Today I want to discuss Gamandria, the fantasy setting where Sertorius takes place. I will talk a bit about the nature of the world, what sources inspired its development and how it was created by the design team.
Gamandria is a geocentric world where present-day city-states and empires are built upon the ruins of an ancient Ogre civilization that collapsed about fourteen hundred years ago. It is a complete continent with tons of interesting locations to explore, and they span a broad range of cultures, from northern coastal raiding Gru tribes who worship the bear lord Sur Vanker, to the river culture of Matruk who worship their king as a living god. It is a place where deities walk the earth.
It is also a place where magic has made a large impact. This happens in a number of ways, but the most striking is through features called Grims. These are places where powerful Sertori were overcome with their magic and transformed into powerful beings that infect the local landscape. Some might a sentient pool of water that rewards those who please it, others might be haunted woods where time flows chaotically with a dark entity at its heart.
When we designed the world, we drew on a wide variety of sources for inspiration. As you can see from the introduction of the book, there are quite a few:
I am a history buff and read more history books than I do novels, so I was initially inspired by cultures like Rome, Carthage, Byzantium, Persia, Scythia and Mesopotamia. However we wanted it to be a setting capable of supporting a number of different campaign styles, so I also drew from other periods and places. I think in the end we were striving for something more in the realm of Conan than say Game of Thrones.
Biblical stories also had an influence on the setting. As did Star Trek and Life of Brian. I mention Life of Brian, not because the game is silly (it isn't) but because it provided a useful model for the Followers system in the game where Sertori can become the focus of a cult and increase in Divinity. Jesus of Nazareth and Agora also provided helpful models for this as well.
Role-playing games we played growing up also shaped how we developed the setting. There were many but for me, Ravenloft probably had the largest impact. This isn't very apparent at first if you read the setting material, but as you think through some of the implications of how magic works and if you looks at some of the central monsters like Grim Beasts, you can definitely see echoes of it.
Designing Gamandria required we have a solid foundation. To the right is the map of Gamandria. It was created by Rob Conley who did an excellent job in my opinion. Below this image is a shot of my original hand drawn maps he worked off of.
This map took quite some time to make because we wanted to have an entry for each named area. It took two giant poster sized sheets in the end for the final hand-drawn version. Prior to that I worked on a single sheet with about 7-10 versions of the map over the course of its history (to get a sense of how people had moved and events had occurred). Then I used the last of those maps as a basis for this one.
I also did this as we were running multiple campaigns in the setting. I even ran several using other systems just to get a chance to test out some areas with players who were more familiar with other RPGs. Normally I would target places I knew I wanted to expand. So going in I decided the Perlova Valley province of Caelum Republic would have a robust description. I played a small campaign there with my cousin and her boyfriend, which really helped me flesh the region out. I rand it like a sandbox because that really forced me to think of everything that was there.
Entries in the setting chapter range in size from a sentence or two to several pages. Perlova Valley is a large sub-entry in the Caelum Republic section, going from the bottom of page 268 to the top of page 269 (see images to the right). It may not look like a lot, bit it is a result of adventures played there by two different groups of people.
Not every entry in the book got this level of treatment of course, but Perlova Valley was one among many that did. Places like The Marite Kingdoms, The Ronian Empire, Caelum, Sardona, Donyra, Belvar and several others were given this sort of focus.
We think this resulted in a great setting with lots of adventure potential. Hopefully in the coming weeks I will follow this entry with a part two.