To follow-up on my post from yesterday, I thought it would be fun to show just how unoriginal I was when creating a campaign map for my D&D game. This definitely wasn’t the first map I created for a D&D game, but it specifically relates to yesterday’s post.
This was probably the Summer of 1988, I think, after I’d graduated high school but before I started college. I was working at a horrible job that Summer that I got through a temp agency. I won’t give you the name of the company, but they made Analytical Instruments and they were based in Azusa, California.
At this job, I had to wear a tie every day, which is pretty scary stuff considering that back in the late 1980’s, ties were skinny, ugly, and usually made of knit, although I did have a really horrendous skinny black leather tie that looked like it’d been ripped off of a dominatrix’s cat-o’-nine-tails. And, at work every day, I was not allowed to listen to my Sony Walkman (this was before iPods, kids) even though I didn’t meet with anyone or talk to them on the phone. But, the best part of the job was that I got to sit at an electric typewriter (you read that right) and type onto a form that had six carbon-copies on it. If you made a mistake, you didn’t throw out your form and start over. You took the form out of the typewriter, got out that “typewriter eraser” thing that had this granite like substance on one end and a plastic brush on the other end, and you erased every single page of your document, including all six carbon copies, which looked horrible because the granite thing basically just put a hole in your paper. Then you brushed away whatever it is that you had just scraped off the paper with the granite thing, and then came the real trick. You had to put the document back into the typewriter, roll it down to where you had been typing, and hope by some miracle that you’d lined it up correctly and as you continued typing, it would all be on the same line.
Those forms were expensive, so they did not want you to throw them out if you made a mistake. And, they timed how many you churned out in an hour, but if the form “looked bad” (you hadn’t erased cleanly enough), they would return it to your desk and make you re-do it, even though the forms were only being used internally.
I was often jealous of all the woman in the department where I worked, who were able to crumple up the forms and slip them into their purse before leaving at the end of the day. That way, when the managers came by and checked our garbage cans, they could just smile and say that they hadn’t had to throw any out. If only I’d heard of a European man-bag back then, that would have been awesome.
But I’ve saved the worst for last. They piped in “soft rock” over the radio. All day, every day. The horror…
Shudder. I didn’t mean to go to a dark place there. Onto the map…
Anyway, you can imagine that when I got home at night and took off my skinny tie to relax, I wanted to forget about work. And this is where D&D came in. I was playing in a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying game at the time, run by my friend Brian, but that had kind of fizzled out after only a few sessions. So, I decided to just start making a campaign world for no reason.
My first step was to draw the stellar map you see here. Its origins in my fascination with Robert E. Howard’s Conan character and the world of Hyboria are pretty much immediately obvious to anyone who has a passing familiarity with that world.
After that, I used my World of Greyhawk boxed set as a guide for describing the countries. What this meant was really figuring out the name, race, class, level, and alignment of the ruler of the country, and then describing their military forces in great detail, noting the percentage of cavalry, infantry, and special troops, and what kinds of armor they wore and what weapons they used. I never really thought at the time that this was not relevant at all to playing in the world. This was what Gary did when he described Greyhawk, and he was the Father of Roleplaying Games, so I just assumed that’s how it was done. He wouldn’t have put it in there if it wasn’t important, right? Who wouldn’t want to know that the Overking’s Companion Guard of the Great Kingdom includes five companies of pole-armed foot?
And that’s how I spent a large portion of that Summer before college, working on this campaign world that never actually got used in a game. I gave up on it pretty early on, and ended up just stealing one country from this map, Sikham, and using it as the basis for my next campaign world that I started during Winter Break of my Freshman year in college, and which ended up, over time, morphing into the one I’m still using today.
I still have reams of these old handwritten sheets of very thin, yellowing paper filled with descriptions of the rulers and the armies of each country on this map above. They’re full of mistakes, like typos or names crossed out and re-written in the margins. But, that makes them even more “quaint” in a way. It’s like a little snapshot in time of how I was thinking about building the world that would eventually become the World of Samoth all the way back then. And the “mistakes” are often more fun to read and more insightful than what I decided to change them to.
Thanks goodness my work-life didn’t carry over into my personal-life and cause me to try to erase all of the mistakes and re-do them perfectly.