Claws & Effect: The Lands Beyond [Realms of Pugmire]

Realms of Pugmire

As art is rolling in for Pirates of Pugmire, one of the big discussions we’ve been having is about maps. Not whether a map is necessary — I mean, what kind of game about pirates could I make without a cool map? No, the discussion has been about how the various Pugmire maps relate to each other.

See, I didn’t start creating Pugmire with the whole world planned out in my head. I know it’s common for fantasy games these days to have a huge map of intriguingly-named areas, but I didn’t want to do that. There are a few reasons for this.

First, I wanted to explore the world as I was creating it. If I have everything set in stone, I find I get bored with just filling in the gaps later on. So I learned a lot about Pugmire when I was writing the first book. That’s why, if you look at the area map in the Pugmire book, there’s an area labelled “Cats?” on the far-right side: I figured I wanted to put the Monarchies of Mau on the other side, but I didn’t know more than that. (In fact, at the time I was still calling them the Kingdoms of Mau!)

Secondly, one of my design goals for Pugmire was to evoke some of the nostalgia I had for old-school fantasy gaming. Part of that is never quite knowing what’s on the other side of the mountains, or where that river leads to. Setting up discrete areas of a world allows Guides to invent new areas easily without feeling hemmed in by “canon.” I know some folks prefer to have everything laid out at once, but that’s not the style of game I prefer, and I don’t want to write a game I wouldn’t have fun playing.

Finally, because the world is ostensibly ours, I didn’t want to pigeonhole Pugmire to any specific real-world location. I’ve had a lot of interesting speculation on where Pugmire is “really” located, but in truth I don’t know. It’s so far in the future that continental drift and advanced technology has probably changed the shape of our world significantly. So I just didn’t bother trying to have a fixed map ahead of time.

But there have been seven books prior to Pirates of Pugmire. The game centered on the Acid Sea, which touched both nations, so we had to work with a mapmaker to combine the scraps we had from various books into a cohesive whole. And through that process I discovered a few things about the world.

  • I still don’t know what’s in the plains west of Pugmire or the desert east of Angora. I actually asked the mapmaker to put question marks in those areas! It’s the first time I’ve ever spelled out “I don’t know what’s in these parts of the world, so please make it up.” (Now, if I had to guess, I suspect most of the area to the west is overrun with the badger tribes, while the area to the east is largely uninhabited except by a few wandering tribes of geckos and serpents. But I won’t know for sure until I write something there.)
  • My decision to not give a scale to the maps ended up coming back to haunt me. Since the rules involve the dangers of travel over the sea, time is a factor, which means I needed to give at least rough estimates of how long it takes to sail between points of interest. I went with a vague “days” length to give me some room, but the fact is that you can now start to estimate how large the respective cities are. Luckily, my approximate math seems to have borne out — for example, I always intended that the Fearful Forest would be HUGE — but it was a realization I had fairly late in the book’s development process.

So if you’re waiting breathlessly for a complete map of the Realms of Pugmire, it probably won’t be for a long time. Possibly not ever, but I suspect at some point I’ll need to have at least a rough idea of what the world looks like as new projects have different demands for world detail. But don’t wait for me. Draw up your own, and make the Realms of Pugmire whatever you want it to be in your chronicle!