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Help I'm trying to design a world and need a starting point

Suggestions/House Rules/Homebrew

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I m working on designing a world and would like some advice on where to start. I have a idea of how my gods function and manipulate the mortals. Just let me know if you want me to explain that. I m having trouble since I keep constantly seeing it as a whole which overwhelms me. If I could get some way of easy steps or a way to break it down to where you have City design etc etc.

Any advice on World design, City design in general will be helpful thanks.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

The 1e AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide suggested starting small, an adventuring area to focus on and its environs, and radiating out from there. A method like that gives you a chance to assess how your players want to interact with the world which may help you prioritize what to develop next.

I know of people also taking real world geography and pressing that into their campaign worlds. It works pretty well and it saves you the effort of designing the geography yourself. And, even better, you don't have to worry about designing implausible geography! It's all plausible.

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Here's a couple free products I would recommend giving a read-thru:

A Magical Society: Guide to Mapping
A Magical Medieval Society: City Guide

The first one is primarily concerned with world-building on a large scale including landmass formation, climates, and how where populations will form and spread. The second focuses instead on cities. Plus, check out the World Building chapter in the Gamemastery Guide, there's a lot of good stuff in there.

I've also bookmarked a few threads in this list that may be of some use to you.

Lastly, this thread has a lot of good mapping tips from professional cartographer Jonathan Roberts in it. It's helped me a great deal I can tell you that.

Good Luck!

I'm not sure if this is what you are looking for, especially since you have a theology set up.

But I've always been partial to this:

"There came a time when the old gods died! The brave died with the cunning! The noble perished, locked in battle with unleashed evil! It was the last day for them! An ancient era was passing in fiery holocaust!"

If you are not familiar with it, it is from work Jack Kirby did for DC in the 1970's now called the Fourth World.

There's also this little snippet from a larger speech in Kamandi I'm too lazy to transcribe, so I'll paste this little bit here:

“…the terrible sounds of the disaster…I can hear the cries of the wounded and the dying…we’ve been struck a mammoth blow! The end has come!”

Not to apocalyptic, no telling how long ago anything happened. It's just that these kinds of words get me in the mood to create something, no idea what.

Maybe the world of Thundaar the Barbarian, I don't know.

Maybe it's not the kind of start you are looking for, but I've heard a lot of worlds are born in fire.

The way I did it was to create a small module-sized environment with one very tiny town, a bit of road and wilderness, a river with an island and a ruined castle on the island. That tiny bit of starting point provided enough content for about four gaming sessions and from there I expanded my world until it became an entire world (in fact, worlds).

Now when I start campaigns I either start in familiar areas, or I go and create a new area in an "unexplored" or "wilderness" area of the world.

Once I started to think globally, I started to put together a geopolitical system, trade routes, guilds, etc... but it all started with that one ruined castle.

I still have my original maps...

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
DrkMagusX wrote:
I m working on designing a world and would like some advice on where to start.

"Let There Be Light."

It's got that traditional flavor to recommend it as a good opening line.

Oh yeah, if you do a google you can get a contour map of some different planets.

If you look at mars and add some water (about 70% cover or so), you come up with one big continent (with a honking big volcano), and another smaller continent.

I never did anything with that idea, but I looked at that map for years.

Mystara used a map in one of it's incarnations that is a map of the continents 135 million years ago or something. You don't necessarily have to use a current map or a whole world if you don't want.

Just a couple of ideas.

Pathfinder Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

You might find this thread useful...

World Flavor

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Oh, another good book is the one I'm reading right now: Crime and Punishment by Penumbra. It covers a lot of sociological issues related to legal systems that will be of interest as you define and describe the laws of different kingdoms. (I know it's given me a lot of ideas.)

IMO you should start very broadly, make a map and come up with the big important things that you want to have in your world. Then put in some cities, just names and general ideas about the city. Then come up with major factions and what they are doing. You should also come up with some very broad plot points for your campaign.

I wouldn't do any more detail than that until you get into sessions. When you are preparing for the next session I would start adding detail to the locations you expect the PC's to visit during that session. At the end of the session get an idea of where your PC's are headed next and then detail that area for the next session.

In general, start very broadly to form a structure for the world/plot and then fill in the details as you go.

P.S. I would not worry too much about your world being "realistic", it is too easy to get carried away in details that the players will never notice.

First thing I did was come up with a under tone of things. I see adventurers being the offspring or creations of Demi-Gods, good make good and evil make evil, they guide and push their creations on paths to eventually enter in combat....

Its a rough draft. There was a game called Scion that had a similar concept.

I thought of that first. Sure it has nothing to do with how the world is created. I thought about just making a town and populating it with personalities. I was stump with "What all do I need to make a city a city"

I usually can think well once I get a start and go from there. I had a game once where a force was causing orcs INT to drop so low goblins started using them as mounts and beast of labor . Back to the issue. I will look over these links and use what I find.

Second Topic:
I eventually want to move the campaign into a project where the world gets destroyed and the PCs are saved and uses by a force to piece it back togather, but the PCs decide on where everything is and how the cities and towns look. They eventually become the new gods or demigods that new adventurers look up to. Then I give the players a choice to play in their own created world or build another lol. That opens up me creating a system of rewards for unlocking buildings and NPCs that use to be in the old world.

Any input on that would be sweet. Thanks again for reading and answering my questions. I like having a good community to help get ideas rolling.

My number 1 advice for world building:

Try to flesh out one distinct feature that makes your world special.

Given on what you said this could be the following:

- gods routinely walk the earth and interact with mortals
- they do this mainly in the city at the axis of the world

Now when you start your campaign you have a strong reason why the PCs are demigods and why one city is so important.

Then you should start small at first. Simply design a small portion of the city. Try to set the tone there. If you are going for a grim setting for instance this could be:

- noone can leave their district without reason because "the clergy" rules the city tightly to prevent chaos as everyone would flock to sites of "god appearances"

Then you can go and settle your district. Maybe there is one old man who met a god and can proove it through some special (weak) power he gained from that encounter. Also you've got the local representative of "the clergy" which makes the PCs live miserable.

This would make you ready to go.

One last advice: experiencing beats out listening. Don't tell them the story beforehand, let them discover.

Pay attention to your real life daydreams.

My favorite world that I developed in high school originated first in an overall idea. I hated the fact that 2nd ed was constantly about the 'rarity' and 'failing bloodlines' of elves. So I asked one primary question; What if elves were the primary race. Detail questions followed.
Why are they the primary race? Who made it this way? etc.
What followed was a pretty long session where my imagination wandered over this 'rebel campaign setting', creating a continent, placing climates, landscapes, some special features, and Centers of racial development.

Most of it came from details in my real life, residue from all I interacted with (movies, people, geography assignments) and boiled down to daydreams. But, my mind was severely prone to that. Just remember to keep it from interfering with your tasks of the moment. standing in the isle at your workplace with a far-away look and a bit of drool on your lip doesn't ingratiate you to the management.

It doesn't matter where you start, just keep adding details as they come to you. Forcing the development makes it seem like the mountain it really is, rather than the ski slope you have fun on this month.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Part of why it's hard is that there's no one right way of doing things. Some start big--do the whole world at once and fill in; others do as another poster suggested, start small and fill out.

But generally speaking, beyond the advice already provided, I would suggest trying to answer a few (but not necessarily all) of these questions:

1. Are you using the core rules? Do you plan on adding homebrewed material or supplements? It's important to think about what mechanics you're using--and what you're discarding--early on because you need to be able to account for how the races/classes/etc. you're using exist in your world. For example, if you have wizards, you probably will want wizard academies. If you want to include the gunslinger, you have to think about how common firearms and how their existence affects the universe. Likewise, if you think you want to write out the planes, you need to be able to explain where summons come from, etc. All of this should be done on a very broad level; you don't need a lot of explicit details, but it still needs to be considered.

2. Are you using pre-established deities or making your own? How many deities are there? How do they get along? Do they interfere frequently with mortals or let mortals do their own thing?

3. Is magic common and powerful, or rare and/or low grade--or somewhere in between?

4. How advanced a world do you want to make? People often say they're making a "medieval" fantasy when most fantasy realms do not resemble the medieval era at all (but OTOH, a low-tech fantasy where the middle class is only just starting to emerge and where churches have the most power, and feudalism is the order of the day, certainly could serve as a good basis for a setting). Is agriculture advanced (crop rotation, good breeding techniques)? Is there encouragement of rational thinking or is everyone very superstitious? What kind of mechanical tech do you want--siege engines, clockworks, firearms, etc.?

5. Do you want each race to have its own country, or have cultural/national divisions determined by something else? (Or a mix in between?)

6. What impetus is there for people to adventure? If there are dungeons to loot, why are they there, filled with monsters? Who abandoned them--or didn't abandon them? Is the world just generally needing a good cleaning up by adventurers, or is there an overarcing threat (a plague of dragons, a megalomaniac lich, a hellgate bringing in fiends that needs to be closed)?

Personally, I usually start with a very undetailed, subject-to-change world map, a general sense of religion, and what the "hook" for adventure is, and fill stuff in from there.

1. I m using a mixture of Homebrew creation and the core.

2. I thought about making the deities in the book more like demigods and they are the ones that create stronger versions of the races. Its how they battle cause they are not allowed , by the high gods, to directly come down and kill mortals. Demigods using the mortals as pawns in a ever going battle between them.

3. I don't want everyone from the slums up using magic. I see it kinda like harry potter where certain people have a gene or something that enables them to actual work magic . Perhaps sorc are the natural ones and wizards kinda found away to take it and make it their own thus creating a nature tension between wiz and sorc. Everyone can use the items created by the magic ones, but only they can truely work it. So Magic shops will be reserved for a high society part of town.

4. I don't want like technology. Keeping it Swords and sorcery theme. If the players advance it into that its ok. If I do have Clockworks their more like golems and under control by very powerful wizards. I don't see it like the classic EQ Gnome city with clockworks everywhere.

5. Still working on races.

6. I think monsters will be the cause of a mischief god that takes things and twists them to cause chaos. Also working on a faction that could create creatures and cause ruckus.

All this is helping me. I look forward to each post.

I personally like thinking about it from a long term point of view. Start simple: come up with two or three factions on a big geographic location. Think about the next few hundred years - what conflicts will arise? How will the races react to eachother? Possibly what natural disasters would arise and how will it change the landscape? Will a new race rise up? Will one of the factions splinter into two, or three? Will politics radically change? Don't be afraid to kill off factions, toss in natural (or not so natural) disasters, etc.

Then, once you get through one cycle of time, do it again. I usually like to throw in 2 to 3 cycles in which different things happen, and end up with a complex recorded history. When you're done, summarize the current climate so that PCs see history from a modern perspective /before/ they learn the history, and /why/ things are soo complicated. Heck, for fun, make part of recorded history lost so they can wonder /why/ there are abandoned ruins in the desert, while you know and can build a plot around them finding out. This'll help to keep from making plot holes compared to the plan of 'just place random ruins there, I'll figure out how/why later'

To give an example, in the setting I'm making, I started with three cultures: An industrial culture of mountian races led by dwarves in the mountians, a druidic culture of elves in the largest mass of forests, and wild tribes of Barbarians taking up the rest of the continent. The first major event is easy: the three cultures meet and teach eachother their values, and go on to radically change over the next few hundred years. The barbarians learn industry and religion/magic and split into two factions: Tribal vs. Civilized. The 'civilized' faction goes on to build a culture of knights and lords, driving back the barbarian hordes until they (much later) organize enough to defend themselves. The Dwarves begin experimenting with magic and begin building political mechanations in their society, resulting in a ruling class and a tower of study that will later explode in a natural disaster. The elves develop a trade culture and a caste system based on noble blood, and go on to have a civil cold war until they choose a leader to rule several hundred years later.

Also keep in mind different cultures if you're using non-human races to lead these large factions. How will a dwarven culture vary from a human one? An Elven one? In my case, the dwarven magical disaster will result in fetchlings emerging en-masse from the shadow dimension, so how will a fetchling society look?

I think it be cool to get some of us togather in a group and all work to build a world using ideas we come up with and discuss.

I m building a society/world so i can later have it explode and become a new game where the pc design the new world slowly as they see fit.

Start w/1 village. That's it. No adventure sites, no conflict. Just a village. Got your village? Ok, NOW...

Add 1 negative or conflict. It can be ANYTHING; the crops are failing, ancient evil from beyond the grave, mabel's cow's milk is turning blue, whatever. Now that you have these 2 things, the whole rest of the world falls into focus.

Ex: Hauge's Rest

This is a quaint but tiny village off the main road, just inside the periphary of the woods. While many creeks and streams run through the forest there's no running water, so the village is watered by the well around which the entire place has grown. The village was named for a famous ranger who made his home here and the man's cohort and followers settled the land and carved fields and lives out of the wilderness. Today Hauge's Rest is mainly supported by the hunters and woodsmen who ply the forest for their trades and travel to market in the nearby town.

(note: you now have a mention of another town... that's a spark to spawn more world.)


Recently hunters have noted that game in the area has been more skittish and less frequent. They've also noted erratic wolf tracks in the area. Finally just a couple days ago some of the local livestock was ravaged by wild beasts. Afterwards there were signs of advanced rot and it appears that whatever attacked the poor beasts is diseased. The villagers suspect rabid wolves and need someone to help destroy the afflicted plague beasts.

These 2 points provide you with lots of different threads. The write up gives you a glimpse at the local history. Who was the cohort? How much time has transpired since the village began and who lives there besides hunters and woodsmen?

Also the conflict inspires more development. Why are the wolves so plagued? If its a disease or a curse, how do you stop it? Who or what profits from this misrey?

Here's my proposed answer at 20 after midnight on a Thursday:

The cohort of the ranger back 3 generations ago was a priest of sarenrae and at the time disease was rampant, so he installed a permanent cure disease effect in a healing circle outside the town. Over time the thing fell out of use and became a legend, associated with "the dark times." A lamia has come along and perverted its use, turning it into something which inflicts disease.

The party must not only go and destroy the wolves but also defeat a cult secretly worshipping and paying homage to the lamia to keep them spared from the new darkness that's coming. Defeating these persons will provide clues not only to the lamia's plot but also to flipping the switch and ending the current plague before a full blown epidemic.

I don't have a game running at the moment which gives me time to kinda play with ideas. I wish I could find a game local or online to play in. I like your set up and I may use it to make some village cards I can just randomly grab .

DrkMagusX wrote:
I don't have a game running at the moment which gives me time to kinda play with ideas. I wish I could find a game local or online to play in. I like your set up and I may use it to make some village cards I can just randomly grab .

If you're in the Twin Cities we've got an open seat...


Giants in the playground has an entire blog dedicated to world design as he walks you through his. It can be a bit heady though.

I personally like to personalize everything, and try to come up with unique settings in the hopes that they'll be memorable. Really though? I tossed out a couple of half made settings until I was inspired with the campaign idea. One idea might be to think of the type of campaigns you want to write, and then design the world around that theme.

As an example, I read OOTS and the whole 'overthrowing the occupiers of an enemy city' idea struck me as kind of cool. So my world needs a major faction that is controlled by another (clearly evil) faction so that they can overthrow it. Other factions will exist but be unable or unwilling to push back with major military action. To further this, I thought a faction that was good at spying and such so I made an entire faction around fetchlings.

Try to come up with a few mid level adventure ideas you'd like to run before you settle on a setting. Daring pirate escapades? Escape from the temple of doom? Maybe you're a big fan of Indianna Jones, or Sky ship style adventures. A world built for political adventures might be a lot different from one made for dungeon delving :)

There is two way to design a world:

Small to Big:
I use this way when I don't really know what to design.

1. Design a small town.
2. Design some rumor.
3. Design a part of the region.
4. Design some evil people.
5. Design the evil people lair.

The background information isn't needed and you can include what you want, when you want(god, npc, object, etc.). You don't have to plan in advance everything since the zone is limited.

Big to Small:
The Big Way. I use this way when I got plenty of concept, idea etc. How I do it:

1. Design Concept (How magic work, time, etc.)
2. Design History and God
3. Design Continent (or region)
4. Design Country and Culture
5. Design smaller place (city etc)
6. Design Key NPC.
7. Select a Key area to Start the campaign and flesh it.

Using the big way demand time and plenty of idea. But you know your world,your history, your mechanic, your way.

I usually use the Big way. It takes time, but that worth it. I had the idea to build a magic system linked to the moon. Four types of magic (Arcane, Divine, Nature and Psionic), four moons, four different lunar phases... Want an advice? Don't try it XD

While all of the stuff above is super useful it can be a little overwhelming.

My advice on world building is to start with a waterway.
A river.
An inland sea or very big lake.
A small gulf.

Then a settlement, preferably not to big.
Work out in a circle for about 50 to 100 miles.

Start a small low level campaign. Flesh out details slowly. Periodically add to your circle.

Keep notes on casual place names and groups as they come up. You'd be surprised how much stuff just springs up organically. It'll take a while but before long you'll have a rough outline of several hundred miles radiating out from your starting settlement.

I think that this is how most of the current printed campaign settings started. I know this is how the most popular settings started.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I normally work from both ends.

From small to big, I start working up a town and its surroundings, where the party will start off. But at the same time, I'm thinking about the cosmology & history and such, working from the top down.

So for the setting I'm building for a custom swords & sorcery system, I have a lot of detail about the town Eisengrube, and the Clan Holds region it sits in. I know about the nomadic dragonborn clans that visit regularly, the wilderness to the west. If the mechanics were ready (or I just used low-magic PF), I could probably run something centered there right now.
At the same time, I know a lot about the Church and its new pantheon, how that pantheon came to be, how it's different from the Old Gods, and a fair amount of the world's history. I'm slotting a lot into place from both sides, and periodically I stop and look for conflicts in the data. Then I reconcile it. I might alter one point to remove the conflict, or I might insert a whole new one to explain why the conflict isn't a conflict.

For example, at one point this was going to be a 4th edition D&D setting. Eisengrube had a big temple to the bulk of the pantheon in it. With most of the 4e material going away (I'm keeping chunks of history and possibly the simple cosmology), and the way the Old Gods function, I just got rid of the temple; it doesn't make sense for one to exist, because there's almost no organized worship of the Old Gods, and the Church is only starting to make inroads in the area. Of course, that means I need to find something else to take up that space in my mental map of the town.

And I take a lot of shortcuts in culture design. The Clan Holds, which are essentially the reason this setting came into being, mix pre-Saxon British culture with some German, and a large dash of Battletech. The dragonborn are a mix of plains Native Americans and Russian. The next culture over is a cross between renaissance Italy and feudal Japan.

What do you all think are some key areas that every town city etc needs to have

Pathfinder Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Varies by size :

Village :
Central Square/Market

Hamlet :
Central Square/Market

Small Town :
Central Square/Market
One or Two Inns
A handful of Stores
Government Building
One or more Churches

Large Town :
Central Square
Multiple Inns
Market Area
Government Buildings
High Town (Rich area)
Poor Town (Poor area)
Mid Town (Middle Class area)

Small City or Larger :
Many Inns
Market Quarter
Government Quarter
Religious Quarter
High Town (Rich area)
Poor Town (Poor area)
Mid Town (Middle Class area)

Add Docks/Warehouses if it's on the river or ocean.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

That every town or city needs to have? Not much.

A gathering place: This can be a tavern, or just a central area, in the smallest settlements. In a hamlet or tiny village, this is just the center of the settlement. In a small town, this would be the one tavern. (My whole Clan Holds culture is largely little hamlets (3-5 families) around a village (10-20 families, plus people from the hamlets come here for trade & social events), though there are full on towns and even cities.)

Some sort of merchant: Players will want to sell things. They will want to buy things. Now they don't need to be able to buy a +5 Holy Avenger everywhere, or sell one everywhere. But there should be someone they can trade with. Even if for most items, all the trader can do is promise to sell it to a caravan when one comes through.

Somewhere to rest: This may be the same as the gathering place; but there needs to be somewhere the party can rest in relative safety.

Some sort of governance: Someone's in charge. It may be a lord, or a mayor, or the elders, or even just that one guy who people look to because he gets stuff done. And that might not be the ultimate authority. Everyone may look to Bob, who gets stuff done, because Lord Joe is 2 days ride away and has no local deputy.

Now that's the absolute minimum that comes to mind. The larger the settlement, the more it has. And don't forget to address basic requirements (food, water, shelter); where do the residents get food & drink from? Where do they sleep?

A couple quick examples I'll construct based on what I know of the Clan Holds:

Osferth's Hollow is a small hamlet nestled in a wooded valley. Four families (around 25 people) live in timber halls, with steep roofs of thatch. They farm about 50 acres, and raise sheep and hogs. In what little free time they have, they congregate around the largest hall, near the well they get their water from. Willem is happy to trade with visitors, though he has little to offer, and to introduce anyone who deals with him honestly to Gunther, who runs a store in the village a couple hours walk away. Edith harrangues everyone into getting their work done, and since he has space, because his family is much smaller than it used to be, Derfel can offer beds.

About eight miles away is the village of Kolm, on the banks of the Tumble, a small river. About a hundred people live here, and another couple hundred live in hamlets within a day's walk (such as Osferth's Hollow). Most of them are farmers. Gunther runs a small general store, providing simple necessities to the villagers and those in the hamlets; trade caravans only come by once every two months, sometimes three months, and Gunther makes his money covering what others forgot to buy when the caravan was in town. Erich works a small smithy, mostly replacing damaged tools and re-shoe-ing the occasional horse. Brynjarr is a retired warrior who runs Brynjarr's Rest, a tavern with a few rooms to let, and a huge common room. He brews his own ale. Frank is the reeve; he handles problems and disputes on behalf of Thegn Amelia, whose hall is a solid day's ride away (and most people don't have a horse to ride). Two spearmen sworn to her service assist him.

Three and a half days ride south is the mining town of Eisengrube. The town was built alongside a stretch of iron-rich hills. Dozens of hamlets and farms are scattered around the town, providing most of the food it requires. Eisengrube draws much of its water from the nearby river (which I totally forgot the name of, and I can't get at my notes right now). Looming in the center of town is the crumbling stone edifice of the Old Fortress, where Thegn Berthold Massen (the Clan Lord's uncle) lives. He is responsible for the town, and guarding the frontier to the west, so he maintains a couple of dozen warriors in the fortress. (Given that I don't think I have eladrin anymore, I need to replace his captain.) Eisengrube has a population of about 500, about half human and half dwarven, with a smattering of others, and perhaps another 500 in the outlying settlements. The south-central part of town is a vast bazaar. The Wheatsheaf, on the eastern edge of the bazaar, is a huge inn which caters primarily to merchant caravans. Another common meeting place is a tavern & club, which I forgot the name of, and sits in the prime residential area, shielded from the smoke and soot of the forges by the bulk of the Old Fortress. This one caters to the upper classes, such as there are in the town. Another tavern, Fibber's, sits near the forges, in a rough-hewn stone basement. Fibber has a story for everything, and almost every one is a lie. He serves a rich, dark beer with a taste of soot, and rumors say he has access to illicit and hard to find goods.

So as the settlements get larger, you get more variety; Osferth's Hollow can probably provide little more than food and simple equipment, while Kolm has a decent store and a smith. Eisengrube has a whole bazaar, and a black market contact. In Osferth's Hollow, some empty beds are available, moving up to an inn, and then a choice of inns (Fibber's wouldn't likely have any beds to let). Leadership goes from someone who is loud and organized to a deputy to an actual lord, and so on. In Osferth's Hollow, everything is a hall or barn (actually most people would bring their animals into their hall); in Kolm we have some buildings dedicated to trade, and in Eisengrube we have a lot of them, plus a fortress and a wall (which I didn't note in the description above). You also tend to have more named NPCs.

In a setting more typical religiously, you'd probably also have some sort of religious features. Since the Clan Holds worship a distant and non-intervening set of gods, they have no organized worship. Otherwise, there might be a shrine in the hamlet (a small building with objects of religious significance, visited periodically by a priest, but largely used for simple prayer), the village would have a small church to at most two deities (with an acolyte for each, able to provide very minor healing - mostly Heal checks), and the town would have a couple of full temples. In a setting with more magic, it would likely have a resident wizard or two. (In the 4e era of the setting, a tiefling wizard ran a money changer & vault, and might sell some arcane trinkets as well.)

I'd say just keep a REALLY big bunch of names on a sheet of paper or have a browser window open to Abulafia. Then if a player ACTUALLY cares enough to ask read the next name in the list/webpage and make a quick note about what you've just established. My players only know towns (or anything else for that matter) by how badly they got beaten on there.

Case in point: I centered my entire last campaign on a Keep o/t Borderlands rip-off I called Mistwatch. I had a map, named every inn and tavern, had a town stat block and every NPC at least named if not statted. We played around that town for just over a year. I asked my players about it last week (we haven't RPG'd in 3 mo's); they couldn't name the town or the Castelan (Lady DuMarre) and referred to the nearby haunted abbey as "that one place where spirit-fire charred the barbarian and there was all those giant ravens and undead!" It was called Ravensbane Abbey; it was a central focus for the first 3 games of the campaign.

So... don't kill yourself naming if your players are like mine. Then again maybe your team gets into that stuff. If that's the case start small for your first time out and see what they get sucked into.

In response to Mark Hoover's post:

Be warned though. You need to srike a balance between detailing everything, and just improvising everything. It's a little disconcerting to find names changing and even the DM not caring about the details of the town. Am I going to remember all the details later? Probably not. But if there are no details to begin with that I can forget? It kinda ruins the suspension of disbelief.

My advice? Detail the important stuff. Name a place. Give it 2-3 defining characteristics that'll be memorable (emphasize the strange gothic architecture for instance, or the giant crow statue out front! Maybe find some way to make these points have meaning for the players. Maybe these defining characteristics have some funny effect on the group? Now is that time to make a veiled reference to a movie you all like, or a previous event. Encourage your players to nickname places, even if they're not the proper names. Don't let it go too far unless you want a silly campaign, but a little cheese is a great way to make details memorable.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

For naming, I especially like to use Behind the Name's random generator. Mostly what I like is that I can get a single type of name. But then, I tend to build my cultures with a strong basis in a real world culture. So for the Clan Holds, I focus almost entirely on German and ancient German names. It gets me a consistent feel.

Somewhere I also have a generator I wrote that was grammar-based, and I think would do wonderfully... if the grammar files were generated.

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