Author Topic: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.  (Read 2957 times)

Offline Agrippa

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Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« on: October 07, 2014, 08:09:23 PM »
I've posted this elsewhere, and I finally remembered to post it here too.

I'm trying to come up with a world for my adventurer school. With that in mind I should lay down some basics first. The Burrwood Institute was established relatively recently, about six or so years ago in the setting's timeline. It's mission purpose is to educate and train young men and women in the ways to combat evil and danger in all forms, human and non-human. The Burrwood Institute enjoys the full support of it's host government, which draws agents from the academy's alumni. The Burrwood Institute's setting is more modern than most, I'm not sure how modern yet.

In the setting I'd like to build for the school magic is common, powerful PC grade magic is rare. Small talents and knacks easy to find, like a healer who's herbal remedies double or even triple their patients healing rate, a thief who can crack locks by "feeling" inside them and gently tapping at a lock until it opens or blacksmith, who by merely running the tips of his fingers over a weapon, shield, piece of armor or metal object can learn what metal it was made from. He could also learn the quality of the metal, it's condition, if it's been repaired, the force with which it struck, or was struck, and even if it' s magical in nature. That and forging magical weapons, shields and armor with out any sorcerous or wizardly power of his own.

Yes, this setting has witch hunters, but witch hunters (typically) don't hunt witches simply for being witches or other spell casters. Instead witch hunters do so for country, revenge, as murder for hire or because spellslinger just skipped bail and they're the ones with the skill, magic or contacts to take them down. So the academy's head witch/professor of ritual magic and potionry  has nothing to fear from witch hunters. Unless someone puts out a hit on her or some foreign power has her in the cross-hairs.

Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2014, 08:11:20 PM »
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The above is a very rough first sketch of one of the main regions in my campaign setting. It's capital city (which I haven't named yet either) is home to the Burrwood Institute. The wall surrounding this map's civilized area is several centuries old and is no longer used for holding off land attack from rivals of this coastal republic. It is however still used against hordes of monstrous beasts, the walking dead and evil spirits of the dead, malignant fairies, and encroachment from a distant hellmouth in the Dead Wastes of Pandemonium, formerly the Painted Wood.

I say formerly because about 550 years ago the humans of the area burned it to the ground and salted the ground in hope of putting the demonic incursions to a permanent end. Then turned the wasteland into a scrapyard decades ago, giving said dormant demons enough raw materials and ample room to build a proper foothold on earth. Complete with weapons, armor and fortresses made from transmuted scrap metal. Nice job breaking it morons.

In terms of technological advancement my setting is going through it's Industrial Revolution, with notable reformers pushing child and general labor laws. In addition to that you have remnants of ancient civilizations and both the treasures and magics they left behind, ripe for the discovery/plunder. Unfortunately this world also has nightmarish monsters lurking in the outskirts of civilization, in the wilds, within ruins and even among us.

Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2014, 08:12:09 PM »
Gods

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Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2014, 08:12:20 PM »
Fairies

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Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2014, 08:12:33 PM »
Ghosts

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Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2014, 08:13:02 PM »
Demons

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Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2014, 08:13:21 PM »
Dragons (if any)

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Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2014, 08:13:31 PM »
Beasts

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Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2014, 08:13:44 PM »
The Walking Dead

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Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2014, 08:14:18 PM »
Magic

Rituals

Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2014, 08:14:31 PM »
Rote

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Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2014, 08:14:42 PM »
Sorcery

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Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2014, 08:14:54 PM »
Thaumaturgy

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Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2014, 08:15:07 PM »
Hedge Magic

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Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2014, 08:15:20 PM »
Talents

  • augment skill with reflexive use of magic
  • enhances mental or physical prowess
  • manifests paranormal powers
  • ubiquitous, all sapient life forms have at least on talent, very few talents are all that suited to adventuring
  • talents cannot be simply learned, but can be "imprinted" or developed from exceptional skill
  • some talent are passed along bloodlines
  • empowered by the user's inner strength or chi

Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #15 on: October 07, 2014, 08:15:41 PM »
Martial Arts

Mundane

Supernatural Martial Arts: a blend of warlike skill and magic

Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #16 on: January 03, 2015, 02:10:10 PM »
Potential player races in this setting

Humans

Beastmen

Ronso

Wolfmen

Demons

Neomahs

For other PC grade (and non-playable) demons I'm looking at Exalted's other First Circle Demons and Disgaea, minus the delicate balance baggage. Non-playable demons of the setting would include Earthdawn/Shadowrun-like Horrors, raw manifestations of negative emotion combined with magic and wraiths, specters and nephracks, the last three being the souls of the damned tortured into madness and wickedness.

Offline Agrippa

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Re: Coming up with a world for the Burrwood Institute.
« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2015, 02:11:58 PM »
I've asked for help coming up with names on Giant in the Playground forums. As a result I have a lot of replies that not only help with naming the setting but also helped me to further understand the world I'm trying to build. So now I'm posting quotes from that thread, including my own reply, to let anyone here who's interested get an idea of what the setting's like. I'm giving it a working title of The Three Greater Realms.

Quote from: SirKazum
Setting names don't necessarily have to be descriptive or literal. Looking at the D&D worlds - "Forgotten Realms" is rather abstract and non-indicative of the setting, but it just sounds cool for a medieval fantasy world. "Dragonlance" is the name of an artifact that brings ideas of dragons (which are an important part of that setting) and heroism. "Ravenloft" is just the name of a castle, but it's a very evocative name that sounds ominous and eerie, fitting the setting's mood - same for "Greyhawk" (although invoking a different sort of mood). And so on.

For me, I like either using the name of the world, which usually involves taking a foreign word and playing around with it a bit until I find a cool-sounding name, or sometimes using a similar method to most D&D worlds and coming up with something that just evokes the right mood. For example, for the sci-fi setting I'm developing now (the one in my sig), I decided to come up with a name for the galaxy it's in, since it's about a space-age civilization. I started with the Arabic word for "milk" (after "milky way", and "galaxy" which comes from the Greek word for "milky"), which is "halib", and fiddled with it a bit until I settled on "Haliburn", which sounds right for me. I'm writing a fiction serial set in this setting, and for that work, I decided to go with "The Heplion Contingency", since it brings about the right frame of mind, something kinda Robert Ludlum-esque, so I also like to informally call this setting "Heplionverse".

For my main D&D world that I used to DM in some years ago, I started with the Gaelic word for "world" - "crĂșinne" - and played with it until I finally settled on "Kyrdan" for the world's name. So I just called it "World of Kyrdan" for a while, until I decided to go for something more evocative. Since one interesting aspect of that setting is that its history only stretched back to 2000 years or so, and there are no memories or records anywhere of anything before that, even though the world appears to be much older than that (because the gods wiped the world's history clean at that point, erasing everyone's memories and all written historical records), I went with "Tabula Rasa". Aside from the worldwide "clean swipe" thing, the name also evokes the idea that your fate is a clean slate that you can write anything on, which fit well with my ideas for the campaign. And I also liked the Latin :smalltongue: For another setting that I never really got around to developing, which was pretty much D&D with no magic but with psionics rules, I came up with "Shattered Dreams": the world "shatter" somehow reminds me of crystals (which are a big thing in D&D psionics), "dreams" is reminiscent of "mind" (again, psionics), and the phrase "shattered dreams" brings an image of cynicism, a dystopian land, which fit very well with what I had in mind for the setting.

For your setting, there appear to be a few elements you can draw from. Most telling, you have a number of beast-like races, and the use of shamanism and geomancy, which brings about ideas of savagery. The relation between spiritual beings and mortals also seems to be very reminiscent of shamanism (gods and demons aren't ineffable mystical things, but people that can be contacted and bartered with for power). Although there may be civilization, the undercurrent of bestiality is too present to ignore. So I'd personally start with that. Wildheart? Frostfang? Clawmire? I dunno. Maybe you could list a few different things you want people to think of when they hear about your setting, and start rattling off words that evoke them until you find something that has a good ring to it. What sort of campaigns would you like running in it? What's the style? What style of characters are you hoping for? You can also start thinking about a name for the world. Maybe start with either a foreign word or something out of a random name generator, and then fiddle with the word a bit until you like what you hear.

Quote from: Xuc Xac
We call the world we live in "the world" because we don't need to distinguish it from any others. You need a name for you and other real people to use when they talk about your fictional world, but you don't need a name for the fictional inhabitants of that world to use.

For example, people usually say "Dresdenverse" to mean "the world where the Harry Dresden stories are set", but no one in the stories calls the world that. No one in Star Wars ever says "star wars".

Instead of saying "the world for the Burrwood Institute", you could just call it "Burrworld" or something. If you made a cult classic TV show called "The Burrwood Institute" (canceled after one season by Fox), what would your obsessive fans call it? They'd probably just call it "Burrwood" and the setting would be something like "Burrworld" (even if it has a formal in-setting name). Nobody in the Forgotten Realms refers to them as "forgotten" and few people in the real world bother to refer to Faerun or Toril by name (except in Spelljammer, where they have to distinguish the different planets from each other).

Quote from: Agrippa
Since these are some of the earliest threads on my setting it might help you get even more of a glimpse of the setting. For the large part the dominant cultures of the mortal world can best be thought of from 1870's to the 1930's, especially in terms of technology, though a little more towards the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era in terms of social struggle.

In spite of this you have noble houses that still openly display their sigils outside their homes and lands and emblazoned on their clothing, and the rivalries to go with them. You have heroes with nigh legendary power who can rend even magical barriers to shreds with a single well aimed strike, crush boulders and leap great heights in a single bound. Many even mix skill at arms with overt magic, allowing them to conjure flame with a swipe, ignite their blades through force of will, expel fell spirits with strike but leave their hosts unharmed, rip out the souls of their enemies and cause those they slay to rise as short lived undead. This in addition to more powerful and more involved spell magic.

Now I haven't thought much of it before SirKazum, but my setting's description of gods and demons is more shamanistic than others. With fantastic monsters and frightening animals that encroach on civilization and gifted scientists and engineers, as well as fights against ruthless groups and societies over ancient secrets and relics. Sort of like a combination of Princess Mononoke, Indiana Jones, Final Fantasy, A Song of Ice and Fire or Game of Thrones, Hellboy, The Marvel Cinematic Universe, Girl Genius, Hellblazer, Exalted, James Bond and or Burn Notice, Big Trouble in Little China, Cast a Deadly Spell and the Disgaea universe. Maybe with a dash of The Witcher or even The Godfather, the latter mostly for background.