Author Topic: World building during play  (Read 1891 times)


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World building during play
« on: August 10, 2013, 05:12:57 AM »
Crossposting this from GITP. And yes, I am starting a PF campaign despite the awesomeness which is Legend, sorry. :P

I hope you can share some input on my thoughts. I am sure that some of you must have tried something similar.

Some words on the situation:
I will soon start to DM a game/campaign of Pathfinder for three players. All players are new to the D20 systems; I only have participated in some very short lived PBPs but lurked these forums for quite some time.
I and one of the players have experience with the German system The Dark Eye (another player has joined as a guest character two). The last player is new to P&P roleplaying but knows what to expect.

The problem:
Nobody of us is familiar with the PF campaign world or any of the D&D settings. Reading up on it enough to portray it consistently is very time consuming and so is building a new world from scratch. We could use The Dark Eye's setting but we are not playing Pathfinder to play in the same world as our other campaign. Also, while I wouldn't describe that setting as low-fantasy, it does not really lend itself to the dungeon crawling treasure hunting experience we expect from PF.

The approach:
I want to try to expand the campaign world during play. Only plan the village and surrounding regions in which the first session will play and prepare new stuff for the sessions in which it is needed or make up stuff on the fly. I can also take player input into account, letting players describe their home towns and possibly even their classes' or orders' roles in the world.
Letting players make up their characters' knowledge and implementing it in the world sounds like a fun plan if I can trust the players not to abuse it (which I do).

I was also thinking about not starting from scratch but investing the first session to build the world and its history on a high level, possibly by investing into Microscope.

The Question:
Does anybody have experience or tips to share on this approach? DO you think this is workable or will it inevitably lead to disaster? What do you have to say about Microscope, if you have ever used it?


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Re: World building during play
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2013, 12:14:12 PM »
This is the basic approach I generally try. I tend to start wit ha basic world map, make sure to add in some suggestive elements, plop the party somewhere on it, and let them decide what elements of it interest them, and then expand on it as they explore it in the game.
So, for instance, I had a desert campaign, with a giant glass sea, a huge crevasse, a city located at the edge of that crevasse, some ruins, and some other features. AS they explored, we determined that the crevasse is based around a high concentration of magical ores, and the city is set up to mine them. The glass sea is actually a scar of a giant magical explosion when a powerful being was trapped. Just by taking in these vaugley established elements I was able to axpand on them as needed and build up a picture of the world, from the nation to the south, to their kidnapped princess, to the slavers wandering the desert. Have enemies that try to escape, and if successful, consider them for "recurring villain" status, or perhaps a recurring character of another description. I had a party who turned a tiefling that survived ambushing them into a recurrent contact for information.
Any part of the world that the party has not seen and has not effected them is irrelevant to the players, and so you don't need to define it yet. As they come into contact with more, expand on it, relate it to existing events and plotlines, and build up their investment in the world.
Also pick elements of the world to expand on unrelated to what they are doing, and weave them into stories the players hear, like the hill giants a dozen miles away, the master thief who robbed the dutchess, these things can be drawn into the campaign later, either by you or a witty player, or they can just serve as extra details to make the world seem more alive and complete.
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Re: World building during play
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2013, 08:50:10 PM »
PF is a pretty nice system.

My DM and I run solo campaigns on the side even when we're playing with others. Sine we're the most experienced, we do the majority of the world-building in those games cooperatively.

In short, yes, a top-down approach (going from abstract/general to detailed) will work fine. A bottom-up approach can also work, but I wouldn't use it with new players.
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Re: World building during play
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2013, 01:00:13 PM »
Have you looked at something like this to help your players help you make the world.
It certainly would be very very memorable, as far as them going into it know the history, ect.