I have a map. I have races. I have some shred of ideas for locations. So what is the next step? What should I focus my energies on?
Although I hate to use the term gimmick, what I need is a gimmick, a trick that will make SPX pop and stand. One of the thing I always have been passionate about has been doing something different. Thus my love of Dark Sun over the vanilla settings.
At first I threw a few things out there. Things I wanted to achieve. I needed the world to accommodate a wide range of adventure types. It needed to be cosmopolitan yet have racial prejudices. It needed a lot of conflict. It needed to be in trouble.
Then I wrote down a few things I did not want. I did not want the PCs to belong to a monolithic group: the conflicts and rivalries one found in Legacies I wanted to keep. In short, I did not want another Pathfinder Society where some characters have no reason to be together. This is a very dual-edged sword: how can I make sure that PCs still cooperate to complete the mission, even when they join people they may not naturally want to work with. That remains a decision to make. Allow me to punt it down the road.
Then I noted a number of historical counterparts I wanted to write about. This list grew huge in a manner of moments: the Diodachy, the barons of King John's England, the warring states of China, Emperor Justinian, Ancient Assyria and Babylon, the Brotherhood of the Coast, the late Byzantine Empire, the Aztec Empire, the Zulu Empire, the Malian empire, the Vikings, and the lost goes on. Frankly making that list did not help. It only added MORE things I wanted to do!
Now with all of that in mind I thought of a few things. I will admit I spent a long time until last summer inspiration came to me. I tried to change things around and thought "what would scare ME?".
Images of poisonous snakes immediately came to mind, but that was quickly moved away. I could not base a whole setting on scary snakes. I had to dig deeper.
One of my biggest personal fear is the loss of one's self. My grandfather passed away after suffering from Alzheimer's disease in the 80s. His degeneration affected me a lot and is one of the things I dread the most to this day. Other family members were also affected by it.
LIGHT BULB MOMENT!!!
DING! DING! DING! DING!
I had it. Mixing those two I would be able to provide something different. What if you forgot about all people and places you knew when you got there? In short, a barrier that made you simply forget who you were, those people you knew, allegiances, reasons for being there... In short losing big parts of yourself...
There I had my gimmick! I immediately went back over my previous notes and things fell into place. It also gave me a reason for people not wanting to leave. Would you willing head into a place from which you remember nothing and no one ever sees you again when you do leave? Think about it. This is very similar to the choice given to Neo in the Matrix. Most people prefer to stay asleep.
Then we have adventurers... those crazies.
Next: Finding a villain to tie all of this together!