WorldAnvil Summer Camp – a month of world-building

Or “I made copper!”

As mentioned, July is world-building month at WorldAnvil – they run their “Summer Camp” with a set of prompts to inspire expanding your world in various ways. July was a very busy month in my alternate hobby persona, Scottish Country dancing (I was chair of an International Folk Dance Festival here in Edinburgh, hosting groups from Hoogstraten in Belgium and Pontevedra in Galicia, northern Spain for a long weekend of dancing together and performing around Edinburgh and in Stirling, then led a return visit to the Hoogstraten group’s festival). Despite this, I managed to complete eight prompts, earning a copper summer camp badge.

I found myself inspired by the prompts of unregulated wilderness and harsh conditions to explore the lands to the west of Darokin in and around the Sind Waste, along with Akesoli, the westernmost city of Darokin and often named as Akorros’s sister town.

Champions of Mystara - the Great Waste
Champions of Mystara – the Great Waste, reproduction map by Thorfinn Tait in his Atlas of Mystara

The Sind Waste was first described in X4 Master of the Desert Nomads, an Expert level BECMI module for 6-8 characters of level 6-9 with a total party level of around 50. This is part of a 2-part set with X5 Temple of Death, and sets the scene for X10 Red Arrow Black Shield – a world war using the War Machine rules from the Companion set. It was later expanded by Bruce Heard for Dragon Magazine in the articles which were collected as Champions of Mystara: Heroes of the Princess Ark .

My worldbuilding was added to my WorldAnvil site “Melestrua’s Mystara”.

Akesoli, gateway to the West – a settlement at the limits of the “known” or “civilised” world

I have written a lot about Akorros, the city on the east shore of Lake Amsorak, and I have written about the lake and the people on it, too. On the western side of the lake is another city, Akesoli, only a few miles from the western border of Darokin and the trail to the Kingdom of Sind and the vast deserts of the Sind Waste. I could see the campaign heading that way into the wastes, or at least using the goods which come in through Akesoli and the lake trade.

I had had ideas that it might help me develop the Spice Quarter of Akorros, since I have the idea that it was set up by the families trading in goods from the west, to avoid the import duties imposed by the Toney family of Akorros, but the prompts didn’t lend themselves to that.

The Sind Waste – an unclaimed, unregulated, lawless region Having developed Akesoli as the gateway to the west, the next thing to do was look at what was in the west. The Sind Waste is an overview of the whole region. This is based on the information in Champions of Mystara, extrapolated to describe the different trails through the region, the creatures and some of the other dangers that travellers will face.

Since Summer Camp expects at least 300 words of worldbuilding per article, and this quotes several sections of Champions of Mystara, I was careful to make sure that I added significantly of my own – in the end the 1500-word article contains more than 400 words of description from the map, and another 400 words of description of the animals and perils.

The Sind Desert Camel Caravan – a method used to carry goods over long distances

Having just described these massive trails across the harsh conditions of The Sind Waste, the next thing to look at was how traders travelled these trails. I was expecting to describe how wagon caravans survived the trails (and I may yet do), but I ended up looking into camel caravans and describing these.

The Salt Mines of Sind – a material or natural resource that comes from a dangerous location

I had already established that salt was an essential part of the economy of Akesoli, for preserving goods, and I saw the Nemkin Ylaka salt flats in the north of the kingdom of Sind. Salt mines are renowned for being places people are sent to over the years to be disposed of, and digging into it I found this was with good reason, as I described in this article.

The Khroun, the Sind Desert Windstorm – a destructive natural or supernatural event

What could be more devastating in these vast wastes than a windstorm? It picks up sand and stones, and abrades anything exposed. Part inspired by the years-long windstorm in Red Mars, part extrapolation and imagination, I explored what might be the consequences of strong winds in these harsh lands, and how to survive them.

The Sind Rains – a rare natural phenomenon that most people look forward to

Having just described the devastating and feared Khroun, it was nice to write about the complementary side of a natural event people look forward to. And in a desert, what is more appreciated than rain? There’s nothing in Champions of Mystara about this, other than to say there’s very little rainfall, so I was able to freely invent.

I started off thinking this might be a once-every-few-years event, but while working on it decided it was probably something that happened most years during a brief period, which sparks mad growth of plants determined to set seed before the devastating heat and drought returns.

The Elephants of Sind – an animal associated with, or symbolizing, power

Champions of Mystara talks about the elephant troops in the armies over the years of the history of Sind, and so that seemed an obvious animal to associate with power. They have physical power, and require significant resources for their upkeep, so only the affluent can afford them. It wasn’t specified in Champions of Mystara, but the rulers and caste system sounded quite autocratic, so I decided they could easily be reserved for royalty alone – particular a royalty wanting to prevent the chance of others being able to challenge them.

The Alehouse Drake – a species known for its mischievous personality

Nothing to do with Sind, and taking advantage of one of the optional non-themed prompts. The alehouse drake comes from Kobold Press’s Tome of Beasts, and there is one described as a regular in The Bluebell Inn from their setting Tales from the Old Margreve. I used that in the alternate world of Averoigne when we were playing through X2 Castle Amber, and had great fun with the mischievous Garryth, an inveterate matchmaker.

Writing this, I felt that introducing alehouse drakes into some of the pubs in Akorros might be a nice touch, so while I didn’t create any particular individuals in that article, I plan to develop some in the near future.

What’s the point of worldbuilding?

So, I’ve written these articles, and in previous years I have also developed Lake Amsorak, areas in Akorros, and corrupted wastes to the north. What’s the point? Is it worth it?

Tricky. In some ways, not many have been hugely useful for my play, so in that sense they’re possibly a waste of time. And I don’t know if the campaign will head in this direction. After all, I thought we would be heading north to the corrupted wastes of Ardelphia, and that hasn’t happened yet. But I have introduced the Darokin guards, and in particular the storm troops, and depending on where the campaign goes, other worldbuilding may become relevant.

If nothing else, it does give me more of a feel of my world, which allows me to improvise more freely and confidently.

Oh yes, and I got this certificate…

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