Friday, August 10, 2018

Early Documents for My World of Samoth Campaign

A very early map of countries, some of which eventually
made their way into my current World of Samoth campaign.
Drawn on a yellow legal pad in the summer of 1986.
Today is my househhold's unofficial "last day of summer" - our daughter starts school next Monday, August 13th, which I still think is way too early, but that's just the schedule that her district is on. As this is the last day of her summer vacation, I got to thinking about some of my past summer breaks. Back when I was a kid, my mom didn't work until I was much older, so summers were spent at home, hanging out with the neighborhood kids, going on adventures on our bikes with a promise to be home before dinner, and maybe sneaking into a movie or mixing every flavor of soda at the 7-11 into one giant cup and sitting on the curb with our soda creation and the latest copy of Avengers or X-Men comics. In contrast to this, my daughter goes to a variety of different summer day camps, which is fun in its own way, but just different than how I grew up.

One of my original list of countries and rulers
for my campaign. I made this list in a yellow
legal pad, around the summer of 1986. You can
see in this list at the top, the name "Samoth" which
at the time was the name of a country as opposed
to the name of the planet. The country names are
very inspired by the naming habits of Gygax in the
World of Greyhawk boxed set. Of this list of
countries, only Stadhof and Verundhi survived to my
current version of the world. The "Confederation of
the Greyclans" is still around in a very different
form. The small village called "Rowland's Hundred"
is based on my middle name, and also on an article
I had read in a National Geographic magazine about
an early English colonial settlement in Virginia
called "Martin's Hundred."
As I got older, we had moved several times and often I would go through the summer before school started with no friends, as we moved on the day after the last day of school, and it was harder to meet kids because the "neighborhoods" were more spread out and I didn't have a car, so I would have to wait until school started to meet the new kids. As such, I spent a lot of time alone, reading, researching, drawing, and working on D&D campaigns. At this stage, I had played with some friends in the past, but moving caused me to lose my game group. I had never DM'd, but creating a campaign world is almost a way of playing D&D "by yourself," and it indulged my creative streak to develop cultures, religions, and societies, draw maps, and the occasional sketch of various characters. I've talked before about how I used a hodge-podge of different resources to create what eventually became my World of Samoth campaign, including Earth history, the world of Conan, access to my parents 1963 World Book Encyclopedia series, 25+ years of National Geographic magazines, and a variety of TSR game worlds including Dragonlance but most importantly the B/X D&D "Known World" and of course Greyhawk. I also mentioned how I would incorporate the personalities and even the names of my various classmates into my game world cultures and countries.

I still have all of my old notes that I used to develop my game world; pretty much everything from fully drawn maps to hastily written notes on a scrap piece of paper or post-it note that I jotted down at a library while researching a topic. It's a very weird personality trait that I can't seem to break - I keep everything, such as email folders full of every personal email I've sent or received. I never go back and read them, so I'm not sure why I keep them, but my penchant to keeping and organizing everything carries over to every aspect of my life. I guess you'd call it a collector's mentality.

Another, different list of countries, about 5
pages into the legal pad, following the other
list shown earlier. The world had a very "pulp"
feel, closer in style to the world of Conan,
as evidenced by things like the "overgrown
jungle" for the South American equivalent.
In this version, I was going to make the
Elves more like Native Americans, with
different types of elves named after animals.
This world also had gnomes and a race
called the "siee" which were the equivalent
of halflings. Neither made it past this
version, for reasons I've discussed before.
In any event, back in the summer of 1986, right before my junior year of high school, I spent a ton of time alone in my room drawing maps and writing notes concerning a D&D campaign I wanted to run some day. I was really into the band U2 back in that time; this was right before the "Joshua Tree" album came out, and I had discovered a small 4-song "EP" on cassette tape called "Wide Awake in America" that included live versions of two songs from the "Unforgettable Fire" album and two new tracks that hadn't made the album. One of those songs, "Three Sunrises" became one of my favorites and I used to listen to it all the time. It's one of those songs that, when I hear it, I am instantly transported back to that summer of 1986, lying on my bedroom floor at my parent's house, with my maps, notebooks, comics, and D&D rulebooks and modules all spread out in front of me, working on my campaign. I heard the song recently pop up on one of my playlists on Spotify, and I had an urge to go searching for a bunch of my old notes. Here are a few pictures of them for those that are interested to see some very early, "proto-Samoth" materials.

Anyone else out there hold on to old things like this? I can't be the only one, right?

Another early map in my old yellow legal pad, from the
summer of 1986. For another early map. see this post

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Tap water
Listening: "Three Sunrises" by U2


  1. Oh yeah - and I've posted most of it to my blog! Except for my first attempts at world building. Not a lot to post there - just a couple of maps. I should probably scan them one of these days...

    BTW, I can totally relate to "playing D&D by myself." I didn't get to play a lot when I was young - I lived in the country, miles from my friends. My only player was my nephew (and, briefly, my brother-in-law) and we didn't play often. I spent a lot of time making dungeons, NPCs, back-up PCs, new monsters, etc. The will to engage in actual play was strong - reality just got in the way. We solitary gamers had to fill the gap as best we could!

    1. Thanks! So sorry for the delayed replied - for some reason I didn't see this until just now when I created a new post.

      I'm definitely going to go back through your old posts to check out some of your early gaming material. I keep finding more and more and trying to figure out the best way to present it. I don't want to do it as an "info dump" so I thought dolling it out a little at a time would be best, although lately I've been thinking about ordering it chronologically or in some other fashion, and creating a video. We'll see.

      I loved creating NPCs for my campaigns - almost as much (if not more so) than creating maps and countries! One of my favorite things to do was, in class, ask friends to randomly shout out numbers between 3 and 18. I would write them down, in order, and then assign the AD&D 1st Edition attributes to them, in order (so, Strength first, then Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma). I had memorized all of the ability-score qualifications by race and class, so after I had all of my arrays (usually 6-10 at a time), I would go through each ability score and mark down which race and class could qualify based on the score. It was a way of testing my memory, and also making hard choices when more than one race/class could qualify. And then I would come up with a name and a quick background and mysterious "hook" for using in a later role-playing game. I think I still have almost all of those characters all in a folder somewhere!


  2. Whatever presentation style you choose, I'll be looking forward seeing it!

  3. I did uncover a shoebox full of old gaming stuff a while ago. For the most part it was old characters from various games, but I did find a few scribbled notes on a setting that I don't think I ever got around to running. It was your usual fantasy stuff, except it had minotaurs as a playable race, and had dwarves as an Evil Empire™; apparently the minotaurs were a slave race of the dwarves!

    1. Oooh... I love that idea! (Consider it "borrowed." :D)

    2. I love finding old stuff like this and trying to remember why I did things like I did, or why I never finished developing it, etc. I bet the community could create some kind of Frankenstein's monster campaign full of everyone's discarded notes, with little gems like your bit with the Dwarves and Minotaurs.


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