Posts From Yesteryear (Or Just Earlier This Year....Whatever)

I happened to stumble across this post I made in January of this year over on the Paizo boards and thought it might make an interesting read for any folks interested in the Lost Lands Campaign Setting design process. I thought it made a nice summation of our efforts. So for anyone who hasn't seen this before...enjoy:

The Lost Lands Campaign Setting

...This is the compilation of ALL of the old Necromancer Games products AND the FGG products into one coherent campaign setting. I've been slowly working on this nonstop for the last 4-1/2 years ever since we formed Frog God. (Okay, let's be honest, just like everyone else I've really been working on this for my home campaign since Necromancer Games started publishing in 2000).

Anyway, it's been a long, slow, tedious process. I love reading our stuff and the old NG stuff, but I've had to read through every single product with a fine tooth comb and a highlighter in hand to mark every single instance of something that affects the campaign world as a whole (yes, I committed the sacrilege of marking up all my old Necro stuff--but hey! it's the "design edition" for the Lost Lands, so that ought to be worth something someday, right?), be it a geographical feature, a nation, the names of nobles or neighboring nobles, population types and densities, particular races, languages, snippets of history, original spells, magic items, feats, religions, technology levels, even types of plants in particular regions. Then I add them all to my big binder full of sheets of notebook paper that hold all these little peeks at the larger world. From these I have to reference and cross reference to create a coherent world map that encompasses all of the previous products plus review and account for all new products to create this giant picture to hold all of the older smaller pictures.

My goal with the campaign setting is to allow people to use their old NG stuff without having to change anything for them to set them in the Lost Lands while staying true to the intent of the original authors. If you've got the original adventures, you shouldn't HAVE to buy the updated versions to be able to use them in the Lost Lands.

NG put out something like 80 products, mostly by all different authors, with very little to hold it all together beyond the First Edition Feel philosophy and some individual attempts as interpreting and connecting some of the iconic areas (Bard's Gate, Rappan Athuk, Barakus) while giving tantalizing but uncoordinated hints about other places (Reme, Tsar, Tircople) without ever providing any real detail. These were all considered to be plug-and-play for dropping into the GM's own campaign, so there was very little if any organizational oversight of how they were all developed. You can still use our stuff as plug-and-play for your own campaign, but the setting will give you the option of using ours if you want to.

Some things I learned during this process: 
1. Orcus is everywhere (no really, he's everywhere). I like Orcus. He is cool. He is iconic. He is representative of Necromancer Games. And he will continue to enjoy that status with Frog God Games. But, seriously, he's everywhere. 
2. Where Orcus isn't, there Tsathogga will be (and sometimes even where Orcus is--I'm looking at you Tomb of Abysthor). It's almost like the founders of Necromancer Games personally identified with Orcus and Tsathogga or something. I don't know; I don't really get it. Anyway, fortunately we at Frog God Games have no such strange predilections. :-P 
3. Almost every adventure takes place on the frontier, somewhere at the very edge of civilization. But hardly any actually take place in or describe this alleged civilization. I get it, The Keep on the Borderlands and all that. The edge of civilization is a great place to put the action. But for there to be all this frontier there has to be a civilization somewhere that's encroaching in all this wilderness. To make a complete campaign setting, you really need to have this alleged civilization. So either, all of these adventure-laden frontier areas are within like 5 miles of each other (one seriously bada$$ place to roll for random encounters) or the campaign setting is HUGE with lots of areas for frontiers to exist and lots of civilizations, ex-civilizations, and quasi-civilizations that have encroached upon the wilds enough to create these myriad frontiers and also enough wild places left over for them to be frontiers of. We opted for the latter, so the Lost Lands is a really big place with all the attendant issues and details that accompany that (hint, these don't speed up the development process). 
4. There...are...a...ton...of...gods. I think every author created a half-dozen gods, or something like that. Sometimes a fully fleshed-out pantheon and stat block and sometimes just an throwaway reference. (Yes, this is an idol to another forgotten not that forgotten god, another one). Don't get me wrong. I love this hodge-podge of crazy unassociated deities that have been thrown into the mix over the past 15 years. They give the campaign world a real sense of depth and age, but man, they've got to all be catalogued, given descriptions (if they haven't already), placed in some kind of pantheonistic context (or determined to be outside such a context), and have enough diverse cultures, epochs, and landmass to justify these apparently super-religious folk. This leads me to a small request for current and future FGG writers...NO MORE GODS! PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF THESE SELFSAME OVERABUNDANT DEITIES, NO MAS!!!! That's not entirely true. MY spreadsheet is sitting at somewhere over 250 unique divine powers introduced in NG and FGG products. For the most part we're good on the number we have, but there are actually a few pantheonistic holes to fill. WE'll figure out how we want to fill these remaining few slots, and it'll be cool. But that's going to be a seriously huge chapter with even only short write-ups for these deities. 
5. If you like evil cults, the Lost Lands is the place for you. There's other stuff for PCs to kick the crap out of, but there are definitely plenty of evil cults to sharpen your swords on. This is not a negative in my opinion, it is just a fact. Our Q1 book (the now-released Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms) is basically all about a number of these evil cults, why the exist, how they operate, and putting them in context with each other. I like evil cults, nuff said. 
6. There are all kinds of craziness going on here in the way of campaign styles. Just think: Rappan Athuk, Khemit (from Gary's Necropolis), Bard's Gate, Hawkmoon, Razor Coast, the Northlands, The Blight, and all the others all have to fit and have to make sense as well in their own context without breaking, denaturing, or intruding on any of the others. Heck, at Green Ronin's request we even wrote a sidebar in Razor Coast detailing how Freeport could be placed in the setting. This is no one-flavor campaign setting, I tell you.

Okay, so you get the idea. This process has been going on behind the scenes for several years and, surprisingly, I have been able to assemble this Frankenstein's Daddy with very little change to the source material. There are a few instances where a directional descriptor had to be changed (different authors just sort of made up their own version of the world's geography), but these are actually surprisingly few and unobtrusive. Some of my favorites actually stem from when this was Bill's home campaign world in high school and college, and Rappan Athuk and Sword of Air were adventures that he wrote for his own players. His personal campaign maps were 2 parts Middle-Earth, 6 parts Wilderlands, and 5 parts I don't give a crap just roll for initiative. He was running adventures, not world building! So you get things like Rappan Athuk being on the east coast of the continent as published by NG way back at the beginning of this century and then a throwaway reference to the Amazon Village in Sword of Air (that I didn't catch DADGUMMIT!!!!) that states it's just a few miles east of Rappan Athuk. Apparently it was supposed to be a floating village or something (not really). Anyway, if you bought SoA you'll get that amusing little non sequitur to laugh at. :-/ (Don't worry, the SoA maps and adventure geography totally work, I just failed to catch that single reference in my canon review of the manuscript so you'll just have to ignore it...or consider it an Easter Egg, yeah, that's it, an Easter Egg!)


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cycnet's picture

I was SO CONFUSED by the reference to the amazon village being near RA... like I was seriously puzzling over it. I am glad I am not just hard of map reading.

michaelsandar's picture

Cycnet, it confused me too!  Keep your eye out for a Lost Lore on this, it's in the pipeline!

Evil cults are an interesting field for me and for this purpose I want to get in touch with history books that are developing this subject. 

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