The Creation of Dark Earth – Part 1

Urtur and Dark Earth… Those are my two main campaigns. I want to tell you how Dark Earth came to be. How world building started for me.

Dark Earth… The name might betray that I came up with it at an early age. I think I was about 13 or 14 when I started that campaign and ‘Dark Earth’ sounded kind of cool. I didn’t know why it was called that at the time. It was just so mysterious! A month or so after I had named my campaign, there was a computer game and a board game with the same name in the stores. Had I seen these names previously or was it just coincidence? I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter. The name was there and I liked it. All the other games were named after mine.

I created Dark Earth to start my very first adventure in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons this-is-not-the-third-edition game. I needed a location for my heroes to start from and I wanted to create my own world for this purpose. I had very little confidence in campaign settings at that time… And no money, really. And so, Dark Earth came into existence.

So, how did I start filling in this ‘Dark Earth’? I first drew up a western coastline, which soon became the western shore of a country called Troy. The name of this country sounded something like the word ‘three’, and so two additional countries came into existence. These were Une and Deux. Along that same coastline, there was an island which I called Twindordeux, which was my own little joke because in my mind it still meant ‘one’. Or, rather, ‘two divided by two’, combining several languages to make this o so funny joke possible. The coastline was slightly curved and I remember that I was a bit annoyed by how much it looked like the western coast of the Netherlands. Then, I placed some triangular mountain symbols somewhere along the coast and voila ! I had made a start at my campaign! Now, how to proceed from there?

I placed a city on the coastline and called it Sea Harbour… Apparently there was a harbour there which had ships coming in from the seaside. That was quite logical, because the city was also build next to a river, which I called ‘the Rotte’. I went to school in Rotterdam at that time in my life, and I had heard somewhere that Rotterdam was once called Aan de Rotte, which translates to Next to the Rotte, with ‘Rotte’ being the name of a river. So, I took the name of that river, or stream, and named a river in my campaign after it. Sea Harbour got the function of a trade city, with sea and river ships arriving at all times, unloading and loading their precious cargo and turning back from whence they came afterwards. Be it river or sea.

However, I might have been a bit lazy at that time. I didn’t want to draw up a whole city to start my planned adventure for my very first second edition party. So I decided there should be a village a bit more land inwards. The name of the village was, of course, Aan de Rotte, which is quite funny because my campaign had an English set-up. Rotte sounds cool in nearly any language, but Aan de Rotte is pretty specific. Aan de Rotte was quite a small village, but it was on a trade route which ran from the northern capital city, called Triangulus, to a city which was then called Gul’Dan, named after, I think it was a city, in Warcraft II. Because of its location, the village thrived. It was a village with large, rural houses which were well maintained, in a landscape of rolling hills. Boats passed by at a regular pace and trade was good. And, of course, there was the imposing statue of a wizard in the central square. The seed of my very first adventure! More about that statue later on.

So, what would one find in a thriving little village like Aan de Rotte? First of all, an Inn! Second of all, a person of renown. This person was Shimrod, named after my very first elf in de Dutch Dungeons and Dragons basic box, one of the few things from D&D ever to be published in the Dutch language. I had decided that Shimrod came from the island of Twindordeux, which was an island inhabited by elves. No history was attached to the island at this point in my creation of Dark Earth, but none was necessary yet either.

So, one of my players was writing his background. His character was living in a forest as a child when this Dark Knight came and killed his parents. He managed, somehow, to escape and found his way out of this forest. And indeed, he found his way to Aan de Rotte, where he was tutored by Shimrod in the ways of a ranger. More importantly, there was now a Dark Knight walking about in my campaign, and a forest should be close by too. So, in the east, at some days travel from Aan de Rotte, the Big Troy Forest was placed and at the time of the killing of Rafael’s parents (that was the character’s name), a war was being waged by this Dark Knight, which had his forces hiding somewhere in this forest. These were mostly undead, I decided. Some drama was starting to seep into my campaign!

I now had enough information to start my very first adventure. I had a map of the west coast, not nearly done, of a country called Troy, I had a map of the village called Aan de Rotte, and I had some drama in the surroundings of Aan de Rotte. A war had raged there, 8 years ago… but it hadn’t touched the village of Aan de Rotte itself, because that village was under the control of a powerful wizard. This wizard had placed a statue in the village, which generated a field of magic which calmed the emotions of the nearby inhabitants and made trade prosper. This is why Aan de Rotte was such a prospering village. However. Every 50 years or so, a door would open in the base of the statue and if none went inside, the Statute would destroy everything around it. This had happened 50 years ago and the villagers weren’t planning on letting it ever happen again. So, as the three adventurers were drinking their drinks in the local in, the statue opened once more. And they went in, for adventure beckoned them to do so.

Here ends the first session of how I started creating my Dark Earth campaign. The adventurers were zapped away through a teleportation well at the bottom of a chamber under the statue. They were never heard from again and, basically, the adventure wasn’t that good. Well, it was my first and I had overstretched myself by far. Next time would be better… And it was! I’ll continue my world building in the next chapter. If you have any questions as of yet, please ask me.

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