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Hi there. This is the spot where I talk about the making of Avo and thoughts about that. It will be updated frequently, I presume.

I've been playing or invested in D&D since I was a kid. I briefly played in a 2e game my oldest brother ran a few sessions of, and then afterwards he gave me his 2e core books, which I still have. I read them a lot when I was younger.

Later, I got involved with 3.5e some time after it came out. (The 2000s are hazy for me.) I was playing that and White Wolf games, mainly Vampire with a bit of Mage, Mummy, and Exalted. This was with my first ever girlfriend and her group of extremely nerdy friends. They lived in a small, bungalow style house and I distinctly remember the mountain of Domino's Pizza boxes stacked up in the kitchen.

Tirea

The first campaign setting I ever made was out of necessity. Basically, I was broke and couldn't afford to buy more than just the core D&D books, so I had to make up my own adventures. It was 2004, and the world was called Tirea. The world consisted of four maps, all of whom were drawn on good ol' MS Paint:

Anatokos
Bonserio
Dorato Zota
Mitheker

I have folders for four different games:

  • Commoners -- I was obsessed with the NPC class stat blocks in 3.5. Basically, they had five different classes that weren't supposed to be used by players: Adept, Aristocrat, Commoner, Expert, and Warrior. I don't think this game ever got off the ground, but I did reuse it in Peasant's Quest, which I'll talk about later.
  • Dungeon Romp -- This one barely got off the ground. There were two characters: my girlfriend's character, and a Shield Guardian that protected her. It was meant to be a classic dungeon crawl and I think we got through two or three floors before, as always, life happened.
  • Fishergirl -- This I believe was also a "peasant" type game that never got started. I liked the idea of starting in a small village where every single NPC was known to the player, so I fleshed out a hamlet called Bardsong with names and geneologies of every character. It was ridiculous and we never even played it!
  • Superhero -- Meant to be set in a town where old adventurers go to retire. Never got off the ground.

A lot of ideas I've used again and again sprouted from this world. My first creation myth, where a god creates a "humanoid" being and the other gods, jealous, rip the humanoid apart, creating the various races of D&D, started here. (I'm proud of that myth.) I actually have a ton of notes on this that I may codify in this very wiki someday!

The mythos of Tirea was interesting but the world itself was fairly boring, medieval western fantasy stuff.

The Lost Light

World Map of Khalin.

My first girlfriend and I broke up in 2005 (it was my fault) and I didn't really look at D&D that much until I moved to Portland in 2008, at which point I discovered that my friends there wanted to play D&D. So I made a new world, called Khalin, for a setting I called The Lost Light. We also used the new D&D 4th edition for this world, which was very cool. We played this around 2009-2010. The world map was drawn on MS Paint and also using some program that made the little squiggly lines for map making. I just filled in everything else myself. I'm damn proud of this map by the way; I think it still looks great.

Khalin is a world where the gods are dead and divine magic is nonexistent. The landscape is mostly barren, and undead hordes roam nearly everywhere. (Fourth edition embraced the "points of light" concept of gameplay, where civilization were the points of light amid the greater darkness.) The party were living in the Temple of the Light, one of the few bastions of divine power within Khalin. They were tasked by a deva (a playable race in 4e!) to get some orbs or something, I can't remember.

My players liked this world a lot, and it was one of the first times (maybe even the first) where I heard positive validation for the setting and the game itself. It's not that my previous stuff was terrible, it just was, perhaps, a bit too bland. For some reason, this game stuck. We played for a bit and then life happened, but we tried to resurrect the game not once, but twice in later years, including a very brief sojourn into 5e territory.

Khalin doesn't factor into Avo at all. I think a few concepts from it I've taken and peppered throughout it, but the setting was unique enough that I left it alone. (Also I forgot that this was a history of the making of Avo; deal with it.) In my current multiversal concept, I think Khalin came into existence in an alternate universe where the gods lost during the Divine Wrath.

Proto-Deneshae

In the middle of 2012 I began tinkering around with a world called Deneshae, which was meant to be a primitive world of elves, gnomes, and humans. It was meant to be for a "first age" type of game, lots of restrictions and limitations and whatnot, but I never actually made a game out of it at the time. You will notice on these maps however (also made on MS Paint, mind you) that I committed a CARDINAL SIN of worldbuilding, which is making rivers split in two instead of merge into one. (Rivers almost never split; instead, several smaller rivers merge into one big one. When in doubt, remember: water is lazy as hell.)

First map of Deneshae.

The idea is that this area was mainly human controlled, and that the primitive humans had never progressed past these points. The "South Sea" was actually a big lake, and beyond it were the elves, and the two races would occasionally spot each other on islands on the lake.

Second map of Deneshae.

Meanwhile, gnomes live on the beaches. I like the idea of beach gnomes; gnomes seem so chill to me, why wouldn't they be hanging out on the beach?

This area became southwest Deneshae in Avo, with the South Sea being Lake Patirar. Almost everything from this original concept remains in Avo, including the primitive races and Beach Gnomes. Even the Storm Sea was turned into the Great Fog.

Lots of things from this concept made it into Avo. Ama Shuya, the titan goddesses Qualyn, Imaeatin, and Sqeatu, their locations within Deneshae (the Storm Sands, Imaeatin living in the forest, Qualyn being inside the "Tree of Being" in Ama Shuya). There are also a lot of things that haven't made it into the setting, but probably will -- namely, the alternate creation myth concepts that the primitive beings there would have and some extra gods who are very likely also just titans.

The best thing that came out of Deneshae, however -- the game of crashball -- didn't exist in this original version.

Valwyr

My first map of Valwyr.

Also in 2012, my friends and I were all eager to play D&D again, and so I set about making a new world, which I called Valwyr. The map, of course, is MS Paint, but I think at this point I had Windows 7 and MS Paint prettified their color palette. You'll notice that almost everything on this map is on the Avo map, with a few exceptions, like Anor being green in this map when it's colder and more snowy in the Avo map due to its northern proximity. Also the Morkorai Glacier, which doesn't exist in the Avo map. (Canonically, Valwyr's magical acumen is so strong that the wizards of the area have artificially altered the weather, pushing the cold away as best they can.) When I first made this map I was like, "Hey, this looks kind of like a guy with a bouffant looking at himself in a mirror," so I named the "jaw" part of him the Jawbone Plains. For Avo I was like "I don't want Valwyr to look like a man with a bouffant looking at himself in a mirror," so I adjusted some things and didn't call it the Jawbone Plains.

My thought process with this map was to NOT make another world map. Just a map of what, at the time, I thought was a few islands. I think in my head originally this land mass was much, much smaller than the Avo map.

A terribly MS Paint depiction of Valwyria, the capital of Valwyr.
Landon, Nate, and Josh playing D&D at the old house on 79th.

We played this one with 3.5e because we were all brainwashed into thinking 4e was bad by the teeming masses of Reddit nerds. We also ended up playing two separate games in this world. Our first game was a typical adventurer jaunt: two half-orcs, a barbarian named Herman and a cleric named Krobb; a dwarf named Calrissian; and a sorcerer named Myrtha. I think we played maybe half a dozen sessions, I can't quite remember. Calrissian was an alcoholic and required booze in order to function. I don't remember who played Herman but he was killed pretty early on. It, and most games during this time, were sloppy. The players were sloppy, I was sloppy. People didn't think of D&D as some collaborative storytelling game back then like they do now. I had a "story," sure, but it was secondary to combat and getting into shenanigans. We would often drink and yell and, you know, be sloppy. (Yes, I'm aware that this type of gameplay exists today as well.)

Some early grid maps on graph paper. The upper left is the Grumbling Pot, where the Peasants took on some rats (#FirstLevelProblems). The bigger area, I'm not sure about.

That game fizzled out fairly quickly, but then a few months later in 2013 we picked it back up. Same world, except this time: PEASANT QUEST.

Everyone picked an NPC class and I started a game that I really wish we could've kept going, as it ended up setting up a lot of important lore for Valwyr, including this "projected gods" concept that the Valwyrans dealt with late in history. The players were peasants who all had a shared dream of each person being an epic, superhero-type person being slowly petrified. (These were the Ruenat, of which Zartax the wizard was one.) The party was tasked with the impossible: going to go save them. Canonically they did, though who knows what would've happened if we actually kept that game going.

This was also, I believe, the first campaign I ever ran using Obsidian Portal. That site fundamentally changed how I ran D&D: gone were paper and pen, instead replaced with laptops. TTRPG gaming was now electronic. I loved the site, even though it had a ton of flaws. I still have an account there, which is helping my reference this stuff.

Overall I think Valwyr is a decent place. There is a running political concept of East Anor, where a large portion of humans live and have a particular national identity. Not a xenophobic one, just one where humans are proud to be humans. Unfortunately, since we didn't game for long with ether campaign, there wasn't much to flesh out. The history of Prince Gallea attacking Hellmouth was incorporated into Avo, through Iro, which I'll get into in a second. There are some interesting locales in Valwyr but nothing too wild. Valwyr has always been the most "fantasy neutral" of the Avonian realms, due in part to its strong adherence to magic. Magic is the vinegar of Valwyr -- it keeps things stable.

Modur

Once again, bored friends come together to play D&D. This time it was 2014 and I designed the island nation of Modur. This was the first game I ran on Roll20! Another service which revolutionized playing TTRPGs. We were all in one house, but Roll20 meant I didn't have to draw up a battle map with markers and a big awkward roll mat. Loved it. (Still do!) Another CARDINAL SIN of splitting rivers here. Big cringe time for me looking at it eight years later. I'm also not a huge fan of the names I came up with for this place. I'm not sure why, they just feel like ... not the names. You know? They look like the wrong names for this place.

The original map of Modur.

This campaign used 3.5e (5e was right around the corner though) and only a handful of sessions, about 7 or 8, and ended abruptly I think because one of my players was getting absolutely piss drunk during the sessions, which is a huge red flag for me. Even one session, if you're drunk off your ass, you're out of my game.

The players were folk trying to restart the empty adventuring guild in Fallsword by doing job board jobs. That's really about it. The guild was left empty by the former adventurers taking off to chase after Zartax the Wizard, who had arrived a couple months earlier and dug a big ass hole in the city. The hole had fire in it and bad stuff was coming out, like demons and shit. The adventurers chase him off and our heroes decided to take over while they were gone.

This game also had a "phasing" issue where people would phase in and out of existence randomly. This was a thing I made up to justify people not being able to attend games; their character just phased out. I suppose now it was just a reaction to whatever Zartax was doing. It is not present currently in Avo.

Principality map of Modur.

Modur's history was largely incorporated into Avo. In fact, the continent of Dorian is referenced in my original wiki on Obsidian Portal as the primary political antagonist (imperial antagonist at least), i.e. the ones who discovered and conquered the island. When I first made Modur, I made a separate map of the different principalities of the island, with one of those being the Elven Territories. I was dabbling with imperialism and reaction to imperialism here, though within this particular game, I didn't think about the indigenous elves' reaction to this imperialism as much as I should have. In my notes I said that the Elven Territories were basically an inverse Northern Ireland situation (as in, those territories were free and the rest were Dorian's/England's), and there was some inkling as to the indigenous elves' reaction to being conquered, but it wasn't really "dealt with" until Avo came along, with hundreds of years of time for me to figure out how the Moduri fought back.

A poorly made map of Fallsword.

With Avo, I swapped the discovery to Iro, mainly because it fits with the later era Irolean imperialist advances, such as Prince Gallea's push into Valwyr. The Iroleans were never good at expansion since they always had internal wars going on, which spread their forces thin. But Irolean sailors, attempting to reach islands in Yonavi, were pushed off course by a strong storm, and a few weeks later happened upon Modur. After that, everyone was interested in the island, but all except Iro pulled away when they realized indigenous elves lives there. In my original notes, it was a brutal six year war between the nations of Avo for control of the island; my later revision was that only Iro got it and ruled the island for 461 years before the Moduri were finally able to expel them and rule themselves.

The major port city of Modur was Fallsword, so named for a rock formation that looked like a sword sticking out of the ground. Fallsword is where Zartax the Wizard dug a big ass hole with a fire in it, and then left. No one knows why he did that. Not even me, honestly. Something to do with trying to get rid of the Great Fog, which is likely what caused the mysterious phasing in and out of existence. (If I remember correctly, the phasing actually was some kind of plane shift effect, so when players returned from being gone, I got to tell them where they went for that week.)

Another game occurred in this space: the much-later-in-history C-Team game, which only lasted a couple of sessions, but keyed into the whole Redfang Guild era of games. Had some interesting stuff planned there but it fizzled. Oh well.

Also, post Divine Wrath it was revealed that Modur is actually a giant floating city. But that's a tale for another time.

Life, as always, ultimately got in the way games after this, as our landlord sold the house were living in and kicked us out. Spread to the four winds, I took up residence in East Portland (very East Portland) and there were no games had for almost three years...

Iro

One of the first maps of Phynsia for the Krosven Steppe campaign.

In 2017 I somehow wrangled together a whole new group of folks (well, except Nate, he wasn't new) to play a new campaign I called The Krosven Steppe, using the relatively new fifth edition core books. We played on my floor around my coffee table in my new apartment, as I didn't have enough chairs at the time.

A caravan traveling through the newly discovered land known as Phynsia stops and basically creates the seed of the town of Springvale. Adventurer mercenaries traveling with them left to do something (I don't remember what) and haven't returned, and our heroes have to take care of stuff while they're gone.

This game lasted four sessions, which stretched over four months. Remember D&D before the pandemic? Scheduling was a nightmare for this one. But from a worldbuilding perspective, almost everything from this game made it into Avo. This was also my first time using Inkarnate, which was a godsend. It's hilarious how I went from MS Paint to Inkarnate. It's like going from a ukulele to a pipe organ.

Like Modur, this is one of those games that went nowhere but shaped a huge portion of the Avonian world and lore. My concept of the Titans was established in this game. (To be fair, it wasn't my first time using titans in my writing though.) The Old Gods creation myth is also fairly true to the modern Avo creation myth. Wending trees, Dakorun orcs, the Sundering of Leopha, they were all in my original notes. One of the big changes was the two old nations of elves and men were Eora and Valden, respectively. But then I realized that I stole Eora from Pillars of Eternity, so I changed it to Yoren.

Iro also presented the biggest problem I had in creating Avo: Phynsia is west over the mountains, and the Iroleans had never seen it before. But in the map of Avo, it's really just a matter of sailing around the north. So why wasn't it discovered by Iro until now?

An old political map of Phynsia.

My answer is mostly "the desert." The Obsidian Sea (Khaosar) covers the north of Phynsia and it's hot and stuff, so people never traveled beyond it. And the south part of Kalempha is bitter cold; same deal. Plus, as I said before, the Iroleans were so concerned with internal strife that they didn't do a lot of exploration. I don't know if that 100% explains everything, but it works for me for now.

The original design for Atren's Calling. Thank you, MS Paint.

Also, the irony of this campaign from a worldbuilding perspective is that the game itself took place in Phynsia, but almost all of the lore centered around Iro.

Oh! This is also where I designed Atren's Calling, which, at first, was just the "discovery" feature for the Hermit background that one of the PCs had.

Like I said, this game ended quickly, but I already had maps started for my next big game.




Akhentour & Avo

The original map of Akhentour, which I think I called Avo at the time.

While the Krosven Steppe game was still going (albeit slowly), I was already using Inkarnate to make another map which I think I started calling Avo. I had recently read or watched something about West Marches style games, in which a bunch of people play and the players organize when games are playing, rather than the DM, etc. I made this map with the intention of starting a game like that, and then sent out feelers on Facebook. Six people were interested, which does not a West Marches game make, so I split them into an in person and an online group and then I was like, "Hey, what if I made a whole world?" which is something I always think whenever I start worldbuilding.

The Avo concept map in all its glory.

However, this time I thought it would be a much better idea to just consolidate all of my previous worlds; I already had all this lore and stuff! So much already created and easily molded to fit together. So I set upon making a world map.

Making the actual world map was a whole other ordeal. Since I had the original map of Akhentour, and since Inkarnate's file and image sizes at the time were somewhat small, I had the idea to make several maps and stitch them together using Adobe Photoshop. This was, looking back on it, insane. But it also worked really well because the end result was HUGE: a 16384x7680 map with lots of fine details that would end up being lost in the version 2.0 map.

I'm going to link the maps via Imgur because I don't think MediaWiki will let me unless I change stuff under the hood.

Avo World Maps

v1.0: This is it, the first official world map of Avo. You can zoom in and see lots of detail, though to be honest there's not a lot of detail because, again, Inkarnate didn't have a ton of assets at the time. You can see where the different sections of my old worlds fit in. It's neat!

v2.0: The current map that everyone who has played in Avo has seen. Huge loss of detail due to size difference, but much more interesting to look at overall.

v3.0: If you've read this far then you might be intrigued enough to see the Dawn Era version of the map. Some subtle and not-so-subtle changes.

And that's it! The rest is the friggen wiki, dude.

Thanks for reading this, I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane.