Setting Creation

Talk about any rules that don't directly fall under personal combat
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hector
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Setting Creation

Post by hector » 13 Sep 2014, 00:30

I ended up watching a series of videos tonight by Stephen Lumpkin (one of the designers of the in progress Warhammer 40K MMO) and Adam Koebel (one of the pair behind Dungeon World) on the subject of GMing, and they brought up something quite interesting: the idea of a living world, where there are various factions with their own agendas, and time passes regardless of what the players do or do not do. One of the examples used is the faction system within Stars Without Number, where the GM will spend some of their prep time working out what the various factions of the setting were getting up to during the players' adventures. Fronts from Apocalypse World was another example used.

For some reason, I'm sure I recall there being a discussion about this on this forum at some point, but I can't seem to find it. This isn't something I expect to see in the first beta release, of course (if for no other reason than I'd like to see it some time this year :P), but since the default setting seems to be a city where the players and GM might well work together to determine who the factions are.
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Agamemnon
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Re: Setting Creation

Post by Agamemnon » 13 Sep 2014, 17:39

Honestly, this is one of those things where I've been doing it so long that I forget that some people don't.

My default method of campaign building basically amounts to:
Step 1: create a sandbox.
Step 2: make three factions in a roughly equal and delicate balance of power.
Step 3: turn the players loose.

Without fail, by session 2 they will have done something that has disrupted that delicate balance of power, and the rest of the campaign will write itself even if the players never come up with objectives of their own. Add in something like SAs, and you have a relatively fast-paced plot where the PCs are playing a delicate game to both further their own ambitions while protecting themselves from the machine they've inadvertently set in motion. It's a great way to create drama and to keep a story moving along.

That said, I'm glad you made the suggestion or I might have overlooked it. I'll be honest, writing the GM's section sounds crazy intimidating to me, mostly because I've been running games so long that I do most things by instinct and winging it. I'm thus skeptical of my ability to impart useful ideas to someone who would actually be using the GM section. Add to that, my group does things a very certain way and I play to those expectations, so any advice I give is probably slanted towards that.

It might be the case that once we start making the official kickstartable, buy-me-in-hardback book, we may open the forums up to you guys for advice on what you'd actually like to see in the GM chapters, and perhaps any thoughts or insight you guys have come up with on the system itself and how you've run it.

That said, we definitely want to include some kind of world-building guides in the book as most people aren't going to be used to the process, particularly in the way that works best for 'Bastards campaigns. Factions are a great feature we will have to highlight.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
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hector
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Re: Setting Creation

Post by hector » 13 Sep 2014, 18:44

This is one reason why I actually kinda like the idea of mechanics that govern how the factions interact in some way or another (similar to how Stars Without Number does it, which was probably inspired by Reign): it actually helps GMs who are new to a relatively sandbox style of gaming to adjust to it, because it helps them work out why and why the people representing a faction might react to the player characters and their actions. Also, it gives player characters events to react to, should they wish to (especially if you use the Stars Without Number advice that only a faction the PCs actually interact with and show a reasonable amount of interest in should actually use these mechanics).
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Marras
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Re: Setting Creation

Post by Marras » 17 Sep 2014, 05:27

Agamemnon wrote:Honestly, this is one of those things where I've been doing it so long that I forget that some people don't.

My default method of campaign building basically amounts to:
Step 1: create a sandbox.
Step 2: make three factions in a roughly equal and delicate balance of power.
Step 3: turn the players loose.

Without fail, by session 2 they will have done something that has disrupted that delicate balance of power, and the rest of the campaign will write itself even if the players never come up with objectives of their own. Add in something like SAs, and you have a relatively fast-paced plot where the PCs are playing a delicate game to both further their own ambitions while protecting themselves from the machine they've inadvertently set in motion. It's a great way to create drama and to keep a story moving along.
This is really a good way to start campaigns where good set of SAs is invaluable. I started a RQ6 campaign quite recently where so far only one passion (a bit similar to SA) caused quite a nice effect that will have consequences through the campaign.
That said, we definitely want to include some kind of world-building guides in the book as most people aren't going to be used to the process, particularly in the way that works best for 'Bastards campaigns. Factions are a great feature we will have to highlight.
Excellent! Many games rely on GMs and players to play it like other similar games without any "best practices" guides from the authors.
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Re: Setting Creation

Post by higgins » 18 Sep 2014, 17:54

Agamemnon wrote:My default method of campaign building basically amounts to:
Step 1: create a sandbox.
Step 2: make three factions in a roughly equal and delicate balance of power.
Step 3: turn the players loose.
That's how we do it. I don't think there's much to add... except for...

The Three Whys

Whenever you set up a significant motivation in a sandbox, ask three consecutive whys. For example:

The Limping Jackals and One-Eyed Crows are at odds with one another.
Why?
The gangs had a major bloodletting that resulted in casualties on both sides.
Why?
The leader of the Limping Jackals ratted out a popular Crow called Grin and got him hanged.
Why?
Actually he didn't. The leader of the Crows wanted to get rid of a man getting too much clout too fast and blamed other gang for the deed.

Now you have more than enough information to easily last a session, should any of the players stumble upon either of those gangs. Repeat until you've established relationships between all established factions. :)
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Re: Setting Creation

Post by Marras » 19 Sep 2014, 01:48

higgins wrote: The Three Whys

Whenever you set up a significant motivation in a sandbox, ask three consecutive whys.
Good advice. I have to remember it even in my current campaign.

Frankly, that advice should be enough to keep water even further than one session :)
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higgins
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Re: Setting Creation

Post by higgins » 19 Sep 2014, 02:52

Marras wrote:Frankly, that advice should be enough to keep water even further than one session :)
Well, it depends on the scale, really. With it pertaining to factions, you're absolutely correct. The "whys" scale infinitely though.

A solitary hermit lives in the nearby woods.
Why?
etc.

The house is on fire.
Why?
etc.

Those two sound too trivial to warrant the three whys at first, but when you plan to include a certain element in the game, going through that process is invaluable, as the level of detail you're able to dish out in a moment's notice increases exponentially. The only problem is actually remembering to go through that process :lol:

And write it down. Always write it down.
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Marras
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Re: Setting Creation

Post by Marras » 19 Sep 2014, 05:39

Absolutely! Always write things down. It is especially important to me, because there are months between sessions and you can remember only so much :)
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Agamemnon
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Re: Setting Creation

Post by Agamemnon » 22 Sep 2014, 14:20

Another random tip I've picked up over the years is to let the players ask questions. A lot of them. Especially if they are rolling "Lore" or something. Often times, if the scene was just "There are orcs prowling around" (not that I want orcs in 'Bastards) and a player rolls lore or starts asking me questions, the entire scene will evolve.

"There are orcs."
"Do I notice anything about them?"
"Actually, yes. They have certain markings on their skin. War paint."
"Do I recognize the markings?"
"No, but that's what's interesting. They are not markings common to any of the local clans.. whomever they are, they either formed a new tribe, or are far from home."

Suddenly, a "go smash them" encounter has built an entire backstory. Players are more interested in investigating and figuring out the unanswered questions than just slaughtering them.

It's kind of based on an old rule of Improv theater: You never say no. Specifically, you never shut down something that has been presented, you just build upon it. Twist it. That's what makes improv funny, in actuality. The situation starts very simply and then each time someone adds something it gets a little more absurd.

For campaign management, being willing to improv details and leak them to your players keeps things interesting and a little spicy.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
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Marras
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Re: Setting Creation

Post by Marras » 22 Sep 2014, 16:24

Similar approach seems to work best for me when I run investigative scenarios or anything that needs creative thinking on players' part.

When I create a whole blown investigative scenario I often write down what has happened (so, maybe a bit less improvisation in this case) as a background and then I let players ask questions and if I feel that it is appropriate then it goes. Only way to get a sort of "no" is that I have already decided that cultists have taken pains to get rid of footprints or something similar.

In my latest session I improvised quite a bit when PCs went looking for a missing lady. I knew what had happened to her and clock was ticking. I hadn't decided details exactly (fortunately) but since players took enough time while combing the village and came up pretty good place to look for her, it was settled then and move to showdown and aftermath.

Great ideas, keep'em coming!
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