Back in November, I gave NaNoWriMo another bash after swearing it wasn’t my thing. I’d learned I was about to lose my job and I figured it would give me something else to focus on rather than my imminent financial duress (another post for another time, perhaps). I actually began writing a sci-fi horror and I got a decent plot and quite a few words in my Scrivener file before deciding it was too dark, I wanted something lighter. I went back to what I know and love – high fantasy.
To begin with I was trying to build a world to write in, and I had ideas, I even started forming maps to visualise where things could be, but I felt stifled somehow and decided that I would build this world more openly so I could run a possible Dungeons & Dragons 5e campaign within it if I wished. Then my best friend gifted me the Husband Manual (Monster Manual, it’s just a thing now) and Volo’s Guide to Monsters for birthmas when I mentioned this and you know, it kinda lit a fire under my arse.
Fast forward to mid-December and I picked up a year’s subscription to Inkarnate, the lovely map-making software I had been fiddling with, and Dungeon Painter Studio as I know Wolfy loves it for his town and dungeon maps and I dove into the creation.
To be honest, the first while was building the map for the first continent in Rania, my world. I’m a visual person and so fiddling with Inkarnate, working out how to shape landmasses and where to put things logically, making it look right and pondering how cultures and events might form around the geography, and how events might form the geography… it enlivened me. I started jotting down ideas for places and people and cultures. Just vague ideas, but ideas that felt solid to me.
Then Christmas happened which was a little bit of time off from the building. I wasn’t really feeling in the holiday spirit this year, to be very honest, but my dad came to visit and I did a bunch of cross-stitching and colouring, it was nice to just be for a few days, I suppose. Once he left I actually spent a few days finishing off my playthrough of The Witcher 2, which sparked a few more ideas and I dove back into the building in the New Year, now with Monster Manuals, a basis for a world, and the Dungeon Master’s Manual. This was the point when I realised I was really doing this, so I started watching some videos; Matt Colville, GM Tips, Mark Hulmes, Dael Kingsmill, Web DM… just, all of the things. And browsing for tools and ideas and advice! And finishing up campaign 1 of Critical Role sob.
I now had notes and plans and ideas and I followed the advice: I started with a village. I found a small adventure I wanted to plant into Ancalen, the continent I had decided formed the basis of my campaign. I worked out where it fit, formed the village around it, wondered on a fun way the party could meet, and then suddenly I had 7 players making wonderful characters ready to dive into adventures in the world of Rania. Boy I was nervous, I knew it’d be okay, I didn’t have to be Matt Mercer and the confidence would come with practice and time, and my players are truly wonderful people which is also a major comfort. Besides, I’m more excited than anything else. Every single character has something that … I just love, and I can’t wait to see where they go, what they do, where they explore and the adventures that form around them.