When I previously talked about world building, I came to a realization that I need to elaborate on one of the most fun methods for world building. And that is being a pen and paper GM.
I have always enjoyed games. Board games, pen and paper and computer games (oddly enough, athletic oriented games weren’t my deal. Odd, I know.). One of the most known games that I play is Dungeons and Dragons. Up until recently, I played sporadically but always as a player.
It was after watching a net show on Youtube/Twitch called ‘Critical Role‘ that I found myself going in the path of a game master.
The role of a game master appealed to me because I love to create worlds and function as a story teller of sorts. So instead of using an already full flashed out campaign setting, I endeavored on creating one of my own. Which at first seems like it’s going to be a simple task to accomplish, but reality proved otherwise (As it usually does).
As I’ve mentioned before, I love the history and background of a world. So when I’ve approached the world building I asked myself the following:
- What kind of a world I want? – Quite an essential question. I can’t imagine going into world building without giving some outlines you want from your world. In fact, the D&D dungeon master guide details the possibilities quite well (And you can always add more.)
- What kind of people inhabit it? – Here’s where the world becomes really alive, the people that inhabit it. While having the outlines of a settings is all good and well, the setting is suppose to interact with the players (or if we’re looking at it from a story POV, the readers). So we need characters.
And one coming to define characters, you need to define a semblance of history and geography that they are coming from. While it is true that you can define some character with little details, they still require agency if they are to interact with the player. It can be simple from a stereotype of a merchant who tries to swindle the protagonist. But even one dimensional as such a character may be, the interaction already affect the world. And from there you can add additional traits, have them react to the changes in the world and all in all becomes a more round character.
- The events that defined the world. – Where there are people, there is history. As one that loves the stories of the past, I often try to track down the chain of events that brought people to where there are in different points in time. The same can be said about world building.
The history of a world shape its’ people and they create it in return through their own agency. And in the context of role playing games (and all kind of games in general), history gives rise to story, as it helps frame the narrative by either providing the player with a centuries old MacGuffin or brought the social order in which the players interact.
- Where do the Player Character come in? – And here we are with the main players (literally) of the story. A world created is a fun thing, but it requires protagonists to make it more real. It is with the agency of the main characters that the plot moves forward, the story takes shape and the world around becomes something more. In the case of role playing games, the GM react and interact with the players themselves to add new layers to the world (ones which the GM might have no idea were achievable!).
And so the story starts to write itself because people give rise to action, to dialogue and to change.
So, the world might start as a creation of the game master. A form of a thought experiment in the narrative realm. But it truly find it marks when you let that creation evolves organically as the interaction between the storyteller and the players.