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To paraphrase Ratty from 'Wind in the Willows', there's nothing quite so much worth doing, as simply messing about with worlds.
To start with, decide whether you're a big picture person or a small picture person. If the former, start with your world's creation myth and build from there.. If you're the latter, start with one nation on one continent and perfect that, then add some neighbours...
Brainstorm. Get a great big pice of paper and start dumping ideas, concepts, names and features onto it. Draw links between things.
Read widely, particularly history. The difference between history and novels is that things happen in history that are not good stories, do not make sense, and dispose of central characters in unexpected ways. This is a good way to get a feel for the impromptu nature of a RPG setting - the characters will not go the ways you expect them to, so trying to plot too far in advance of them takes either a large capacity for frustration, or the improv skills of a stand-up comedian.
Think deeply about the differences between Mediaeval Europe and your fantasy setting: once you get magic in, all comparisons are risky. For instance, if D&D cleric magic works, and there's a priest/ess in each village, the villagers are going to be considerably healthier and better fed than their counterparts were in our world. Forensic wizards or clerics with 'speak with dead' or 'raise dead' make a mockery of murder trials, as well as inheritance customs.
Magic also hashes up warfare, as do invulnerable Conan-esque fighters. Tactics in fantasy settings should be informed by wargames like Warhammer Fantasy.
Don't be afraid to start writing things down because they're not exactly right or perfect. You can always change them later. Tolkien took 50 years to create Middle Earth - and it was still a work in progress when he died. And its earliest forms were very different to its later ones.
Hope this helps - and have fun with your project. :-)
I'm in the process of creating and have begun by making a world map on a huge piece of paper and naming each section/kingdom seperately. After which I added a colour-coding system that described the terrain in the area. For example, green=grass plains blue=water etc. until I had a full map.
Then I wrote the names of every place on a seperate sheet and wrote a bit about each different area. e.g. These mountains are home to the dwarves etc.
I'm currently working towards narrowing it down to one kingdom, then one region then finnaly a town/city where the pc's start. From there I'll finish off the region and expand outwards.
Another thing I'm trying is to incorporate new classes and races into the campaign as well. I'm a bit lost so if anyone out there has tips on doing this, share your god-like knowledge with the good people at LO.
Besides that, I can only offer you one more piece off advice. Try to keep things exciting in a very random way. Every now and then do something weird and out there.
Sure an encounter with a band of goblins is fun, but what if they were chain-smoking, alcoholic, sexually-frustrated goblins all at once. Then you have yourself a fun fight (not that you have to go that far though).
I'd start by deciding exactly what each new race or class would add to the game. Flavour is a good start - making your game world different to the generic fantasy world.Originally Posted by Elric101
The next step for a race is to decide whether it will ever have PCs drawn from it, or whther it's destined just to be another kind of monster (sad but true). This really has to be done with your players in mind, since if you're really keen on (say) the otter-people, but your players think they suck and you're a secret furry, they will never get played as PCs and when they show up as NPCs they'll get gutted and their pelts sold for overcoats.
Don't make any single race over-powerful, or you'll regret it - when your players all pick that race and then walk all over your setting with them. If you're using D&D, look at the way the basic races are balanced against each other as a good guideline. If you're basing races on characters in film, anime or novels, treat those characters as 10th or 20th level examples of their species - player characters should work towards that kind of power, not start with it.
Actually, this goes for D&D classes too. The basic classes are extremely well balanced and you should think very hard before adding to them. You can get a lot of specialisation out of the basic classes without inventing new ones. For example, the otter people (above) tend towards fighters, sorcerers and rogues. Their fighters tend to specialise in spears and other piercing polearms like tridents, they don't ever use bows, and they like to max out on swimming. Their sorcerors like swimming too, and prefer summoning to outright damage spells - they like having something around to talk to. Otter rogues prefer physical skills like tumble and dodge to lockpicking (short attention spans), and often go for ther Acrobat or Shadowdancer prestige classes.
This makes the otter people quite different to the steppe-nomads, who tend to produce fighters, monks and rangers, who like bows and riding, but can't swim. Same rules, very different feels.
You can easily put together class packages like this for the different races and try them out in play. Later on these will help you immensely in designing more special classes.
The DMG also has some very good advice for designing and balancing new classes.
Hope this helps,