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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A bit on World Building: Get Started And Don't let any one tell you your world is suck.

World building,

A person could write a book about world building and in fact over the years some talented people people have.  People have also written books on a myriad of subjects that describe how to do things that are better left to learning though experience. World building  for RPG’s is not a science, the  needs of each group and the desires of the person running the game have as much effect on how a setting gets put together as any set of best practices ever would.

Some Gm’s have a desire for hex maps with each hex deeply detailed containing personality, historical, physical, and socioeconomic information pertaining to that hex area.  A Gm looking for or creating this kind of map will use that information to craft their adventures, mining down each hex finding adventure hooks for their players to explore.  It’s a great way to run a game, but the overhead is not for everyone. Not liking this style is not a matter of being intellectually lazy, it’s simply that not everyone sees the need or desires that degree of control and detail.

On the other end of the scale are the folks who treat a game and its world more like a blank slate. A person in this vein will detail as little as possible beyond what they have in mind for the story at hand before the players actually interact with it.  They might create a detailed starting location and then work out form there session by session as the players make decisions about where they are going what needs to be tackled next. This free form style has the bonus of flexibility, the gm can work in whatever he or she wants between adventures. The failing here is that it’s again an awful lot of work to generate good locations and  adventure hooks session by session, and there's always the chance that the whole thing ends up a nonsensical mess.

Those two examples are extremes, but they are both working extremes. I fall somewhere in the middle as I think most of us do. The important thing is to remember is world building is a sliding scale with  many shades of grey between, full on data overload hex mania and  a blank piece of paper with a dot on it labeled "you are here."

My fantasy game setting started back when I was in Jr. High, and at the time was a terrible, brazen ripoff of middle earth. Over the years since I have mapped, and remapped, run several games in the same lands and generally learned from my mistakes. For example in the beginning my map was dreadfully sparse, too big and there was no content in most locations. Over the years I've tightened that up gotten history written in and when traveling the players commonly come a crossed at least a small settlement every few miles.  While I still fall closer to the second example of how people build settings then the first, I think that as a “world Builder” I strike the right balance for the group I play with between preset information, and creative flexibility. As a GM I value setting building as in important part of making a good game for the people I am playing with.

So how does this happen?

If anyone told me six months ago that I would be having a good time playing a game where the adventures are more than 90% random, and the setting is a player built coat hanger which only exists to frame those same tid-bits of random madness. I would have told that person to go jump in a lake.

That is seriously not my style of game, however we have been having a ball the past few weeks doing exactly that. Will it be a passing fad with in our group, possibly, but I don't think that lessens the  point, we are doing every thing I would consider counter to what I would have told you makes a great game, and we are still making a great game.

So what’s my point?

If you are thinking about running a game, and want to build a setting yourself, DO IT.
Don’t worry about doing it right the first time, just get in there and start trying.
As long as you and your group are enjoying the game and the process, this is not a fragile hobby, you can't break it.

You see that’s the beauty of role playing games, a person can make mistakes, that's true enough, but you can’t do it wrong.  The only way to learn what works for your game is to get out there and get started. The same can be said for  GM'ing, in both cases there is no need for a manual to explicitly state exactly what makes a good versus a bad  world / Gm, different things will work for different groups. The only way to find out what works for you and the group you play with is by doing.

An example of this is one of our players recently ran a few sessions of a game which petered out.. He was using a game setting of his own design and it is very ambitious it was clear that he had put allot of time and thought into it. While I think the stumbling block that lead to the  game petering out was I feel a matter of his miss matching the  group and the game system. (He used D&D 4thEd and as a group we quickly grew to dislike the  long combats.)  
I would love to see him give it another go, with another system of his choice. The best way to learn is by doing, and the best way to do is by playing.

This is a hobby, that falls less towards building houses via a blue print and more towards playing in a band, in that Role playing games are that rare hobby that gives each group a chance to find their own voice, play their own game.

The game system of choice gives the group common ground rules to work with, the rest is just getting out there and making noise. So what if your world design hits a few bad notes? That's the process embrace it. 
By all means don't let anyone tell you  your way is wrong and theirs is right, simply because no matter what their claims they have no way of knowing what is right for you and the group you play with.

Thank you for reading
As always Comments are welcome below.