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Yora
2013-01-31, 03:14 PM
Fiddling around with my own work, I noticed that lots of campaign settings are actually massive in size, but you really only need relatively small parts of them, or ever get to use them.

I actually don't like the Forgotten Realms, all I really care for is the North. This is just one remote part out of 30 or so and even is completely surrounded and isolated by natural borders on all sides. There's just a single small gap near Waterdeep, where everything comming in or out of the region has to come through. Sometimes you have foreigners comming there to hunt for specific treasures, but in those cases it really doesn't matter who they were in their homelands or in what greater events they are involved with back home and they need said treasures for. You only need to know about the local people and the gods they commonly worship. If a player doesn't know anything about the rest of the setting, it's not a problem at all, as their characters probably wouldn't know much about it either. It pretty much is a self contained setting.

Similar with other settings like Eberron, where I really like Xen'drik and the very western lands of Korvaire, but don't care the least about the Five Nations or Sarlona. I love Skyrim, but don't care for the rest of the Elder scrolls. Or I like Kalimdor but don't like Azeroth. I actually don't like the majority of the Star Wars galaxy, but I'm a fan of Knight of the Old Republic era, which is almost a setting by itself.

Dark Sun is a setting that is actually much smaller in scope. I don't know the scale of the map, but it really is just seven or eight major settlements, some desert people, and lots of empty space. Or even Planescape actually comes down to Sigil plus random weird places. All places that are not Sigil are described as ecosystems and not as locations, that only provide you the background to build your own specific places on. And they don't suffer from it at all.

So I guess my thought is, are most settings actually unneccessarily oversized? Sure, I guess Forgotten Realms profited a lot from having a well known brand name, but when people tell about their Cormyr or Dalelands campaigns, I can only shrug. I glanced over those parts in the campaign setting books, but never bothered with learning about the people, places, and history of these regions. It's also FR, but could be a completely different world like Greyhawk or Dragonlance for what I care.

hamlet
2013-01-31, 03:40 PM
I think one of the points of the massive campaign settings is literally to "pick a spot and go." They're not really intending for you to use the entire thing all at once.

EccentricCircle
2013-01-31, 03:40 PM
I guess it comes down to the fact that planets are actually really, really huge. Its easy to forget in an age when you can fly to most parts of the world in a couple of days, but really the scope and variety of cultures, lands and civilisations on Earth is astounding. No matter how vast and sprawling you make your fantasy world (and somewhere like the forgotten realms is very vast and sprawling) its never going to be as vast and complicated as the real thing. Some worlds like Warhammer try to get around this by the use of fantasy counterpart cultures so that every part of the world can be related to a part of the real world, but that just leads to a bunch of lands each of which are the theme park version of whatever culture its imitating/ parodying.

In designing settings i've always used a bit of a bottom up approach and worked outwards from an area, adding more stuff beyond the boarders as the campaign/ story expands to need that scope. I recently drew an actual world map, not a continent scale "World map" like the ones for many fantasy worlds, but the actual surface of the planet. Plotting all of the stuff i'd mapped from over a decade of exploring different bits of my fantasy world I was amazed to see how little the surface had been scratched. I work with Geographic Information Systems in my real life, and would be quite interested to one day digitise all of my D&D maps and plot them all in arc map, so that I can zoom from the world scale right down to the streets of a city as the need arises.

I think that the problem is that if you start of with a small area you are sooner or later going to get to the edge of the map and wonder whats over the next hill. but if you intend to keep expanding your maps outwards you need a clear idea of where you are going and whats there so that things remain consistant at the regional scale once you've designed enough world to be able to see the regional scale. this is where fantasy worlds like the forgotten realms ring false, you can't just tag more geography on the edge of what you've already designed and expect it to work from a geographic standpoint. Too many aspiring DM's, Fantasy authors and RPG writers forget that.

DaTedinator
2013-01-31, 04:15 PM
I think it'd be helpful to know in what context you're thinking this. I'm not sure from your post; are you saying that individual DMs don't really need to get crazy in-depth with their setting design? If so, I agree; I once ran an entire campaign in a single city, with one session that took them to another city. Nothing else was necessary to develop (granted, I didn't actually develop either city myself, the game took place in Eberron; but the principle of the matter is still the same).

However, it seems more like you're saying that it's silly that the Forgotten Realms and Eberron are so vast and fleshed out. If that's the case, I have to disagree. They're fleshed out so that everybody can find something they like. You may like Xen'drik, but I find it boring; you may have no interest in the Five Nations, but I love the intrigue and politics and what effect that can have on an otherwise standard party. By fleshing out the entire world, they create a setting where everybody can find something they like.

Terraoblivion
2013-01-31, 04:40 PM
Honestly, it sounds more to me like you dislike everything that isn't wild, savage and frontier'y than size per se.

In any case, the proper size of a setting depends on the purpose of it, though physical size is in any case less relevant than the conceptual size. The galaxy in Star Wars is physically far, far larger than Eberron, for example, but I'm not sure I'd say it conceptually is, it certainly isn't going solely by the movies which is what most people know. This means that the more narrow your focus is, the smaller and tighter the setting should be. If you're making one for a game with your friends, only include what supports the themes of the game. No need to add huge details to a wild frontier region if what you're focusing on is courtly intrigue or elaborate heist plots. A published setting has to be conceptually larger, making room for a number of different themes and approaches to the overall concept of the setting. Dark Sun and Ravenloft are pretty good examples of this, with room to sell several different stories with several different themes, even if they have to stick to savage survival or gothic horror, respectively.

Big, huge settings like Eberron or Forgotten Realms on the other hand have to be that big to serve their purpose. They're intended as mass market fare that can appeal to pretty much anybody playing D&D and supplying pretty much any need you could conceivably have within D&D, while adding some unique bits of flavor and identity. No player is likely to be equally interested in all parts of the setting, but they're intended to have something for everyone in order to fulfill their goal of being major, mass market settings. Going smaller would be too specific and drive players away who wasn't interested in the theme, not everyone who plays D&D cares about savage survival in the desert or about gothic horror, but everybody who plays D&D presumably cares about D&D and so the large settings has to include all of it to catch them all. In practice it doesn't work out that well, some dislike the lack of focus and others still stick to one and some just don't care to use published settings at all to name some examples, but they do have far broader appeal and greater sales than narrower, more specialized ones.

Scow2
2013-01-31, 04:43 PM
Similar with other settings like Eberron, where I really like Xen'drik and the very western lands of Korvaire, but don't care the least about the Five Nations or Sarlona. I love Skyrim, but don't care for the rest of the Elder scrolls. Or I like Kalimdor but don't like Azeroth. I actually don't like the majority of the Star Wars galaxy, but I'm a fan of Knight of the Old Republic era, which is almost a setting by itself.
Blasphemer! Azeroth/Eastern Kingdoms are better than Kalimdor in every way. The Illiac Bay is half the size and twice the interest of Skyrim, and Elsweyr's FAR more interesting than the other provinces!

Pulished settings are "Overly Large" because of Setting Diversity. Different strokes for different folks, and they sometimes overlap. What appeals to you may not appeal to everyone.


As far as I'm concerned, though, Eberron is the best D&D setting ever, because of its diversity - A lot of fantasy worlds fall into the trap of being way too homogenous. "Which generic forest do you want to adventure in?"

Zombimode
2013-01-31, 04:47 PM
Well, it is useful for published game worlds to be vast and diverse. It helps catering to the diverse taste of peoples and makes it easier to use the setting over and over again. And of course: more stuff to write about = more books to sell. Or something.


Now, self-made settings are in my experience a bit more focused.
But first I feel the need to make a distinction between a) the game world at large and b) the well "setting" of your specific adventure/campaign.
Example: the Icewind Dale games take place in the Forgotten Realms, yes, but the setting is the Icewind Dale and Spine of the World, which is a vastly different setting from say Calimshan (and not just in palette).

The scope of the game world is mostly up to your taste, but sometimes the tone and style of the world you want to create has some influence on that.
Ie. a space-opera type of setting (like Babylon 5, Mass Effect) needs to be considerable larger then a setting about early space colonization which only needs one, or maybe two or three solar systems, at most.
But often, it doesn't hurt to have a large game world. Remember, you don't have to flesh it out all that much. Most of the time, it is more than enough to say: "and across this ocean, there is another large continent that is dominated by a vast Chaos infested wasteland with isolated pockets of civilization on its edges".

When it comes to the area the adventure/campaign takes place, I agree that it is helpful to limit the scope. I can come up with two reasons for this:
1) an area to large can overstretch your creative ability. Say you want to flesh out a realistically sized medieval kingdom. Taking the spanish kingdom of Castille and Leon in the 13th century as a role model, you would have to work on dozens of large cities, hundreds of towns, and prolly thousands of villages and castles. Yeah, you're not gonna do this.
2) Keeping things small helps your players actually remember things about your world and thus immerse themselves into it. If you bombard them with 100 bit of information, you're lucky if someone remembers 5 of them. If there are only 10 bits of info, most people will remember 8 of them (I'm making theses numbers up, but you get the idea).

The same principle applies to gods, really. Fantasy settings often go for huge pantheons and dozens of divine entities, but in my experience most players will just glance over it. But if there are only about 10 or 12 gods most player eventually will assimilate the information and meanings and their immersion in the game world will likely increase.
Personally I'm a really big fan of the divine trinity of the Gothic series.

Yora
2013-01-31, 04:53 PM
For a single campaign, doing continent or planet sized settings is certainly rather foolish. It's just way too much work going into things that are never going to be mentioned or relevant. However, the old Elder Scrolls games and I think Ultima games did try just that. No clue how that worked out, though.

But I think even with classic RPG settings, it may not have been silly, but still not really neccessary. Now Eberron did start with just Korvaire and Xen'drik has very few material, and Sarlona was dealt with only at a much later stage of publishing. But the first Forgotten Realms box was already the size of the whole thing, yet the depth of detail was very shallow.

Having a whole world, or at least continent, certainly does have it's advantage. When you want to make references to exotic lands, you already have existing places you can draw from. And in the WotC marketing policy, a Monsters of FaerŻn or Forgotten Realms Player's Guide can be sold to every group, even if one a third or quarter of the material actually applies to the region the group actually plays in.

But I think continent size should not be the "default" as it appears to be now. Now as a recent video game, Dragon Age actually covers only very small areas, but I think the approach to setting design could be used in RPG setting design a lot more. There are about a dozen countries on the continent Thedas, but the first game really develops only one and makes hints on the culture of two more. And those are even just fantasy counterpart cultures, with a Kingdom of France and Italian city states. The rest of the world are really just names, dropped here and there in conversations and item description texts to create the appearance of a much greater world.
And for pnp RPGs, I think this works just as well. To have a large harbor that trades with the lands to the south, you don't actually need to develop those lands. A very rough outline is sufficient.

Grinner
2013-01-31, 05:04 PM
But I think continent size should not be the "default" as it appears to be now. Now as a recent video game, Dragon Age actually covers only very small areas, but I think the approach to setting design could be used in RPG setting design a lot more. There are about a dozen countries on the continent Thedas, but the first game really develops only one and makes hints on the culture of two more. And those are even just fantasy counterpart cultures, with a Kingdom of France and Italian city states. The rest of the world are really just names, dropped here and there in conversations and item description texts to create the appearance of a much greater world.
And for pnp RPGs, I think this works just as well. To have a large harbor that trades with the lands to the south, you don't actually need to develop those lands. A very rough outline is sufficient.

And then one of your players decides that it would be fun to step off the breadcrumb-lined trail and charter a ship heading towards one of these mysterious countries. Not having developed it much, you call for a break and then scramble to generate a civilization, its culture, and its history.

Plotholes ensue.

I think there's an argument to be made for both sides. :smallwink:

TheThan
2013-01-31, 05:23 PM
A lot of this depends on the scope of the campaign.

For example, Spiderman operates out of New York, itís his home, and itís his turf. Everything that goes on in his life happens in New York. Thatís the scope of his campaign, heís a local superhero, and New York is his Location. Sure the rest of the world exists, but it doesnít really matter that much (least not in this context) and you could easily write it so that New York is the only place in the setting.

Now superman on the other hand, is an international superhero. He operates on a global scale. Clark Kent lives in Smallville and works in Metropolis. As superman, he can go anywhere and do super heroics all over the globe. The scope of his campaign is the entire world, not a single city.

DnD settings often work similarly. If the campaign calls for them to stay in a relatively small area, then there is little reason in include a huge fleshed out world. If youíre running a campaign with world shattering consequences and a lot of globetrotting adventure, then youíre going to need that huge detailed setting.

Scowling Dragon
2013-01-31, 05:36 PM
Its what I call momentum wars:

Lets not forget that even the biggest ancient empires would be at best the size of a decent country by now.

So its the swing of the pendelum. And with every swing the impact of wars becomes bigger. Until WW1 And 2

Lord Il Palazzo
2013-01-31, 05:51 PM
I play in a homebrew setting so my answer would be that a setting should be big enough to have what the story needs. Some stories can fit comfortably in one city. Others need to span multiple planes. Clearly, if you have a game centered around a band of vigilantes clearing out the organized crime in one city, you don't need to map an entire country, though having an idea what's there could help.

What some stories need most is room to grow. My game started small scale (go to this town and investigate a plague, then go to the ancient temple in the wood and find a cure) then got bigger (find and kill the mosnters stalking a large city) and has now grown to involve the fates of nations and planes. To make this possible, my setting needed to be big, but not overly detailed, at least at first. The first few cities and villages were enough, and the rest was mostly blank space that got filled in as we went. I like having the freedom and flexibility to add new locations, factions and concepts as the plot comes to involve them and the players don't need to know they weren't in my notes from day 1.

Yora
2013-01-31, 08:40 PM
And then one of your players decides that it would be fun to step off the breadcrumb-lined trail and charter a ship heading towards one of these mysterious countries. Not having developed it much, you call for a break and then scramble to generate a civilization, its culture, and its history.

Plotholes ensue.

I think there's an argument to be made for both sides. :smallwink:
No. The scope of the campaign should be an informal agreement from the start. Even if you do a sandbox game, player should not go and leave the parameters of the campaign. If the players want to play a different campaign, that's fine, but it can't be expected of a GM to be prepared for everything and at the same time have well prepared quests and adventure sites ready. That's just not possible.

Scow2
2013-01-31, 08:56 PM
No. The scope of the campaign should be an informal agreement from the start. Even if you do a sandbox game, player should not go and leave the parameters of the campaign. If the players want to play a different campaign, that's fine, but it can't be expected of a GM to be prepared for everything and at the same time have well prepared quests and adventure sites ready. That's just not possible.

But it's why Published settings are so big.

Mnemnosyne
2013-01-31, 10:43 PM
First off, keep in mind that the official settings started out as a mix of settings used in actual play and settings for stories. According to Wikipedia, for instance, the Forgotten Realms predates D&D itself by almost a decade, having been come up with by Ed Greenwood in 1967. Its first publication was in 1987. By the time it was published as an official campaign setting, he had been coming up with stories and places in the setting for 20 years, and had used it as a setting for his own gaming group.

Second, the 1987 Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting did not in fact try to cover the entirety of the Realms. It went into great detail only about the Eastern Heartlands, and had a scattering of other detailed sites and cities described. Most likely these were simply the areas that happened to have been best developed over the 20 years of coming up with stories and playing games in the setting prior to its publication as an official campaign setting. A continent had already been mapped out, because - as noted above by EccentricCircle, it makes it easier to expand detail if you at least know the geography around the detailed area you currently have. Many areas, however, had little to no detail given. Some were intentionally left with no information, so that individual player groups could fashion those areas of the Realms into more customized regions.

Consider, for instance, that Silverymoon isn't even mentioned in the text of the original campaign setting. It's a dot on the world map that has no details given; it might as well be a village. The entire region of the North that you mentioned liking amounts to only two short paragraphs in the original setting. It was left entirely undetailed for players to fill in as they desired, at least until the later Savage Frontier book was released in 1988. Indeed, the way boxed sets worked back in 2nd Edition tended to support your 'self contained setting' comments. The Realms was the base, but in the boxed sets, it's often not even called out as necessary. The 'Waterdeep and the North' book mentions the surrounding regions 'for those using the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting', but doesn't consider it an absolute necessity. Boxed sets like The North, Lands of Intrigue, and The Vilhon Reach are essentially campaign settings in and of themselves...just set in a much larger overall world.

Setting your campaign in a published setting has a lot of advantages in that there's a lot of external material you can use without having to spend a long time developing it. If the players do decide to go tromping off into the distance, you don't need to panic, you can reach over and pick up the sourcebook for that other area of the campaign setting. If you need a distant nation to be the source of problems/trade pressures, you have distant nations all thoroughly detailed. You can drop hints as to the source of the problems simply by looking at what people from that area would behave like. You have dozens of pre-established links and plausible reasons for the conflicts and trade pressures already set up for you, which can be tweaked slightly. Most importantly, in my opinion, the very existence of all these other areas makes the world feel more real. The fact that the characters may never leave the North is one thing...but the existence of the rest of the world still provides background and detail that just can't be achieved when the world simply ends at the edge of those mountains.

Kol Korran
2013-02-01, 04:10 AM
the published settings go into a lot of detail to appeal to a larger crowd, that has been mentioned already. Also, most people find their own niches and detail them more. how wide you detail, and what depth you detail comes from the requirements of the game in question, and how much the DM wishes to detail.

examples:
- I DMed a fairly heroic campaign in Eberrn, which while not have been a railroad, was not a "you can go EVERYWHERE!!" sandbox. The adventure had locations in Fairhaven in Aundair, deep in the Eldeen woods, Darguun, Xen'dric ruins, Q'barra, The Shadow Marches, the Mournladn (of course!) and Throne hold. that's quite a bit of location juggling, but most locations dealt with some environmental and social background, but mostly the adventure at hand. True, I didn't need all the info the campaign setting suggested, but it gave me a solid ground to build on. Eberron, with it's "follow the dotted red line" concept of adventuring is especially fit to cover many different locations, far apart in one campaign.

- on a home brew world I am DMing a pirate campaign. a ship may allow to go to many places. So I detailed the main known places to players, a few unknown, and a few random stuff. why? because this is more of a sandbox than the previous game. However, in the first few adventures we dealt with a fairly small area, next will be the central sea (about 200X150 mile area), and later on the whole setting, once the players know more what they are interested in. the level of detail here is not superb, due to the sandbox nature, and again- geared mostly towards the adventure at hand.

- quite contrary to the pirate campaign, i am slowly working on a different concept in the future- a campaign that will all take place in a small part of Eberron (past western Breland, now Droaam). the area will have 5 civilized settlements, some other locations and more. However, that is supposed to be a complete sandbox, just contained in that area (due to the nature of the campaign) so i'm going to design explicit maps of all locals in advance, specific buildings, NPCs, interactions, possessions, even states of the moons, calendar and holidays. wishing the party will have greater freedom I detail much more than the other settings, but contain it to a small (workable) area.

- I'm playing at a campaign where the first 5 levels we were adventuring in a valley, so we knew bits and pieces of the world, but mostly the valley. now that we traveled beyond, the DM presented us with a map, and brief descriptions of the world. once we settle on a place, he will pull out his work.

I may have blabbered too long. my point is: the published settings give you the basic background to build upon your own details to your own campaign setting. I think it's good they are large since they cater to many tastes, preferences, and give quite a bit of inspiration and ideas. there are a few more specialized settings (usually cities- Waterdeep, Sharn, Sigil, which require deeper explanation due to accessibility of local, complexity and intense social effects), but even these are but a basis for what you need, and may be too much, or too little for what you need.

Eldan
2013-02-01, 05:04 AM
One other thing: even when the campaign stays in a relatively self-contained area, I like dropping hints to distant places, now and then. "The travellers are speaking of civil war in [distant land]", "A caravan from [the east] has stopped at the inn, they are carrying [exotic goods]", "The traveller from [southern island] only shakes his head apologetically and smiles, he does not speak your tongue" or even just the old "This is the sword of [ancient ruler], it has mystical powers against [traditional enemy]!"

It gives the setting a sense of scale, and if I, as the DM, have at least a vague idea of the customs and politics of these distant regions, I can keep it a bit more consistent.

EccentricCircle
2013-02-01, 05:53 AM
Dropping hints of distant places is a great way to make a world feel more real, and if those places are going to be at least vaguely familier to the players whether because they've skimmed over the list of places in the Eberron campaign setting, or because its the setting of a game you played last year that will lead to a greater sense of recognition and tie the world together a lot more.

Mark Hall
2013-02-01, 10:03 AM
For me, it also comes down to verisimilitude... I may only LIKE certain areas of a setting, and may tend to focus things there, but the rest of the setting exists, and has an impact on my home area.

Let's take, for example, the Realms. My most recent Realms game was in Phlan, on the north end of the Moonsea. But Phlan has a large immigrant population and, when I was running it, was rebuilding from destruction. So even though they were seldom 10 miles from the city, they had the influence of regional powers (like Zhentil Keep and Mulmaster), the more distant influence of other powers (Sembia), and the focused interests of world powers (Thay). Even though they don't have a particular agenda in the area, the Thayvians are part of the larger world, and have a minor interest in the area; since it's on the Moonsea, which connects to the Sea of Fallen Stars, I could easily throw in Mulhourandi or Chessentan encounters and have it make a degree of sense.

You can design small, and you usually want to detail small. But having a big picture to go with your small design means you can bring in elements from outside. The world feels lived in and whole, and not like a town put conveniently on a map next to a river that doesn't connect to anything and a ruined dungeon that is there because that is where the ruined dungeon belongs.

Calmar
2013-02-01, 03:54 PM
I prefer the areas for my campaigns to be small and detailed, rather than bloated and superficial. I'm just one 'author' who doesn't have the time and ambition of a Tolkien or Greenwood to create a huge world.

My personal setting has roughly the size of the British isles. It's just a part of the world and not the whole continent, or planet, but bit enough to be home to all the kingdoms and places I need and small enough for the characters to reasonably get familiar with.

lightningcat
2013-02-01, 07:44 PM
I prefer the areas for my campaigns to be small and detailed, rather than bloated and superficial. I'm just one 'author' who doesn't have tha time and ambition of a Tolkien or Greenwood to create a huge world.

My personal setting has roughly the size of the British isles. It's just a parth of the world and not the whole continent, or planet, but bit enough to be home to all the kingdoms and places I need and small enough for the characters to reasonably get familiar with.

As I recall, Middle Earth is about that size as well. Tolkien spent most of his effort filling in details, history, cultures, making languages.

My own D&D campaign world is exactly that, a world. 6 continents, and 4 flying continents (which are actually just the size of large islands, such as England or New Zealand). Most of these places are a single paragraph. While the main continent has a lot more information, including write-ups for several countries, cities, and factions. My history is equally sparse, most history over a 1000 years before the present is little more than legends and ruins.

I've ran two (short lived) campaigns in this setting, and added details to fill in information as it was needed. Each one had a different section where it was based, so different details. If I ever run a game where the players head off to one of the other continents, then I'll add more information for that one.

The top-down method of world creation works better for me because I have to know what's over the next hill. But the bottom-up method is equally valid, but occasionally brings odd situations, such as the surroundings of Greyhawk City.

EDIT: For Sci-Fi games I start at the biggest area that the characters are likely to travel around, and work down from there. Typically a solar system, but occasionally the galaxy.
Never ran anything where I need more than one galaxy. Not in a hurry to change that.

The Fury
2013-02-01, 11:49 PM
If played with DMs that built their own settings an fell into one of the pitfalls of trying to make the campaign a huge sweeping epic; they made their settings too big and largely populated with nothing. Now just to be clear I'm not saying that being ambitious with world-building is such a bad thing, even if you fall short of your goal. Having said that big settings have their drawbacks not the least of which is big settings tend to feel... "sparse" if that's the right word? In these settings the villages usually weren't named and details on the people living in them were always rather spare. Indeed, it was pretty uncommon to run into a named NPC that wasn't a GMPC, quest-giver or villain.
I guess all that's fine if you're in it for a little hack n' slash dungeon-diving action but for me it always left a little to be desired. For me the most memorable campaigns I played in were the ones that had smaller, more detailed settings. I guess it's stuff like knowing which village is near a lake and being able to befriend or make enemies of NPCs that makes me actually care about the campaign and not try to go off the rails like a jackass. I'd go so far as to say that for all practical campaign purposes the most you need is one country/kingdom/whatever.

Yora
2013-02-02, 06:46 AM
As I recall, Middle Earth is about that size as well. Tolkien spent most of his effort filling in details, history, cultures, making languages.
No, it's about the size of Europe.
http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c18/maxphotouk/middleearth3.jpg

However, Middle-Earth also is a quite empty place. The Shire has lots of nice detail, but after Bree there's nothing until Rivendell and then again nothing until Thranduils castle. And next is the city on the lake and the lonely mountain. When you go south there is Lothlorien and then you are already in Rohan. There are massive spaces of really nothing at all.

Eldan
2013-02-02, 01:51 PM
No, it's about the size of Europe.
http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c18/maxphotouk/middleearth3.jpg

However, Middle-Earth also is a quite empty place. The Shire has lots of nice detail, but after Bree there's nothing until Rivendell and then again nothing until Thranduils castle. And next is the city on the lake and the lonely mountain. When you go south there is Lothlorien and then you are already in Rohan. There are massive spaces of really nothing at all.

How do you know that size? None of hte maps I've seen ever had any kind of scale.

Amphetryon
2013-02-02, 02:29 PM
No. The scope of the campaign should be an informal agreement from the start. Even if you do a sandbox game, player should not go and leave the parameters of the campaign. If the players want to play a different campaign, that's fine, but it can't be expected of a GM to be prepared for everything and at the same time have well prepared quests and adventure sites ready. That's just not possible.

Not everyone plays under those parameters, or even agrees that they're necessary or good.

This may relate directly to your concern about campaign worlds being too large to be "useful."

Yora
2013-02-02, 02:49 PM
How do you know that size? None of hte maps I've seen ever had any kind of scale.
Really? I checked a few and most of them did match this one.

lsfreak
2013-02-02, 03:19 PM
How do you know that size? None of hte maps I've seen ever had any kind of scale.

The map that's in my copy of LotR has a scale, looks like the Shire is roughly 100-150 miles across, Hobbiton to Morder very roughly 1100 miles. A quick Wikipedia search gives reference to an essay that Tolkien said the Shire is 120x150 miles, which alone is just under a quarter of Great Britain.

I'll agree on small campaign size. I prefer a very detailed play area with passing references to elsewhere. Continent- or world-spanning epics are tempting, but they often end up glossing over so much detail that in the end, you have no reason to save the world beyond not wanting to lose your character (coughdiablo3).

However, I prefer to give non-arbitrary reasons for the PC's not to go elsewhere. For one, the things they care about are local. Give them NPC's that they warm up to over the first few sessions and they'll be more reluctant to throw that away. Second goes with the detail - without leaving their small setting, they'll never run out of interesting things to do. And since they'll learn the setting very well, they can do things they simply couldn't elsewhere, like preventing a clan war because they actually know both clans and don't have to rely on Knowledge checks, Diplomacy rolls and Quid Quo Pro questing - they've helped both clans in the past, know their leaders well, and can genuinely understand both sides of the conflict. The third is barriers. If the PC's know that in other places they wouldn't be understood, and their home region offers as much as they'd ever want to do, they're unlikely to go elsewhere. If there's a dangerous physical barrier, like a mountain range, it discourages leaving because no one likes to risk death-by-avalanche for the hope of possible adventure when there's already adventure where you are. And it could even go to plain old superstition or stereotyping about people from other lands.

Yora
2013-02-02, 03:22 PM
I took two maps and resized them to match in scale, and in my result Middle earth was only slightly smaller than in the linked map. It's still a very good estimate.

Eldan
2013-02-02, 04:32 PM
Interesting. I have an English and a German copy of LotR, both of which lack scales on their poster maps.

shadow_archmagi
2013-02-02, 07:40 PM
Fiddling around with my own work, I noticed that lots of campaign settings are actually massive in size, but you really only need relatively small parts of them, or ever get to use them.


I'd argue that the size is a selling point. I can buy the eberron book and run a long, happy campaign in Xen'Drik, then later I can run a long campaign in Breland, then later I can run a long campaign in Sarlona. Three or four years of gaming outta one book.

mjlush
2013-02-03, 08:56 AM
Fiddling around with my own work, I noticed that lots of campaign settings are actually massive in size, but you really only need relatively small parts of them, or ever get to use them.


A massive setting is useful it gives a place for foreigners to come from

EccentricCircle
2013-02-04, 07:03 AM
Middle Earth has the advantage that its had lots of maps and entire atlases written over the years. We have a really good one called the Journeys of Frodo which plots the movements of all the characters throughout the book.
It really annoys me when fantasy maps don't come with a proper scale. I was given the Lands of Ice and Fire map collection for christmas, which is excellent, but like the maps in the front of the books has no scale at all.
You can work it out from references in the books to the distance between the Wall and Kings Landing, but its annoying that they didn't do the maps properly as in all other ways they are wonderfully illustrated.

Yora
2013-02-04, 07:31 AM
A map without scale is not a map. It's a birds view picture.

Calmar
2013-02-04, 05:19 PM
A massive setting is useful it gives a place for foreigners to come from

Yeah, but in my experience as a player you know as little about their homeland as about your own. I think it'S best to keep things manageable and create a detailed not-too-big area. From what I've seen, a bigger world effectively does not become richer in lore and detail, the stuff the PCs encounter is only spread thinner.

lsfreak
2013-02-04, 05:51 PM
It really annoys me when fantasy maps don't come with a proper scale.

Arugably a feature and not a bug, (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/SciFiWritersHave/NoSenseOfDistance) since too much detail can reveal strange problems. Bwahaha I'm not sorry in the least!

shaddy_24
2013-02-05, 10:26 AM
A big part of it is that if they make a campaign setting too small and focused, less people will buy it. TSR had a lot of issues where they were publishing tons of different campaign settings and none were making money back because they weren't selling well enough. If they published Xen'Drik, Khorvair, Sarlonna and Argonessen as 4 different settings, I'd probably only buy the Khorvair one. They need the settings to have enough variety to encourage more people to purchase them, otherwise you're only selling to a very small percentage of your audience.

EccentricCircle
2013-02-05, 12:53 PM
Arugably a feature and not a bug, (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/SciFiWritersHave/NoSenseOfDistance) since too much detail can reveal strange problems. Bwahaha I'm not sorry in the least!

I suspect you are right but there's still no excuse for sloppy cartography. :smallwink:

Also, I laugh at your futile attempt to ensnare me in the endless labyrinth of TV Tropes, I've read enough of it to be immune to such hyperlinks!

Jack of Spades
2013-02-05, 10:39 PM
I'm probably going to be rehashing, but oh well.

Essentially, published settings want to be big and empty, but not so empty that any place or person can't be assigned at least a few meaningful traits based on what is known about the world. The emptiness is important because it allows DM's to flex their creative muscles and write whatever story they feel like telling while still being within the setting (and thus buying the books). WH40k is a good example of this. It is intentionally a massive setting with problems too big for any one group or conflict to change so that for every story told there is always a reliable status quo that makes anything that happens in the entire franchise have about the same baseline. However, the universe is not so empty that we don't know who the characters are. We know that Librarians are aloof, that Space Marines are courageous and mighty, and that Inquisitors are secretive and power-hungry. Because the setting is defined just well enough that it is easy to write your story into it while knowing where that story will fit best.

Settings for individual games or groups, however, need to be dense. This is because the person doing the world building is also responsible for presenting it to the people experiencing it. So, a good size is somewhere in the not-so-helpful range of small enough to be dense, but big enough to have room. It depends on your ability as a writer. But in the end, you don't want to define anything that isn't going to directly influence events in the game. If your campaign will spend a lot of time on the road, you'll probably want a lot of countryside mapped out in high density, but you shouldn't waste time coming up with more than the most well-traveled or plot-important parts of the cities. But your campaign may take place in one city, in which case you'll want your city mapped block-for block but the world at large can be painted with a wide brush.

But as a general rule, make the world dense before you make it large. One well-defined house goes further than an entire country you've written very little about. Which is why a lot of really satisfying campaign world start small and then grow in little jumps as the story demands. This keeps your existing world dense and has several benefits. Keeping the 'outside' world vaguely defined means that the setting is more adaptable and saves you work in the end. However, it only really works if you're good at either predicting/leading your players or good at making things up and then sticking to them.