It’s been months since I’ve written anything besides source code, and quite frankly, it’s killing me. Unfortunately, I can’t continue my Erastes or Weaver stories until I’ve got Nexus 3 off the ground, but if I don’t write something creative for me, I’ll burn out (again).
So as a compromise between my workaholic and creative selves, I’ve knocked up a small sandpit to play a bit of narrative solo table-top roleplaying. If that’s Greek to you, it means writing stories and using the dice and the mechanics of a D&D-like rule system to generate and resolve narrative conflict. I would rather not get invested too heavily into the story or characters, as this is something I’ll pick up and put down as time permits. Moreover, I’ll be using a fairly lethal ruleset, so the chances of a character living beyond a couple of sessions are pretty low!
To reduce the cognitive load even further, I’ll invent the setting on the fly using just-in-time world-building with a bunch of random tables — or, more accurately, I’ll start with a randomly generated map and fill in the blanks as I go. Maps aren’t that important to me, but in this case, I’ll use one to keep the sandbox contained to a more manageable size that won’t inspire me to write War and Peace.
I generated the map using Watabou’s Perilous Shores, removed the legend and roads, but kept the terrain, vegetation, and the position of the settlements and danger areas. At some point, I may redraw it, but for now, I’ve personalised it with some parchment textures, a border and added a title.
And that’s all I feel compelled to do map-wise — the idea is to get started, not get hung up on perfection.
So, let’s do a little on-the-fly Q&A world-building ahead of my first session 0, just to get the scope of the place in my head.
Where is the Isle of Xavius?
Probably somewhere in Alashiya, where I set the Codex of Destiny. The name sounds vaguely Greek or Roman, and Alashiya is an archipelago, which fits. However, the terrain looks somewhat swampy in parts, and Alashiya is more arid, so maybe in a wetter part of the region.
I have nine main islands in Alashiya, so I’ll roll a
d10 to determine where it lies politically, with a ten being independent. I rolled a 3, which brings it under the influence of Kirion.
Who or what is Xavius?
Dunno — yet. It does sound like a person’s name, though — perhaps a long-dead lord or wizard, or maybe it’s a deity, and the island is associated with their worship.
How big is the island?
Assuming those are 6-mile hexes, the island is about 66 miles wide by about 70 high. That gives a rough area of 280 square miles, minus the lakes — or just over twice the size of Malta.
How many people live there?
Looks sparsely populated to me — with marshland in the north and an arid wasteland in the south. I’ll assume a population density of
6d4x2 (I rolled 14) making the population approximately 7840 people.
Additionally, with a bit of number crunching using a Python script and a Markov chain algorithm, our main four towns are named and populated as follows:
That leaves the remaining 5,303 people living in the surrounding villages and farms or on the fringes of society as hunters, trappers, and outlaws. I haven’t decided which of the four marked towns is which — I’ll let the dice decide that in my session 0.
On to session 0
Well, that’s enough groundwork; I think I have a nice little sandbox for solo play. In session 0, I’ll introduce the ruleset I intend to use, create a character and generate a starting quest within the context of the setting I’ve just outlined.
I should note at this point, I’ll be playing out sessions on my companion site, Lonely Table Games — however, I’ll use ChrisRosser.net’s Ghost engine to send out newsletter updates. If you want to get updates, be sure to opt into the Lonely Table Games newsletter in your account settings (email preferences).