Saturday, March 4, 2017

Reaver's Reef: An Experiment

So, I'm building a city to serve as an adventure springboard for a Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign, and when it comes to DCC my attitude is to be as over the top as possible. I've always liked the idea of a castle built from the skull of a dragon. But then I thought to myself, "No, let's go bigger."

So I came up with Reaver's Reef.

Reaver's Reef was created when a massive dragon crashed into the sea. Some say it fell from the stars. Some say it fell through ten thousand realities before crashing on this world. Others say Hell itself spat the beast up because it was too vile. When the dragon fell into the ocean waters, the seas began to boil and hurricanes formed around it. This lasted for days, weeks, or even years - depending on who you ask. When the seas calmed and the cloud parted all that remained were the creature's bones. A great, gaping maw. Sea water ran over the jaw bone, crashing against the towered fangs.

It was eventually discovered and explored by pirates, who began to use it as a cache to hide their plunder. The fear and superstition surrounding Reaver's Reef kept honest seamen and merchants from coming near. As more pirates came to the Reef, there were skirmishes between warring fleets and feuding captains. Eventually the worst came to pass: Laws were established and order began to take hold.

Fast-forward several hundred years and you've got a bustling city. Streets and stairs are carved into the great beast's bones. Its teeth have been turned into wizards' towers and multi-floor marketplaces. Rope and wood ladders criss-cross the city at various points. At its center is a massive harbor with all manner of trading vessels coming and going.

Now, I think this is freakin' cool. But, I don't really feel like establishing much more about Reaver's Reef. Its a bustling trade port out in the middle of a massive ocean. It's got all manner of seedy residents and transient ne'er-do-wells. That's really about it. I imagine there are all kinds of factions running around. From cults who worship the long-dead dragon-beast whose corpse serves as home, to pirate gangs, to mercenary companies, to some form of government. But, to be frank, I don't feel like fleshing the thing out.

So, I had the idea of intentionally leaving the details of the Reef as pretty much a blank slate. Make a map, but don't detail it. Instead, fill it out as the campaign unfolds. Base what's in Reaver's Reef on the actions of my players and their desires in the campaign.

Has anyone else tried this method of location "construction," and if so what were your results? I've never done it like this before and it makes me a little nervous, so I'm looking to the OSR community for their insight.

Thanks in advance, and watch your back. I hear the Fang Pirates have taken hold of the western docks and are press-ganging unwary fools into service...


  1. The best games I ever ran worked this way: a premise, a location or two, a couple of NPCs ... and then just grew from there, leveraging the creativity of everyone at the table.

    I expect you have an amazing journey ahead of you. Good luck, and always carry with you this phial of scrapings from the 49th Rib, guaranteed to bring good luck and ward off The Bilge. (No charge. This time.)

  2. I almost always build my setting from the bottom upwards, partly because I never know which campaign will last long enough to justify the work I could put into world-building, and partly because I like leaving myself some wiggle room for improvisation (my best ideas come mid-game, prompted by the questions and actions of my players).

  3. This is my preferred method of campaign creation, making a framework and then filling it in as the campaign progresses. The balancing act for me has always been making sure I have enough framework to portray the area with consistency but without putting too much detail in--that may never get used--or restricting my ability to add in new stuff later.


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