Thursday, October 25, 2012

World Building - Leave Room To Grow

As I am getting things ready for my Shadowrun game to launch I am getting to indulge in one of my favorite past times. Namely, world building. Now, there are a lot of jokes about world building being masturbatory - after all, while you're world building you are effectively just playing with yourself - but I've always found it to be an enjoyable and important exercise. That said though, and especially when prepping for a campaign, there is such a thing as too much world building. Today, I want to talk about why you want to leave room to grow.

Uncertainty Can Be Key
To be blunt, if everything in the world is defined than you lack uncertainty for things. If your players know that there are 4, and only 4, of something then you can't surprise them with the fifth. In fact, once they have all four - or have otherwise secured all four - they know that that particular quest line is done for now. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it can be stifling and it can make things less fun than they otherwise might be.

Everything you establish in your world is something that has to stay constant. If you establish that people pick their own names at age 13 at a coming of age ceremony, but before then have a name their parents gave them, then you need to have reasons for why those names were picked. Just why is that female warrior who uses heavy weapons named Flowers anyhow?

This is the leading cause to what I meant by stifling earlier. Everything you create exists in the world, and that means other things rub up against it. If you put down a police force then there is a force that enforces the laws. If you don't establish a police force, a state of anarchy and strong preying on the weak becomes a lot more credible. If you want both massive crime and strong policing then you need a reason for why they co-exist. Then you need a reason for why everything else co-exists with those things.

Winging It
As a Gm you want room to pull things out of the air. This requires a lack of chafing because for this you need space to pull whatever it is your pulling out. Leaving gaps for yourself to work with, or for other GMs to work with, lets them claim the world for themselves and their game.It also gives the players niches to grow into.

Considering the difference between a world with 10 super corporations all of which are clearly defined, and one with 10 super corporations of which only 5 are clearly defined and only 7 are even named. One of these leaves you a lot of room to personalize your world. The other, not so much.

Room To Grow
All of which brings me to the main point. You want room to grow. You want room for your players to grow.You want room for your NPCs to grow. You need that space. If you overly define and build up the world then it becomes hard to grow. Why? Because when you go to stretch your limbs you end up with chafing. More to the point, chafing with growth often leads to the established thing pushing back. That can be good if that is what you want. But you can always have that and room to grow for when you want it to be a smooth transition. In my opinion, that's the better way to do it.

1 comment:

  1. Wholeheartedly agree here. I'm not so much building my world in my current CP2020 as making a pre-existing world fit into a role playing game. Luckily, The City is well defined, but so huge as to have plenty of gaps and cracks for the players to fit into. We start in less than a week, so I'm a bit giddy with the possibilities. This is the first time I've done an open world sandbox kind of game in quite some time. Well, not quite a full on sandbox.