Master of Worlds starts off with a World Of Your Own. First off they make it clear they designed the specifics of the 5e rules to certain assumptions. However that these assumptions are meant to be altered and twisted to make the world that the referee wants his players to adventure in. This and other comment throughout the DMG reinforces the 5e mantra of DnD your way that Wizards been using since the announcement of 5th edition.
The assumptions they are using for the rules are
- Gods Oversee the World
- Much of the World is Untamed
- The World Is Ancient
- Conflict Shapes the World's History
- The World is Magical
The next section is titled It's Your World and goes on to explain various options and alternatives to the above assumption. There are references to examples from published D&D settings scattered throughout. Again the tone is that you can make the setting you want but if you don't you can use what been published.
Gods of your World is the next section and goes into the ins and outs of creating deities for your world. The default is something they call a Loose Pantheon which reflects how the deities of Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms and several other settings are setup. Then they get into alternatives like Tight Pantheons Mystery Cults, Monotheism, Dualism, Animism, and Forces and Philosophies. Then they write about Humanoids and the Gods.
I feel they did a bang up job with this section. It not GURPS Religion, however for the amount pages they devoted to the subject is a very good summary. I have one criticism, they should have put in a paragraph explicitly explaining as to why you would put any work into this area. The unstated assumption is that you are doing this to create interesting elements to use in your adventures but I feel they should made that more explicit.
Mapping your campaign is next section. It is pretty straightforward advice on how to use maps of different scales. They recommend 5 hexes per inch, with three different maps. Province Scale of 1 mile per hex, Kingdom Scale of 6 miles per hex, and Continent Scale of 60 miles per hex. And this leds up to the first aid I will present as part of my review. I created three hex maps in PDF, JPEG and SVG file format. Original to my version is a system of subdividing Continent Scale maps into Kingdom Scale, and Kingdom Scale maps into Province Scale. The PDF are layered so you can turn off the master hexes and sub grids.
The 5e Mapping System.
Next is a section on Settlements with comments on the settlements purpose, size, its atmosphere, government, Commerce, and Currency. Here we get our first random tables for government type and a table of sample titles. The Currency section is quite long and goes into how to make your own. One nice addition is the option of having trade bars for high value transactions. There is a 2 lb silver bar worth 10 gp, a 5 lb silver bar worth 25 gp, and a 5 lb gold bar with 250 gp.
Those of you who follow what I do with the Majestic Wilderlands know that I use a silver penny and a gold crown worth 320 silver. It good to see this option. Also this section has a illustration of different coin shapes and types. This is the first of the useful illustrations I was talking about earlier. You could photocopy this and use this a illustration in your own games.
Next Master of Worlds get into briefly different languages and Dialects followed by a longer section on Factions and Organizations. Those of you with the Lost Mine of Phandelver know that the Harpers, Order of the Gauntle, Emerald Enclave, Lords' Alliance, and Zhentarim are an important background element. Here the reason for having factions part of the background is expanded and explained.
As part of the faction system we get our first rules option, a renown system. Basically you do things and get renown points. The more renown points you have the better attitude you get from the organization, as well as rank and perks. There are no specifics other than a table of sample ranks so you will have to make up your own. One interesting part of this system is a section on reskinning it as piety and using it to track your favor with a particular deity or religion.
Magic in your world is the next section and talks about the various things you can have or not have as part of running a world with magic. It covers Restrictions on Magic, Schools of Magic, Teleportation Circles, Bringing back the Dead. One interesting wrinkle is that they explicitly state that a person can't be raised if his soul does not want to return.
The next major section is Creating a Campaign. It talks about Starting Small, Setting the Stage, Involving the Characters, and Creating a Background. I particularly like the part about setting the stage. It is my experience is that many campaigns fail because their players don't have any idea of what to do at first or that it start out with a uninteresting premise.
Campaign Events is the next section. Many of us who talk about sandbox campaigns call this World of Motion. The things you do to make it seem that the setting has an ongoing life. Starting with Putting Events in Motion, along with When Not to Shake Things Up. They get an A+ from me for that. Sometimes it is important to know when NOT to do something as it when to do something. Next they get into World Shaking Events along with a random table, and text discussing the options for each result. Many of these have subtables for your use. Good stuff here.
Next thing they talk about is Tracking Time with a focus on calenders and holidays for the setting. Then wraps up with options on ending a campaign.
Play Styles follows after Creating a Campaign. The section is OK, I think it is weak because the discussion focus on a binary scale. Hack and Slash versus Immersive Storytelling. To their credit there is a equally long discussion of a Something in Between.
Master of the World continues with Character Names. After that is the authors write about Continuing Episodic Campaigns, always something worth mentioning in my opinion. Then it talks briefly about Campaign Themes.
Then we get into Tiers of Play. Wizards divides the D&D 5e experience into four tiers.
Levels 1 to 4: Local Heroes
Levels 5 to 10: Heroes of the Realm
Levels 11 to 16: Masters of the Realm
Levels 17 to 20: Masters of the Worlds.
Each has two or three paragraph outlining the possibilities of adventure at each level. Next is the most useful part of this section, Starting at Higher Levels. They group it into the four tiers with three categories of campaigns; Low Magic, Standard, and High Magic. Each list the amount of gold the character has plus any magic items. It not meant to be simulation of the wealth to be expected at each tier. They clearly state it is a guide to help players get a character outfitted when joining in at a higher level.
The first chapter of Masters of the World concludes with a discussion of the different types of fantasy; Heroic Fantasy, Swords and Sorcery, Epic Fantasy, Mythic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Intrigue, Mystery, Swashbuckling, War, Wuxia, and finally mixing and matching in Crossing the Streams (nice Ghostbuster reference).
After Chapter 1 is Chapter 2 Creating a Multiverse. This section is more specific than Chapter 1. It more about describing 5e take on the traditional DnD cosmology than how to make your own multiverse. Because so much of it is a setting description I am not going to detail every subsection.
The chapter starts out explaining what are planes and why they are interesting for adventures.
They recommend that every DnD campaign have the following
- A plane of origin of fiends
- A plane of origin for celestials
- A plane of origin for elementals
- A place for deities
- The place where mortal spirits go after death.
- The way you get from one plane to another.
- The way for spells and monsters to use the Astral and Ethereal planes.
Then touches on some of the possibilities like the Great Wheel, The World Tree, the World Axis, and other alternatives.
Then they get into the nuts and bolts of Planar Travel. Giving a lot of details on Planar Portals and briefly talking about spells.
After this is pretty much a description of the DnD cosmology for 22 pages. This includes the Astral Plane, Ethereal Plane, Feywild, Shadowfell, Inner Planes, and The Outer Planes. Each places like the Plane of Air or Mount Celestia has a few paragraphs highlighting points of interests and specifics.
Overall this section is pretty solid and I think a better presentation than ADnD 1st. You are not getting the Planescape boxed set here but it is more than just a list of planes with a sentence or two. This part of the book is 22 pages of adventure seeds and ideas you can use in your campaigns. I think lot of people, particularly novices, will get a lot of use out of this.
This wraps up Part 1 Master of Worlds. The Next post is on Master of Adventures.