Worldbuilding. It’s a chore, it’s a craft, it can be great fun! From a young age till now, I’ve always loved it. Whether my eyes scrawl over the many fantastical and wonderful realms of countless authors or I concoct my own strange dimensions from even stranger depths! For November 2018, Nuketown is hosting the RPG Blog Carnival with the theme “All These Worlds…“, a nod towards the classic novel, 2010.
So, it got me thinking about the world I’ve used for quite a few games. From the gritty to the gonzo, from the mystical to the mundane, from the distant past to the distant future. This world is known as Arothe. It’s a quirky and bizarre little world hooked up to many strange eons. In a sense, it’s a high-gonzo, high-planar setting. For the passing glance, it’s what happens when a kid from the 1990s plays too much Planescape and RIFTS. And, well, you’re not exactly wrong. Throw in a lot of ’80s and ’90s sci-fi and fantasy in general, while we’re at it. But, there’s nothing wrong with talking about your inspirations. Inspiration helps to shape the tropes, genres and more that makes up pop culture today!
Author’s Note: So, my previous post with some Zelda themed magical items? Admittedly, I was mostly interested in doing that for the Blog Carnival, albeit it was more so as homage to Peanut Butter Gamer’s Zelda Month videos. Whether this month or early next month, I’ll probably make another LoZ themed post, as I promised I’d do something in some capacity! In the meantime, I want to do something for the November Blog Carnival again. This time, I wanna talk about the home setting I’ve mostly isolated from my very blog. My earlier posts were tied into my own world’s lore, but insecurity and anxiety got the best of me and these references were mostly removed. That said, I wanna welcome people back to my delightful labyrinth of weird, dark, gonzo and crazy that embodies what I do! Also, be warned! Long winded ramblings lie ahead! Tread at your own risk!
Now, I’ve talked a little about my world in other posts. These ranged from recounting a film noir inspired game in Founders’ Haven City, or an entire adventure detailing an early encounter with the world’s collisions with the cosmic. I’ve even detailed a whole timeline of adventures in the expansive trade city of Richardsport! In fact, the world owes itself to Richardsport, the creation of a young mind obsessed with tales of swashbuckling, high adventure, scary monsters in the woods and more! As detailed in my ramblings about “GRIMDARK“, the setting faced many trials before the universe had a New 52 reboot, including a very dark time that brought upon the end of several creatures. And even then, that city alone faced many heroic trials that more than proved that goodness still exists in the world.
But, beyond those fun games, what of the world itself? Well, let’s talk its origins. A long time ago, I was but a wee sprout who loved almost anything science fiction or fantasy. However, being that I was born well after science-fiction and fantasy were codified genres well split from each other, I was dealt a hand that often hated crossover. But, my zany young mind rejected such notions that things need be put in little boxes and be given strict labels. Some things never change…. So, I pondered stories about knights fighting aliens in a space castle. And sometimes, it was cowboys facing off against coyote demons and train robots (Mind you, this was before I knew about Deadlands!) Sure, I loved The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and countless other media at a young age, but I wanted more. I wanted an insane blender that had its own reality. Thank goodness I didn’t get my grubby hands on RIFTS! Imagine the consequences! They’d be multiversal!
As I grew a little more and got into tabletop gaming, I wondered how these crazy ideas could be fun games. Of course, I lacked experience to actually run games so I often would pitch the WILDEST ideas to the games masters, who would often shake their heads… Again, some things never change! (Hey, Jeremy! Let me play my Grey Alien Technopath who crash landed in the hills outside of town!!) But seriously, it got me to think about a place to set stories in all sorts of eras, that match all sorts of genres. A magical earth that is tethered to all sorts of incredible and fantastic places. And thus, the actual concept for my world was born. While my games tried to keep things more generic D&D, in the back of my mind I knew where the world was going. These games continued for a long time, even had an in-universe reboot. But in the end, it was a softer version of my mad vision. Arothe was more than just a fantasy setting keeping up with changing times, it was a place that shouldn’t have been, but is!
To explain a bit of history, much of the setting was once Earth. (Yes, kinda like RIFTS) And like that game made by the fine people of Palladium, catastrophe happened! However, unlike that other game (Hey, Siembieda, please don’t sue), the Earth was pretty much destroyed. In this reality, we achieved the ability to open gateways to parallel universes… or at least interacting with them on some level. However, this world also had global warfare that heated up far worse than anything we could imagine. A few well placed strikes destroyed several active dimensional experiments. The trauma sent the machines haywire and caused a literal explosion of reality. To make matters worse, other realities that linked to the experiment experienced calamities. The pieces were pulled together into a neutral space created by this space between worlds. These pieces mended themselves into a new world, the very world I use. But, what oversees this world? Well, it’s people! To be more precise, those at the ground zero of the event were turned into an energy. Their minds remained, but they minded together into some kind of Lovecraftian mad cacophony of crazed ramblings and basically became an in-universe Elder God, alongside the minds of others from countless other realities who suffered the same. This collective entity oversaw the creation of a new, but broken, universe. Fast forward and the fragments that survived contend with each other and new ideas and cultures pop up. As the largest influence within the cosmos is from Earth, there’s a bias towards Earth-like inspiration. Societies spring up that are similar to various realms of Earth. And so, ideals, musings, governance, conquest, survival and whatnot happens much as it did before. However, this world is a realm of strange magics and stranger creatures.
Realms inspired by Earthly lore clashed with the fantastical and bizarre. The Empire of Riddulon ponders philsophy while trying to build an empire, but it must contend with the deranged serpentmen. They must either unite with rival empires and former controlled states or face defeat at the hands of a deadly new rival. The Necrocracy of Markovia is a cold and foreboding gothic place, ruled by decadent undead under the veil of a divine hierarchy of holy crusaders. However, tides of change and revolution bring hope of modernization and the will of the working people… but also a menace built on unstable ideology and a new potential tyranny. Stories such as these relate to familiar histories, as remembered by countless minds of a distant eldritch being. However, they take form in incredible new ways through powers of magic and fantastic new technologies. To some, it’s a more planes heavy Forgotten Realms or Mystara, but to me it was just adventures in fantasy land.
But, let’s jump to the “modern age” of the world. This is the version I’ve had fun with outside of D&D related systems. Like our own, it’s an advancing world contending with all sorts of issues. Political conflict and abroad is constant, no matter what land you hop over to. Similar to Sigil, Factions help to direct the ways of politics and everyday life in the world. However, their approach is slightly different. Some nations openly welcome some, such as Araksham’s open support of the anti-theistic “God Killers”. Others, like “The Believers in Ludd”, are banned from technocratic and advanced nations that depend on rapidly evolving science and engineering. Some are banned from pretty much everywhere, such as the “Knights of Dimensional Purity”, who are equal parts the Genetic Purity not-nazis from Gamma World and the Imperium from Warhammer 40,000.
Beyond politics, the world operates on all sorts of strange magics and technologies. As these things continue to develop with their own concerns, many are afraid of what comes of the culture and people of the lands. New ideas emerge as people cling onto age old traditions. Some propose re-purposing or protecting some ideas, while discarding others. And for other groups, it’s the opposite. Crossroads emerge in the form of international heated debate or the actual past coming back to literally haunt the present. In some cases, this is quite present. In the land of Eindoreoun, there lies the ruins of a failed conquest that happened long ago. A lich serving Markovia stormed into the depths below the grand kingdom, only to be fought back and eventually buried beneath an impossible amount of rubble. Ages passed and the tales faded into just a story to scare children… until developments in subway transit technology accidentally unveiled the site where the ever patient undead sat in meditation. While he has long since given up on Markovia’s bloodlust, he hungers for revenge against the people that imprisoned him for centuries. It’s only a matter of time until some hapless fool doesn’t heed the warnings and unleashes an old world mad mage on an unsuspecting new world. While the new world has developed much in the ways of arcana, it has also lost tons of hidden secrets and forbidden lore.
Of course, this is just a taste of what I’ve created and the stories that it tells. As always, tons of secrets lie just beyond our reach. Who knows? Maybe a portal exists to that very world, just beyond your perception. And who knows, perhaps more about my world will emerge in due time.