Here’s the thing:
Not long after painting minis again, and running my first DMing sessions in, what, 15 years for my nieces and nephews, I stumbled across some old files I’d saved.
My campaign maps from the late 80s and early 90s.
And lightbulbs went off.
The Southern Lands are not particularly auspicious, as roleplaging campaigns go. Most of my adventures were set in Aurura, a stand-in for Medieval England, circa Henry V – Elizabeth I.
Aurora is a vibrant, relatively liberal monarchy, by medieval European standards. It’s young, and feeling its oats. It has a Calais-like foothold in the Kingdom of Northelm, and is loathe to give it up.
The New Lands, Aurora’s northernmost province, is a frontier state, with the orcish wilds beyond. Once the provenance of the great, ancient kindom, much of the northern continent lies in ruins, wasted by war and magiks. Deserts, wastelands and wilds becon adventurers, with a few old maps hinting at forgotten cities and cavernous riches.
But the grand old empire is long gone, its last vestige remaining in the great Free City of Thunderhawk, once the Imperial capital. Still, the city stands, proud walls keeping it safe for a thousand years, proud citizens refusing to accept the days of the grand empire are over. As a center of learning and culture, though, it is unparalleled anywhere west of Ravensteel.
The Kingdom of Northelm remains Aurora’s main source of consternation. Disastrous campaigns of attempted annexation against its smaller neighbors to the East left its military reputation tattered, but it is more than powerful enough to cause problems for its neighbors, as long s it doesn’t try and over-reach. France under, say, a lesser Valois King.
I mapped the color versions of the continent in what I believe must have been Mac Paint or somecuch, back in the early 90s. I’m comfortably sure it wasn’t Photoshop. The old Chicago font almost makes me smile. Notice I stopped coloring the forests on the Eastern-most lands, at a certain point.
But it’s the hand-drawn originals that make me smile the most, and ignite the too-long smouldering embers in my World Building heart.
Some parts of my old campaign leap out, like a sore ork thumb. Balzan sits, solitary, the obligatory Very-Evil-Land-Surrounded-By-GrimDark-Bleak-Mountains. I may end up making it a very happy lace, just to play against type.
Also – Dear 1990s John: why did you place a country called “Northelm” in the extreme south of the continent?
And, of course, there’s the minor republic of Freedonia. Apparently I believed myself to be the world’s only Marx Brother’s fan, in 1990.
I notice that at some point I renamed the continent “Aragoth.” Not sure I prefer that to the more straightforward “the Southern Lands.” Maybe that’s what Thunderhawk’s pretentious elite call it. I also notice apparently I tired of coloring all the forests and such (“details,” I think the kids call them) in MacPaint rather quickly.
“The Vortex”? NO idea what’s going on there…
Listen, though: if I’m drinking the GM-Koolaid (+10 to heal boredom) for the first time in far too long, I’m sure as heck diving back into the Southern Lands campaign, in some form or other. As much as I enjoy D&D’s Forgotten Realms setting,
But he’s a cool idea:
When I posted these images on my Twitter feed, a reader said he’d love it if a collection of games maps from the 1980s and 90s.
I’d take it a step further: imagine a coffeetable book, collecting all the original gaming maps of folks like Ken Hite, Nicole Lindroos, Peter Adkison, Margaret Weis, Jonathan Tweet, Pat Rothfuss, Saladin Ahmend, Jolly Blackburn, Doug Niles, Chris Pramas, Alina Peet, Erik Lang…the list literally goes on and on and on.
Everyone gets a double-page sprad. On one side of the spread are their first campaign maps, from school or college or whenever, along with short notes on their lands, and their lives, at the time.
The other page of the double-spread? The maps done up in full, glorious detail by a company such as Pelgrane Press. HINT HINT, Simon Rogers and Pelhrane Press.
It would have to be a book for charity, I think. Possibly Kickstarted.
Which charity? Perhaps more than one.
But the “Damn, John REALLY Wants This Book To Happen” is the first that leaps to mind…