post Tim Shorts wrote over at Gothridge Manor consisting of "Six Tips to Starting a Small Campaign." I read that post quite a long time ago, but it really stuck with me.

There are two things I like about the ideas Tim proposes. First they give a bit of structure, which is something I always need as a baseline to start in anything I do, even if at some point I end up departing from it. And second, by following that structure, I can force myself to keep the project to reasonable proportions, instead of getting too ambitious too fast and then throwing my hands up in frustration.

So here's the result of my stab at the first part of step one, map out a village :

I feel pretty comfortable with this because it's a point of departure I can handle. The last time I GM'd was in college (20 years ago), so there's a lot of rust that'll need to come off. I think taking baby steps from a small start will let me avoid any major up front planning goofs, and I can grow back into it.

I envision the area on the map as simply the town center, where PCs would be likely to spend most of their in-town time – an inn/tavern, the mayor's home, a temple, general store, blacksmith, and stable. Pretty much everything I'd expect a group of 1st-level characters to need early in their careers. Since there is no fixed and pre-defined town perimeter on the map, I can easily expand outward as needed. Other shops and services are presumably there, just over the edge of the map. I can add extensions to the map itself as things develop.

Coming soon . . . the second part of step one: the surrounding wilderness.


  1. Wow, you pulled out one of my oldies. Glad you found it useful Bard. And glad to hear you're back to DMing. Looking forward to the whole process.

  2. I read you just got over the bug. Glad you got past it. Now I have to wrangle Tim back to the couch and give him some homemade soup.

    Good luck GMing. I look forward to reading more about your adventures.

    Cheers & Boogie Boogie.

  3. Very cool. (I really like maps of any kind, I really should do one for my campaign) I look forward to some more post on the topic. To bad I could not be in on your game as being new to RPGs I would be the perfect for you to practice on :) Also thanks for the link lots of good stuff there.

  4. Looking great Bard! You are making me feel even more guilty for not having set up any maps for the towns you and the rest of the party have visited! I wish you well in your upcoming game and look forward to hearing more about the progress. - sonofotho

  5. Thanks everyone! I'm enjoying the process and I'll keep posting my progress.

    Sonofotho: Guilty? Are you kidding? You've given us a whole world man -- we can't ask for more than that! Plus, for my part, I'm soaking up tons of GM technique just by watching how you do things.

  6. Tim: On oldie but a goodie. Hope you're feeling better!

    Whisk: Thanks -- I'm back at 100% now. Hope Tim's been a good patient.

    Dan: You wouldn't happen live in or near southeast Ohio, would you? My goal on this is to get a small group together for local face-to-face play. I realize that question is a super long shot, but if by chance you were in the region...

    1. I wish I did, but alas I live in NE NJ so it would a bit of a drive :) However my sister in-law lives near Cincinnati so if Im every there with my wife for a visit....

      I've played a play by blog game, but Im not if sure you could run an RPG over your blog.

  7. I am also down with the concept of starting small, then expanding outward. It's so easy to get caught up in writing pages and pages of stuff that will never be used.