I’m reading about geography while I search for terms with which to define locations in a gaming context. Suddenly, I’m feeling very much at a loss for how to define encounter environments and how they interact with one another in a context that makes sense and is playable. What is a place? What is a location? How are they similar? How are they different? How do they interact?

What I would like is a flexible, easy-to-comprehend system for categorizing places that is recognizable, and yet different from common methods of categorizing living things. What material is an environment composed of, and how was it formed? What shapes does an environment take? An idea that popped into my head just now was the differing shapes of many Soul Calibur arenas.

Environments may take on any of a number of geometric shapes, but how do those define the environment itself? What’s the difference between fighting in a circle and fighting in a triangle or square? Let’s look back at creature categories in Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. You have origin (fey, shadow, aberrant, et cetera), and you have type (humanoid, beast, animate, magical beast).

If we assume that environments can be defined as easily (perhaps more easily?) as creatures, then we might start with the same assumptions: an environment has an origin and it has a form or shape. Like creatures, once a place’s origin and form have been defined, it may have any number of subtypes. Some common subtypes might be interior, crowded/dense/confined, life/biome, or artificial/construction.

I’m inclined to say that the origins of places should be drawn from the same seven states I’ve defined as origins of magic and creatures: natural, umbral, sidereal, ethereal, empyreal, elemental, and primal. Once origins have been defined, it’s a question then of what form locations may take. Let’s look at humanoids as a type.

Humans are the basis of most powers and abilities, and even creatures in games. Humans are composed of two arms, two legs, and a head. It’s a form that’s easily manageable and easily identifiable. Let’s say that, like humanoid creatures, your typical environment is made of five parts, and assumes a pentagon shape.

Other environments might be typed differently, but for the time being, let’s assume that your most common encounter environments are composed of five elements, like the head, arms, and legs. Your typical environment won’t move, but something might represent the “arms” of a place. Arms might represent action or activity … what does the location do? What purpose does it serve?

The legs represent movement. Where is the location, and how does it relate to other places? Is it a crossroad, is it a dead end? Is it some kind of node, or is it somehow above or below something else? Is it inside another location? Does it form a link in a chain of locations? How is the location connected to the places around it?

I’m not sure what the head means. The head might represent choice, organization, or perhaps orders to the other parts of the body. Maybe it forms the basis of some other type of classification. We already have the location’s activity or purpose, we have its relative position, I think the last part might be what the location “thinks of itself,” how the location interacts with its inhabitants. Its “creature type.”

Phew. So, we’re assuming the following things about a place:

Origin it came from somewhere or is made of something
Form it’s shaped like something
* It’s used by creatures (even if it’s empty or undefined)
* It serves a purpose (even if it’s empty)
* It’s connected to other places (even if only by magic)

I’m exhausted. I’m going to write about something else for a while.