The starting point of any RPG campaign should have a few basic elements in common. This is the place where the PCs are going to get their first taste of the game world, so it really needs to be a microcosm of the overall campaign. There needs to be a safe area with resources, and danger nearby.


The map is 10 miles per hex. That big river, Colwater River, is particularly wide, just over a mile most of the way. That means that men and horses can’t just ford it. Boats are required. The open area bounded by the river to the south, and the Starflight Mountains to the north, is very sparsely inhabited. It is mostly wild creatures. Traveling through that open area is particularly dangerous. There are, however the remains of structures dotting the area. This is an area of wandering monsters. Travel is particularly hazardous. At the Northwestern end of that area is a castle which blocks the passage between the open plain and the Sleeping Swamp. The castle is held by an evil wizard. – of course. To the south east, where the Colwater and MistyMoon River meet, Overtrue castle sits on a hill, Controlled by the forces of Chaos, and keeps all ships from passing.

On the south side of the Colwater River, the castle of Kerlingham guards an open area, where the towns of Hayfield and Goeth reside, comprising the largest population centers. Less populated, but just as important is the Temple of the fields. This area is protected by the Olympian Gods. The Temple of the Fields is their stronghold in the area. The close up map shows the area protected by the Temple. No Chaotic creatures can pass that oval boundary.

At Kerlingham Castle, the Player Characters have a position of relative safety to get their bearings, make some allies and figure out what they’re doing next.  The protected area is collectively called Fairhaven Meadows. There are always external threats and potential resources to gather outside the area of saftey. Also, the Olympian Gods have their own problems, what with being constantly under siege by the forces of Cthulhu. So The gods have been stripped of their power, transformed and scattered. A good adventure is for the PCs to go and get them. Only Zeus remains in the temple, old and frail and weak, barely able to maintain the protection of the area. The more victories the PCs manage, the stronger Zeus gets. The more of the other gods who are retrieved, the more power the temple has. So there are plenty of built in adventures for the PCs.

It’s important to note here, that the Olympian Gods are physical entities who interfere with the lives of people around them, they are still gods, and able to manifest themselves in any number of places. The entire Universe is, after all, just a proving ground for heroes and villains.

This is definitely a medieval fantasy campaign. Modern heroes have the advantage of modern thinking, and will have often brought with them some seriously useful equipment, but the disadvantage of not being integrated into the world. And they will quickly be out into the world.

The geopolitical landscape of the area is far different than what we are used to in our civilized world. Here, areas are controlled by whoever can maintain control of the area. Currently, the area north of the river is controlled by creatures of Chaos. There are two fortified cities that are holding out against chaos. They are Brinnywine and Tinimore. If Kerlingham can join forces with them, then the forces of Chaos will be at an extreme disadvantage. That situation gives the player characters a definite goal, and a number of ways to achieve it. Notice that there is also a House of the Old Ones and a Red Tower. Two more potential places of adventure that will further the campaign.

So, knowing that the player characters will start off at Kerlingham Castle – which conveniently has a great hall where all the locals end up at some point, let’s have a look at character creation.


Now we need to build a world of adventure. This is where the game will take place. The campaign will take place entirely on this world. I’m calling it Ultimate Earth, because that sounds cool, and it’s easy to remember.

The number one rule I work from, when creating worlds, is consistency. In our society we run on logic. The players operate on logic, and they have a lot of trouble dealing with things that are totally illogical and arbitrary. That seems obvious, but it’s important to say. I need a game Universe that adheres to some form of logic. Most RPGs deal with game worlds that defy the laws of physics, wither through magic or super-science or metaphysics. But even these worlds have logic behind them. This is particularly important to remember, because I have decided that this will be a mixed genre campaign. super-science, Magic and historical he-man-action will all be slugging it out and solving mysteries together.

So, the premise will tell us how I’m bringing all these disparate elements together in a logical fashion.

The premise of the game is that tens of thousands of years ago, an advanced race of humanoids developed the ability to travel between potential realities. They created a race of advanced synthetic servant creatures. Those creatures were infected by an intelligence that made them evil, and caused them to attack every living thing on as many of the alternate worlds they could get to. The Humanoids, Termellern, found ways to fight back against their creations-turned-evil, the Mellor. But the Mellor were vast, and very capable of violence, so they developed weapons on the worlds they found. They sought ways to train other humanoids to fight against the Mellor.

The game Fringeworthy is about modern day explorers traveling abandoned pathways to alternate earths and occasionally fighting the sci-fi horror villains, the Mellor.

So it’s a world of good versus evil – or more to the point, one side’s vicious bio weapons versus the other sides vicious bio weapons. Ultimately, the winner is to be unleashed on every reality.

The Mellor and the Termellern should never actually take a direct hand in the conflict. It’s all done through surrogates that they either manufacture, or bring from alternate realities. This gives the overall game a coherent arc, while giving the players goals that make sense.

My world is situated in a small pocket universe. I want the whole thing to be about 6 billion miles from side to side. It will be the size of a solar system. The planet will be in the center. 300,000 miles away are two moons, orbiting opposite each other, so one is always on the other side of the planet. Then, about 100 million miles out is the sun. Beyond that is the edge of the Universe. On the edge, what appear to be stars, are actually gateways to other Universes. The gateways are glowing with energy.

A very simple Universe. We don’t need much else. There’s room to add another planet later. It’s always a good idea to leave room for other elements. The game will certainly change as it goes on.

The Planet is more complex. I want the players to be able to find other civilizations, and have characters come from vastly different cultures on the world. I event want some fairly modern civilizations, that have no idea that these other places exist on the world. I’m also looking for vastness. The first thing the players will learn, is that this “Earth” is actually the size of Jupiter. That will create a lot of mystery.

Mystery is really important in a roleplaying game. There need to be immediate problems to solve, and then mysteries whose solutions are less pressing, but still important. A huge world provides a lot of that. I could have, as easily made the wold a giant flat plane that ends in mountains or an infinite chasm, but a giant round world is just odd enough, and makes it impossible to navigate the entire thing in a lifetime. There are also immediate questions the players will have, like how a planet that dense and that big could have 1G gravity, rather than 7 to 10G gravity. I have decided that there are vast pockets of dark matter and dark energy, creating a gravitational balance at 1G.

Since I know I’m going to have a lot of modern and sci-fi characters in the game, I don’t want to make it too easy for them. After all, the major powers of the world are testing them. The atmosphere dampens radio waves. Radios have a very limited range, and even then the reception will be difficult at best. Vast stretches of ocean between land masses will make travel between continents difficult but not impossible. Also there will be monsters that patrol the skies, dragons and that sort of thing. And I’ll even have a few creatures that attack and eat technology. But more on those later. For now we are just concentrating on the world.

And that leads to the laws of physics. Even in a magical world, or a world that is entirely artificial, the players need consistency. In our world we rely on stable laws of physics for every physical thing we deal with. In a roleplaying game, the players will quickly become frustrated if the worlds laws of physics don’t make sense, or randomly change. In this type of game, resourceful problem solving is a major factor. So the laws of physics we are all used to are in play, and then magic and super science happen on top of that.

More subtle laws of physics are more of what we are currently calling tropes. Adventure has it’s own laws that go along with everything else. You know that in a story, when someone says, “it’s clear sailing from here on,” then something disastrous is going to happen. These can be codified just like the laws of gravity or electromagnetism. Just like with all the other physical laws, make sure they are consistent.

Here’s a good example of some story laws of physics:

One of the other important laws of physics here, is that characters from other worlds bring their physics with them. Super heroes will still have their powers, and mad scientists will still be able to turn a flashlight and a ruby into a laser.

As to the area this campaign will be set in, I’ll be using my favorite old standby. I’ll be using a modified version of the Outdoor Survival game board, from Avalon Hill. This was the map used in the original Dungeons and Dragons games, and is prominently mentioned as a must have in the first printings of the game. I started using the map about 25 years ago, and have been using it ever since. While I’ve made lots of maps over the years, this one has always been my favorite. It has a good mix of terrain, and is easily adaptable to whatever campaign I’m running. In this campaign, the edges of the map have been modified as shoreline, so the whole thing is an island. At 10 miles per hex, it’s an island more than twice as big as Great Britain. Plenty of room for adventure. Oh yes, there is a large mysterious desert in the middle of the map. That can be a handy thing. I’ll be putting an important castle in the middle of that.

Most of the campaign should take place in a small area of the map. I think it’s important to have a general outline of the rest of the world, and in this case, the Universe. These ideas will find there way into adventures, even though the PCs may never directly visit them.

Outdoor Survival is out of print, but here is a PDF download.

Outdoor Survival

And then, here is the map I’ll be using.

This world will be populated by people and creatures who, for the most part, have no idea they are in an artificial Universe. To them it’s just the world that has always been this way.

Next, we’ll look at the local area that will be the campaign’s starting point.

Choosing Genre and Rules


There are two important considerations when beginning the design of a new campaign. One is as important as the other, and they are actually intertwined, so they both come first. They are Genre and Rules set .

Genre is far more than just the setting. Medieval fantasy, futuristic sci-fi, wild west, modern day action are all common RPG genres, but within that is actually the style of the game. Is your medieval fantasy all chivalrous knights and elegant wizards vying for power, or is it gritty dungeon delvers looking for fast treasure and enough magic firepower to turn armies to ashes. Could it be modern with super heroes or spies or ghost hunting secret agents. The style of the campaign is really a combination of what you want and what your players want. But that tone determines the best rules set to use. And there are a lot of choices.

For a moody atmospheric game that is more into character interaction, White Wolf created World of Darkness. It’s great for a game with super powered characters. The games that use it are based on PCs that are various supernatural creatures. The core rules now go under the title Chronicles of Darkness and available at Drive Through RPG ( Although, with some looking, you can probably find an earlier edition to download online.


The D6 System from West End games is a great system for games that require characters to be able to do a lot of things. Pulp hero style adventures, science fiction, that sort of thing. It was originally used, with 20 years of success, for the first Star Wars RPG. The rules can be downloaded for free at Whitesaber. (


The Hero System was originally developed for a superhero RPG called Champions. It has been refined into a versatile set of rules, but it’s not free. In fact it’s a bit pricey,. The system is point based and fairly complex. But it is detailed. Great for campaign settings where every little detail counts. The Hero System is available at Hero Games,


A great all around system is GURPS, the Generic Universal Role Playing System. It’s been around for a long time. It’s point based, and fairly detailed. It’s always been a very polarizing game system, players either love it or hate it, and there are few opinions in between. I’ve always liked it, and I love the huge amount of source material available for it. I often use the many source books for reference on all kinds of projects both in and out of the gaming field. But it’s point based. That means players often end up spending vast amounts of time optimizing characters. I’m really not the optimizing type. I like quirky characters that are full of surprises when played. But GURPS is certainly worth a close look.


There are a whole lot of other systems out there that make great campaigns. The point here is, to weigh teach one carefully to see if it will promote the genre and style you want to focus on in your campaign.

I am actually going to combine two sets of rules for this campaign. I really like personalizing my game. In the good old days, every game was completely different, even though Dungeons and Dragons was the rules set everybody had. The rules were so loose and open to interpretation, that everyone used house rules. That is, those rules the players all agreed on for thigns that weren’t covered, like what actions could happen during a melee round, and how long a melee round actually was. And the original rules allowed for players to run pretty much anything as a player character, so if a player wanted to run a genie, it had to be designed as it’s own character class. When you went from one game to another, you never entirely knew what to expect. I’ve gotten very used to that. I’ll be using original Dungeons and Dragons and another game called Fringeworthy.

Old Dungeons and Dragons rules are pretty common these days. The original books; Men and Magic, Monsters and Treasure, and Wilderness Adventures, along with Greyhawk, Blackmoore and Eldritch Wizardry can be downloaded as PDFs on line. Drivethrough RPG is a good site to find these. Also, there are quite a few versions of the rules available as free, or very inexpensive downloads available under the Open Gaming License. My particular favorite is Swords and Wizardry.


There are a lot of things I like about the old Dungeons and Dragons rules. Flexibility is one. You can always add more to it. Plus it is a dice roll based character generation system that is very straight forward. There has always been criticism that dice roll based character creation isn’t fair – some players just get better dice rolls, and therefore have better characters. But I see it as being able to play the hand you are dealt, as they say in card games. And besides, a lot of the fun is in how you actually play the character, incompetent characters can be particularly fun.

The real core of this campaign is Fringeworthy. It’s a fairly obscure rules set originally published in 1982. Like most rules from that era, it is based on the mechanics of Dungeons and Dragons. This system adds a fairly comprehensive and complex skill system, and a combat system that has to be seen to be believed. It is complex and complete, with over 133 hit locations. But what I really like about this RPG is the setting. The game is about explorers investigating alternate realities. This system is worth owning. It’s one of the earliest multi genre settings and the company the produces it, TRI-TAC has a number of other amazing RPGs and board games as well. Very much worth checking out.


So, my genre is multiple genre characters all in the same high fantasy setting setting. My Rules set is a combination of Original Dungeons and Dragons and Fringeworthy.

Next up, we build the world.rh1_sc11_cgi_007_090_v04_frame_74-0001-1024x576

Where we begin


Back in 1977 I was a teenage electronics geek. I had my ham radio license, a bedroom filled with electronics gear, an after school job at a two way radio company. I was on my way to becoming a radio engineer. Then a friend said, “hey, you know over at Bob’s Comics they play this game called dragons or something. You’d like it.” I went on a Saturday morning to have a look at a Dungeons and Dragons game, and my world was never the same again. Now, 40 years later, I work in entertainment. I make movies, television shows, web series, and I take photos at events, where there are people who make movies, television shows and web series. And I still play Dungeons and Dragons and all the – well, most of the – fantastic variants that have sprung from it.

There have been elements from other games and systems that I have really liked, and taken for my own. This has created a mish mosh of rules, but in the table top gaming world that I came from, it was perfectly normal to take rules from other games, or just make up new ones to throw in. One look at the original D&D rules and the reason for this becomes obvious. The original game was playable, but very bare bones. And in places, there were only hints of what Gary Gygax and his crew had in mind. As an example, there are monster encounter charts including tharks and other creatures from the John Carter of Mars books. So players fleshed out their own campaigns with creatures and rules that their players wanted. By the time I started playing, TSR had come out with a few additional rule books, but that just emboldened players to add in their own rules.

The campaign that I’m detailing in these posts is the campaign that I’m currently running. The bare outline of the rules can be found elsewhere on the internet, but I’m creating this for new players and to explain my thinking behind the rules choices I’ve made. Throughout, I’m giving credit to the games whose rules I’ve borrowed from. These games are all worth checking out, and I’ll make sure to include links.

So, let’s get  started, the next post outlines the game world and genre.elf-01