So, I’ve started to officially publish the Othereon campaign setting. Which is the campaign setting I’ve been using since I started homebrewing Dungeons and Dragons stuff all the way back in the 80’s. I mean, it’s not the same. It’s been through a couple of ages and a good calamity since the early days, but the core stuff is still there.
I remember when I first started playing D&D, I didn’t know much about Greyhawk, and the Forgotten Realms and other published worlds were still in the future. But all the stuff you needed to create a world was in your head (with help from the Dungeon Master’s Guide). I still remember the names of the first heroes of the world (which had no name at the time), Yargak, O’Toole, Hawkeye, the other guy…
What the hell was that guy’s name?
I wanna say Elrond. It might be wrong, but what group of early teen role players didn’t pilfer a name from Tolkein? I remember someone with the name Oblib Sniggab, but not in the game I ran. I did steal the idea and had a halfling named Odorf Sniggab. But what was that other guy’s name? I’ll remember later, or just ask him on Facebook. But, from there it just spiraled. Each new group and new campaign added to the world. New countries were added. New factions and enemies, but the core world stayed the same. Then, I just stopped playing.
For years, it was something occasionally talked about. “We should play D&D again!”
“Yeah, we should!”
And we didn’t. Maybe because I was the dungeon master, and couldn’t be bothered with all of the work involved in coming up with new shit every week. I admit, I had gotten rather burned out after years of this stuff. My brain was mush.
When I started listening to the Drunks and Dragons podcast, I remembered all of fun I had with my friends and family. I dusted off the 4e books I had bought and never played with.
I shudder thinking about them. 4e is potentially terrible. But really, it’s what you make of it. I mostly shudder about the idea of new players starting with a game that is essentially The World of Magic the Warcraft Gathering. For older players like me, it was easy to incorporate the new rules with the same concept of story driving the game rather than encounters. But the game was built around encounters, so yes, I shudder for those new players. But it was there that I decided to start a new campaign world. I started small, like you should, with one region around the town of Wheat’s Landing, and played with my family, having a great time.
I had so much fun, I decided to use the internet to find new people to play with, hoping to play rather than run the games. That worked out really badly, and I found myself running two 4e games. But then, 5e was released and we jumped on that. My new group formed and I wrote an adventure “Lair of the Lightsbane” and came up with a Big Bad that the characters still have never laid eyes on, though they’ve met some of her allies.
As I started to world build, with time borrowed from the life of an older, more harried man. I connected the two games (though one was still a 4e game) and found that I began to reuse names and ideas from the old world.
I soon realized what had happened, this was the old campaign world, but changed. Something really, really bad happened a few hundred years ago, and this new world was the result. I started world rebuilding.
One thing I realized, was that while I had named certain kingdoms and cities, I had never named the world, or the continent in which the adventures took place. So the new campaign world became the old campaign world there. It had a proper name, rather than just “D&D”. It was now Othereon, and many years after a great calamity had scoured all life and civilization from the main continent of Eureon (the event known as The Scouring), people had begun to recolonize, finding new dangers as they settled the wild lands and found new dangers lurking above and below the ground.
I started a half-assed attempt at gathering the information in a media-wiki, but as work and other “normal” life things happened, the wiki kind of fell by the wayside. But I was still creating content as I wrote the adventures (for three separate and yet connected campaigns). I started compiling the world information into a messy atlas, new ideas coming as I tried to explain why certain things happened the way they did. It was fun, and a lot easier than trying to update a wiki every time I thought of something new. I even started a third campaign, all online with my brothers scattered around the world using tools like Google Hangouts and Roll20.net.
By now, Kickstarter and Patreon had come along. People were making money doing Dungeons and Dragons in all sorts of new ways. I looked into the legality of publishing my campaign world, and it was a little messy, unless I wanted to move it to 3.5/Pathfinder. I didn’t. I’m a purist, damn it!
Now, with the release of the OGL for 5e, and the SRD, I didn’t have to worry. I could do it legally, and with a market through which to sell my world using DriveThruRPG and the DM’s Guild (a recent post here talks about the DM’s Guild stuff I’ve published, so I won’t share the story again). I started to re-write the first 5e adventure I wrote, the previously mentioned “Lair of the Lightsbane”. Refining it and trying like hell to figure out how to format it so that it appeared like the core material.
I finished it earlier today (now yesterday, really). Uploaded it to DriveThruRPG and now I’m watching the (mostly unpaid) sales come in. All that I’ve published so far is Pay What You Want. I’m hoping with refinement of my adventure design, and feedback from the people downloading it, it’ll get better and I eventually won’t balk at sticking a price on my work that’s not “suggested”. Maybe with enough of a fan base, I can even start a Patreon campaign of my own. I’m not looking to retire or even make a living from it, but it’s not bad to get paid for work you do, especially if it’s something you love to do.
And I do. It’s cool as hell.
Even without payment.