Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Origin of My Sandbox Fantasy

When I was in elementary school in the 70's I read constantly about everything. By 6th grade I had read over 2/3rd of the books in our school library and nearly all of the fiction. My greatest interest was maps. I loved maps. History was a close second. In addition to all the cool historical stories and I got even more maps of times and places of the past.

I started playing AD&D seriously in the fall of 1979 just after the DM's Guide was released. My mother was a elementary school teacher and did a lot of craft projects for her kids. She had a stock of 1/2 inch graph papers that I thought would be perfect for mapping a world like the one in the back of the Lord of the Rings. You see while I love the map of Middle Earth it wasn't enough. I wanted to know what was in all those white spaces. I wanted maps like the shire map for Nurn, Rohan, Dale, and so on.

AD&D gave me the incentive because after I was done I can use the result as a DM!. In addition to the graph paper I also got a hold of a white 24" by 36" pasteboard. On it I drew my Middle Earth. It had a Gondor and a Rohan but I didn't trace over Tolkein's Middle Earth. I made my own original land.

I just read a book on cartography along with a chapter on scaling. So I took that giant posterboard and scribed a grid the same proportion as the graph paper I was using. I then cut the board up into two dozen or so rectangles. Understand this was around 1980. Pre-computer as far as any graphic arts goes. Using those rectangles I started transcribing them onto sheets of graphic paper fleshing the details of each region. I believe each 1/2 square equaled 10 miles.

Sadly all of this was lost, the only remains is a second pasteboard on which I recreated some of the original big map.

This was my campaign for a year. It was really was not that interesting as it served as little more than a backdrop for connecting Keep on the Borderlands and other early modules. The setting detail was derivative of the Lord of the Rings.

When I saw the advertisement for the Greyhawk Folio I knew I had to have it. Late in 1980 I was able to get a copy and it promptly became my main campaign.

And I hated running it. Don't get me wrong I loved reading it. I loved the product itself.

Remember I wanted to know more about the white area in Middle Earths and I wound up detailing my first setting to the 10 mile level. Well Greyhawk had the howling emptiness of the 30 mile Hex. Not only that it had thousands of these hexes. I found out trying to detail all that was a LOT of work.

I ran one campaign and it was a success. However I was unhappy at the amount of prep work I was doing. Granted if I was more experienced I probably could have worked around it. But what did I know? I was just entering High School.

One day I want down to State Street Model (my FLGS at the time) and there was a product called Wilderlands of High Fantasy. Containing 3 judges map (2 double sided) and 3 players maps (ditto) and book that had nearly every hex DETAILED! Then there was City-State which was completely detailed on a city level. Needless to say I bought everything on the Wilderlands I could afford and never looked back.

1 comment:

Nick said...

Awesome stuff. Back in grade school I would read all the time, since I had plenty of free time in class between work but wasn't really allowed to do anything else.

Sadly, since I've entered college my reading for pleasure has greatly dropped off while playing video games has boomed. That hasn't stopped me from picking up a lot of interesting books from a local bookstore, and I hope one day I'll be able to start really sinking my teeth into them.