I’ve wanted to make a setting for the The Onyx Path’s Chronicles of Darkness Role-Playing Game for several years now, and I’m finally going to sit down and do it. I’m going to make a phantom North North-Central Massachusetts. But what does that entail, exactly?
Let me start my describing my circumstances. I live in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. It’s a small town on the border with New Hampshire, and like a lot of towns in the area, it’s struggling. Half a century ago, the furniture factories and lumber operations which powered this town’s economy closed, and the town hasn’t found its feet yet. There’s very little industry, and not that much in the way of commercial real estate either, so most people work and recreate out of town.
This means you cannot model Ashburnham on its own, because it relies a lot on neighboring areas. It shares a school district with the similarly small, if somewhat more affluent, Westminster. If you want to go shopping, you either head to New Hampshire (usually passing through the border town of Rindge, NH), or you visit one of the adjacent small cities (Gardner, Fitchburg, and Leominster). Ashby and Winchendon aren’t talked about much, but they’re more important than most give them credit for. Ashby is one the major ways into town, and Winchendon provides a close alternative to a lot of Ashburnham’s stores.
So that’s eight towns or cities, and that’s only discussing places in the immediate vicinity of town. Boston looms over the entire state even though it’s off to the east, and Worcester (to the south) serves as the closest thing to a big city (even though it’s still pretty small) within an hour’s drive. Off to the west, the Pioneer Valley communities have banded together to create a pocket of prosperity in western Mass. To the North lies southern New Hampshire, which is its own complicated beast, a weird patchwork of incredibly small towns and surprisingly dense arts communities.
Translating all this into fiction means creating several small towns bordering a few small cities, along with several regions to describe the major “elsewheres” people would go. There should probably also be a write-up of the detailed setting area as a region as well, mostly to cement how alll these towns relate to each other, but also to describe they sort of political organism created by their union.
Each location needs multiple write-ups:
- One covering the “mundane” geography, history, political situation, and population of each town, along with several “hooks” for games.
- One which is essentially the supernatural version of the above, describing the “secret history” of the area.
- One for each game-line explaining how that particular population relates to the town, with its own takes on each of the sub-sections outlined above (or a discussion of why that group doesn’t have a presence there). So it’s actually eleven “layers” of geography and history.
That’s a lot. I think I should get started, but I haven’t set up a name yet, and the abbreviation for “North-Central Massachusetts Chronicles of Darkness Setting Project” is the decidedly long “NCMCoDSP”. So let’s just call it “Fred”.