Creating Regions: What Do the PCs Know?

If you’re playing in a collaborative, GM-less game, then my suggestion is that you should create only the parts of the world that the PCs already know about.   The question then becomes: what do the PCs know?

Of course, the real answer is “Whatever the group decides they know” – but if you want some hard rules, here they are.

  • You know the local Region

Assume that the PCs know all the basic characteristics of the first, starting Region, where the campaign begins.

  • You know a fair bit about the neighbors

“What’s the land to the North of here?”

“Why, if you follow the Great North Road a ways you’ll come to the Duchy of Mylantia – it’s all strung out along the Greenbank River. My cousin lives up there; it’s good farmland. There are two big towns: Riversby and Grimsport. Don’t know much about them.”

Once you’ve placed the starting Region, determine some aspects of all the Regions adjacent to it: determine the Size, Climate and Terrain Type, Level of Civilization, Cities and Towns, Population Type, and Theme (i.e. everything except the Monster Ecology).  You can start the game by doing this, or you can leave it until later, if you prefer. When the PCs try to find out this sort of thing about new Regions during the game, they can ask the locals: pretty much anyone can tell you something about Regions that border on their own.

  • You may know of other Regions near Civilization

“But beyond the Green Valley Kingdoms – what’s up there?

“Well, following the Great North Road, you come first to the Grey Hills – rocky, they say, with poor soil – and then you’d reach the Mountains of Monstrosity, lair of trolls. Beyond that, no-one knows!”

If you’re enjoying building the world, then you can go on to work out the basic aspects of all the Regions that border on Civilized Regions – and if they turn out to be Civilized, you can just keep going! Again, you can always leave this until later if you prefer. During the game, any well-informed local can give you this information about any region, if you can trace a line from wherever you are to the region in question, passing through only Civilized regions.

  • You may know something about important Regions Far, Far Away.

“The Sages say that far, far to the North lies the Empire of White Winter, ruled by the Hoarfrost Bear. But that’s crazy – and anyway, how would they know?”

There are some Regions of the world that are so intriguing, powerful, or just plain odd that even people very far away have heard of them. If you’re enjoying creating Regions, you might want to determine the basic characteristics of a few others entirely randomly, without connecting them to any Regions already on the map. These Regions are famous for something – that’s why you’ve heard of them – so when determining their characteristics, you can add or subtract two from any roll.

Determine a few things about them, but don’t place them on the map just yet! Simply declare that you’ve heard they lie far, far off in a particular direction. Hold them in reserve for now, and later you can place them on the map whenever you like!

  • Lastly, any PC can know something about their homeland

Here’s a rule I like to use.  At any point during the game, a player can declare: “Oh, I know all about that Region – its my homeland.”  More power to them!  This allows the PC to determine all the characteristics of that Region, right away.  This is a fun way to put the spotlight on one character’s back-story by giving it real mechanical benefits – and it’s also pretty hard to abuse, since each PC can only do it once in the whole campaign.