Sparking a Big Bang

July 8, 2016 at 10:00 am

“Since the dawn of man” is really not that long,
As every galaxy was formed in less time than it takes to sing this song.

— ‘Big Bang Theory’ theme

Why do it at all?

81148f0fea9fe357242f9af3081a4c3fStarting with a creation myth is by no stretch the only (or even the best) way to start word-building. It is the toppiest of top-down design design approaches. However, I think it has some advantages.

First, I think its a good way to set the tone and major themes of a campaign. If your major conflicts are between good and evil, you can set them up from the very beginning. If you want a more nuanced political situation, you can bake it in to the universe.

Second, it helps justify the choices you’ve made in world-building. If magic works a certain way, it can be reflected in the very makeup of the universe. Want dwarves to hate elves? Have the gods give the surface to the elves and depths below to the dwarves and let conflict ensue. Also, its a great backdrop element to drop in plot clues and campaign goals. What if the garden of Eden was real, and the tree of life still bore fruit? Wouldn’t intrepid adventurers want to take a bite?

So call it cleverness or conceit, but that is where I am starting.

To recap, we are building a fantasy campaign for The Fantasy Trip rules. It is a roughly bronze/iron age environment with no connection to our historical Earth. Our civilizations are relatively young, as the world has recently faced some kind of cataclysm destroying all the previous societies and structures (but leaving behind tantalizing treasures and profound mysteries).

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New, Used, or Recycled

Every society that has ever lived on Earth has a creation story, as does nearly every fantasy novel/movie/game. It would be easy to grab one of the shelf and go. Or take the effort to ‘file off the serial numbers’ and make something different enough call your own. Or we could dig in and make something truly new.

The danger here is striking the balance between “original” and “random”. A brief survey of actual creation myths shows some truly crazy conceptions of chopped-up giant bodies, broken eggs, and spinning pillars of fire. But you slip off the edge of silly just to be unique.


A proposal

Our story needs two parts. First, the original creation and, second, the cataclysm. We can be pretty broad on the first half as this world has largely been broken, and we need to leave enough room in the second half for individual campaigns to have space to grow. Its like the first part is a comic superhero’s origin story, and the second is the reboot.

Working with a more primitive theme, lets make the world a formerly living thing. A gigantic turtle swimming in the vast void of pre-creation. A being that radiated creative force and left it in its wake. This force coalesced into powerful beings, who hunted down the creature and used its shell to create the world. Its emptied shell floats in the void between the universe above and below, and its bowl is the world of mortals.

This gives us a world with set boundaries and functioning structures, with creatures (gods) who built it with plan and and intelligence. Each of these gods would have to use the creative power of the turtle (lets call it Knue) to make lands, seas, plants, and creatures after their own desires. Then we can have a wide array of regions, landscapes, and fantastical creatures; as they were made by these elder gods.

This would have gone on for a extended time, as these original gods played in their sandbox and basked in the adulation of those that they had created. But good things can’t last forever.

At the center of this world, close to the Kneu’s heart,  there was a spring of beauty and purity. From it came a goddess, the first since the slaying of the great turtle. All the gods desired her, but all assumed she would go to the sky god Aelis, who had delivered the killing blow to Kneu.

But Erra, the god of primal fire, would not give up his desires. He contrived a way for man to wield the power of Kneu (a force we know call magic) and slay the sky god. Then he would claim the goddess Sae’en for himself.

This plan worked in part. Aelis was indeed slain, and man and the other created creatures now had control of the magic of creation. This shattered the balance of the power and wreaked destruction across the creation of Kneu. The gods were brought low, and the faith of those they created was broken by a force called free will. The lands were twisted and warped by the uncontrolled power, and the great works and temples the elder gods were shattered. Even the gods themselves were brought low, and forced to live on the same lands of their former worshipers.

The gods decreed that Erra must be punished for this. They joined forces and captured the rogue, and banished him to circle forever then land of the living and void below. Each day his burning torment can be seen as his fiery prison passes over Kneu in the sky.

Even though she was but newly born at the time, Sae’en was deeply scarred by these events. She fled the land of Kneu, and hides from the sight of Erra. She can only be seen at night, with her pale bleu presence waxing and waning in the sky.

In the generations since, the mortal of Kneu have tried to rebuild lives in a world now tainted by wild magics unleashed. Gods that once mastered great kingdoms — while still powerful — are within reach of man and occasionally walk among them.

But their power is now everywhere. Springs and mountains may have gods of their own, and their offspring spread across the land bringing wisdom and destruction in equal measure. More fearful yet, the man and his ilk can now attempt to master to power of Kneu and wield the power of creation for their own hands.

It is not a time for the meek.

What we’ve done here is put together the shell (literally!) of a world. We have introduced four divine powers, and the largely kicked them off the stage. It leaves us room to create any kind of civilization we like, and populate with gods, men, and monsters of ur choosing. Let’s not hold back.


Spoiler alert: Land ho!

Every fantasy land needs a map, and ours is no different. What do you use to make maps? What kind of scale do you like to start with? How much detail? Let us know below: