The most difficult aspect of “running” or GMing or refereeing a roleplaying game is sitting down and actually putting it all together, the whole process of getting all the background information on the GM’s fictional world in which the PC’s exist established and down on paper. Although it can be fairly time-consuming, the degree of preparation which the guidelines in this chapter allow for can actually increase the level of enjoyment of playing the game for both the GM and his players. In the pages of RoM the GM has at his disposal a wealth of information that can produce the type of background that really breathes life into his medieval fantasy gameworld.
The background information required to describe the GM’s gameworld will include assorted maps, general large-scale overviews and specific small-scale maps of the area(s) where the characters will be located or travelling, notes on the prevailing climate (temperature ranges, precipitation, and major common weather patterns), and vegetation and types of animal life, notes on all humanoid societies present, their customs, religion(s) and deity(-ies), general effectiveness of law and government, major exports and imports, as well as the general state of the regional and national economy(-ies). In short, the GM’s gameworld notes should cover all of the information which might possibly affect the PC’s as they travel and live in the world, from the land itself to the creatures and people(s) living on it.
The most underestimated aspect of GMing is the investment of time required. The players just never really understand the amount of time that goes into preparing a game until they have actually had to do it themselves. Lack of time is one of the major reasons why many gaming groups do not meet every week but may opt for every other week, or may have two or more GM’s who switch off from one session to the next, each running their own campaign/storyline. Setting up a gameworld takes a lot of thought on the part of the GM. From top to bottom it is the product of his decisions and creativity. Indeed, the GM must decide whether he wants or even is able to make the investment in time required to generate ALL of this information for himself. As stated, a good deal of work is required to do this and, while the basics do have an end, the rest remains an on-going process that must be kept up continuously as the characters go on about their adventures, invariably poking into the dusty unfinished corners and peering into all of the cracks, nooks, and crannies as yet unwritten. The GM is responsible for all things pertaining to his fantasy world, from the land itself to its beasts and peoples. The PC’s depend on him to make it as real as he can for them.
That can be a weighty burden.
The time the GM’s preparations take is probably the greatest consideration, time that might otherwise have been taken up by homework, studying, working, writing research papers, working, chores and little odd-jobs around the house, domestic and family responsibilities, working to provide for basic necessities, and so on.
Thankfully, there are resources out there for the GM to fall back on.
For those who just don’t have the time for it, a number of companies provide game world resource books, guidebooks, gazetteers, all ready to go “right out of the box”, so to speak. All the GM need do is read them and get familiar with them and take care of adapting it to the system requirements for RoM, as needed. It generally calls for a few more details translated from the background material provided and, in many cases, added. This only requires a little retooling of and the addition of the medieval period details provided here. It is a far easier and shorter process to modify a resource than it is to creating everything new from whole cloth.
The government(s) of the GM’s gameworld are assumed (for the time being) to be feudal monarchies after the practices of medieval England, as stated, the societies arranged along the lines of the medieval feudal and signeurial systems in structure, a distinctly agrarian way of life, the people conforming in mind and heart to the medieval point of view and concepts presented and discussed here, the basis of this medieval roleplaying game and the source for the information on which the game and from which its elements have been drawn.
The kingdom with which the GM starts should be the one on which he will focus his greatest attention, in which the PC’s live, in which their “home base” is located, their starting point for the game. This is where their families will be and the homes to which they will return after adventures – at least until they have garnered enough success to get new and better digs for themselves, most likely in a town, or in a village or manor within a few miles of such a town where they can run an estate and enjoy the benefits of a nearby market and the craftsmen who gather in such towns.
How many countries surround this one?
Create names for each.
Are they kingdoms in fact, with kings of their own, or are they independent principalities, or duchies, marquisates or counties, or city-states and their supporting subject territories in the Italian style?
Are any of them subject to the “home base” realm’s king?
How does the relationship between the kingdoms (etc.) stand. The GM can use the Encounter Reaction table provided for NPC’s to decide, or the Family Relations table in Step 2. of Character Generation, or simply choose, but this information should be established, and the players informed, it is important that their characters know)
If relations are worse than neutral, the GM must decide if any campaign is currently being prosecuted against the rival(s) at the point in time the PC’s enter active game play. This is not generally recommended to start the game unless the GM is experienced enough to handle all the details involved, and they are many and varied, from the movement of troops across the land, to the requisitioning of supplies (“Prise”), the calling up of the levies, and the determining of the course and outcomes of the battles.
Having a war just ended, or some decisive battle just concluded, bringing hostilities to a respite (which could last anywhere from a couple of years to gather resources again, or as long as 5, 10, 20 or the remainder of the current king’s reign due to the severity of the victory) is a very good alternative. This provides the PC’s with a period of relative peace in which to conduct their adventures, so their travels will not be hampered. Alternately, the rumblings and rumors of war could surface now and then throughout the character’s adventures, as the countries maintain an uneasy peace which could turn to war at any time, but seems always to fade away due to circumstances when it seems most inevitable.
A period of peace is most conducive to the PC’s pursuing the widest variety of adventure types, and allows them to travel much more freely and easily about the kingdom, and especially to cross borders, should there be a need.
Re-Creating Novel Environments
Although some might not agree, the GM’s favorite medieval fantasy novel(s) can be a very rich source for material from which to construct his own gameworld for roleplay. Many people seem to be simply fascinated with the settings from their favorite books, and this is one way that is guaranteed to allow the GM to indulge any such fascinations he may have. For who share a taste for literary settings, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth® is probably the most widely known and a perennial favorite, and a great deal of gaming material and background for it is already available. Anne and Todd McCaffrey’s tales of Pern® follow not too far behind as another great source, and for which gaming materials are also already available. There are any number of others that are just as rich and intriguing. The world of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné® stands out from the crowd, as does the world of Melanie Rawn’s “Dragon Prince”© and “Starscroll”© trilogies; Katherine Kurtz’s “The Chronicles of the Deryni”© and “The Legends of Camber of Culdi”© and the great wealth of additional works available concerning those characters and that setting; Harry Turtledove’s “Misplaced Legion”© and “Krispos”© books; the setting for Weiss and Hickmans’ “Darksword”© trilogy; the tenor of the religious thread running through Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time”® and the manner in which it is handled make it eminently suitable for private adaptation to RoM. As a resource for a high-fantasy setting the world of Glen Cook’s 40’s-style Garret mysteries hold possibilities that are both grim and great fun – Tunfaire© is an amazing place. For sheer originality and just plain niftiness in a high-fantasy setting, the world used by Michael Reeves for his “Shattered World”© is simply outstanding. Although Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld”® is the setting for a slew of absolutely delightful and zany tales, as a setting to be transposed for the purposes of roleplay it has, in fact, more than enough earthiness and grittiness to provide more serious challenges and dangers for more earnest gamers to roleplay, too.
The greater the number of works an author has published using that same setting, the more valuable the author’s work is as a resource for pulling together the necessary notes for setting up a roleplaying game world. Because of the great variety and scope of the ancillary works, this is especially true of Tolkien’s works. C. S. Lewis’ Narnia® has a beautiful world book for reference, as does Anne McCaffrey’s Pern®.
If the GM likes a novel of series well enough, he can certainly do his best to go about rendering it over into game terms to use wholesale, as it is, or to dice it up into parts and take only what he likes of it and mix in inspirations of his own, perhaps things he may wish the author had done to start with, or even bits from other books that also appeal to him. This is infinitely preferable to making a whole world up from scratch for those with limited time to devote to the project. With this material to draw on, the balance of the work to be done becomes more meaningful to the GM as well, as he already has an attachment to the basis for his gameworld, whereas the bond to the familiar works of the novelist would be lacking in any pre-packaged gameworld resource, regardless of how “official” or well-supported it may be by the game publisher.
Of course, the GM taking this route must be willing and prepared to do some developmental work of his own. The author’s work as published will only provide the basis.
Because authors generally only throw in what local color they want or need to flesh out their tales or move their plots along, holes are often left which are invisible to the readers while they are caught up in the tales being told. These holes only really become evident when the background material provided in the novels is brought into the roleplaying arena, but in that arena the holes can be large and rather glaring. Much more is expected in the way of background for the world in which roleplaying characters are to be player than is expected of novels, because in the roleplaying game the characters can conceivably go in any direction to do any number of things, and eventually will.
The roleplaying gameworld must sustain the scrutiny that an endless series of stories will subject it to, attention eventually straying down every dark, dusty corridor and through every locked door.
In a novel, the author might present the reader here and there with an astonishing concept or tantalizing glimpse of a fascinating larger picture, but let it go at that, much like an impressionist painter, blurring the details. These glimpses and tidbits at least point the GM in the right direction, and the GM must be thorough in researching the pages of the novel to get all the information he can. From these he must then deduce the rest, tracing these down to their ultimate logical conclusions to determine how they will affect gameworld society and politics and the like, exploring the potential impacts, all of the subsidiary conditions and assumptions that they may imply though not plainly state, as well. The GM may well find that he has to modify, either soften or strengthen, a n aspect here or there, now and again, to eliminate any contradictions and inconsistencies that may arise during this process. Authors are not perfect and rarely take the time to do this prior to setting pen to paper (so to speak, anyway, in this digital age). Doing this is not usually necessary for the limited view of the world the novel will afford the reader. For the purposes of providing a complete environment for roleplaying, all blindspots in the literary setting used for the gameworld and barriers to its unfettered exploration must be removed or satisfactorily explained. This means to the players’ satisfaction, however, not the GM’s.
For some especially popular authors and series’ of books, volumes have been published to satisfy the fans’ curiosity and hunger for more information and greater detail concerning the characters and/or the setting, such as the Atlas of Middle Earth, and the Atlas of Pern, Darksword Adventures, Codex Derynianus, even an interesting resource called The Atlas of Imaginary Places which is not confined to any one author, national tradition, or period in literature. While the lattermost will not provide the GM with a comprehensive run-down on a single world, it can be used admirably to flesh out any GM’s gameworld regardless of its basis. These can be of inestimable value for the GM who has chosen an author or series of books supported by such a work. This seriously knocks down the amount of additional work the GM must do to flesh out the setting and make a roleplaying gameworld of it, which developmental work he would have had to do on his own, otherwise.
In evaluating literary sources for gameworld material, the presence of a map is a definite plus. Although the GM can certainly make a map on his own by reading and culling locations and directions from the text, this can be an arduous task, and in many cases the author will not even include a reference to the time needed to get from one location or another so relative distances between locations may not be possible to even guess-timate. Thus, the GM might well make the presence of a map the minimum requirement for considering a literary source for use as the basis for his gameworld, or at least the corner of it in which his players are about to start stomping around.
Once the GM who is literarily inclined has picked his source(s?) he will need to go through any and all books and pull out all the facts regarding history and social customs that pique his interest, and also all references regarding locations NOT marked on the map provided, and also details of cities or neighborhoods for which no maps may have been provided, so he can build on them. He should be particularly aware of the local color, mood and atmosphere in the descriptions of locations provided, any and every thing that helped to inspire or impress the GM initially with the work and especially the background setting, so he can be sure to emphasize these in his own descriptions to the players where they apply. These and any other facts and details the GM can dig up from not only the main works themselves, but especially from those ancillary companion books aimed at the fans, will help to bring the place alive for the players and cut down on the preparatory work the GM will have to do on it.
The GM should then take what he has gleaned and go through the process covered for creating and filling in the details of a fantasy world (as follows) and compare what he has to what he needs and then fill in the rest as he sees fit, according to the information and guidelines provided here, all the while taking whatever steps he deems necessary to maintain the spirit and feel of the literary work on which the place is to be based.
Much of the detail those literary worlds or settings lack can be lifted straight from the GM’s Handbook for RoM, if desired, but a companion gameworld has been constructed to go hand-in-hand with the RoM rule books expressly for the purpose of meeting the needs of those who wish to roleplay, even GM a game, but do not have the time to build every aspect up from scratch. This is the world developed by the author for use in the early play-testing game sessions. many of the developments discussed in the passages headed “The Perpetually Medieval World” grew out of that same gameworld over the course of developing the mechanics of the game.
Translating novel environments into RoM terms as far as system mechanics should not be too difficult, and the players will generally have the advantage of already of being familiar with it, presumably having read the books and developed an appreciation for the feel of the novel’s setting already. This makes starting the new characters off in that environment easier. The briefings for the PC’s can be shorter.
If the mechanics of RoM hold an appeal, this setting is ready to run “right out of the box”, with no adaptation required to fit the system, and continuing in the tradition of detail established in the rulebooks themselves. They have been developed with exhaustive attention to detail.
However, RoM was written from the point of view of a distinctly English medieval setting, with a strong historical basis which many of the commercial settings available tend to gloss over, if not ignore completely, including such things as the entire class of common folk who till the fields and grow the food to feed the other 12% of the population.
For those who wish to use the setting with another mechanical system of rules, the supplements are not rules-heavy and can easily be employed. Most of the attention has been lavished on the details of settings, characters (NPC’s), social conditions, as well as the physical make-up and political boundaries and details of government.
Many are intrigued by the challenge of making their own fantasy world for their roleplaying game, though, and they should be encouraged to exercise their imaginations, even if it is just to take a prepared, pre-packaged product and adapt it to their own designs and ideas. The GM should by NO means feel bound to the details or even general concepts of any commercial product he purchases to give himself a leg-up on creating his fantasy world. It may well be that the only thing the GM wants of it is the maps of the physical environment, and maybe a detail here and there from any accompanying gazetteer – even if it is the gameworld packet released for use with RoM. No commercial product, even those produced specifically for use with RoM by the same author, is an inviolable official icon. These can simply be used as a point of departure for those who wish to save time, yet still wind up with a unique world of their own in the end. There will be as many gameworlds as there are GM’s running the game, and that very idea is rather exciting in and of itself.
Thus, providing resources for those brave and stout enough (who also have the time and desire to devote to it) remains a great responsibility. Some sort of functional approach and method, and some guideposts to point the way for development must be provided for these hearty souls.
But, where to start?
Regardless of whether the GM is borrowing from his favorite author (see “Recreating Novel Environments”, following), or borrowing from a commercial product in the fantasy gaming market, or making the whole thing up on his own from whole cloth, the first consideration will be determining whether the natural physical laws will remain the same as those of the Real World. Most often they will be. This does NOT include the influence of magick, but refers to the way in which things generally function before and until magick is invoked and applied. In designing their fantasy world, most people don’t wish to change the basic building blocks of reality this way, just make a few minor additions or modifications. One good example of a modification would be “Threadfall” in McCaffrey’s Pern® novels. The Thread is only a cyclical danger. BUT regardless of whether it is falling or not, the world spins on and reality and the basic physical properties of all the other things in it remain much the same as the Real World. Adding additional moons, a very popular concept in fantasy, will have an effect on the tides of sea and ocean, yes, and no doubt on the cycles of were-wolves and the use of Moon- and Night-based magicks, but this addition or modification doesn’t affect many other aspects of the physical reality of the fantasy gameworld.
The gameworld is also assumed to be earth-sized, same basic composition and mass, orbit around the sun the same in distance and period, thus, the basics like gravity length of the day and the length of the year will all be earth-normal. These aspects are commonly played with in fantasy worlds. However, due to the amount of reference material it makes available to the GM moon rise and set, sunrise and set times, tides, weather, and the like in almanacs, information concerning the constellations, zodiac signs, and planetary movements for astrology, etc.), it is recommended that the GM play very gingerly with these things, or stand ready to write everything from scratch according to the special circumstances he has dictated for his gameworld.
When the basics such are mentioned here have been altered, the GM will need to explore each difference or variance and point by point determine what its impact will be on all other facets of the gameworld, taking this to its ultimate logical conclusion. The ramifications and consequences of any changes made must be considered. This is where the GM can get into truly eccentric fantasy worlds, what are commonly referred to as “high fantasy”. In the novel “Shattered World” mentioned previously, the world is broken into shards, floating and revolving around each other in a globe-like envelope of atmosphere, but gravity is oriented to the surfaces of the original sphere of the planet as if the sphere were still whole. It is when one leaves one shard to travel to another that gravity gets interesting, something like free-fall prevails, and there are wind-ships that ply the air between the shards.
It is a fascinating setting.
In such cases, the GM must be careful to apply his changes consistently, unless he has an established reason or conditions for an exception, whatever these might be. The difference may come from the literary basis of the world, (if applicable) or may be a favorite fancy of the GM, but either way, its effect upon life in the gameworld in general will have to be taken into account, for the very beasts in the fields as well as the PC’s, themselves.
Truly, it is easier to simply leave the basic natural laws as they are. They provide the players with a comfortable frame of reference for roleplay, a “safe zone” where they know exactly what to expect and about which they don’t have to look to the GM for information.
Once the GM has mulled over the question of basic laws and properties of the gameworld, maybe jotted down a couple notes on things he wants to try, the actual establishing of the physical nature of the fantasy gameworld can be addressed. Does this world have a literary basis? Has atleast a rough map been provided? Or has the GM obtained a commercial fantasy product whose map he likes to provide the physical description of his world, on which to put his own peoples of all races, countries, etc.? Is the GM working his world up from scratch on his own? Is he going with earth-normal basics? How are the land masses distributed? Is there only one moon or multiple. Does the moon(s) have an atmosphere? What about the planets in the star system – will it be earth-normal, too? (Making astrology easy to implement by using Real World sources.) The classical Greeks saw the nearer planets and named them after the gods, although they didn’t understand the true nature of their movements through space – to them the heavens were like an upside-down bowl of crystal. In the GM’s world the myths and fantasies of the ancient can be made to be reality. The heavens could indeed BE just as the Greeks hypothesized, maybe Atlas really will stand on the western edge of Gaia (the Earth) and hold up Uranus (the Sky). How will it be in the GM’s world?
The GM’s world can be anything he wants. He can take the wildest folklore or cosmology he can find to define the nature of the world and by his own will make it fact in his fantasy gameworld. In accordance with the popular belief of the period of the game, the world can be just as flat as the maps the GM draws (excepting the topographical features, of course), resting on the backs of four elephants all standing on the back of a giant cosmic turtle – just like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld®. It could be a square, circle, or oval-shaped platter, or made up of triangular facets like a colossal d20, or any other shape for that matter, or composed of a collection of fragments floating in space such as depicted in many of the works by the Dean brothers, either suspended in space like the “Shattered World”© already described, or suspended over the main planet, with magnificent waterfalls rivaling Angel Falls in the Real World falling from one island to the next, lichen-covered granite boulders amid placid sylvan pools. Even if the GM makes his fantasy world a more conventional planetoid, it still need not necessarily conform to the currently acknowledged physical reality of a star system as it is known today. In accordance to Church dogma, the world can be fixed in place, the center of the universe in fact, fixed in space and immovable. The sun and other planets could revolve around the GM’s world and the heavens be composed of great jewels fixed upon that great, enclosing hemisphere of crystal.
Of course, if the GM has been running a game for awhile under other gaming systems and is merely converting what he has over for use with RoM, the setting obviously won’t be a problem. He can give the background provided in this section of the book a gander and perhaps tweak the details of his gameworld reality a little to accommodate the races (as necessary or desired) and the medieval realities of the (social) classes and trades provided for the players’ use.
Even when there is a map provided with a novel, for the purposes of gaming it will be pretty rough insofar as it wall lack a number of details for each location or region of interest to the PC’s for their adventures. Such maps rarely if ever include a scale, although a scale can usually be determined from the comments in the text regarding the length of trips between points on the map and applying the standard rates of movement discussed in the chapter providing background on the medieval world (pp __).
Oftentimes the maps provided for the purposes of providing a guide to readers of fantasy novels conform to the standards for medieval maps, which makes them just right for the purposes of the players, and an untouched version should be given the players to acquaint them with the area of the world generally familiar to the PC’s and the society in general in which they were born and raised. The GM on the other hand will need a much more detailed and accurate or “true” view of the physical gameworld in order to fairly and effectively moderate the game for the characters as they travel through it. The details the GM will fill in on his own maps the players will have to fill in on their own as their characters go about their adventures, and without recourse to scale. The players’ maps should have no scale, unless they have taken the time and made the effort in the context of the game to measure out distances from point to point and impose a scale on their map, but then they should accept some margin of error in rendering this as well.
Unless they are somehow able to create a perfect scale image of the world small enough to be useful to their needs, they will not be able to render a “perfect” map that faithfully reproduces every aspect of the world in the manner of the modern topographical maps which rely heavily on satellite imagery and digital terrain scans.
The only means by which such a thing might be accomplished in the context of the game is by magick, and that will require some time and dedication on the part of the magick-wielder undertaking the task, an investment in time learning the lay of the land well enough to reproduce it faithfully, no doubt by the use of Glamourie.
Otherwise, the level of accuracy achieved by modern cartographers in rendering images of the gameworld on maps will be found solely in the GM’s own maps for his world.
Whether the GM has a literary map or a commercially made one to use as the basis of his fantasy world, he will need a number of different renderings of it, in different scales – one small enough for quick reference which will fit comfortably in with his written notes for running the current adventure and campaign, some national maps of whole countries, some of larger regions of importance within the countries, and others showing details of smaller areas of importance to the PC’s activities and travels.
In designing a gameworld (map) from scratch, it is easiest to start with a general world map, laying out the relative sizes and locations of all the land masses from the farthest western point to the uttermost east, with the equator running horizontally across the middle of the page. On a map of the Real World, this would start on the left end with the international dateline and Hawai’i and run all the way to China, Japan, Indonesia, Australia and Auckland, and all the South Pacific isles, when read from left to right. A sheet of legal paper placed horizontally works well for this, but some people need to work larger, so whatever size of paper in this proportion suits the GM will work just fine. In laying out the waters and land masses, the GM will need to consider how Earth-like his world will be. While the Earth is roughly 3/4th’s water, the GM is under no constraints whatsoever to keep the same proportion of water to land. That proportion is entirely up to the GM – he can have a world with only 20% or even 10% or only 15% land, with no real continents as they are known here and endless strings and clusters of islands of various sizes (like Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea), including a couple sub-continent sized ones completely surrounded and divided by waters, or a world where the proportion of land to water is closer to 50-50, or an even smaller proportion of water, say only 25%, with massive mega-continents only studded here and there with great lakes like those in North America, or smaller seas like the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Caspian, and the North Sea, but with no real oceans as they are known on Earth. The possibilities are limited only by the GM’s own imagination.
One tip that may be of some help to the GM designing his own fantasy gameworld maps from scratch is to have a world atlas at hand to refer to while drawing, and use Real World coastlines as models for lands that the GM sees as similar in nature to those he has in mind. In this way, the fjords of the cold, glacier-carved northlands in the GM’s world will actually look like what they are intended to be, as far as landforms. The rocky, volcanic lands and islands similar to Greece or the Hawi’ian islands will have that look to them. The GM certainly need not copy the landforms wholesale, but configure the lands in the way that seems best to him, merely taking stretches of Real World coast that conform to the general shape he has chosen and modeling the coastline in a similar manner. These touches and attention to detail will make for a better-looking map and, should the PC’s ever get into a position where they can command such a view of the planet, and will also add a degree of realism and believability that might otherwise be missing.
Assuming an earth-standard sized world, the map should be divided into 24 horizontal sections of equal width, each line separating them will mark a meridian, a real time difference of one hour. Accounting for the curvature of the earth is difficult at best on a flat map, so a simple grid is used, despite that fact that, on a flat map like this, every one of the meridians (lines of longitude) converge in fact at the north and south poles. The distance between the meridians is regular at 1,037.5 miles ONLY at the equator, this distance narrowing as the lines approach the poles.
The meridians may or may not eventually come in handy as the characters climb in power and are able to travel at faster speeds or by the significantly faster means available in the greater Spheres of magick.
In the same vein, on a globe viewed from straight on at the equator where the lines of latitude are drawn at equal intervals (69 miles between), the lines will appear to get closer together as the curve of the globe bends towards the poles, when in fact they retain a constant distance between. The lines of latitude are drawn at evenly spaced distances comprising 10 degrees or 690 mile intervals each on the grid, the equator being 0° (across the middle) and the poles each being 90°, lying along the top line of the box enclosing the grid.
These lines of latitude are a preliminary guide to the locations where certain climates should be placed. The topography at various latitudes will influence the extent of the areas over which these climates will reign.
Of course, the GM should feel neither any need nor any pressure to create the WHOLE physical gameworld before he gathers his players and commences play. There is certainly no danger whatsoever that he will need all areas mapped out for the PCs’ benefit from the start of play. The characters’ capacity to travel about his world will probably be rather limited at the start, and can always be inhibited by making all of the elements of their adventures fairly close at hand while he develops the rest. He might want to limit his initial effort to the outline of only one of his major continents or greater landmasses on the grid presented. The PC’s won’t have access to his maps in any event, but the GM will likely feel better about having a definite start made, and the blank paper inside that outline will get him started thinking about what fills it, the patchwork of realms that must eventually cover it, and that in itself can get the ideas flowing.
If the GM is NOT creating an Earth-standard type of world and/or 24 hour day, he will have to determine the measure between the meridians at the equator according to the size of his planet, and the same in regards to the lines of latitude. The planet can be as big or small as the GM likes and spin as fast or slow as the GM likes and time can be accounted for in Earth-standard or in whatever interval the GM likes. What ever he decides will be normal for that world and its denizens, they will have no basis of comparison to Earth for they know nothing of the Real World. In the same manner, the length of the seasons and years will be entirely up to the GM, if he wishes to make up something of his own, and the cycles of the moon(s), as well.
It is ALL in his hands if he wishes to depart from these basics of the Earth-standard gameworld.