Locations

Overview

The world of your campaign is, most likely, full of places to go and explore. Even if you don't map out the globe of your planet, there are going to be places where adventure lurks: dangerous dungeons, bustling cities, and expansive wildernesses. All of these things are locations in FFZ: places where encounters happen.

You can imagine locations as being sites on the world map: a specific forest, or a specific town, or a specific mountain range. The world map and the trails between these locations are mostly unimportant. There may be some encounters, but generally, you don't pay attention to every step of the journey. You just tune in when the interesting parts are reached. The travel between locations can be glossed over in dialogue: "Three months pass," or "Your caravan travels for twelve days to reach your destination." Locations are where the main action takes place.

Designing Locations

You do not need a globe filled with interesting locations for your campaign. The FF games themselves range from using entire globes, to single continents, or even small areas of larger globes (such as in the Ivalice games). You might re-visit other areas of the setting in future campaigns, but for the campaign in front of you, it is useful to think of using one location per adventure. You may use more than this (certain adventures may take you over several locations), or you may use fewer (certain adventures may re-visit old locations), but this "Twelve Site" rule is a good baseline, giving you variety, without being overwhelming. Given that FFZ characters often have access to fairly simple long-distance travel, the twelve sites can be virtually anything.

You can design these twelve locations all before the game begins, or you can design them as you go, creating new locations as your party undertakes adventures there. In order to keep the world realistic, it is important that you think about the world in terms of things your characters will never see, as well as in terms of the things they do witness. It is enough to reference a far-away "desert land," without giving much more detail, if the PC's never go there. Don't be afraid to introduce exotic far-off locales and interesting parts of the world that won't get explored in the campaign, but don't spend much time on them, either. Knowing they're there, and having three big qualities, will get you through most of these references.

For the places your characters actually visit, some more extensive design is necessary, but the strokes are still fairly broad and abstract.

Town or Dungeon?

Locations fit into two big concepts, depending on their level of danger: they are either a town, where the main interaction is social, or a dungeon, where the main interaction is violent. Dungeons are dangerous places (even if they're completely above the ground — a forest or a desert can be a "dungeon" just as easily as a cave or ruin), while towns are civilized centers of commerce.

Dungeons can have areas that are civilized within them, just as towns can have dangerous regions, but the dichotomy is a useful game construct. Generally, a town serves as a resting spot, where PC's can rest and recover and purchase items in between dungeons, which are a greater challenge for survival. In general, towns should follow dungeons, and then be followed by dungeons, to keep the pace comfortable. They can either do this linearly, along a path, or cyclically, with a hub.

A linear path takes the PC's through the dungeon in between two towns, and then sends them onto the next town. Each town is there to rest and refuel, but it doesn't need a lot of individual detail.

A cyclical path treats one big town as the central location, with dungeons all around it. The PC's go into the dungeon, then return to the town.

It is possible to alternate and combine these methods, so that there are hubs along a linear path, or multiple lines tracing away from the various hubs. Perhaps you spend an adventure at a hub, going out into dungeons, but then move onto the next adventure in the new town, passing linearly toward it through a dungeon.

Location Archetype

Locations, like characters, have overriding themes that tie them together: an archetype that makes them interesting and relevant to the game being played. It's easy enough to find inspiration here, just as it is for a character: you can take places in myth and in the real world as a launching point. These might be fairly broad: you might have "the desert," and have battlefields of shifting dunes and difficult Exploration challenges to find water. These might be kind of specific: take a look at the UNESCO World Heritage Sites for some ideas that you could almost rip fully-formed from the real world.

One thing to note about location archetype is that, if possible, you should tie it into the campaign theme. Having a campaign that is Nature vs. Technology means having locations that emphasize that conflict: power plants, mines, technological wonder-cities, rural polluted backwaters, viscious places of natural disaster, and verdant sylvan glades all should get a place.

The location archetype should be fairly broad to begin with, and, as adventures take place there (or near there), it can gain some depth.

Location Details

While a character is revealed through their actions and choices, a location is revealed through its sensory input. Physical sensations such as smells, sounds, specific description of the sights, the tastes of some of the local foods, or just the air itself. What the weather feels like; what the terrain feels like, etc. You can also add to the history of the region — was the desert always a desert, or was it once lush? What civilizations lived here in long-ago times (and what ruins may they have left)? What might happen to the region in the near future, especially if the villain isn't stopped?

Because we're relying on words rather than graphics to get the description done, you should keep a few distinctive traits in mind, and repeatedly mention them. Like with characters, when in-play, repetition is more important than all-encompassing detail.

Once you have an idea of the look, sound, and taste of the location, you should come to the mechanics of the location: terrain, battlefield, and inhabitants.

In a town, these are fairly simple: the terrain is likely Gravity (the element of the urban environment — perhaps with an additional element or two if the landscape has an effect), the battlefields are mostly for social encounters, and the inhabitants are the townsfolk — people, perhaps of varying tribe and job, who will do business with you.

In a dungeon, these are more varied. The terrain might be anything, the battlefields are mostly for combat encounters (but also for exploration encounters, and trap encountes, and social encounters), and the inhabitants are monsters.

Location Function

Because FFZ is a very narrative game, it is important not to just have a location sitting there, taking up brainspace. They type of location you choose (land, town, dungeon, battlefield, or world) goes a long way to telling you what your location will do in the course of the game. You will be spending more time within bigger locations, so over the course of your campaign, your World will recieve a lot of attention. Invididual Battlefields, however, come and go very frequently. With things you're spending time with, you shouldn't be afraid to think about in detail. However, the more transient things can be left fairly abstract, but distinctive — it's key to have a breadth of experiences, but no experience needs to be particularly deep. It's OK if a dungeon just exists for the PC's to go into and grab the MacGuffin (with minimal surrounding explanation) but the World should feel like it has a dimension aside from the PC's and their current pursuit of the villain.

Within the story, the location should enhance the point of the adventure, which should reinforce the campaign's themes. If you're having an adventure to guard a caravan in a campaign about love, perhaps the caravan passes through a desolate, lonely plain, where they miss their friends and family back home.

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