So I'm one of those GMs who actually does NOT like building entire campaign worlds. I started doing it, though, recently. Why? Well, after a long hiatus (called grad coursework in social theory) I have come back to reading fantasy novels. Every few chapters, I run to a computer with a neat idea that should go into a D&D game. Why D&D? Because when you design a game for it, it works. GMs who know what they're getting into with D&D tend to design adventures and campaigns that are compatible with the rules-heavy and highly war-gamey aspects of the system. That means, though it's not my favorite system, I can still enjoy it for what it's good at. What that is is epic stories with lots of detailed, tactical combat; a near-obsession with magic items and treasure to the point where the system is balanced based on them; and long-term, class/level-based character development.
So I built this idea for a campaign out of a few game-design concepts I've had for a while (pre return to fantasy reading).
1) Organic history. The game world's legends and lore are populated by actually writing the legends out for the characters with appropriate abilities/interests. To make this work more interesting, and, in fact, do-able for someone like me, these legends will be created BEFORE the campaign starts, as one-shots and single adventures (2-5 session games) with pre-generated characters of appropriate level for the challenge. Ideal for cons, sessions where the regular GM is out of town, random one-shot nights, and so forth. Copious notes will be taken, and the story of what happens will be turned into a legend for people later in the world's chronology to read. I may even edit a more fantastic version filled with errors, so people can get access to some of the lore at lower levels, and then find more details (and the truth) when they get higher level or gain access to sealed library vaults or whatnot. This was inspired by playing ES3: Morrowind, where the main plot revolves around finding out about these legendary adventurers of an age ago, who became gods. As you progress in Morrowind, you hear more about their exploits, and get more secret information, from more and more trustworthy sources.
2) The gods are all jerks. Now, in D&D it's true that the Gods are often fickle and involved in Greater Things. This is not the same. I want to run a game set in a world whose gods are like the Greek pantheon. Specifically, cruel and petty. They do not NEED worshippers, but they like their offerings, and if you don't pay up, you get screwed. In D&D terms the Gods would be evil, but not "Bwahahaha I shall destroy the WORLD lolz!1!" evil -- just petty, selfish bastards. The humans only worship them because 1) the humans are weak, and 2) the Gods keep the Titans at bay. Well, the Titans will be something else (a kind of demon) in this game, and they'll have their own worshippes. The "core" campaign, after all the one-shots and short adventures are through, would be the epic quest to depose the gods. This was also sort of inspired by Morrowind, but more by a history channel thing on Greek gods and the titans.
3) Magic has dangerous consequences. Magic comes from a few different sources. Magical energy in the world comes from the Gods, from the Demons they hold back, and from raw Elemental energy. Some spells - divination school spells - come from your own magical energy. Each has its hazards. Instead of just being a simple matter of memorizing and casting spells, depending on your class and method of casting spells, you suffer additional ill effects. I have some details in my head: Divination spells are the least hazardous. Arcane magic other than divination would channel a mix of God and Demon power, leaving the caster psychologically affected (made worse by more frequent and higher-level spells cast). This is somewhat based on the plethora of other RPGs where magic has dangerous consequences. It seems like D&D is one of the few games where sadly there's no risk involved in magic other than the fact that your hit die is smaller.
Anyway, I'm not here to talk up my game idea. I'm interested in CHEATING. I want to adapt these three ideas to a D&D game world I'm in control of. That leaves me with these options (and maybe more - if you have ideas):
A) Write my own campaign world. A lot of you guys just do this all the time for fun. I, on the other hand, do not particularly enjoy the process. I tend to run modern day or cyberpunk games set in the USA (where I live) of the recent past, now or soon.
B) Adapt a pre-generated world, like Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, or Krynn. This has some problems. Greyhawk is the best choice, because it's intentionally generic. But still, how many books do I need to buy? What am I going to have to change? How drastic will it get? Townsville is based around a shrine to Goody-Two-Shoes, the Lawful Good God of Healing and the Sun. Yeah, bye bye Townsville.
C) Use the notes of someone else who's created a similar world, or at least a world where the neat sci-fi gimicks don't clash with the ones I'm intending to use. This means you guys. If any of you have run a game in a self-made world, maybe it would be of help to adapt it. But odds are your world doesn't mesh that well with my game design concepts; it was probably built for YOUR game-design concepts.
D) Give away my three game-design concepts on this LJ, then hope one of you people that makes D&D campaign worlds for fun really digs them and makes a campaign world using them (mixed with a huge pile of their own ideas, of course). Really, that would rock, and it would help BOTH of us! It's a longshot, but why the heck not!
If you've tried A or B, I'm interested in your advice. If you're down with C or D, reply here or IM me at the AIM name in my profile.