Thursday, October 14, 2010

Discussion: Building a Setting

So, time for this week's discussion (potentially one of two). Today I want to talk about setting building. How do you do it? How much work do you put into the setting before the first game? Do you go nuts, defining everything and anything about the world? Building things for your players to play with and explore, or to be running behind the scenes if the players don't go for it? Or do you just get yourself a general idea for things, and then build as your players involve themselves with things?

Personally, I tend to do a bit of both. I'll give the players a decent over view of the world, the major places and hot spots (countries if that is relevant), and perhaps go even more in depth with things that players show an initial interest in. This is what I did with Greymoore, I built an overview for the world, and then gave each player a more indepth packet of information for the area their character was from, and their race. After that, the information became available as the party went near it. When they went to a different country, I made the more in depth write up, and went with that. It worked out fairly well, leaving me room to modify things to the current needs for the game, while still having guide posts in place.

For the new game I am preparing though, I am thinking of going a bit more all out. Making things that can grow, even without player involvement, so that they can be there and ready later if a player wants to join in. I am thinking of doing something like this as well with M.A|C.C's boxed setting, building a lot of stuff for GMs to use, but leaving room for GMs to add their own things as well and make it there own.

This means that I will likely be putting in a lot of work that could potentially never see the light of day in game, which can suck, but at the same time having it there will make things run more smoothly. You can usually tell when a GM is winging something, as opposed to having had machinations in place all along for just such an occasion. Besides, having all that stuff ready can make you feel like the Batman of GMs, and sure it takes work. But just imagine the look on your players' faces when they go off the reservation and you just grin and pull out the contingency plans?

So tell me, how do you go about doing it? Do you go into all the nitty gritty details? More a wing-it type? Or somewhere in between? I'm willing to bet most are in between, but you never know. Any advice, tips, or things you are just particularly proud of that you built?


  1. Since my primary System/Setting is Star Wars, a lot of the work is already done for me. However, I feel that even with a 'stock' setting, a GM should make it his (or her) own. You have to put your own spin on it. Allow this, disallow that- change details as you see fit (keeping in mind the likes of your players, of course). So even with a stock setting like Star Wars, there is still work to be done for your particular campaign. Even if you're using 'Feature Characters' (i.e. characters known from the films), you need to decide how you're going to play them- how they're going to interact with the PCs. As far as HOW I go about doing this? Well, I'd say I'm a middle of the road guy. I make up many of the main details, then wing the rest as I go.

    I HAVE done my own campaign worlds before—and in those cases I am typically a lot more detail oriented. I like to have almost all of the major 'facts' set out for myself, even if I don't reveal all of them to the players. Such is the case with my Fantasy Earth obsession. This is a gaming world I am in the process of building. I haven't yet RUN anything with it, but I hope to some day. In this case, I have gone VERY detailed for myself. For me, its a good way to logically tie things together 'behind the scenes'- so that as the players discover things, it 'makes sense'. If you're interested in learning more about this particular obsession, there is a link to some of it here:

  2. I generally prepared what will be needed for the immediate future of the game, information on where the character are, where they may be going, where they came from.

    And then, for my own use, an overview of upper level event going on so I can drop background details and news from near and far into the ongoing game.