Monday, May 25, 2009

Round-Robin Worldbuilding

So on Saturday we finished doing set-up for the summer game. (Minus character creation for a player who was in the original game but may or may not be in this one; I'm going to see about getting him to come over and do that sometime this week.) We even set up a campaign blog, complete with title: Is This Foul? Is It?

There was a bit of grumbling from some of the players, since no actual roleplaying occurred during the session, but I was fairly pleased with how it went. We have a decent idea of a starting point for next week's session, and a good level of player excitement and involvement. (Maggienotmegan wrote up everything that's currently on the blog, with no input from me! Go player involvement! I need to come up with a good reward scheme for that kind of thing, whether it's XP, "brownie points," or just more in-game story stuff.)

Most importantly, I've now got a surprisingly good idea of what the local area looks like, thanks to a neat trick I pulled. I worked out all the major locations, and wrote each one's name at the top of a sheet of notebook paper, along with few brief details. Then I passed out one for each of the players, and they each added a detail to theirs and passed it to the next player. This continued until each page was filled. As I told them, I won't use everything they listed (though that was mostly to spur creativity by keeping them from worrying about messing up the setting) but I've got a decent starting point.

And it was a lot of fun. The players enjoyed it, and it built investment in the world and the game. There's now a number of little details scattered about the setting that they'll enjoy interacting with, because they're responsible for them. (Like fire toads!) I enjoyed it, both because I participated to keep the ideas going and because it gave me a lot less work to do.

I liked it so much that I might try it again. It strikes me as a good session warm-up activity, and I've got a number of places that might benefit from the same manner of detailing. The main overland map, the nine cities, and even the five cantons of Xanadu itself would all take well to the technique.


  1. Yay! Yet more stuff for me to steal.

    I like the idea of having the players help with the world building (albeit with a heavy veto on the DM's part), and it's a good idea to promote it rather than just waiting (perhaps in vain) for it to occur naturally.

  2. That's the idea. Hope you find some stuff that's useful.

    I find that my players often need a bit of structure when it comes to shared worldbuilding. The natural assumption is that the setting is the GM's domain, and they're naturally hesitant about treading there. And some players are players (rather than GMs) because of a hesitancy about setting building and the responsibilities that come with it. Usually, they just need a little encouragement.

  3. I've seen something similar done, but with a map, so the GM draws in the starting town and a handful of locations, maybe the general shape of the landscape. Then player one draws something in and hands the map to player two, who draws something in, and so on.

  4. kelvingreen: I'd worry about my ability to decipher a map that some of my players had drawn, given their handwriting. ;) But otherwise I quite like that idea, especially since maps are always kind of tough for me, for some reason or another.