“Who needs sports stardom when you can shoot fireballs from your fingertips?”
— Ethan Gilsdorf
So after being exposed to Dungeons and Dragons as a player, of course I had to run it! That was the most obvious, logical step one could take. I still remember getting my copy of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons from the Waldenbooks in my local mall as a wee lad. It came with the obligatory “I hope you know what you’re getting into young man, Dungeons and Dragons can tempt you towards the devil!” speech from my mother, but hey: That was the early nineties for you.
After drinking goat’s blood for several weeks and while studying the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide, I felt I was ready. I got together with some friends, got some Mt. Dew, dice, paper, and pencils, and off we went!
Trigate in its very first iteration was nothing special. Things existed with no real thought being put into it as to why. High Elves, Lizardmen, Orcs… it was very much something one could expect a young teenager to make when running their first D&D game. And it was great! We expected nothing else. We were young men in Maine, a state forgotten in a lot of ways because of its small population. There were no communities for people playing that I knew of.
The beginning of me asking questions about the setting came when I bought two books, the fifth edition versions of Warhammer Armies: Lizardmen and Warhammer Armies: High Elves.
The Warhammer Fantasy universe differed from a lot of other universes I had been exposed to at this point. Instead of being primitive and barbaric, the lizardmen were with purpose, had an Aztec and Mayan aesthetic, and were good guys. High Elves were more martial and had their darker cousins, the Dark Elves and their lost forest-dwelling cousins, the Wood Elves.
I don’t know why it was these books that started that train of thought for me. Warhammer wasn’t something I played until later in life but I think focusing on different factions, the worldbuilding that is done behind them, and getting them to fit into a single world kicked off worldbuilding as a hobby for me. I had a basic understanding of cultures on Earth, but seeing different fantastical peoples and cultures co-exist and be written about in length was fascinating. I was sort of familiar with The Lord of the Rings at this point but around this time I was watching a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation which, while featuring a wide number of cultures suffers from the trope of Planet of Hats.
Further reading and running of adventure modules with my own twist on them led me further down the path that would lead me to where Trigate is today. S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks introduced me to the idea of science-fiction elements in fantasy (For the uninitiated, a supposed dungeon-delve into a cave leads to a downed alien spacecraft with the inhabitants all long gone, but their robots and experiments still very much around) and the original publication of Deadlands from Pinnacle Entertainment Group showed how you could completely change a setting with your spin on it.
This is important, because I knew I wanted to do fantasy, but I wanted to do it my way.
My first Trigate games weren’t anything memorable, sadly. I remember a minotaur kicking a gnome for trying to steal from him and a ruby dagger being created in someone’s inventory whilst I was away from the table.
So, being the nerd I was I got my first website, TransverseGames.com (doesn’t go anywhere now), and started sharing my adventure into worldbuilding and trying to make something of Trigate and some of the other settings I’d create, such as Lost to the Stars, Westfallen, and Demon Singer.
One of the first ideas I had was breaking apart the “lizardman” concept into several variations. I decided I wanted to figure out a way to make Scottish Lizardmen a thing. I also asked myself questions that, hopefully upon answering, would allow me to establish the beginnings of the Trigate universe. What is a Trigate? How does it work? Who built them and why? How does magic work? Why are these particular lizardmen inspired by Scottish culture?
And thus began the creation of the primordial chaos of the Trigate setting. Questions and answers, research and discovery until something took shape.
“Worldbuilding: Giving my characters a crucible in which to form.”
— Cathryn Louis