Part I of my series on how I am creating a new campaign world is here.
So now that a broad sketch of world history is done, the core ideas of the world are gelled, the races and professions are in place, and the concepts of the primary adventuring region are in place (as discussed in part I) It is time to get to adding in the details that make place memorable.
One thing I like to do is make a few memorable geographic features so that I have some places to mention in everything from my narratives to the contents of old books. I do this on a macro scale (the entire world) and a local scale (the regional area of the campaign).
So I glance through the broad outline of history I made and note that the original home of the first High Men was lost when a magical/something cataclysm sank an entire continent.
Why an Atlantis? because I have never, ever done one before. Heck, there is a Lemuria, too.
But instead of having the entire thing be lost and the very idea be mythical I placed an island, an Ireland-sized one, in the midst of that vast ocean I mentioned previously. The tallest peak of that drowned continent became this island and it is still occupied by the last descendants of the first High Men.
I wanted to have a 'weird place', a nexus for the strange and unusual so I placed a large plateau in a distant mountain range, wrote up some basics on the strangeness that congregates there, and dubbed it 'the Plain of Glittering Lights'. I will later put something relatively plot-important (a magical academy, library with rare tomes, lost city, etc.) on or near the Plain to entice players to risk a trip there.
The main campaign area will be on the western edge of a cluster of three continents and (mentioned in part I) I want the eastern edge of this cluster to be dangerous enough to almost force the players West.
Why, you ask? To make places like the Plain of Glittering Lights more remote and legendary! Doing it this way will make it easier/more explainable why low-level parties stay within the campaign area while high-level parties travel more freely.
I have the continent holding the campaign area come very close to the next continent - few miles, at one point. Then I flank this narrow strait with large volcanoes and call it the Gates of Fire. I additionally call the oceans around this area the Hot Sea and describe how underwater magma and hot springs make the ocean almost boiling hot.
The next continent south of these is mainly jungle, swamps, and mountains. In addition to giving me a great place to place lost cities of the jungle I also put a lot of Orcs with ships along the coast, meaning that sailing anywhere near is dangerous. This Corsair Coast will be dangerous at low levels, a great source of adventures at medium levels, and a nuisance at high levels.
Maybe one more big place. one more location or thing that the entire world would know of.
I am a big fan of Clark Ashton Smith and recall his short story, the Isle of the Torturers as being wonderfully atmospheric. So, well East of the main campaign areas (and the barrier I placed, above, I put the Isle of the Sorcerers.
If you aren't aware, in Rolemaster the Sorcerer class is infamous for spells like, oh, Break Limb and Long Soul Destruction, so they aren't pleasant, in general.
So with just a bit of thought I have a handful of Big Name locations that serve and both plot elements and something for the players to remember ('Isle of the Sorcerers' is a lot more memorable than 'that distant archipelago with one large island').
Next: closer to home base