Monday, July 22, 2013

World Building While on Vacation

First Catch of the Day (and last)
When I was young, we didn't get to go on vacations much - aside from spending Christmas or summer with one grandmother or another.  Many of my teenage years were spent on the flat, dry desert of West Texas, drawing maps of lush, forested mountain valley in which to set my D&D adventures.  I had a hard time grokking what these landscapes would actually look like, so I made contour maps of the imaginary regions and made slices of the maps to show the elevations.  Yeah, I was that kid.

Much of my idea about what wilderness looked like came from the land around my grandmother's house, which was a mixture of ranch land and wild areas full of pecan trees about 30 miles south of Cross Plains, Texas.  Those were Robert E. Howard's stomping grounds, so at least I was in good company.  But still, I didn't see a mountain until I was 17 on a trip to El Paso.  The meager 23 mile long Franklin Mountain chain inspired an entirely new continent in which to set fantasy rpgs.  Later, trips to Cancun and regional Texas lakes helped to form the Sea of Tears campaign, a world I designed made entirely out of small island chains - the peaks of mountains left dry after an aquatic cataclysm.

Attempting to Draw Palo Duro
This year we headed up to the Colorado via the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico.  The Boy wanted to see the Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States.  I was impressed.  When you first drive up on it and get out of the car - well - my head started hurting.  It is such a big hole in the ground that my brain could not comprehend it.  There is no really good mental vantage point to attach anything to.  You just have to stare at it long enough to realize that those tiny green bushes down there against the orange and red rocks are actually trees three time bigger than you are.  Palo Duro really needs to be in one of my worlds - somewhere.

It wasn't my first time through New Mexico, but it was The Boy's, and it was great fun to watch his expression as the bumps in the land grew bigger and bigger.  "Is that a mountain?"  "No, not yet."  "Is THAT one a mountain?"  "Nope."  Eventually we got to a point where he didn't have to ask.  The stark, empty terrain had me thinking a lot about Cowboys and Indians.  Well, until I was jarred awake at the Dhillon Truck Stop in San Jon, New Mexico, a Punjabi buffet serving up chana masala, tarka daal, and a variety of curries.  Life is funny like that.  I wish I could come up with things half as amusing as that in my games.

Colorado was just breathtaking.  (Really.  The air is pretty thin up there.)  I had never been up so far in the Rockies.  We went up to the mythical town of 'South Park,' (which more or less actually exists,) and said 'wow' a lot at the scenery.  At one point, we went to the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine tour, where they take you 1,000 feet underground.  I learned a lot about dungeoneering there.

First off, it's really, really hard to dig through basalt and granite.  Black powder was used before the advent of dynamite to blast through the rock.  And it is dark down there.  The guide showed the differences in lighting techniques over the ages, and a candle just does not cut it.  Yes, they mined by candlelight.  I, however, cannot see a very successfully melee against goblins happening that way.  And swinging a sword in a 10x10 corridor?  Yeah, right.  however, surviving an AD&D fireball was probably a lot easier than Gygax lets on - because the miners used to do it every day.  They were just all deaf afterwards and, on average, had 15 years to live. :)

While up in the the thin air, the boy and I sat down and worked on a planet for the Star Wars game.  It's a football shaped planet, either end having great big mountains.  The equator is all pretty much ocean with some islands.  The north pole points directly to the system's star, leaving the other pole constantly frozen.  He's great at naming things, so we fleshed out the entire solar system and he named everything we could think to name.  The planet itself, Antipode, should be a great place for adventure - maybe even as much as Colorado on summer vacation.

- Ark


  1. Lived in Grand Junction, Colorado for 20 years. Glad you finally got to see it.

    As an Over the Road Truck Driver, I've been "there." Hard to explain that the Appalachian "foothills" don't really compare "fairly" with the Rockies.

    Colorado has over 1000 mountains that top out at over 10,000 feet in height. Extraordinary place, especially for someone born and raised in New Orleans! LOL

  2. Wow. Those large rock things are really pretty. Especially covered with those brown things with the green stuff at the top. And all that water.

    So that's what nature looks like.

    I love the planet idea, name and all. Awesome! Hey if all that outdoors-y-ness inspires cool gaming ideas, I say keep it up!

    Enjoy Ark!

    1. BA - Yeah, who'dathunkit? Being outside inspires me to be inside. :)

      - Ark