Posts Tagged ‘world building’

A Believable World

June 22, 2009

A game of Dungeons and Dragons is more than just dungeon bashing, picking up loot and killing monsters. It doesn’t have to be much more than this, but even a little effort to build a world can make a big difference.

The two biggest things to bear in mind are believability and consistency. Nail these two, and the rest will fall into place.

Believability is important. You are playing in a fantasy world, but that doesn’t mean that everything is different, or that nothing really happens for a reason. Start from the real world, think about what differences magic might make, and make those changes believable. Do Kings need magical advisers? How does Castle design change when magic is common? Street lighting and sanitation in cities, are they magically created? If you can answer these questions, you can put your players in a world that feels real, and that they are more likely to care about.

Consistency is making sure that things are the same when they should be the same. The King won’t change from week to week, if you name him, record it somewhere, so you can use the same name again. If things change, they should change for a reason, even if it’s not immediately obvious to your players, you need to know what that reason is.

If the characters sell their loot at a local town, use a recurring NPC (like the Jeweller) to build consistency and familiarity. This NPC can develop a character over time, and turn a mechanical experience (loot to money) into a roleplay experience. Once a rapport is built with a recurring NPC, the players might care about them. You can use this as a GM to produce new adventure hooks. Kidnapping or killing a favourite NPC can lead the PCs into an adventure, or series of adventures. Alternatively, the NPC can give quests to the PCs, with rewards tied to how well they have worked on creating a friendship with the NPC.

Consistency and believability are the keys to build a world that your players can have fun in, and can take a dungeon bash up to the next level of play.


Fantasy Worlds

May 11, 2009

It’s easy to set your game in a fantasy world, and much harder to get by in a sci-fi realm. Using the real world falls somewhere in between.

The reason for this is the shared understanding of the faux-medieval culture to most people likely to be playing your game. Everyone understands knights, dragons, merchants and maidens. Using these cultural shorthands save a lot of explaining, allowing you to focus on the differences that are important to your game, whilst being able to farm out some concepts to a shared understanding.

It’s a lot harder in a science fiction setting as there’s no shared understanding, especially if you are creating your own future. The world building has to be much more in depth, you have to make choices over what you are aiming for, whether it’s Blade Runner, Star Trek, Firefly or something completely different, you have to make your world choices, and make sure people understand them.

Picking the middle ground of the ‘real world’ throws up a few more difficulties, you have probably got a shared understanding of some facets, but by no means all. The real problem can lie in the need for correctness that some of your players may exhibit when presented with a real world scenario. In a fantasy world, you get to decide how fast a dragon flies. In the real world you’d better get the airspeed of a 747 right, or have a good reason for the abstraction, or you’ll be defending yourself from nitpickers forever.

Pick your game setting carefully, make use of fantasy settings to give you a shorthand, but don’t force this, and don’t let yourself become lazy. Pick what works for the game you want to create, and be prepared for the work you need to do to make it real.