So I take out the map. At this point, I’m largely just brainstorming — letting my mind wander and see what bubbles up. In this particular case, I’m also mentally reviewing what I’ve done in the past, and trying to find a fresh location or approach. In my opinion, one of the more important things a gamemaster needs to do as he prepares for a new game is find something interesting to him. If he doesn’t, the game will suffer.
I’ve done a lot of stuff in the heart of Barsaive — my first long-term game was very heavily centered on Throal with the characters becoming agents for the crown and becoming involved with some of the major events from the old Prelude to War epic. My second long-term game started on the eastern edge of the province, and I recall that a bunch of the action happened along the Coil River between Urupa and Throal.
With central and eastern Barsaive covered, I look to the west. I’ve dabbled in this region a little bit — an adventure here and there — but nothing really focused or based in the region. I look over the map, thinking about the different areas and what they inspire. Iopos? There are certainly some interesting options there, but mostly as a source of antagonists. I’m not sure how I would approach characters from that area — though the idea of a game where the characters are agents of the Denairastas clan is intriguing, it’s a little bit removed from “traditional” Earthdawn I add that one to my mental list of “dream games” and move on.
Moving south, the next stop is Jerris. The City of Ash has a couple of really interesting features — the Wastes to the west and the Poison Forest to the east. The Wastes offer a lot of opportunity for classic kaer-delving and treasure hunting. The Poison Forest is a little harder to handle — it always struck me as an interesting area but only in limited doses. Great for mood, but a little bit tougher in the long-term… unless you’re running a game focused on finding the source of the Forest’s corruption. Actually a bit of a thematic link to the Wastes, and the Badlands, and other corrupted lands.
Next stop, the Twilight Peaks, Cara Fahd, Landis, and Ustrecht. This interests me quite a bit. My last game had some involvement with the ork migration and the founding of Cara Fahd. My players would probably be interested in following up on that. Also, Cara Fahd and the Twilight Peaks have sourcebooks dedicated to them — this can save me some valuable prep time. It also gives me a couple of areas that don’t have a whole lot of development yet — Landis and Ustrecht. I don’t want a heavily focused Cara Fahd game, because while it would give any ork characters a lot to do, it runs the risk of marginalizing other races.
Landis looks good. Very little in the way of official development has been done there so it gives me a bit of room to develop my own stuff. (I’ll get to concerns about ‘canonicity’ in a later post.) What do I know about Landis? It was a pre-Scourge kingdom, mainly human, that has bits and pieces of game lore associated with it (like the War Helm of Landis). Cara Fahd has been reborn… perhaps I could develop a story arc around the idea of doing the same with Landis?
One other thing comes to mind. I’ve been reading A Song of Ice and Fire (aka A Game of Thrones), and I think having part of the “rebirth” storyline be a bit of political conflict between different factions, each wanting their own candidate to be the first new king of Landis. This could involve attempts at influence from different other nations — Throal, Thera, Iopos, Cara Fahd. The different factions would also allow for different patrons and antagonists, driving adventures. The largely wild and untamed land could provide its own obstacles, and characters could go kaer-diving and treasure hunting to recover different lost treasures to help influence the struggle over the “crown” of Landis.
This is the most promising idea, and one I am really interested in exploring further. But before I can start fleshing out more detail, I need to do a little bit more research. I need to go over the Cara Fahd and Crystal Raider sourcebooks to see what they have to say about Landis (current or past). I also need to take some time to review other books that might have some reference to the area. At this point I’m just looking to absorb and brush up on my knowledge of the region. My primary goal is to give my mind nuggets to chew on — knowing that my subconscious will work on it and start tossing things out for consideration.