Well I had not intended to post this until after the renovation of _Age of Legends_ was complete. However, I began the process of creating a new look for my campaign two weeks ago and there's no telling how long it will take to complete. Moreover, I've gleaned allot from reading all the helpful comments posted on Gaaran's "My New Layout":http://forums.obsidianportal.com/comments.php?DiscussionID=1566&page=1#Item_22 post, and felt that the AoL renovation process could benefit from a bit of constructive criticism from the OP community. The main impetus for AoL's renovation was that I wanted to more clearly demarcate the "Campaign Setting" aspect of the site, from the actual "campaign" that I have been running thus far. In this I took my cue from Duskreign and Gaaran, both of whom have created campaign settings with specific sections allotted to the campaigns being run within that setting. I also want to thank Rase Cidraen for pioneering the "wiki side-bar":http://forums.obsidianportal.com/comments.php?DiscussionID=1561&page=2#Item_1 that I have adapted for my site.
Thus far I've only finished renovating the "Home Page":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/age-of-legends, the "Main Page":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/age-of-legends/wikis/main-page, and the "Campaigns":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/age-of-legends/wikis/campaigns page (which is bran new). Still, the basic layout is all there. I intend to give each of the major wiki sections of the Main Page a layout similar to that of the campaigns page (that is, with the parchment). I've also created a "character sheet template":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/just/wikis/main-page that I intend to use for the PC's.
What do you guys think? I've had a couple of people tell me they preferred the old campaign banner (or perhaps a hybrid of the old and new banner) to the new Parchment banner. I can see their point. However I put allot of thought into whether or not to switch banners. In the end, I felt that the old campaign image worked well as a banner for the campaign I was running, but was not representative of the entire AoL setting. Hence, I preserve an adaptation of the original banner in the campaigns section. Does anyone else have any thoughts to add though?
The thing is, every time I take on one of these graphic art projects, my "catch up to all the s#!t I've been neglecting" projects get waylaid. :(
I'm glad you've decided to showcase all of the campaigns set in your world on one site. Are you planning to migrate all of Tales of Darkmoon Vale over? Because I love me some Darkmoon Vale.
Take the geographical location "Darkmoon Vale" for example. This is actually a location in the Pathfinder setting and is the focal point of a series of modules that I have been running. I have transplanted this location and its surroundings to my own campaign setting for the purpose of ease (I am much more familiar with my own campaign world than I am with Pathfinder's). However, since this location (and some of the adventures taking place within it) are not my own creation, I want to keep this information separate from my AoL Campaign Setting.
Arsheesh, I totally get it. In Wyrmshadow, Hell is called Infernia. There is a nation in Infernia called Pylea which is derivative to a place of the same name in the TV show Angel. Even the leader of Pylea, the Groosalugg, has been co-opted into this campaign. It was not by my choice (I was not the GM at the time), and I actually was quite vehemently opposed to it, because a part of me knew that I would later regret the inclusion of something other than our own creation.
Sort of like saying "X country is at war with a massive, communist country with an arctic climate, a military bent, where the populace has a distinct love for distilled alcoholic spirits." So yeah, it's Russia, but I'm not saying it is, but the mind kind of fills in the gaps. I just wish I had felt more creative with my description, but alas...
In Arsheesh's case, though, Darkmoon Vale is *damn* important.
Sometimes, though, it's essential to add in something that isn't yours, like Arsheesh did for example. As long as it doesn't detract from the work as a whole, it should be embraced, but not as much if it's detrimental. I like how you're marginalizing the effects it's caused by sidelining it. Its much better than saying "NO! DID NOT HAPPEN!". That only works if you have the mind-erasey pen from MIB.
One thing that made running TDMV within AoL easy was that in the Map that I had created for my setting, there was already a political region known as "The Western Baronies":http://img98.imageshack.us/img98/9043/eriondwithwesternbaroni.jpg that actually fit the political and geographical region of Darkmoon Vale nearly perfectly. Still, rather than using the regional map for Darkmoon Vale offered by Paizo I created a new map of the region of the "Western Baronies/Darkmoon Vale":http://img686.imageshack.us/img686/333/thewesternbaronies.jpg that corresponded to the world map of Eriond that I had originally made.
Now my TDMV campaign is actually set a year and a half prior to the other campaign I am running in the North, "In Search of Eretanis" (ISE). In ISE the Region of the Western Baronies/Darkmoon Vale is currently engaged in an all out war with the Orc clans of the mountains and are about to be wiped out. Later on, new baronies will be built over the ruins of the old, and the region of Darkmoon Vale will be renamed, the the title, "The Western Baronies" will remain. Of course, as of right now my TDMV players are completely unaware of this, and in fact the upcoming war will figure in largely into the overall plot arc of the campaign.
So in other words, while I was apprehensive about importing third party content to my own setting, my resolution to this problem is (1) to quarantine this "Darkmoon Vale" content within its own campaign site (rather than to include it within the site for my AoL setting), and; (2) ultimately annihilate this region altogether.
I think one of the greatest things you can do, if you've incorporated something you didn't want, is to assimilate it, and make it yours. Maybe it belonged to someone else before, but that's just the framework for your great story. In the same way that no two groups really use the same sets of rules (Unless they're both pedants...) no two stories should ever be the same, and that's especially true for what you're doing Arsheesh: It may have been Darkmoon Vale when it started, but now? Now it's yours.
I would assume that the GMs who create their own campaign settings are very protective, and feel that adding outside source material sullies their creation.
"Cthulhu Supremus Est":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/cthulhusupremusest represents the first time that I've played the role of GM. It also represents my role playing group's first foray in to something other than fantasy-based RPGs. I looked at all of the published CoC material and decided to challenge myself to provide original material that would tie two published scenarios together. Being able to write original material has been rewarding, but the time I've saved by using published scenarios has been valuable.
There's definitely no write or wrong. Whether made up of original content or published content, the combined efforts of the GM and player are the keys to a successful role playing experience.
These are the two reasons that I chose to run my _Tales of Darkmoon Vale_ campaign in the first place. A friend of mine was interested in starting a new campaign and having me DM it. At the time I was a full time seminary student in a fairly rigorous program, and I also worked and ran my _In Search of Eretanis_ campaign, which relied solely on original material from my AoL setting. Given my load I just didn't think I would have time enough to run another campaign unless I _did_ use pre-published materials. Beyond this, I had never run pre-published materials in the past and was curious to read through some in order to get tips on how to improve my own story telling.
On the other hand though, if one is coming up with their own campaign setting, there is something to be said for originality. I mean think about it, would Tolkien's world have been thought of as the such an amazing achievement if he had co-opted Sauran or Godor or the Shire from some other author? Of course Tolkien did draw on literary figures and actual places for inspiration, but that's quite another matter. My feeling is that if one is going to invest allot of time and creative energy into coming up with their own world, why dilute the creative purity of that world with some one else's work? My 2c.
You're last paragraph entails my struggle in its entirety. Not that I view myself in any way as a Tolkien-like figure, but if, one day, something special was to happen for me, and Wyrmshadow was to become a viable fantasy realm with my name attached to it, would it be something I could be proud of? If left to my own creations, my own ideas, even those inspired by others, I could be very proud of the world I have created. But, by virtue of the dichotomous blessings and burdens of pre-existing materiel, I am forced to the idea that Wyrmshadow itself is too derivative to be a source of pride.
Dusk, I hardly think that Wyrmshadow is derivative in the sense that you're meaning. I mean, if we take the word at face value, absolutely everything we've ever done, and ever will do, is derivative: everything we do is derived from past experience, past knowledge, past events. It all derives from that silly little Big Bang that set everything in motion.
The issue is not being derivative, because ultimately, many stories have already been written. It's hard to forge forward onto new ground without standing on the shoulders of giants (or, in deference to those with a myriad of sourcebooks as is a given in our vocation, half-giants, demi-giants, Demi Moore, half-giant-dragon-hybrids, half-giant-half-halfling, or half and half with a few teaspoons of sugar.) Because ultimately, every sword that was ever forged was derivative of the first one. But that doesn't mean that a blacksmith should take any less pride in his work. If that were the case, I highly doubt that Masamune would have bothered to hone his craft to legendary levels.
We stand in the unique position: we have tools our predecessors never could have dreamed of. Resources that would have made Tolkien weep with joy. We have the ability to touch the four corners of the world with our creations. How is that something not to be proud of? The amount of work that each and every one of you has poured into your campaigns, your stories, is epic. Contained within these pages are lifetimes worth of material that the world is richer due to the sharing. Each and every one of the stories is unique and original, and deserves recognition as such.
With regards to your situation, Dusk, there's no reason *not* to be proud of Wyrmshadow. The material that was added that is "pre-made" as it were came about before you had direct control over things, and by your own admission you were opposed to the idea. You inherited the campaign, and made it a world of your own, regardless of what your predecessor did, and that is something to be celebrated. You're making the best of the situation you were landed in, and are making it something awe inspiring.
You're the _Supreme Being_ (aka, God, the Grand Poobah, etc.) of Wormshadow. If the pre-generated material is the proverbial [email protected] at the family picnic, then get rid of it. You've demonstrated that you have the chops to create compelling original material, so give your underworld an overhaul.
Places like "Middle Earth":http://sjaejones.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/middleearth.jpg, "Greyhawk":http://paizo.com/download/dungeon/desktops/Greyhawk_1600x1024.jpg, and "Golarion":http://paizo.com/image/content/PathfinderChronicles/GolarionMap.jpg weren't created in a day. In a lot of cases, these locales went through several iterations before they became _viable_ fantasy realms.
Aim high, Dusk!
_Rase_, you make a good point regarding how in the creative process:
Very little of what is created today within any artistic craft is truly "novel"; at least not in the sense that it is something the likes of which the world has never before seen. On the contrary, most artistic endeavors draw heavily from rather familiar external sources for inspiration (such as the artists experience with other people, places, objects, belief-systems, values, traditions, myths, literary archetypes, artistic styles etc). Usually neither the content, nor the form or medium in which that content is conveyed within any artistic endeavor, are wholly novel. Occasionally someone does come up with something completely new, but these are exceptional cases. More often what occurs are innovations on, or re-envisionings of the great ideas of the past ("a new variation on an old theme" as the saying goes).
Moreover, this, to my mind, is how it ought to be. First off, not everyone is a visionary, and not everyone should attempt to be one. While I certainly don't want to denigrate the artistic pioneers of the world, my sense is that too often the strive for creative novelty just leads to bad art. That is the problem with modern art. A bunch of intellectual elitists got it into their heads that the only way to be "authentic" in art was to cast off the ("old hat") traditional styles of the past and attempt to do art completely from one's own limited, individualistic vision of the world, thereby exercising complete godlike autonomy over their work. Course the high demand for creative novelty (as well as some other bad assumptions about the purpose of art) soon led to "shock art" and the next thing you know we've got Chris Ofili's "elephant dung portrait of the virgin Mary":http://www.mtholyoke.edu/offices/comm/csj/991008/madonna.html!
Secondly, artistic endeavors, by their very nature, are communal endeavors. Creative artifacts are meant to be shared with others, not just so that others may enter into some private aesthetic experience with the artists work, but rather that art may inspire, provoke thought, affirm beliefs and values (or challenge them) and in general, capture and covey at a public level, the human condition. To the extent to which art does this well, it ought to be cherished and emulated. The great ideas of the past (and for that matter, the great artistic styles, traditions and archetypes) bear repeating, for they are timeless. Rather than striving for novelty in art, I think that we ought to mine the great traditions of the past. Good art doesn't have to be "novel", though it should be "original--that is, it should originate from the imagination of the artist who has reflected deeply, rather than simply being lifted thoughtlessly from another work.
I sometimes here people complain about the fact that so much of contemporary fantasy has taken its cues from Tolkien, that there aren't enough original thinkers in the fantasy genre. If by "unoriginal" they mean that people are just superficially cutting and pasting elements from Tolkien into their work and passing it off as their own, then this complaint (if true) has merit. However if the complaint is just that allot of the same archetypes and tropes that appear in _The Lord of the Rings_ show up in contemporary fantasy inspired by Tolkien's legacy, then I think this complaint utterly without merit. For this is just what we ought to expect a work of such beauty, and integrity to do to the imaginations of those who read it. And as far as I'm concerned, stories that emulate what is good about Tolkien's work are better, rather than worse, for having been so inspired.
Please don't take this as me getting defensive about the fact that i have added small amounts of pre-built stuff into my campaign setting as a whole, merely take it for the discussion that it was intended. I suppose my intent is your first point Arsheesh, to enhance my campaign and simplify my job as the DM, but because my game takes place in my world, then the pre-built information must become a part of the larger setting, because I feel that picking and choose what parts of my campaign become a part of the setting would cheapen it far more than a couple of names on a map that I didn't come up with.