Finding the Middle Between the 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide and Volo’s Guide to Cormyr For My Cormyr Sourcebook

1. For Kingdom Scale maps (DMG 14), why go with 6 miles per hex? Doesn’t 5 miles work better in terms of adding up hexes and computing distances during play at the gaming table? Adding by fives seems easier than adding by sixes, but sixes work better for figuring time of travel, so I’m going to ditch my plan to use 5-mile hexes and go with 6-mile hexes on all Kingdom Scale maps for my Cormyr sourcebook–the first of which is being produced as I write this, somewhere in Australia.

2. If you read Volo’s Guide to Cormyr, you get details and lots of it. VGtC doesn’t cover every settlement in Cormyr, but the ones it does cover are explained pretty thoroughly. Contrast this with the Dungeon Master’s Guide, which is all about the K.I.S.S. method of campaign design (i.e., Keep It Simple, Stupid), and which straight up tells the DM to not include colorful, fluffy details about settlements unless the players start spending more time there–and even then only “as the need arises.”

3. If you’re me and you are writing a new Cormyr sourcebook, how do you service the needs of players and DMs while also maintaining fidelity to the DMG and to the heaping mountain of Realmslore that has to do with the Cormyr (aka the Forest Kingdom)?

4. The answer is to do what the DMG says. Provide readers with a capsule summary for each town, so that DMs can quickly decide whether or not a given place will make a good starting point for a campaign (that is, decide if the town has what the DM needs to facilitate the campaign story and keep things moving), and so DMs can review the few important details for a settlement that players will need to know whey they stop there to rest and buy supplies. Use some sort of sidebar formatting so DMs can easily find what they need on the page.

5. The answer is also to not do what the DM says. In other words, after the sidebar capsule summary (which naturally should be at the start of every settlement entry) there ought to be a full write-up for the settlement.

6. From a writing and publishing standpoint, it would be easier to write all the capsule summaries first before going back and fleshing them out.

7. Any settlement that serves as a Home Base (DMG 15) needs a roster of NPCs. The DMG seems to assume all the players will be from the same town, so a DM can start building NPCs based off of the player’s backgrounds and conveniently place the NPCs in the settlement. But you’re not assuming that for your sourcebook. Your core idea is that player characters should originate from all over Cormyr, so their mentors, family, important friends and contacts can be anywhere in the Forest Kingdom. Not sure how I can help a DM here, besides doing what VGtC does: include a whole bunch of NPCs and hope for the best.

8. The DMG advises that the atmosphere of a settlement (DMG 17) should be determined straight away, so it can be used as a guide to figure out everything else. VGtC does a good job of telling readers what a place looks, feels and smells like, and what the place is all about. In fact, the way-markers on Cormyr’s roads (little symbols on wooden posts near the road that let you know what town you’re about to come upon) also do this; Dhedluk’s way-marker is an anvil, Arabel’s a six-spoked wagon wheel, so you can expect the sounds of ringing hammers and the smell of forge fires from the former, and endless wagons, haggling merchants and the manure of draft animals and beasts of burden.

9. For Factions and Organizations (DMG 21), VGtC doesn’t explain much about the endless number of factions, cabals and trading costers that exist in Cormyr, many of which overlap Cormyr and Sembia, as well as Cormyr and other places in the region. In my not so humble opinion, these lesser knowns are way more important to detail for readers than the latest news on the Harpers and the Zhentarim (two factions that were grossly overused in previous editions of D&D, and both of which are in sidebars as example factions in the DMG). Find other Realmslore for factions (mostly in the latest novels, and in some of the Eye on the Realms articles) and make them as interesting as possible.

10. For concepts like Renown (and Piety), adventurers in Cormyr can find themselves in a position not unlike rising stars (read: celebrities) in Hollywood. This needs a name. Let’s call it Prestige. Prestige measures the standing of an adventuring party (not individual adventurers, unless all but one member are dead) vis-a-vis Cormyr’s populace. This standing is heavily influenced by whether the Crown of Cormyr has shown favor to the party (like King Azoun of old did after the members of a young band of no name adventurers defended Azoun from Zhentarim assassins; they were dubbed the Swords of Eveningstar and treated with respect by their King before all the people of the village of Espar), and by their deeds and actions outside of adventuring (such as how they treat the locals).

11. What sort of benefits does Prestige grant? Well, from a practical standpoint having a high Prestige score can mean the difference between life and death when the PCs ares staying at an inn and the tonwspeole note the presence of several strangers arriving by night (identifying strangers is any easy thing for locals in a low population area to do). High Prestige means you get a warning from a villager. Low Prestige or possibly negative Prestige means you get no warning, or that the locals tell the strangers where you can be found and what rooms you’re sleeping in.

12. This would differ from the rule in the DMG about a character’s Renown score never dropping below zero, and that’s fine. Players should learn to treat that score as more important than any other reputation metric used in the campaign.

That’s it for now. I think the concept of Prestige could easily be adapted by a DM for their own homebrew world.

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