Campaign World Design Philosophy: Kesperex

As you may or may not remember, I am currently working on finishing up the first of a line of supplement books that will eventually fit together and flesh out an entire campaign setting. Each of the supplements will bring forth the beginnings of the details of a region, which are designed to be portable– you can drop any one region into any other world and use all the goodies it has to offer, or piece them together into the grand vision of the planet Kesperex.

I’ve been listening to a lot of the seminars from Paizocon, thanks to the team at Know Direction on their podcast feed. This has started me thinking on the design philosophy that guides the writing of this setting– the things that make Kesperex what it is (or will be).

I thought I’d share a few of these guiding principles here, to set them up and put them in stone. Each of these is a guiding principle for Kesperex, a mission statement of a sorts for the realm.

1. Kesperex is fun. This one is so easy to lose track of. I want the setting to be a place where any kind of story can be told, but that is at its core light-hearted and where everyone can have fun with the story. That’s not to say there aren’t darker/serious/gritty themes, but I don’t mean to dwell on those too much.

2. Kesperex is a little wacky. This goes hand and hand with point one, but it stands on its own. When I am designing Kesperex anytime I hit a spot where I am questioning whether something makes sense, I need to remember that this is a world where a city can be ruled by a council of 12 chosen by a cross between street warfare and musical chairs, where the Crofter’s Guild (and the Merchant’s Guild, and the Banker’s Guild) can all also be thieves guild’s and rule their own city, and a world where the ancient defeated dragon god’s name literally contains the entire alphabet because, why not?

3. Kesperex is a world defined by its Gods and its history. In the beginning there was one god, The Father. Then he got tired of it all and left. In the second age, that Father’s brides ruled– The Warrior Woman, the Dark Mother, The Mystic Mother, Mother Earth– they bred the races of mortal-kind, cast out the outsiders and the Fey and then birthed the young Gods till they too grew tired and gave up ruling. Fifteen young gods ruled the Third Age, striking out the Dragons, suppressing the Bloodline of Ogres, fighting and forming alliances and building churches and sects and cults and religions that shape the nations of the world down to the end of the Third Age.

4. On Kesperex law versus chaos is as important or more than good versus evil. Alignment isn’t linear on Kesperex. In the King lands, a lawful good and chaotic good nation are locked in a Holy war against each other. In the Old Empire, chaotic good and chaotic evil War deities are worshiped together. In the North and in the East, the Children of Mother Earth are worshiped as nature deities of truest balance– good, evil, law, chaos all given their due so long as none get too powerful.

5. Kesperex is a world of mystery. Why do Tengu travel the world asking so many questions? And where did they come from, and how do they all seem to know so much? What is it that lurks in the depths of the deep wells that makes the Elders so afraid? Where did the dragons go when they left a thousand years ago, and why have they returned now?

6. On Kesperex, either its a PC race or its not. No races with crippling triple mental stat losses, or bonuses that stack up to steep net negatives– all humanoids were created by the Mothers on relatively equal grounds, from humans, to Tower and Pixie Elves, Fire and Cloud Dwarves, to Mobgoblins, Bobgoblins, and Lobgoblins, to Draconic Scaled Kobolds, Caste-Lizardfolk, Cuthian Ogres, and War Orcs– you can play what you want without being hindered (or overpowered).

7. Kesperex is a world on the brink of great discoveries. This is an early Renaissance campaign world at the end of the Third Age. Firearms are just starting to be invented, but you won’t find lasers or machine guns. The world is being explored, its edges pushed, and the previously unknown wilds outside the great cities and the empires of the south filled in, new continents have been spotted by the most daring of sailors, and the race is on for a new trade route to the Plateau Lands that by-passes Riverport’s monopoly on the river passes through the mountains that have controlled trade throughout the world the last 900 years.

I am sure that I will revise some of these, add to and take away, clarify as I go on, but I wanted to put this in writing so I can hold myself to it as I go. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this design philosophy, or what you’ve done as guiding principles when building your own campaign worlds!  Comments always welcome, or contact me directly!

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